| CATEGORY: SALES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, PROFESSIONAL SALES CERTIFICATION|
|Key Words: Certified Sales Professional, Sales Designation, CSP, Professional sales|
|Getting the Dream Team…By Investing In It|
|By Sharlene Fernandes, CPSA|
|Last Update: 4/24/2012 10:55:08 AM|
|Mandatory CSP certification fosters consistency, loyalty, and sales.|
After two and a half years of progressive thinking in his role as the former President of Lion’s Gate Marketing (LGM), Randy Price’s vision of a results-oriented and entrepreneurial sales team had finally been realized. While other companies within the automotive industry were striving to get back on their feet after the recent economic recession, LGM saw a double-digit growth in their sales. You might wonder how this company was able to thrive when the majority of others in the industry were still struggling. Well, for Price, it was as simple as looking beyond LGM’s own walls and externally investing in the development of his sales team.
Lion’s Gate Marketing, based in Oakville, Ontario with offices across Canada, is a medium-sized business serving the automotive industry. They have established a reputation for excellence in quality financial products and customer service. However, the road to cultivating this reputation was a difficult one. As with many other companies, LGM faced the usual issues of attrition among their sales representatives and maintaining strong client relationships in spite of this. These issues were exacerbated by the fact that they, like many others, were hard-hit by the economic downturn. In an effort to revive their bottom lines, most companies turned to the only solution they felt they could: layoffs and cutbacks. LGM took the opposite approach; they saw it as an opportunity to invest in their human capital.
Prior to 2008, LGM was riddled with short-term employees, underlying a high turnover rate. Among the existing deficiencies, was an “agent philosophy” that pervaded LGM’s sales team, in which the employees were neither treated, nor felt, like they were permanent, valued employees. Price attributed this trend to the lack of investment in his sales team, and referred to the need of employees to feel supported by their organization in terms of compensation, benefits, skill and career development: “They need to feel like they’re consistently given the tools to be successful.” It became apparent that LGM could outlast and grow through the recession only if they worked as one cohesive, well-functioning whole.
The undeniable solution was to provide LGM’s sales representatives with developmental opportunities. At the time, the sales team was being trained by their managerial force, but they were not equipped with the expertise to teach effective sales techniques. Consequently, those training processes did not meet the needs of the team, and LGM was too small a company to house their own training and development department.
While investigating a more suitable avenue of training, Price had learned of a pre-existing relationship between LGM and the Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA); LGM employees were encouraged, but not required, to take CPSA professional development courses, resulting in a mixed bag of those with CPSA training and those without. Price maintained that a defined training process for all sales representatives to undergo was necessary. In order to explore the potential for CPSA’s professional development (PD) program as a source of the expertise that his team needed, he enrolled in CPSA’s Professional Selling course, himself, and was instantly impressed with the knowledge of the instructor, the unique delivery, and the one-of-a-kind, HRSDC-approved Certified Sales Professional (CSP) designation that is offered. Having considerable exposure to other training programs, he was convinced that CPSA’s PD program was the right fit for LGM.
Price decided to make CPSA’s CSP certification mandatory for all LGM’s sales representatives across Canada. He wanted a standard training and certification process that could be implemented across the board to obtain consistency throughout their entire team. “CPSA makes it simple,” he said, “there are CPSA courses offered in most major cities, reducing the need for and costs associated with flying employees out to one training location, and the coordination staff at CPSA have been great at registering the reps!”
Here’s how the compulsory certification process works at LGM: after sales personnel complete their six-month, probationary period, they are immediately enrolled in CPSA’s Professional Selling course. Following successful completion of the course, they are then scheduled to complete their CSP exam.
But the learning and development doesn’t stop there. The newly-certified CSPs are committed to continually applying the knowledge that they gained by incorporating the sales language and strategies from the CPSA courses into their team interactions, such as weekly team calls. In this way, they embody the techniques they learned in their every day practices, and they are able to maintain and build on their skills.
The Success Story
Two years after the CSP certification became a requisite for LGM’s sales representatives, the benefits are already tangible. This program has added more consistency and value to the sales representatives’ roles within the company. Of note, was a marked increase in loyalty, performance, and morale, underscored by a significant drop in voluntary attrition of the sales team from 100% in 2008 to less than 10% this year. There has also been a shift in the quality of sales candidates that apply to LGM; they now tend to attract sales associates of a higher calibre than before. These changes are deemed to be the result of the continual investment in the sales team and the provision of a solid scaffold from which they may garner success.
The resulting stability of LGM’s sales team, and the use of the effective consultative sales techniques learned through CPSA’s Professional Selling course, have had a positive effect on LGM’s client relations and business growth. “Customers within the auto industry need to be able to count on our consultative reps,” Price said regarding the frustration of customers who are deprived of consistent product and service support on account of high turnover. Having a sales team that has undergone a homogeneous training program means that client relationships do not suffer, and are strengthened over time. The designation elevated the reputation and credibility of the sales representatives, improved their consultative roles, and resulted in an increase in customer satisfaction and loyalty. This further allowed LGM to gain new prospects through customer referrals, and experience an overall growth in business and revenue.
The Value of the CSP Designation
LGM’s sales team certainly found value in the developmental opportunity of the CSP certification process. Their CSP designations are proudly displayed on all external collateral, including their business cards and other promotional materials, affording these sales associates an edge over their competitors and a chance at more novel and interesting opportunities. Price advises other companies to look for representatives who have also participated in such a rigorous training program: “Sales skills do not come naturally; they need to have a defined process from which to develop these skills.”
When asked how professionals who already have their CSP designation would fare in LGM’s hiring process, Price remarked that their designation would “stand out on their résumé, reinforcing that they are serious about what they do and are committed to excellence.” He emphasized that “anyone can take training, but CSPs have mastered what they have learned.”
Since the inception of the CSP certification program at LGM, the entire sales team is now equipped with CPSA memberships. The member benefits have allowed for significant savings on necessary travel expenses that LGM as a whole, and the sales representatives really appreciate.
In the future, LGM hopes to evolve into different segments of the automotive industry, and procure more enterprise accounts as a direct result of investing in the CSP certification of his sales team. Price advises other companies to “recognize that their human capital is their most valued asset,” and acknowledged that his embracing of this ideal allowed LGM to recover from the recession faster than its competition.
Learn more about CPSA's Certified Sales Professional (CSP) Designation and Professional Development programs.