When implementing a Commercial Academy in an organization, we are not simply referring to creating a training program for a company as its implications go much further. It is about setting up a training campus aimed at the entire sales team (commercial directors, salespeople, area managers, back office, etc.) that is fully adapted to their real needs.
In this sense, the main difference with respect to other training programs of sales techniques or commercial strategy is that, while the latter has a closed agenda and an end date, the
Commercial Academy is a dynamic tool. In addition to generating content fully adapted to the commercial activity of a specific organization, the content is updated in real time according to the new needs that arise. At Barna Consulting Group, we completely blend in with the client, continuously incorporating new content that is generated by the organization as well as providing our own materials or customized tools and solutions. Therefore, this can also mean that the duration of the training is adapted or that continuity in time is considered unlimited, as has happened on various cases.
In addition to generating content fully adapted to the commercial activity of a specific organization, these contents are updated in real time according to the new needs that arise.
Thus, an organization that implements a Commercial Academy offers a continuous improvement tool to its entire sales network with which it can keep its individuals constantly updated both in terms of knowledge and skills, as well as a powerful motivation mechanism. And, further, it’s very useful to continue onboarding all new employees, communicating not only the theory and practice necessary for their day-to-day performance, but also the company’s own culture.
Top tips to design a Commercial Academy
Designing a Commercial Academy, by definition, requires a great effort to adapt to the real needs of the company/ culture, its sales network, its sector and its customers. We need to analyze, for example, how the organization operates in comparison to its competitors, what type of leadership is leading the sector, how it is positioned, what its marketing strategy is, etc. Below I present some of the main design considerations.
Develop perfect alignment with the management functions. The implementation process vitally requires the support of the CEO and a great alignment between Sales and Human Resources Departments. Usually the HR Department owns the development of programs, while the Sales Department owns the communication of the purpose and key objectives. When these two Departments are aligned, the Commercial Academy is much easier to implement and has higher success rates.
Ensure optimal internal communication. When Sales and HR are aligned, it’s a great first step. The next step requires that these departments are also aligned in their communication strategy and do not send contradictory or confusing messages. The message must be consistent. This assures much of the success, since, otherwise, there could be mismatches on expectations or objectives. A good example of a great communications strategy while implementing a Commercial Academy is Noatum Maritime, an organization we have partnered with to start the second edition of the Academy in 2019. Throughout, the organization has maintained a perfect alignment between HR and Sales, and they have also effectively managed the internal pitch of the Academy enabling a very successful implementation.
Define the degree of sophistication. A Commercial Academy can be as sophisticated as desired. It can consist of three training sessions per year, or it can be sophisticated to the point of having a university accreditation, or an assessment that measures the degree of achievement throughout the academy.
Do not forget the internal sale. Generating buzz around the academy is a very effective implementation tool. It is important that this initiative is properly explained so that all participants understand its benefits and its importance. Salespeople will leave their daily activity for a few days, and they must understand the higher ROI for the time spent on the academy, since it will allow them to better develop their strategies and achieve greater results.
What does the Commercial Academy contribute to the organization?
It constitutes a great accelerator of change. Currently we find that many companies want to implement the consultative sales model, and this is where the Commercial Academy is key. Nowadays less product sellers are needed, and consultative selling which requires a harder sale for which new techniques and tools, such as digitalization, communication, emotional intelligence and team management are needed. This is why a Commercial Academy is a great lever to accelerate change.
Many companies want to implement the consultative sales model, and this is where the Commercial Academy is key.
It responds to the needs of the organization in real time. That is why we say that it is a dynamic program. Participants are given voice, at executive, manager and individual contributor level as well as back office staff etc. The agenda does not only arise from the needs of the management team, but from the needs of the entire sales network. Based on that, the training is adjusted. At Barna Consulting we have experienced this process of adjustment on numerous occasions, for instance with Allianz Campus.
It is a cohesive element. The Commercial Academy must integrate the entire sales network, directly and indirectly, to provide it with the same commercial orientation in all the value
chains that they offer to the customer (seller, manager, back office, area managers, etc.).
This already implies a great change, because sellers do not usually see each other. Suddenly, they realize that they can share common problems, that the company really counts on them.
Many sellers develop their work in isolation, which can be psychologically difficult.
The Commercial academy must integrate the entire sales network, directly and indirectly, to provide it with the same commercial orientation in all the value chains offered to the customer.
Increase loyalty and reduction of rotation. Having a Commercial Academy has very positive effects on both the motivation and the involvement of all participants, increasing their sense of belonging and, in turn, results in a reduction of attrition. There is nothing more powerful than a happy employee.
Improvement of results. Of course, none of this would mean anything if the Commercial Academy did not improve the results of the organization. It is the ultimate purpose. All the improvements mentioned so far are for the same purpose, to increase sales.
What is taught in the Commercial Academy?
As described previously, the Commercial Academy is adapted to each organization to an extend that it can be difficult to find common elements. However, there are three large blocks
that should always be developed:
Working on attitudes. As previously mentioned, salespeople work alone, so there is often nobody around to motivate them. That’s why this motivational part is so important. From
experience, we can affirm this is greatly appreciated. This also includes understanding sales patterns and developing emotional intelligence, both with customers and with colleagues.
Therefore, salespeople are always at the center.
Commercial improvement. In this part we consider all the sales techniques and skills necessary for salespeople to exercise of their functions excellently. The content is 100% adapted to the specific needs (preparation prior to a visit, product presentation, previous contacts, objections, closing techniques). For example, we can help identify the profile of the client in front of you, to look at non-verbal communication, in order to adapt the sale to that customer. Of course, managers are also considered, giving them team management tools (how to onboard new vendors, meeting management, commercial follow ups, etc.).
Digital enhancement. This is the part that usually fails. Even today it is a common mistake for salespeople to forget about digital channels. Intergenerational collaboration is sought after to take advantage of talent within the company. For example, the employees most familiar with the new technologies are incentivized to help those who are less common tech users and, vice-versa, the more experienced salespeople are encouraged to help the younger generation at a relational level. We encourage less tech-savvy salespeople to break that technological barrier, and the commercial academy is perfect for that.