As a new L&D leader, the stakes are high. You need a way to build your understanding of the learning challenges facing your company. More importantly, you need to win the trust of your colleagues by demonstrating your knowledge, capabilities, and strengths.
An even greater challenge? Doing it all alone. If you’re an L&D team of one, you need to focus your time and effort in the areas that will generate the greatest return for the business. You also need to know how to secure leadership buy-in, as you’ll need backup for the tough calls.
Recently, I sat down with Bill Ball, Director of L&D at global staffing, IT consulting, and managed services firm DISYS, to talk about how he made a positive impact in his first year at the firm - including driving an impressive 30% increase in sales meetings.
We got started by discussing the importance for DISYS of having a great L&D strategy.
According to Bill, IT consulting is a crowded market at the moment. “It’s tough to differentiate yourself in managed services and IT staffing. There’s a lot of consolidation happening in the industry right now, and a lot of acquisition. The world is changing fast.”
For an incoming L&D leader, this raises the stakes even higher. When the market is moving so quickly, you need a way to make an immediate impact and lift business performance.
Fortunately, the DISYS executive leadership also had a clear vision for the role of L&D. “When I interviewed with the CEO, he told me two very important things,” says Bill. “First, we’re on a mission to buy companies, not be acquired. Second, L&D and sales enablement has to be part of that mission for us to scale. That told me I was going to have the right executive sponsorship.”
So, Bill had secured the support he needed to make his mark as an L&D leader. But first, he needed to overcome an entirely different set of obstacles.
First, we’re on a mission to buy companies, not be acquired. Second, L&D and sales enablement has to be part of that mission for us to scale. That told me I was going to have the right executive sponsorship.
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As someone with a background in sales, Bill had a unique perspective to bring to his role as Director of L&D. “I’ve spent a lot of my career in technology, and inside sales and software. Moving into a firm like DISYS afforded me some scale, because I came from a smaller business. That’s what I had to do - scale my L&D and enable my practice. That’s my mission.”
One major obstacle in achieving this mission? Working as a team of one. “I was also coming into the role with no team, which meant I had to tighten my focus,” says Bill. “In my interview, there was a strong emphasis on helping out with sales training, because I have a background in the field as a salesperson and a leader. That was a natural fit.”
In addition to going it alone, Bill also had to get everyone to align with his distinct vision. “After I came on board, I found out we had no true head of sales. We had leaders marching to the beat of their own drum, and messaging which was all over the place. I had to get everyone to march with me, because if I didn’t do that first, I wasn’t going to make any impact at all.”
For Bill, having the right support at the executive level made all the difference. “The buy-in from the CEO gave me the confidence to read between the lines and focus on the customer-facing roles within the organization. Then, I knew what I had to do.”
Building a great L&D program comes down to a few key steps: developing the right relationships, securing executive buy-in, and showing people you’re capable of making a positive impact. Here’s how Bill did it.
“The first thing I did was meet with our key leaders,” says Bill. “This helped me to build the right relationships, and to define the problems we were facing - and the potential solutions to these problems - in greater detail.”
“I asked them all some basic questions. Not, ‘what do you need?’, because I’m not a McDonald’s, but ‘how do you sell?’, and ‘who do you sell to?’ I had to find out where we had consistencies and where we had breakages.”
Of course, simply building relationships isn’t a solution in itself. Next, Bill had to design a training solution and get company executives on board to keep things moving.
“I put together a prospecting workshop and took all of our leaders through it to get their buy-in, including our CEO,” says Bill. “I took our sales leaders through it together and ironed out the big questions. Soon, everyone was on board. Then, I was able to scale it.”
For Bill, all this preparation was leading up to the real test: showing people the training could make a positive impact.
“I knew I had to come up with a quick win to get everybody to start believing in me. Given my background in sales prospecting, I focused on hitting our targets for meetings. We weren’t going to get the right outcomes further down the pipeline without lifting our performance.”
Now, everything was ready to go. Next step: scaling up the new sales meeting training.
I knew I had to come up with a quick win to get everybody to start believing in me.
Anyone’s first big project as a new L&D leader is always a high-stakes affair. Fortunately, Bill produced some strong outcomes that helped boost the company’s performance.
“The big test was taking the prospect training out into the field,” says Bill. “The beauty of it was, it worked. We saw a 30% increase in sales meetings for those who had completed the workshop. This was a big result, and helped to show the value of what we were doing.”
With this evidence to back him up, Bill’s next big challenge was to scale this training. “I rolled out additional workshops focusing on customer-facing roles and transforming our old LMS technology into enablement technology. I also focused on messaging, because it’s not just the skills that help people in sales - they need a solid foundation of content to know what to say.”
One major benefit of scaling up this training? Bill could get a global view of where further improvements to L&D were needed. “By working with HR on talent and skill development, with marketing on messaging, and with ops on finding operational efficiencies, I could get a comprehensive holistic view of how to improve our sales.”
The beauty of it was, it worked. We saw a 30% increase in sales meetings for those who had completed the workshop. This was a big result, and helped to show the value of what we were doing.
So, that’s an overview of how Bill developed and rolled out training to boost prospecting meetings and standardize the DISYS approach to sales.
Now that everything is up and running, what is he doing to ensure this L&D approach is having a positive impact for other teams? And how can he replicate his success with boosting sales prospecting in other parts of the business?
“Measurement can be such a nuanced area,” says Bill. “It’s tricky, and I won’t pretend to have all the answers, because no-one does. But our overall focus is on driving outcomes for every customer-facing role. That’s our anchor.”
As Bill explains, he has to be strategic with his time and effort. “We’re still a team of two, and we have to partner with everybody to get buy-in. People care about different measurements. From an HR perspective, we want to know whether the training is creating a culture of learning. Marketing wants to know which pieces of content are getting used the most.”
“You have to parse out all these different elements, but ultimately the big question is, ‘did I move the needle?’ We’re looking at all the indicators that are important to different parts of the business with skin in the game. That way, we get a global view of how well we’re doing.”
Our thanks to Bill once again for sharing his thoughts and experiences with us!
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