Should You Change Your Learning and Development Game Plan for Q4 2020 | Cristin Grogan | Learning and Development, Training, Corporate Training

Your role *right now* as a Sales Learning & Development Professional in Q4 2020

If you’re anything like our organization, your company transitioned to working remotely over the last 6 months because of COVID. All of the live training events that you had planned, coordinated and scheduled for the year had to be quickly transformed into virtual events. As we all dealt with the transition to Zoom, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams (I mean truly, pick your poison), we hung on tight but were able to salvage some of our original 2020 plans and make them come to ‘virtual’ life.

And, at this point, maybe you’ve integrated these virtual learning sessions into your overall Learning and Development strategy. Our current strategy is not only just doing virtual trainings, but finding ways to infuse them with fun, in the form of gameshows and engaging learning events. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and people feel that participating in workshop games was worth their time investment.

So imagine our surprise when our over the last few weeks, the amount of participants in each of our workshops started dropping…like, significantly.

As learning and development experts, we tend to be introspective and self-reflective….We’ll take the blame and ask ourselves some questions: have we not ‘marketed’ this offering enough? Have we not effectively hooked into our leadership team enough for them to endorse the importance of participating in this program to their teams? Do people really not like the programs? Are they lying on their evaluation feedback forms?!

But whenever I see a low adoption rate on a training program, or a resistance, I always pause…and look at the business….and ask myself:

“What’s the reality that our learners are facing right now?”

This was learned from the many years I spent on the salesfloor during my 8+ years of retail. Oftentimes, when I was a retail associate, I saw that my managers didn’t have time for training because sales was urgent and a priority. When I became a manager, I faced the same reality: “Do I prioritize sales which we desperately need in order to make our numbers?…Or training? A serious Sophie’s Choice…

As a former retail sales manager, I can only imagine what this year has been like…

Can you?

I mean, honestly: can you as a learning/development and/or training professional, really understand what this year has been like for your sales team?

If not, let me set the scene for you…

We all know that probably about 99% of industries and businesses have in some way, shape or form been affected by COVID…most likely, since March. Now that we’re in November, it’s no secret that businesses, especially this year, are extra concerned with ‘making their numbers’ as the end of the year draws near. Here are some likely scenarios you may find familiar:

Envision yourself in the toilet paper business: your sales skyrocketed at the height of the pandemic because of panic buying, but because you provided the stock that was supposed to get you through the whole year, you now don’t have enough to meet demand on the back half of the year.

Or maybe, your particular industry has been positively affected by COVID (ahem, looking at you liquor brands!).

Or maybe, you’re in the apparel industry, and your store remained closed due to quarantine restrictions for 3 – 6 months…and now you have an entire 3 – 6 month period of sales numbers you have to make up for…in ~6 weeks.

Whether you’re ‘up’, ‘down’ or ‘flat’ on your year, one thing is clear right now: the race is on to make up as much ground as possible from now…until the end of the year…Which again, is a mere ~6 weeks away.

That’s a push. And it’s a push, as Learning and Development experts serving a sales team, that requires our attention and effort.

The realization is that the majority of your sales teams no longer have the luxury to attend 60-minute webinars, or capability-building workshops.

That’s because this is crunch-time. Sales are the urgency and the priority at this point.

So don’t be offended when the sales team decides to cancel a 60-minute workshop at the last minute. Or that you start seeing participants drop out of the workshop that you spent so much time to create.

Because it’s not about you right now. It’s about your sales team, it’s about understanding their hustle and supporting them under the pressure.

Instead, figure out what you can do for them.

For my team, that has meant transitioning what we would normally put into a workshop, into a really quick job aid.

Give it to your learners for ‘just in time’ learning and ask them to share it with another colleague, and another and another. Your sales team will make the time to take a look at a resource that’s not only helpful in the nick of time (read: right before they have to go into a sales presentation with a customer) but will also put major stock in it because it’s coming from a colleague (endorsement points!). And they’ll be grateful that you respected them enough to not withhold selling information they might need just because they couldn’t attend your most recent sixty-minute workshop.

I’ll leave you with this: one of the keys to being a learning and development professional, is to understand the minds of your ‘clients’ (for me, this is our internal sales team).

If you know they’re distracted, their strapped, their under pressure, attempt to make their lives easier by providing them with resources that are going to help, rather than enforcing a mandatory workshop that takes them away from selling. Supporting any team is all about give and take.

And right now? It’s the time to give.