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focus_Things We Think and Do Not Say

Things We Think and Do Not Say

By Brian Lange

Over the years, various laments have been shared by learning and development professionals when discussing “collaborating” with marketing on national sales meetings, sales force expansions and other initiatives. Frustrations tend to fall along the lines of:

• “Marketing changes things right up until the last minute!”

• “Our four hours of training time got cut to two hours: three days before the meeting!”

• “They make decisions without our input!”

• “Why are they designing the agenda?!”

• “Why won’t they listen to what the field is telling us?!”

It seems that a general pattern has evolved where marketing attempts to define not only the “what” of content for these meetings and initiatives, but also the “how” (and how much time!). This is where, perhaps, we have failed in positioning our specialty.

For too long – in too many companies – commercial learning and development has essentially accepted a reputation as ordertakers: Marketing defines the needs of the project, and the parameters (time, resources, etc.) — and training works on the execution (even when they know there are major shortcomings with the plan). This can leave many folks unsatisfied, and impacts the ultimate customers — reps — as well as eventual selling results.

In an ideal world, learning and development professionals would be viewed as a crucial voice for how best to achieve the desired behavioral changes that marketing envisions.

“Both functions bring specific and essential competencies that contribute to the #1 goal: creating additional value for the learning and retention of the sales team,” notes Medtronic’s Adam Cowley.

Bill Jacobs, from Relypsa adds, “By speaking to the science of learning – why we do what we do in training – and reminding them each time that we will cover the ‘how the learning will take place’ – we are able to collaborate and show our value.”

And in that ideal world, once the learning plan is designed, field sales leadership would be engaged again to define their role in helping with implementation of the new behaviors.

Tom Hood, at Bayer HealthCare, explains further:

“Training colleagues need to understand that their expertise is how to translate marketing’s desired state (the ‘ask’) into specific actions colleagues must undertake in the field. It’s only when we are present at the table early with leadership that the ‘ask’ can be fully understood and shaped so that we can design an effective, realistic plan. We need to own the training that gets colleagues to transfer the marketing direction into specific field actions.”

Russ Poole, of Ferring Pharmaceuticals, adds, “If you act as a supporting function you will be treated as a supporting function. If you hold to your accountabilities and perform, you will be treated as equal partners in the success.”

Let’s get the key functional areas on the same page — from the start. And, let’s fight to protect our learners from insufficient roll-outs and poor strategy pull-through. Let’s continuously modify our field coaching documentation to align with our learning efforts.


Brian Lange,, is with Perim Consulting and serves as lead facilitator for LTEN PrimeTime! For Trainers Core and Masters Workshops. Find blogs, tweets and more at

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