In a world where 38% of major purchase efforts end in ‘no deal’, companies find that they badly need to do something different to maintain growth. So they turn to sales training, hoping to help their sellers stand out and engage customers earlier and more effectively.

Challenger has worked with some of the world’s most impressive companies over the better part of a decade, and learned a thing or two about driving predictable revenue and sustainable growth in complex selling environments along the way. Lesson #1 is that while sales training itself can be highly effective, sales training by itself may not be enough to drive the impact sales leaders need today. For that, many turn to commercial transformation.

The companies that get transformation right and see consistent, sustainable growth, plan and execute around a foundation supported by six pillars.

Let’s take a look at each one.

1. Leadership Alignment

  • What to do: Functional leaders must get on the same page to communicate, motivate and reinforce the plan (and need) for change.
  • Why it’s necessary: Make no mistake, training an entire sales force on a new process or methodology is a change management initiative. And for any change management initiative to succeed, the first critical step is to ensure all leaders are bought-in and committed to communicating a cohesive vision to teams across the broader organization.

2. Message Deployment

  • What to do: Centralize the commercial messaging strategy to ensure resonance and consistency.
  • Why it’s necessary: Cohesive commercial messaging disseminated through all customer-facing sales and marketing channels is critical to set sellers up for success when they are one-on-one with customers. A centralized messaging strategy helps organizations avoid the unnecessary burden placed on sellers and managers when developing insight-led content on their own. Central support ensures greater quality and frees up more time for selling.

3. Skill Development

  • What to do: Focus training on skills proven to work in increasingly complex selling environments.
  • Why it’s necessary: This, of course, is what most companies prioritize and plan for. But not all skill development initiatives are created equal. Sales leaders must ask themselves two critical questions: 1) Are we training on skills, behaviors and activities that are proven to affect performance? and 2) Have we done enough around the training event to make the learning stick? The best upskilling initiatives take a blended approach (mixing mediums and types of activities) and offer plenty of upfront awareness building, and back end opportunity for application to real-world scenarios.

4. Process Improvement

  • What to do: Establish a customer buying journey-aligned sales process for teams to practice and apply, and managers to coach and reinforce.
  • Why it’s necessary: Best practice process is for sellers to guide and react effectively to a customer buying journey. Forcing sellers to follow an arbitrary “sales” process can limit their creativity and flexibility.  With that said, good process is helpful to achieve key milestones with the customer. For example, good process can improve prospecting efficiency; good process is helpful when conducting discovery meetings, or when managing mid-funnel activity or existing account opportunities. The organization must ensure that sellers have the tools and playbooks to practice applying skills, strategy and process to real-world scenarios on a daily basis.

5. People Management

  • What to do: Build a competency model based on the behaviors high-performing sellers naturally exhibit, and use it to guide talent acquisition, onboarding and promotion criteria.
  • Why it’s necessary: Sales teams turn over; it’s inevitable. The people management function must be capable of attracting and acquiring high potential talent and ramping that talent to productivity and ultimately high performance as efficiently as possible. Further down the road, also consider whether top sellers with management aspirations are empowered to make the difficult jump from individual contributor to front-line manager.  

6. Success Measurement 

  • What to do: Continuously track activities, measure outcomes, and publicize success to sustain momentum and identify emerging priorities.
  • Why it’s necessary: You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Whether talking about behaviors or outcomes, it’s important to identify and address gaps as soon as possible. A commercial transformation requires tracking and measuring both leading indicators of success (typically behavioral) and lagging indicators of success (typically financial outcomes). Sales leaders won’t see commercial transformation outcomes immediately, but likely quarters down the road. Positive outcomes include movement in conversion rate, cycle time, and average deal size. But the degree of this movement depends on earlier movements in daily selling behavior such as pre-call planning, manager coaching, insight creation and delivery, etc. If you don’t measure and monitor the behaviors, you only hope for and don’t influence the outcomes.


Challenger, Inc.

Challenger is the global leader in training, technology, and consulting to win today’s complex sale. Our sales transformation and training programs are supported by ongoing research and backed by our best-selling books, The Challenger Sale, The Challenger Customer, and The Effortless Experience.