Close Brothers wanted sales skills training that would improve the core selling skills of their Account Managers, offering the flexibility they need to succeed with both large and smaller dealer partners. They also wanted to offer continuous learning and skills development for their teams and a support structure for career progression and succession planning.
Huthwaite International created and delivered a SPIN Selling collaborative learning experience over several weeks for Close Brothers teams supported by SPIN Coaching learning journeys for their top management team, SPIN Marketing to ensure consistent messaging and SPIN tools integrated into their CRM to embed the methodology.
Benchmark Analysis and an Impact Study comparing the start position with skills (learning gain) and performance at the end of the formal training confirmed that a common sales language and behaviours are used and understood by teams across the organisation supporting their dealer partners to increase sales revenue.
A joined up approach
While the focus of the programme was on increasing the consultative selling skills of the nationwide network of account managers, the Close Brothers Motor Finance SPIN Selling skills programme was more ambitious and wider reaching than simply providing training interventions for the target audience. The programme co-created by Huthwaite International and Close Brothers comprised six specific inputs. By the end of September 2021, Huthwaite International had completed the delivery of:
SPIN Selling learning journeys and SPIN Coaching learning journeys for the Top Team
SPIN Selling and Coaching SPIN learning journeys for Sales Managers
SPIN Selling for Account Managers
SPIN Marketing for marketing and product development staff
Train the Trainer (TTT) for Close Brothers L&D team
Benchmark analysis and an Impact Study comparing the start position with skills (learning gain) and performance at the end of the formal inputs.
Teams learning with and from each other
The programme was built on a programme experience platform, designed to support continuous collaboration between members of each cohort, their facilitators and coaches throughout each stage of the learning journey. The rationale for using a collaborative platform which harnesses social interactions and task based collaboration was three-fold:
The learning was taking place during lockdown and - although many of the participants were working predominantly from home pre-pandemic it was felt collaboration would need greater focus to address lockdown isolation.
The participants were experienced in their roles – the knowledge, experiences and stories they had amassed over time was acknowledged to be an essential part of the learning journey. We were keen to provide the maximum opportunity for stories to be shared and for individuals to learn from each other.
The Huthwaite Collaborative platform provides a timeline so that participants know what is expected of them and by when to complete the various assignments. It also provides real-time engagement and completion data enabling the Huthwaite and Close Brothers project teams to intervene in a timely manner, where required.
“The Huthwaite programme itself, particularly from the learning technology perspective of being able to bring together the collaborative platform and the classroom elements, really suited our needs and our learners really benefited from that from the start. But of course, we're leveraging an internationally recognised sales methodology, so the credibility and prestige which comes with that also really resonates with our salespeople”.
Gareth Dunlop, UK Sales Trainer, Close Brothers
Key commercial outcomes
Immediate commercial gains - To support measurement and evaluation, there were two initial and end-of-journey processes put in place. The first was a confidence based, learning gain assessment. This showed an uplift in overall performance from 38% average score at the start of the learning journey to 66% average score at the end. The other assessment mechanism was a benchmark survey – which asked about perceptions of skill and performance from both participants and their managers. Some highlights below.
“The standout moments of the SPIN training for me were the communities of practise that we were involved in after the classroom sessions, where we were actually able to try out the behaviours for ourselves and bring them to life. This meant that when we went to meet clients, we were prepared and actually ready to use the new tools”.
Gemma Burdett, Account Manager, Close Brothers Motor Finance
"I found the Huthwaite collaborative platform really easy to use and a great place for reflection. As we moved through the training, the platform enabled me to put the information I gathered in one place so I could refer back to it, which I think helped to extend my learning”.
Sarah Small, Account Manager, Close Brothers Motor Finance
Consistency of approach
In sales qualification, opportunity reviews and customer conversations, the power of everyone executing in the same manner, with the same understanding - including leaders who actually walk the talk, has been key to the overall success of the project. The impact of the SPIN training has been sustained within day-to-day processes with the continued application of SPIN behaviours and tools which have now been incorporated into the CRM system. The marketing team have also focused on customer needs - a central component of the SPIN research – and are driving further, needs based consultative selling by account managers.
Trusted advisers to their dealers and partners
Account Managers are now focused on how they can fully understand customer problems and help them identify a solution. They ask the types of questions that help both parties understand the situation and really listen to their dealer partners, so that they can move at a pace and through a process that creates a relationship focused on the their best interests.
“In terms of behaviours, we used to have a metric of eight meetings a day, which is a little heavy so we’ve slowed that down. Now, it's more about preparation, it's more about understanding the dealers needs and presenting them in the most effective way through SPIN, and in a ‘Close’ way of selling. It’s had a real impact on how we sell and how we position our proposition and our products and it's also had a positive impact on the amount time we spend understanding the important details”.
Seán Kemple, Managing Director, Close Brothers Motor Finance
Clear skills path and commitment to ongoing skills development for commercial teams
Account Managers are clear what they need to do to develop and progress their careers, while the sales leadership team can now set the competencies they need to succeed and grow