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Cornell University

 

How eCornell Achieved Consistent Sales Growth and Nearly Doubled its Retail Revenues

eCornell is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cornell University – an Ivy League institution with a stellar reputation. Each year the company delivers online learning for professional and executive development to more than 10,000 students in 190+ countries. Working with Resolution Systems, the company’s sales team has achieved consistent improvements in performance – including an 86% year-over-year growth in revenues.

The problem:
• Inconsistent sales performance.

The solution:
Benchmarking and sales assessments to guide hiring and development.
• Training focused on consistent, repeatable processes.
• Follow-up sales coaching to reinforce classroom training under real-world conditions.

The results:
• 86% year-over-year improvement in revenue and an “on fire” sales team.

The Challenge
Founded in 2000, eCornell has quickly become one of the most trusted names in online learning. The company has relied on two market-focused sales teams to grow its business. A Retail team recruits individual students, while a Corporate team sells eCornell’s online courses and certificate programs to businesses around the globe.

Though the company was successful from the start, both sales teams struggled with a lack of consistency. Enrollment and revenues varied widely from month to month, with little predictability.

“We would have a very good month and then a down month as we rebuilt our sales pipeline,” says Maureen Updike, VP of Human Resources, Student Services and Retail Sales. “In addition, our close rate was really low. We had excellent people, but some were simply better than others at connecting with our clients.”

After a top-to-bottom analysis against best practices, the eCornell leadership team decided a critical component was missing. The organization lacked a formal sales training process for teaching its sales teams how to qualify leads and close sales in a consistent fashion.

To fill the gap, eCornell executives decided they wanted more than a sales training provider. They wanted a strategic partner who could help them hire the right salespeople, develop the right capabilities and adopt an effective selling process. Updike and a colleague researched available providers and independently came up with the same answer: Resolution Systems Inc.

The Solution
Resolution Systems has partnered with eCornell to transform its sales team, beginning with the Retail side of the organization.

The first step: The Resolution Systems Sales Champion Battery™ was used to assess current team members against more than 60 attributes important to any sales job, including selling behaviors, motivators that drive performance, cognitive characteristics that impact success, selling skills and knowledge of the selling process. Updike says the results helped Retail enrollment counselors understand their shortcomings and what they needed to do differently.

“We identified right away that one of our key players had a large gap between who she was and what she was trying to do,” Updike says. “She was strong in customer service, but not in the type of selling we do. It was eye-opening for all of us, and she left the company. We became very aware of why these things were important and needed to be understood.”

The assessment process also provided a powerful context for training Resolution Systems delivered in the Resolution Selling™ process. Team members were taught to think more strategically, prospect more effectively, advance the sales process and become a valued partner to clients.

Long-term reinforcement ensured eCornell received an optimal return on its training investment – including regular coaching calls to keep individuals focused on key principles that could help the organization build its bottom line. With an Executive Sales Coach to guide the discussion, the team explored sales pipelines and how Resolution Selling™ applied to strategies, issues and opportunities.

The results were readily evident.

“Team members were immediately taking what they were learning through training and coaching and using it – pushing it right out into our operation,” Updike says. “We could see they were becoming stronger and more consistent in qualifying prospects and in knowing ‘what to do when’ during the sales cycle. rogers site down It began to improve our close rate and impact revenue. We kept looking at the data and the performance and saying ‘this is really good.’”

Updike credits much of the change to the follow-up Resolution Systems provides. During regular coaching calls, team members had a safe venue for discussing issues, including where they might have lost focus or slipped into bad habits.

“What I saw was a powerful continuous learning model focused on individual improvement and transitioning concepts into action,” Updike says. “We were taking a selling process that seemed so logical to me and reinforcing it until it wasn’t a new thing anymore. People were getting to the point where they really understood and could quickly turn the corner on qualification.”

The Results
After training and coaching in Resolution Selling™, members of eCornell’s retail sales team have experienced an 86% year-over-year growth in revenues.

“They are on fire and have moved every bar you can move,” Updike says. “So many other training and development firms drop in with an energized speaker, tell your team what to do and then are out of there. But Resolution Systems offered us more than a cheerleading exercise. They had a complete, step-by-step process that began with assessments and included both training and follow-up. We found other firms with pieces of what we needed, but no one else could provide us with the whole thing.”

Updike also says she values the relationship between Resolution Systems and the eCornell team.

“They’ve become our trusted partner and someone to help us address the kinds of things you need to know to do a better job,” she says. “Rather than trying to ‘super sell’ us, they point out the issues and help us evaluate our choices. As a result, we’ve moved closer to where we want to be in a very consistent fashion.”

Taking the same success model into Corporate sales

Based on the successes on the Retail side, eCornell is now working with Resolution Systems to transform its Corporate sales team as well. As a first step, eCornell wanted to fill key openings with individuals well-suited to the demands of the job.

“You’ve got to have a lot of things right to succeed,” Updike says. “You need good marketing to drive leads. But you also need good people. It takes time to build a relationship with a corporation and to land a sale, so turnover is costly. We knew we needed to add the right people to build a more sustainable situation and leverage our business forward.”

Resolution Systems worked with eCornell to:

• Define the characteristics of an ideal candidate.
• Develop interview questions to align with the specific capabilities needed.
• Administer the online Resolution Systems Sales Champion Battery™ to promising candidates.
• Evaluate the results and rank candidates based on eCornell’s benchmark criteria.

After in-person interviews, eCornell selected the cream of the crop to join its team. The VP of Corporate Sales was trained by Resolution Systems in sales management, while his new salespeople have just completed the Resolution Selling™ course.

“It was great to watch what happened,” Updike says. “We had one person who was vehemently against training based on a previous bad experience. But within the first 15 minutes of working with Resolution Systems, he didn’t question what we were doing anymore. We can’t wait to see what this team can do.”

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