Many companies cycle their salespeople through a series of in-house training sessions that hasn't changed in years. It's the equivalent of "sheep dipping," says Allan Mackintosh, referring to the process of running sheep herds through a disinfectant to destroy parasites and clean their wool.
A professional management coach based in Scotland (he should know a thing or two about sheep), Mackintosh says companies seem to love the sheep dip. It's easy to create, easy to administer, and keeps training costs under control.
"Typically, a list of courses that link to the company's priority capability areas is created, employees are tagged for "dipping," and everyone gets a big pat on the back for completing the training and developing a plan."
But beware! The sheep dipping process has many flaws.
The training courses provided remain static from one year to the next. Has your business not changed? Are your customers' needs no different than they were two years ago? Are there no new skills emerging that would bolster your team's performance? Mackintosh recommends an annual audit of the skills necessary to deliver the company business plan. Training should be tailored to fulfill those needs.
"Managers don't provide insights into what's needed. The complacent types send them through and check off the box that says they have 'developed' the employees. Managers must take ownership of the training by regularly analyzing the content and ensuring the quality," he says. The sheep dip is rarely measured. "What impact do these training sessions have on the productivity of the employees being 'dipped'? Don't be duped by 'happy sheet' feedback. What about the bottom line? Is the company getting a return on its investment?"
What's more, the sheep dip can be de-motivating.
No change from one year to the next and no innovation or creativity exhibited by the company can lead employees to think that the future success of the company could be in doubt, Mackintosh says. Also, if a sales manager takes little responsibility for the development of their employees, those employees will quickly become disillusioned with the lack of support and encouragement.
Top talent won't be patient. They will find a company that is willing to invest in their growth.
Allan Mackintosh is the author of The Successful Coaching Manager (Troubador Publishing, 2003). He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.