An Entry into the ‘Bespoke Solution of the Year’
from Augmenta Ltd, Independent training consultancy
Set the Scene
SGB is the leading provider of access solutions to the building and construction industries. As part of the £1.4 billion Harsco Corporation, SGB UK employs 2,700 people across five main divisions: Contracts/Mastclimbers, Hire and Sale, Formwork, Rovacabin and Powered Access.
Since the beginning of 2005, Augmenta has facilitated capability development for all customer-facing staff within SGB across it’s UK operations.
The challenge was to design and run sales training events which genuinely inspired behaviour change in 120 people across five diverse divisions in a low cost but high impact way.
Before this training, sales and technical staff would make appointments and present proposals based on their products and personality rather than a strongly planned commercial argument. Calls seldom had a formal agenda and structure. Every division sold differently.
Many sales discussions would get to a negotiation on price swiftly, hoping to undercut the competition. This was a recipe for margin squeeze and value erosion.
Outline the aims and objectives of the solution
Construction is a low margin industry. This new training initiative had to justify itself in tangible returns. For this reason, the Directors for each division met to set specific targets for their investment. The first of these was spelled out by the CEO:
1. 10% improvement in skills. ‘If we achieve this in all customer-facing staff, I estimate a £1 million addition to revenue’.
2. Establish a consistent language which raises the game for everybody. This needed to be reflected in a noticeably more professional sales approach, with everyone - irrespective of their job title - acknowledging that they were actually in sales.
3. Improve customer service (especially the after-sale service at branch level). Increase number of sales calls per day
4. Reduce debtor days
5. Halve staff turnover
6. Grow margin by at least 1%
7. Train all customer-facing staff
8. Repeat this level of training investment in 2007 (based on tangible results)
Present evidence of Performance
Here’s a summary of the key design elements which have created new behaviours at all management levels:
To overcome the issue of changing mindsets and ensuring everyone would take an active part in the training, we appointed a Director-level Steering Committee representing all divisions. They created learning tools, co-facilitated the training and followed up on field accompaniments afterwards. This gave the content validity for all job roles and established a strong commitment to embed learning.
When delegates presented what they had applied since the first training day, they were asked if business gains could be accounted for as a sole and direct consequence of the new learning. This had a profound effect: It ensured that delegates focused on producing results, and it encouraged them to improve their presentation impact. We saw demonstrable and inspiring differences in confidence and delivery skill.
A total budget of £150 per delegate day was set for this project. This enabled good quality hotels to be used and a pocket toolkit to be given to each delegate.
After day 3, 62 delegates (58%) reported that they had grown business as a direct result of the training. This is more than four times the norm from the ‘Sales Executive Council’ benchmark. Only 13% usually attribute results solely to the training.
Line managers now include training in every sales meeting and accompaniment is more frequent and better documented.
Summarise the key outcomes
The training has surpassed its targets and influenced behavioural change across all divisions, from just 18 hours of input per delegate.
Strong leadership commitment has been key. The Steering Committee dedicated an astonishing 88 man days of their time to design, facilitate and evaluate the training (9 days each) last year. This will be surpassed this year. This is a unique level of sustained commitment from top managers. Their behaviours validate the programme and inspire constant improvement.
The design is best practice sales training because of the unusual emphasis on application of learning. Returns came from input in bite-sized chunks and the requirement to present evidence of direct business gains.
I am Tony Knight, the National Sales Director for the Hire and Sales division of SGB UK. I must have been the biggest sceptic of the lot when we met to agree what sales training we needed across the Group 18 months ago. Don’t get me wrong; I supported the idea of training whole-heartedly, I just couldn’t see how the divisions would even agree to work together, let alone turn up. It was ‘never the twain’ and I was just as happy as anyone to separate my guys from the rest.
Then Mark Francis persuaded me to co-facilitate on the first one-day event in Birmingham in the Spring of 2005. I’ll never forget it. Two of the trainees had been with SGB for over forty years and started off pretty sceptical. By the end they were really motivated and up for the challenge. Since then, I have attended every training day myself. This is because I know the returns it brings and the motivation level generated. This speaks volumes for the best training I have witnessed in my business life’.