For most sales organisations, employee development is a major area for investment, as this is how salespeople gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours necessary to achieve success. However, with that being said, not all sales development programmes generate the required return on investment.

One of the most common problems is that organisations fail to adequately personalise their sales development programmes, meaning that some of the teachings provided through training and coaching will not be relevant to all of the staff. As a consequence, much of their time and investment is actually being wasted.

Why Is Personalisation Important?

It is essential to understand that no two employees are the same. Not only are there obvious differences in the roles of, say, frontline sales staff and sales consulting staff, each individual also has their own strengths, weaknesses and learning style. Moreover, each of them will be at a different stage of their personal development journey.

For this reason, while team training exercises have a role to play, it is important that staff are also developed individually. This means providing them with relevant, tailored, one-to-one coaching, focusing on the specific skills they need to address in order to improve their performance and progress in their career.

However, despite the importance of developing individual sales staff in this way, it was revealed in the recent CSO Insights 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report that 74.9 percent of sales managers spend an hour or less each week on coaching skills and behaviours, while 47.1 percent spend less than 30 minutes a week on it.

Personalised Development Plans

What this research demonstrates is that there is clear room for improvement when it comes to personalising employee development. One way that high-performing sales organisations are achieving better results is through the use of personalised development plans, allowing progress to be defined and measured for each sales rep.

At present, according to research published by CSO Insights, just 40 percent of companies consistently develop and implement personalised performance improvement plans. Yet, among those businesses classed as being in the ‘World-Class’ bracket, this figure increases to 87 percent.

“By creating relevant and individualized performance improvement plans… organizations further cultivate a culture of continuous development,” the 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Report says. “Too often, sales managers are tempted to view performance reviews as busy work or an HR form.”

Benefits of Personalised Development

Ultimately, personalised development programmes are more likely to lead to the kind of changes that drive improvements to business performance. After all, when learning is tailored to suit individuals, not only can the information presented be more relevant, but individual learning styles and motivations can be taken into account.

By working with sales managers, frontline and sales consulting staff will be able to identify their own areas of strength and weakness, set specific, measurable goals and monitor their progression towards those goals.

“There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all sales team,” says Will Brooks from The Brooks Group, writing for Training Industry, Inc. “Customizing sales training with assessments gives sales reps the chance to learn in a way that is easiest and most effective for them.”


Personalised development programmes allow sales managers to focus on the areas that individual staff need to work on to achieve optimal performance. At present, however, the majority of sales organisations are not following the lead of world-class organisations in actually implementing this kind of employee development on a consistent basis.

The upcoming TSW17 European Sales Enablement Summit in London will cover sales development and a range of other sales enablement topics, with guest speakers including Miller Heiman Group’s own Tamara Schenk. For more information about the event, and to register your attendance, click here.

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