Steve Gough, Managing Director
Fourteen years ago, when Steve Gough was in a sales leadership role, he understood that leadership or management training does not work on its own. Tens of Thousands of dollars spent on leadership skills development had come to naught, and that set him thinking—“There should be a better way to impart training.” And that was the impetus for Gough to set the stage for Critical Elements. The company’s forte is its Sales Leadership Development Program, designed to develop competencies necessary for sales leadership in an organisation.
Critical Elements provides robust training and coaching for sales leaders on leadership and management skills through a four-phased uniquely designed engagement model. In phase one, known as the discovery phase, the team consults with the client to ascertain the challenges in their leadership community and how these manifest in their business to design a suitable development program. Phase two entitled the skills development phase, involves using tools such as psychometric profiling to understand the personality type of the leader. “We also take time to understand the personality types of their direct reports, which in turn helps the leaders to modify their leadership styles and build better engagement with their team members and peers,” says Gough, Managing Director of Critical Elements. This is then followed with an emotional intelligence assessment, which enables the Critical Elements team to help the leaders to see themselves as others would see them. “This helps the participants to have a greater degree of self-awareness and understand and acknowledge their development priorities,” explains Gough.
Moving on to phase three, Skills Application, the team embeds the activation and application of skills learned in the training phase through several 3-hour group workshops that convert the outcome to everyday habits. “We wait for the evidence that signifies the real implementation of leadership skills learnt from the previous phase, which is a big success factor of the program,” states Gough. In Phase 4, Skills Coaching, a series of personalized motivational tele-coaching sessions are held at regular intervals with the participants individually, equipping them with the new set of skills and the know-how to apply them for effectively tackling the problems pertaining to their domain. The holistic engagement programme spans over a period of about nine months.
The shoulder-to-shoulder coaching and observation done by the sales leader dramatically improves the sales performance
“By the end of the programme, the participants have, to a large extent, started to adopt and display the leadership skills that they were trained for,” states Gough.
Gough cites a recent engagement with an organisation, selling complex software solutions. They were facing a decline in their sales in the wake of increased competition. The sales leadership team had been focusing too much on operational matters such as compensation, structure and territory reorganisation, “Internalising” as Gough puts it. In the discovery phase, the Critical Elements team ascertained that there was no field-based observation or coaching taking place. The management style was very direct; the sales manager and leaders spent very little time in coaching the salesperson to successfully manage opportunities and accounts. Gough illustrates with an analogy, “On match day, imagine the manager of a soccer team does not pay attention to the first half of the game when the team is not playing well. During half time, when players ask the manager about what new strategies have to be adopted to change the outcome, the manager is at a loss. We recommend a non-direct style of coaching,” mentions Gough. “The sales leaders’ role is to stimulate internal reflection within the salesperson so that they can identify their areas of development and come up with a plan. The shoulder-to-shoulder coaching and observation done by the sales leader dramatically improves the sales performance as was the case with our client as well.” As one sales leader in the client put it, “Critical Elements identified the lack of focus on optimising customer and prospect time by developing sales capability such as consulting, networking and getting customer commitment, ‘Externalising’ as they put it, we were trying to fix our sales challenge by looking inwardly.”
But what truly sets them apart is their process and people. While the company stands firmly behind its engagement model, the team consists of members who were successful sales leaders in different domains. “To gain the credibility of a sales leader, you have to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of their world. We engage with a client and explain about our credibility as to why we should be the one to train them.”
In the days to come, Critical Elements aims to introduce a coaching tool kit, enabling the sales leader to observe the sales person’s engagement with a client. The toolkit will allow the sales leader to record the engagement with the help of an objective evaluation model. Every time the salesperson displays a particular behaviour or skill as an outcome of their training, a tick is recorded automatically in the tool kit. “We teach sales leaders to identify specific behaviour that leads to success. And for an analogy, it’s the soccer pitch again,” concludes Gough.