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10 February 2011
The Sales Academy

The Sales Academy

By Ben Turner @ 07:20 :: 3424 Views :: 4 Comments :: Article Rating :: Featured Articles
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In the past 12-24 months the most forward thinking companies in the UK have begun developing sales academies as part of their sales strategy, companies such as Vodafone and E-on have led the way with smaller companies such as ADA Technology in Sussex and Ripponden based JLA Ltd also seeing the value in the concept and recognising the massive value of these initiatives.

The Institute of Sales and Marketing Managers (ISMM) Commercial Director Stephen Wright is no stranger to the educational aspects of achieving sales excellence across business, but Academies can often look and sound like expensive initiatives that should only be reserved for the biggest budget, Wright explains why this will not always be the case when using National Occupational Standards.

What is an Academy?

Academies can take the shape of however the Sales and HR Directors choose, this can be actual bricks and mortar like O2 or a concept, mindset or methodology. The key is that they are set up as a response to the short-term approach described above, to help create a framework for learning and sales skills development, to engage sales teams and perhaps most importantly, to raise the standards of staff skills that will lead to increased commercial success.

The Problem

Developing a Sales Academy does not have to be difficult, but the resources and support are there, with the ISMM acting as both a supporting body for sales excellence as well as offering sales qualifications as an end product of investment in sales training.
Sales Directors and Sales Training departments often face the same challenges across all organisations in the UK, these are often a short-term approach to learning and create the following challenges;

Investing in training and then have staff leave
·         Uncoordinated and inconsistent training
·         Lack of connection and engagement with staff and especially managers
·         Resentment at time taken ‘off the job’

The mistakes that could be made

Companies facing this challenge through any part of their sales function have looked to create ‘Sales Academies’. Whereas this is a fantastic initiative, it can sometimes mean a costly and truncated approach, an approach where companies look to;
·         Establish their own company standards
                      Often called ‘Company Occupational Standards’ (COS)
·         Create own job descriptions based on COS
·         Develop own Training needs analysis and training plans on the back of this
·         Deliver and evaluate own standards
·         Justify the whole exercise, ROI

The fundamentals of this model mean that the transferability of the standards is restricted and therefore has a negative effect on engagement. Likewise, developing your own Company Occupational Standards is expensive, time consuming and may not adhere to any generic or tested thought leadership.

National Occupational Standards endorsed by the ISMM

National Occupational standards are not only an easier model to use when setting up sales academies, they are also backed by the ISMM and can act as a safety net to ensure that Sales Directors and Sales Training departments are not solely accountable when developing the company’s sales standards. The benefits of using National Occupational Standards include;

Built up over 20 years, regularly reviewed
·         Reflect the combined experience of many companies
·         In the public domain – free!
·         Depersonalises the standards
·         Embedded and referenced in qualifications
·         Providing the basis to European Standards

Furthermore, by using NOS as a core to the sales function, Sales Directors and management can then go on to add elements to the process that are more applicable to their business and can also remove elements that may not be applicable.
The process can then filter down to establish and describe job roles in terms of NOS, and then to be able to create training plans around those standards. There is even the possibility of the sales excellence culture meaning that sales staff will be able to obtain sales qualifications.

Once the Sales Academy is set up the organisation can then look to deliver training internally or externally to the standards that have been created. Using these set criteria will make it easier for external providers to understand the requirements of the business and to look for other providers who are already delivering courses in conjunction in line with NOS and ISMM standards.

In Short...

Any company in the UK can set up a Sales Academy, is does not have to be just the bigger companies who can ‘afford’ to run such initiatives. This means that Sales Directors and Sales Training departments can have a more strategic approach to sales learning, training and qualifying; an approach that can help companies to achieve genuine sales excellence across their sales teams, including;

Properly trained staff
·         Accredited and qualified staff in sales qualifications
                     Governemt Recognised
                     Internationally Recognised
·         Increased staff engagement
·         Increased staff moral
·         A recognition and statement of sales excellence as endorsed by the ISMM
For more information about setting up a sales academy contact the ISMM 01732 525940
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