We spoke with HomeAdvisor’s VP Denver Sales, Brad Fosser, about training, practice, and the technology that guides his plans for 2015. Like many other nationwide companies, HomeAdvisor has sales offices in Denver, Kansas City, Washington, D.C., and New York, making solving the challenges of delivering consistent messaging and training at scale extremely relevant to their mission.
Training has undergone a change in the past decade, a shift from gathering data and grouping reps for meetings to flipping the classroom and focusing on practice.
CT: How has your approach to training changed, both in your time as a sales leader and in your role at HomeAdvisor?
Brad Fosser: "Sales is an ever-evolving beast where the next great thing is only one phone call away. We want to make sure that not only are we capturing that phone call, but that we're then able to share that phone call and then get that phone call implemented not only into our new hire training, but also our ongoing training. It's a good problem to have, because we're constantly finding new best practices.
What CommercialTribe does a great job of doing is giving us a platform to really show these best practices and giving reps an opportunity to practice them. We're really excited about the evolving and new technologies."
CT: What are some of the ways you've worked traditionally to pull out tribal knowledge and best practices across a decentralized salesforce?
Brad: "Historically, it's been a lot of work, getting our hands dirty to figure these messages out. There's a lot of asking reps to elevate best practices, a lot of managers going out and saying, "well, I have a rep out here who uses X, Y, and Z and it seems to be working very well."
Implementing processes that help us elevate those best practices faster is definitely on the docket for 2015. Lots of emails go around - we try and aggregate as much of that as we can, to centralize and share that at the director and manager level, but those are document based. It's not as good as actually hearing how something works or seeing how it works."
With technology changing rapidly to meet the needs of the selling market, keeping ahead and using the newest tools is now a requirement for sales leadership.
CT: As we enter 2015, sales training is moving deeper into a technology space. What do you see as the biggest challenges when planning training, rep development, and continuous certification as you enter into 2015?
Brad: "Scalability is always an issue - we're a constantly growing company. How do you get the same message to more people across larger scales, efficiently as possible? The challenge is making sure that we're utilizing technology to share best practices not just amongst single teams [here], but amongst whole organizations and then the entire sales organization across all three of our call centers. I think it's making sure that we're elevating best practices as quickly as they come up. There's a deep pool right now with a lot of really talented people in it, so we're making sure that what's working is being added to our training materials and being spread out across the salesforce at the same time.
The ability to sit down and review a conversation that's been had is gamechanging. Technology has also enabled us to really take some training concepts and be able to share those concepts outside of just here in Denver or just in Kansas City, and really start having those conversation at an organizational level instead of just an individual level."
CT: As a sales leader, what metric do you see driving the biggest impact with the least amount of effort? What can we change to drive the most positive change within the organization?
Brad: “Attrition is a big metric to track, because we make a big investment in getting our team up to speed, and we want to retain everybody that we can. You're not shooting yourself in the foot.
Speed to ramp is another big one. If we're giving these reps the best tools and the best ways that we know how to train, then we should naturally see an acceleration on that learning curve. To me, it's getting folks up to speed so that we're retaining the ones that we're investing in. You're going to have attrition no matter what, but we make sure to give them the tools and environment they need to succeed. We give our reps outlets like game and break rooms and organizational fun events, just to make sure that people want to get up and come to work for HomeAdvisor. That’s how you retain top tier talent."
With any growing or decentralized company, onboarding new hires and ramping them up to productivity can be a challenge.
CT: HomeAdvisor was recently profiled by Built in Colorado as the #1 Digital Employer in Colorado. What are some of the challenges you face as you continue to grow and onboard new reps at scale?
Brad: "As we continue to grow, we're first making sure that we have enough seats in the building!
We're constantly reevaluating how we get a rep up to speed as quickly as possible. We have a multi-stage training process that's a mix of classroom and live on the phone practice, then we put them through an incubation period. This really allows them to go and be able to put all of those things that we've trained them on to use on the phone, under a very supervised environment with some of our top sales reps coaching and helping them along the way.
Once they're out on the floor, it's repetition, repetition, repetition - how many times can we get them to go through various scenarios and get comfortable."
CT: And how does training continue as new hires become tenured reps?
Brad: “We graduate new hires out to existing teams, which means constant ongoing training with their managers. We try and convey a lot of our coaching one on one, making sure that managers are meeting with reps weekly. Huddles, group coaching. As real time as we can get.”
CT: Finally, what about adoption? With any new tool or even a new training program, driving adoption can be difficult. How have you approached this?
Brad: "Getting [tenured reps] to understand the investment in ongoing training and what that means for us as the organization and their ability to see how other people are selling is a really big advantage to the entire sales floor. I'm a firm believer that it will take a push from the management level, but once that push goes, you're going to see a sizeable snowball affect that draws on people wondering what the best are doing. You're exposing people to new styles of sales and new things that they haven't seen before, which is exciting.
Even a little bit of interest from the right people can go a long way!"