Certification is used by many sales organizations as a critical tool in developing sales skills and passing along product knowledge. Despite many companies talking about it, though, few do it well. At the center of any effective certification program is the message – what reps actually say in front of customers and what’s often referred to as “the moment of truth”.
Unfortunately, messaging is typically defined as a marketing exercise, developed between sales and marketing leadership and passed to reps through static content. Reps are then expected to internalize the message on their own time.
Message Development and its Challenges
What breaks in this approach?
On top of knowing products and services, reps need to know how best to position the options – it starts with an ability to frame the problem. The message represents the company’s stance in the market, and if any part of it is not clearly delivered, your positioning is lost with it. When organizations don’t verify that reps can deliver the message, the chance that anyone but top performers will deliver it effectively are low.
Why does this happen?
CEB research notes that reps spend an average of 19 hours a year on product training, with only 14 hours spent on sales and skill training. When reps can’t articulate the value proposition, everything you’ve built breaks at a place we call “The Last Mile.”
Making messaging the centerpiece of your sales certification program can help solve this issue.
1. Messaging Helps Define the “Buying Vision”
Research suggests that buyers are nearly 60% through the sales process before even speaking to a rep, so it follows that reps should just move to educating prospects on what their product does, right? WRONG! Reps need to educate the customer on why they need to change behavior and clearly establish the problem is worth solving to make features and benefits meaningful.
2. Share Tribal Knowledge by Working with the Field
Your top performers and senior reps know how to tweak your messaging in the field, but it may not be what marketing is suggesting. Bringing the field into the discussion ensures you get buy in for the message you’re looking to certify the team on, not the one they fall back toward.
3. Align Messaging to Different Stages in Your Sales Process
Messaging should be designed to help us sell more. While reps normally understand the connections between the content and resources they use and how it impacts their quota, they may not immediately see how certification and messaging help them sell. Break your key messages down by different stages of the sales process to show how a message helps advance a deal from one stage to the next. Now you’ve got the team’s attention, and they can use the tools that you’ve invested in to drive real success.
4. Have Reps Practice
Messaging won’t be absorbed without repetition. And that repetition can’t just happen in the field when the pressure is on. Reps need a safe and confident place to get comfortable with the sales training you’re asking them to execute.
To have reps internalize the core concepts and be able to relate the messaging effectively (and thus pass certification), reps will need to practice it multiple times. The result is not only a certified rep, but also behavioral change that you can expect will last.