Monsanto produces leading seed brands in large-acre crops like corn, cotton, and oilseeds (soybeans and canola), as well as small-acre crops like vegetables. Monsanto also produces leading in-the-seed trait technologies for farmers that are aimed at protecting their yield, supporting their on-farm efficiency and reducing their on-farm costs.
Monsanto invested more than $980 million last fiscal year researching new tools for farmers. The annual research-and-development (R&D) budget is targeted at roughly 9% to 10% of sales.
In addition to the seeds and traits business, they also manufacture the world's best-selling herbicide, Roundup®, and other herbicides used by farmers, consumers and lawn-and-garden professionals.
The business is structured in two segments:
- Seeds and Traits
The Seeds and Traits segment consists of the company's global seeds and traits business, and genetic technology platforms - including biotechnology, breeding and genomics.
- Crop Protection
The Crop Protection segment consists primarily of agricultural and industrial, turf and ornamental herbicide products.
Monsanto operates in highly competitive market in Eastern and Central Europe. Its competitors employ larger sales forces but on a contractual bases. Monsanto wants to differentiate and build on its strengths through the quality of its people. The company recognized that it needs to establish long-term profitable relationships with its existing customers as well also acquiring new customers. This should come about as a result of achieving a “trusted advisor” status with farmers.
The sales approach in this area consists of a push and pull element. In this market, sales representatives visit famers as well as the distributor companies. Then the farmers buy their products of choice from the distributors.
The sales teams were heterogeneous in terms of age and experience. Some teams were full of freshman whereas others have people with over 10 years’ experience. The sales people did not consistently follow a commonly agreed sales process. As long as they were on target it was up to individuals to define what good performance looks like.
The key objective was to impact on sales performance through these “push and pull” teams The company had also identified coaching as a key skill for managerial success and wanted all Sales Area Managers to have a common approach to effective coaching based performance management.
To assist with the required changes in approach Monsanto chose Prosell as its strategic performance-improvement partner. A detailed field visit based analysis was done which confirmed the need to create sales standards that capture the essential steps and process to be followed by the sales teams. A team of Prosell and Monsanto experts created a set of clear sales standards. This was followed by a series of sales training held by internal and external trainers to familiarise sales staff with sales process they are expected to follow.
The analysis also revealed that managers followed very different styles in terms of giving performance feedback and coaching to their sales reps. Hence we created and customized the Procoach Performance Coaching Programme to teach managers how to coach effectively and thereby sustain the behavioural and skill shift that was achieved as a result of the sales training held as part of the programme.
The programme was initially implemented in four countries, namely Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and in a second step to Turkey as well.
The programme consisted of 4 phases:
- The initial phase of sales process design with a project team
The programme goals were defined and the first phase of measurement of managerial skills was conducted.
- Training phase for sales representatives
A train-the-trainer programme was implemented for 8 sales reps and District Sales Managers to prepare them for the role of internal sales trainers. These trainers then trained 80 sales representatives in the region under the supervision and support of Prosell trainers.
- Training and coaching phase for the District Sales Managers
Managers from the four markets have attended the Procoach programme in order to adopt and learn a consistent way of regularly coaching their people in terms of the learned skills and processes. This was a mixture of workshop and field based interventions which afforded the managers the chance to practice and then apply the learning with “live support” in the workplace.
- Audit and Measurement
On an ongoing basis, the key managerial skills including the Procoach performance coaching skills which the program was aiming to impact upon were measured in conjunction with the achievement of sales results.
Romania and Ukraine, which are relatively new and growing markets for Monsanto, saw an over 100% increase in sales in the following year after the programme. Management attributed minimum 20% of this growth directly to the Sales Efficiency Programme conducted by Prosell. The sales growth was approximately 10% in Hungary where the market is very mature and Monsanto has been present for a very long time.
The survey measuring key managerial behaviours which was conducted prior and after the project showed the following results:
My manager regularly gives me motivating feedback:
28 % up in Ukraine; 16.7% up in Romania, 9.2% up in Hungary.
My manager and I regularly review what impact his/her feedback has on my work:
35, 1 up in Ukraine; 18.1 percent increase in Romania; 18.2 % up in Hungary.
My role is regularly discussed with me regarding skills, knowledge and attitude needed to achieve the results:
20.3 % up in Ukraine; 18.5 % up in Romania; 28.3 % up in Hungary.
Based on the results and reception of this programme it can be observed clearly that the existence and consistence of agreed sales standards and process is a key driver for sales effectiveness.
Another key learning point is that the existence of the sales standards, training and regular effective managerial performance coaching will have long lasting results as opposed to the impact of two one-off class room training events.