A year ago the door-to-door sales team at Britannic Assurance had to rely on bulky brochures and a ball point pen to show the benefits of their insurance packages to potential customers. Today they turn up on doorsteps armed with a laptop computer, providing them with all the information and illustrations they need at the touch of a button.
It is still too early to judge the full impact of the new technology on sales figures, but the early signs are good. On June 15, this year, six weeks after the roll-out was completed, sales were up by 19 per cent and the number of customers buying more than one product had increased by 35 per cent on the previous year.
The shift of Britannic’s 2,500 sales professionals from paper-based to high-tech was the vision of the sales and marketing department though it was up to the performance development team, part of human resources, to make it a reality. Under the leadership of sales training manager Simon Bellotti, who joined two years ago, it designed the training and delivered it to the whole sales force in under a year.
Extra tuition and long-term support were provided for the many technophobes and a new entrants course was set up to ensure that new employees hit the ground running. Audio-visual discs, which can be played on the laptops, were produced to keep the team updated on new products. This took place during a massive expansion programme – with 1,000 new entrants passing through the training department in early 1999.
The £20m project was introduced in July last year as part of a five year business strategy plan, which has seen the company restructured and a number of acquisitions made.
The first phase was to introduce the sales team to their laptops and show them how to use them. Ten branches were targeted in the pilot scheme and problems were ironed out before the other 110 branches were introduced to the project. Managers were also trained during this phase.
The second phase followed three months later when staff, now familiar with their computers, were trained to use them as a work tool. Training, through a combination of Britannic’s trainers and consultants, was carried out locally to minimise disruption to work. Everyone was assessed to ensure they were ready to use the equipment. By May 2000 the project was complete.
As evidence of the success of the project, the performance development team point to the change in attitude towards it from its main customer: the sales and marketing department which was doubtful it could deliver. Outsourced training was being considered as an alternative. The performance development team is expanding with extra staff being recruited to replace the six consultants currently used, bringing all sales training in-house.
Company fact file
Team Britannic Assurance Training Department
Team Leader Simon Bellotti, sales training manager Number in HR team four dedicated staff
Number of employees responsible for 2,500 sales professionals
Main achievements Converting staff to new sales techniques based around a laptop computer in under one year. Six weeks after the project was completed sales were up by 19 per cent and multiple sales by 35 per cent
Priorities for next 12 months Moving training updates from digital video disc (DVD) to the company intranet which staff will be able to access through their laptops from home
Judge’s Comment “This training initiative is a highly developed intervention using state-of-the-art technology. It represents an enormous financial investment and has already led to significant business benefits. Such a complex training intervention requires very high levels of leadership and teamwork to ensure success, and the judges considered that Brittanic’s performance as a team has really exemplified the highest standard of achievement in that category. It has also achieved a major paradigm shift in the way training and development is viewed from within the organisation – so it’s been a transforming initiative in many ways”