Typically, a field sales team will be focused on maximising sales volumes– but here’s a case where the need is to understand and support the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of their customers; and to help make them more profitable. This is how the team has been trained in a whole new discipline: and in a completely new way.
Volkswagen Group, like all vehicle manufacturers, operates in a highly competitive marketplace, and its dealer network customers share a common interest in selling VW Group products – yet they work on Industry average margins of circa 1.5%. One wrong strategic move and that profit can be wiped out.
Traditional training methods for the 150-strong Field Force team had missed the target in linking operational best practice and their influence in the financial KPI’s – as Gerard Carter (VW Group Business Management Manager) admits, they have been drawn from a Sales or Operations background and “there was a gap in their financial skillset”.
At the beginning of 2016, Gerard sat down with us at ProfitAbility L&D, and we worked out a plan of action for a new programme entitled The Retailer Experience, aimed at elevating the Field Force’s understanding of a retailer’s KPIs and operational initiatives, “so they can add greater value to their retailers and strengthen their relationships”. They would, if the training worked, understand the financial impact on the customer of their actions and the advice that they gave.
We talked at length, as we always do with clients about a new bespoke experiential learning programme, and the result was a fusion of preparatory spreadsheet work and a board game approach. The business simulation covered:
Before we rolled this programme out to the whole network, we ran a pilot to test the various aspects of the simulation. We found that although it was highly stimulating, there was too much debate about the answers and not enough decision-making. We tweaked the format accordingly, introducing a report form for each round that focused teams on their KPI decision-making and this, Gerard says, was “the one thing that really pushed it over the line”.
The roll-out, over 2 months, involved the Sales, Aftersales and Network Development personnel across the 5 main brands:
All the way through, management was conscious that it must not be just another training session that had to be endured by people “because we told you so”. This would be a “fun and engaging experience of running a dealership” – or what was dubbed as ‘Walk a mile in a retailer’s shoes”.
The experience was not just about soft factors: they were addressing real hard-nosed business issues. The Major KPIs were:
The feedback was “phenomenal”. VW sets a benchmark for training at 8.5/10: and this programme achieved a record average of 9.4/10. The final course actually attained an amazing 9.8/10 score.
What next for this training? Initially planned as a one-off event for the Field Force team, there is now an internal request for two more sessions involving other departments, and Gerard will be discussing with Learning and Development to see if it can be made a standard part of training. Other parts of VW Group including Bentley and VW Bank are interested in emulating the programme’s success, as are some major dealership groups themselves.
We at ProfitAbility are proud to have been able to work with VW Group on this initiative, and if you would like to talk about your own specific business needs then please contact me and we will work on a learning proposal to suit them.
I also recommend that you get a flavour for how our methods work by experiencing a free taster day at the IoD in London, where you can take part in shortened business simulations and feel what it is like to be a participant in experiential learning. The next event is on 14th September – ensure your place by registering here now.
Mark Haenel is a Director of ProfitAbility