Telia One Sales Focused on B2B Sales and Sales Leadership

Telia Finland wanted to develop its B2B sales and sales leadership with a program that was customized for the company. Together with Aalto University Executive Education (Aalto EE), the company collaborated on the Telia One Sales program for over 100 participants.

Anette Rahkonen and Olli Huhtala. Photo: Otso Alasko

Annika Rautakoura, 23.09.2021

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Telia, one of the largest TV companies in the Nordics and one of Finland’s leading ICT companies, has expanded its service offering in recent years through the acquisition of new companies, for example. Also Telia Inmics-Nebula and Telia Cygate operate as part of Telia.

The Telia One Sales program, spanning from September 2020 to May 2021, was a natural step for Telia, which wanted to unify sales, develop business customer relations, and identify new opportunities to create value for the customer.  

Telia One as a guiding concept

The program was arranged in the wake of Telia One concept, which seeks to assimilate the company’s different services and areas under a single identity and support a unified front towards the customer.

We always look for ways to improve the customer experience and these encounters."

The customer experience is Telia’s number one priority, says Anette Rahkonen, Customer Lead at the Business Customer segment and one of the program participants.

“We encounter customers every day and always look for ways to improve the customer experience and these encounters.”

Professional development for over 100 Telia employees

Together, Telia and Aalto EE tailored a program to strengthen and clarify B2B sales and sales management. Over 100 business sales professionals from Telia participated in the program.

In addition to interactive lectures, the program included group work and different assignments. There was a period between the first and second training days, allowing the learnings to be applied to practice and client meetings.

“The days were long but also gave plenty,” says another participant Olli Huhtala, Customer Lead in charge of clients in the education sector in the Uusimaa region.

A coaching approach and bold leadership

The training included two important themes: value creation for the customer and leadership. Leadership was approached through the aspects of human insights and self-knowledge, along with building trust.

Rahkonen points out that Telia’s sales departments operate heavily in a matrix organization, i.e., horizontally rather than vertically. “Customer teams include many people working on the same level, which places importance on leadership.” The program brought practical perspectives for work in such an environment.

The training also gave insights on how to lead in my own way."

Huhtala found the parts on customer team leadership to be very valuable. “Once the customer team reaches a certain size, the importance of leadership increases,” says Huhtala, who has slowly moved from smaller to bigger clients. “The training also gave insights on how to lead in my own way.”

Customer value as a key theme

Another highly important theme was customer value as part of developing customer work. Participants created, for example, value canvases. These helped in understanding the customers’ strategies, values and pain points as well as seeing things from the customer’s point of view.

“The goal is to have an open conversation with the client, ask questions and find out what they want to achieve,” Olli Huhtala points out. “Once we can establish the client’s challenges, we can produce value and this way become an actual partner for the client.”

Rahkonen also explains that the lessons have been utilized closely in, for example, the design of customer plans and teams. “We start from the customer perspective – not from how we view the customer, but vice versa,” Rahkonen describes. “Sounds simple, but in practice, it often isn’t.”

Tied to Telia’s culture and personal goals

Telia invests heavily in the training and development of its employees. Participants of Telia One Sales established personal goals at the start of the training together with their supervisor. Rahkonen considered this a successful choice. “This tied the training to our own work – it was more than a generic, separate program.”

It was more than a generic, separate program."

In conjunction with the program, Telia also utilized a DISC tool, which seeks to improve self-knowledge and communication. This supported the leadership section of the program, brought valuable insights for the participants, and promoted further integration with the work culture.

In addition to practical tools, the training gave larger guidelines for everyday work. “We were provided with operating philosophies and basic principles that can support all work,” Rahkonen says. “It is good to return to them, as the bigger picture often slips away in the bustle of daily work.”

Huhtala also highlights the importance of long-term impact. “There were learnings that I found important then and they are learnings that I have continued using.”

Virtual interaction in a well-designed setting

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the program was delivered online. Aalto EE’s faculty was in charge of the lectures and guided discussions, but there was plenty of room for interaction. “We had continuous dialogue and felt very welcome,” Rahkonen states. “Things weren’t simply presented to us – we had a discussion with each other and the trainers.”

Things weren’t simply presented to us – we had a discussion with each other and the trainers."

For sales professionals working in a hybrid environment, creating a connection virtually was not difficult. “Even through the camera, it was easy to create a connection,” notes Huhtala, who notes that the pandemic environment has made the virtual setting the norm.

Rahkonen points out that customer work often involves scheduling challenges, and there are often countless, simultaneous projects going on with the customer. This was considered in the arrangements of the training. “Everyone was looked after the whole time.”

Looking ahead with shared motivation

Rahkonen also thanks Aalto EE’s team for a successful program ad says that she is also very pleased about Telia’s own presence, the fact that the sales management was very committed to the training. “Looking at things with fresh eyes was good for everyone.”

“Discussions are often narrowed down to one’s own teams, so it’s valuable to exchange ideas with parallel teams and other colleagues,” Huhtala points out. “This always brings new perspectives.”

With 50 years' experience, Aalto EE develops world-class customized solutions that utilize Aalto University’s multi-disciplinary faculty and approach. We co-create with organizations' impactful and inspirational executive development solutions and help our customers to address current and future business challenges. Read more

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