The New Sales Tool Stack

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Think back to 15 years ago: sales tech was finally coming online, in-person meetings still ruled, and Salesforce was entering the market as a young challenger to the status quo. CRM soon became the foundation of the new sales team, driving easy alignment with the sales cycle and a stream of data that anyone could use to improve the team.

15 years later, the world of sales technology has blossomed. Along with improvements to Salesforce came a broad variety of new tools – CMS, data/analytics, lead generation, company databases, email tracking, and more. For a growing or existing sales team, the options have become incredibly complex, often with no clear path to growth or ROI. Each team carries its own toolkit, often with only a CRM at the core and a mix of other solutions supporting the organization.

Think of your toolset – if you had to remove every tool except the ones that directly lifted rep ability, what would remain?

traditional sales tool stack

What Changed?

The current sales stack, the set of tools that teams most often adopt, has a strong foundation: the Customer Relationship Management tool.

There is a fundamental difference between the impact of a CRM versus other tools on a team. A CRM, due to its organization and data-centric nature, sheds light on team performance as it relates to real data. Because it links actual sales results – new Leads and Opportunities or deals – to individual timelines, reps, or any other tracked metric, a CRM allows a team to get insight into their sales results and performance.

Other tools in the current sales stack are also crucial, but serve a different need: they are engineered to either scale or increase the productivity of these metrics, working on top of the CRM to improve the team’s existing efforts. The contrast comes in how these tools move the needle versus a CRM. While a CRM improves productivity by providing the team with data, other tools serve to increase operating efficiency. For most every tool, the team can expect an X% increase in efficiency and that their reps will able to do more with the same inputs.

But while these existing tools can squeeze more out of your team, they won’t improve the quality of the rep.

Lifting productivity alone is a fantastic goal, yet over time, it delivers diminishing returns. Tools that help reps send more emails, make more calls, and deliver more targeted content will improve productivity, but they will not improve the quality of the messaging or the ability for reps to articulate value and close more business. With poor quality messaging, feature listing, or even a limited understanding of the product, reps can be calling on accurate contacts and tracking sales cycle data without improving anything in their actual ability to convert. Productivity can only improve so much before lifts become smaller and less frequent.

What’s Missing?

While the CRM addresses how the team performs, and thus how productive they are, it does not necessarily aid a rep’s ability to interact with a prospect or win more deals. Likewise, existing toolsets can boost rep efficiency and productivity, but not what they actually say and do. This includes how well they understand and adopt core skills, messages, and behaviors, how they articulate these in the marketplace, and how often they can actually break the status quo to convert a sale.

The problem comes from any number of sources – high expense to lift rep ability, little time or support, lack of easy scalability, but addressing them promises higher returns and a more effective team.

New Sales Tool Stack

The New Sales Stack

To make change to rep ability, the new sales team toolset needs to include the opportunity for practice and alignment behind the skills and behaviors that will make for a better rep, one with the ability to articulate value at the moment of truth.

The new sales stack starts with investments in two core platforms: the CRM and practice-based sales training. Investments in a CRM address how you go to market, while dedicated adoption of a practice solution ensures you’re team is prepared to deliver when they get there.

When considering sales goals a quarter or year out, if reps are performing more efficiently in how they go to market, due to operational investments, but are at the same level of competence in the market due to lack of scalable training investments, then you’ve only nailed half of the productivity equation.

As more teams embrace a practice-based solution in parallel to core investments in CRM, they are beginning to see how practice ties to performance. When reps are challenged to adopt and apply new skills and behaviors, aligned with existing investments in tools that expand capacity, the modern sales enablement strategy has taken shape. No question the modern rep is more efficient than ever before, but they are also more effective in their ability to consult, influence and move prospects off the status quo.

On and Off The Court: How to Make Sales Coaching Work for You

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Sales coaching doesn’t have to take you out of your day-to-day workflow.

As a sales manager, you hear a lot about the importance of coaching. Start with the fact that without effective sales coaching or reinforcement, 87% of training content is forgotten in 30 days. There’s even research out there to tell you how much time to spend on coaching! The sweet spot is 3-5 hours per rep per month with the typical manager expected to manage 8 reps and set aside on average 1 hour per week for coaching. The payoff is teams that exceed their goal by 7% on average.

free throw sales coachingWhile these stats may look great on paper, I can’t blame you if you look at them with a degree of skepticism. As a sales manager, there’s always a big number to run after, and coaching is the stuff that’s more likely to help you next quarter than this quarter. Coaching has unfortunately become one of those buzz words that your senior leadership loves to talk about, but aren’t really sure how to implement.

We’ve talked about the three flavors of sales managers: Sales Star, Pipeline Manager, and Coach. The first two skill sets are the most common among managers. After all – you’re in the role because you’re probably great with prospects and know how to manage a deal through the pipeline. But great coaches are rare. With the average tenure of a head of sales now as low as 6 quarters, it’s no wonder there’s so much tension between hitting the number today versus building a world-class team for tomorrow.

All that said, sales coaching done well has a proven impact for obvious reasons, but it can work better if we all acknowledge one simple fact. To use a basketball analogy, coaching is as much about what happens on the court as off of it. Sales coaching research tends to focus on what the coach should do with their reps, but what should reps be doing outside of those live coaching interactions? Are your reps shooting free throws?

Our entire education system uses the basic principle of homework. Why? One tried and true way of learning is having the learner put effort into absorbing what was taught. All else equal, more effort equals more learning. Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”

Sometimes a teacher might even assign pre-reading, like a case study, in advance of classroom time. If everyone reads the case study, get ready for a great discussion where everyone learns. But when only a handful of people have read it…it’s going to be a long hour. The reason tests exist are to hold students accountable for the learning progress they are supposed to be making.

In a sales context, if the managers are investing all this time in coaching but the reps aren’t doing their part to prepare and practice outside of coaching sessions then the whole equation is broken. This is also known as the lose-lose box: high time-spend, low payback.

sales coaching lose lose grid

It’s not hard to see why most sales coaching programs are struggling. Most managers simply don’t have the tools to get better leverage on their time and ensure learning is actually taking place.

But today, there’s a solution. Video-based practice technology represents a transparent system of record for reps to practice key market facing messages and skills they need to be successful. Reps now can take greater control of their own learning by practicing at their own pace and intensity.

As a manager, you now get leverage on your coaching time, as you can assign practice or enforce practice assigned centrally, see who’s practicing and at what frequency. Effort matters. You can also do some of your coaching asynchronously – when it’s convenient for you. The truth is coaching interactions are more scarce than we’d like to believe, but what we do to impact learning outside of those interactions doesn’t have to be.

Any coach gives a lot to his team, but the hallmark of a great coach is that he expects just as much in return. It’s time for us sales managers to put the coaching equation back in balance. That’s something every sales manager can get behind.

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Why Invest in a 3rd Party Sales Message?

More companies today are realizing the value of great messaging.

What reps say at the moment of truth has always been considered more art than science.

The need is heightened when you must navigate a complex sales process with multiple products and services to win. If your reps are more often consultants than “order takers” and your messaging is stale, ineffective, or undefined, it may be time to invest in a 3rd party message development program.

Summary:

  • 3rd party sales messages from firms like Corporate Visions have common characteristics – a framework, skills and behaviors, and strategy
  • Benefits include easy alignment, a well-proven plan, and standardization
  • A good program should be market proven

What is a 3rd Party Sales Message?

3rd party messages, from organizations like Corporate Visions, help to lift your team’s core value propositions, pair them with proven skills, behaviors, and frameworks, and effectively deploy them across the team. The frameworks are built on familiar foundations – Conversations that Win is a great example – but the execution requires experience in the solutions that work.

A typical 3rd party messaging methodology is made up of a few common elements:

  • An established, market-proven delivery framework
  • Key skills that reps must learn to deliver the messaging effectively
  • A strategy for execution and alignment in the field

Actual frameworks vary by methodology, but all are built to lift rep performance by ensuring a more consistent and effective experience in front of your prospects.

Benefits

The differences between a professional 3rd party message development program and internally-built messaging depend on your company, yet most programs provide the same key benefits:

  1. They help companies get to the heart of who they are and why people should buy. 3rd party firms help “decommoditize” your products, lifting conversations from simple feature dumping to consultative, informative exercises for buyers. These firms help identify what matters about the product, and how reps can articulate this unique value in an educational manner.
  2. 3rd party methodologies are tested and proven in the marketplace. Because the product is the methodology and message for messaging firms, you can be assured that the particular framework is actually effective. External messaging methodologies are, by necessity, proven in their usefulness, and do not require the revision, rethinking, or even elimination that internally-developed messages can cause.
  3. An established framework gives you scaffolding to build upon. Messages will always be a big lift for Marketing and Sales teams, but the burden is especially high when the team must build both a template and content for the entire messaging exercise. When investing in a 3rd party framework, your team really invests in a latticework to support the content, which can either be developed internally or in consultation with the messaging firm.
  4. Standardization of the approach allows for easy tracking and alteration. With internal messages, the framework may be changed too often, with little visibility into performance.

A 3rd party messaging methodology is tested. With benchmarks, best practices, and adjustments clearly backed by data, you can actually execute updates and new messages in a systematized way.

Have you invested in 3rd party messaging? Why or why not? See how CommercialTribe helped Corporate Visions align its messaging in our latest case study.

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59% of Companies Never Ask Their Reps to Practice

If you ask sales leaders what the single most critical factor to closing deals is, what do you think they would say?

According to recent survey data by Corporate Visions, 85% of companies agree that their sales team’s ability to articulate value messages rises to the top. But that’s not all…

In the survey, conducted with 500 B2B Sales and Marketing leaders, Corporate Visions revealed that 34% of companies have no team member responsible for coaching and certifying to ensure proficiency. More still, only 41% ask their reps to practice the messaging at all before taking it to the market.

As Corporate Visions CSO/CMO Tim Riesterer put it, reps are “speechless” when it comes to applying messaging that they were supposed to have learned. The gap often exists because reps have few opportunities to practice, beyond periodic events, role-play, or self-guided learning.

The impact of practice is not new for sales – even with a well-developed message and skillset, if a learner does not consistently engage with the content they need to master, they simply remember less. With any messaging, whether internal or from a third party, getting reps into the content is as important as the content itself. It’s far too easy for reps to revert back to what they’re comfortable with.

Practice can make the difference in seeing performance increases across the sales team. Even progressive organizations with well-defined training often need more easy and scalable ways to allow their team to engage with content. One of the more engaging tools – video – is already growing in use: over 9% of companies surveyed have embraced video to train.

Corporate Visions is one of these progressive companies, gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace, using CommercialTribe within their organization to power reinforcement. After incredible growth and several acquisitions, Corporate Visions needed a way to combine separate sales teams into one unit, able to articulate the right messages and sell a multi-product solution. They turned to CommercialTribe to create a culture of practice within the organization.

Find our how Corporate Visions used video-based practice to reinforce the message and empower their team to break the status quo in our newest case study.

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Why Video is the Missing Ingredient in your Sales Training Plan

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As an industry, sales training has relied on a mixed bag of the same tricks – kickoff, webinars, sell sheets, roleplay, etc – each designed to promote learning and more effective selling.

Yet, into the 21st century, the facts remain stunning: according to a recent survey by Corporate Visions, only 41% of companies ask their reps to practice skills and messaging, and 34% say no one is responsible for coaching and certifying rep proficiency. The lack of a more robust training process results in the same set of outcomes that we’ve experienced for centuries: not enough reps meet quota, company goals are missed, and attrition rates remain high.

What Makes Video Different?

The way a rep learns varies from individual to individual, with no clear learning path that an organization can set. That means that sales leaders and trainers need a captivating and adaptive method to offer the least resistance to training for the most people.

Video differs from in-person learning or static content by offering a visual package that the viewer can interact with. In sales training, gaining a bigger share of a rep’s attention and focus pays immediate dividends, with the message sticking more often. Research by Brainshark suggests that “seeing and hearing messages increases audience retention by 3-6 times” versus traditional methods, boosting the viewer’s engagement and comprehension.

Video can be easily updated and highly reusable, making it easier for the training organization to revitalize content and deploy it across the team without a large lift.

Adding video to your sales training toolkit can help reps of all learning styles actually absorb and apply the right skills, messages, and behaviors in the marketplace.

How to Use Video

According to the above research by Corporate Visions, only 9% of sales teams are using video to engage their reps in practice. The progressive teams relying heavily on this medium, including Corporate Visions, have found some early data that suggests best practices for video.

At the end of 2014, CommercialTribe pooled its usage data and developed The Activation Hypothesis, an analysis of a year’s worth of videos, practice sessions, and interactions. While limited in its scope and size, the research suggested several key criteria to help plan a video-based practice program.

1. Keep videos short: 2-3 minutes

Our data found that reps lost interest in videos that lasted more than 4 minutes. Presenting a lot of content at once makes video content hard to digest in one sitting. Keeping videos short means more engaged reps and makes content updates easier to execute.

2. Aim for 3-5 review sessions per video

While reps in CommercialTribe practice best-in-class scenarios as part of their training program, many organizations are still just delivering one-way video for reps to watch. In either case, the same data holds true – reps need multiple views to truly absorb and apply the content. Give reps ample opportunities to dive back into videos, and measure how many times they review the content. If they are reviewing at least 3 times (assuming your videos are short), chances are high that reps are learning. The long-term results are also clear: reps feel more in control of their own learning.

3. Create opportunities for application

The ultimate test is always what are reps doing with this information: do they actually bring it into their customer conversations? Measuring this can be tricky. Tracking interactions in salesforce.com can demonstrate the type of conversations reps are having, but you can’t hear what they say on each call. Having reps practice what they will do differently is the best way to gain insight into whether behavioral change has taken place or not.

Why Not Just Video?

While video offers the most cost-effective and scalable medium for training, it is not a full replacement for your training program. Successful sales training relies on a blended approach to learning and must be reinforced by sales leadership.

A comprehensive program uses video to be more accessible but continues to use traditional, classroom-based learning, roleplay, and joint travel sporadically. The result is a program that is pervasive, reinforced, and effective. Though most reps from the YouTube generation will respond strongly to video, it may not appeal to hands-on or literary learners, who could end up absorbing less.

Creating ample opportunities for learning, with a wide variety of opportunities to consume and apply, offers the best chance for reps to adopt and apply the right skills, messages, and behaviors.

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