Avoid the post-sales kickoff “thud” with observational sales assessments.
Planning sales kickoff and getting all your stakeholders, content, consultants and vendors in line is no small task. Nor is it a small item on the company income statement. You know that your goal is to create lasting impact that will provide a return on investment for your organization by transforming seller and sales manager behavior to produce revenue. What you don’t know is exactly how you are going to do that in the months following the hype and charisma exuded at sales kickoff. Observational sales assessments provide visibility and help ensure initiatives launched during sales kickoff live throughout the year.
Observational Sales Assessments
A sales assessment is the deliberate and systematic assessment of sellers selling in both mock and live environments based on a set of observable attributes which align directly to core selling skills and behaviors.
The reason assessment is so powerful is its ability to expose gaps in seller ability at the skill or behavioral level and accurately measure progress made in developing these skills over time. Without a structured assessment approach, you are relying on the “spray and pray” method to training and development—with sales kickoff being the place where you spray and the balance of the year you pray.
Many enterprise sales training programs today use traditional learning and development practices that disseminate knowledge and test a person’s ability to regurgitate that knowledge, mainly using quizzes. While this may work well in other functional areas of an organization, it is critical that your sales team not only represent that they have internalized the knowledge, but that their selling behavior in a live-call or demo setting have changed as a result.
Observing and assessing sellers selling has traditionally been difficult for organizations to do. Without the proper tools to do so, the main measurement for whether or not your sales launch initiative introduced during kickoff has taken root is to analyze lagging indicators, such as the number of new product units sold in its first quarter and year.
How To Use Observational Sales Assessments
Typically, a sales kickoff is a two-day PowerPoint parade where the heads of various programs present, a sales success story or a few are shared, and perhaps there are some breakout sessions for key skills or functional areas. But nothing is really accomplished. Let me prescribe how you can use sales assessments to not only accomplish behavior change in your sales team but also measure the return on investment of your kickoff initiative throughout the rest of the year—and into the future.
Calibrate and Baseline Sales Assessments to Gain Visibility
Begin measuring your sales team’s behavior with baseline sales assessments. Do this by creating custom sales assessment maps for each area within your sales force that makes sense for your organization. For example, different regions, business units, and function often need to be assessed on different criteria.
The assessment map is the most important step in this process—it creates the infrastructure for your ongoing sales assessment system. Therefore, gaining buy-in from sales leaders and managers on the observable attributes that will be assessed is essential. If they suggest changes to the assessment map, it’s an excellent indication of buy-in.
The observable attributes and scoring used in your sales assessment maps help keep individual assessments consistent and unbiased. Use a five-point scale and define what each score means, one through five, to eliminate some subjectivity in the assessment scoring. Instead of asking a manager to assess if their seller conducted a discovery conversation (a sales skill), ask them to score how well the seller used first and second level questions to uncover and confirm a business challenge that the prospect believes is worth solving (an observable attribute). A score of one means no discovery occurred and the seller jumped right into demoing the product. Three means the seller did a sufficient job in asking questions but did not confirm that the business challenge is worth solving. And five indicates a best practice approach to discovery.
The combination of a five-point scale and observable attributes make sure that the assessment information can be easily analyzed and understood by all stakeholders, such as enablement, sales leaders, training vendors, sales managers, and reps. In other words, each stakeholder knows that everyone was assessed based on the same criteria and can make decisions based on the baseline sales assessment report.
Enablement, sales leaders, and training vendors are likely going to be more interested in the aggregate results, so they can understand which specific selling behaviors are most important to focus coaching efforts around in order to get the greatest “bang for their buck.” While sales managers and reps are going to be more interested in individual results, so they understand specifically who needs coaching and what they need to be coached on in order to improve their sales results.
Use Visibility to Coach and Develop More Effectively
Sales assessments alone won’t improve seller behavior. Sellers must next be coached and developed on those areas that need improvement. This means that sales managers must be able to effectively coach and develop their sellers using the information provided to them in baseline sales assessments.
The beauty of using sales assessments to develop your sales team is that they create a sort of choreography to coaching discussions. Armed with sales assessments, busy sales managers become empowered with a prescriptive coaching methodology that integrates ongoing seller development into their daily and weekly meetings and is focused on impacting behavior to influence results in the business.
Progression Sales Assessments
Once your sellers have had the opportunity to go through additional coaching—and, perhaps, more learning and practice—to develop their knowledge and skills, they are ready for another assessment. In this round of assessment, we are looking to determine where progress has been made. Compare baseline sales assessment scores with new scores to determine how well individuals and the team as a whole have picked up the new information and are using it in the field.
Progression sales assessments should be run in the same manner and measure the same observable attributes that were used in the baseline assessment. This ensures that you are comparing apples to apples and are measuring sellers based on those specific behaviors you need to change in order to make your kickoff initiative a success.
Why Are Sales Assessments Important?
When you and your team have invested as much as you do into your sales kickoff, you want to know that your sales force is actually going to use the information to improve their performance. You want to know that you are impacting your company’s revenue goal attainment and make the sales kickoff the beginning of an ongoing development effort that directly impacts selling results as opposed to a jolly event to build camaraderie.
Simply stated, sales assessments provide visibility into the strengths and weaknesses of your team, allowing for more effective and precise development of your sellers. A doctor would not operate on a patient without first conducting a thorough diagnosis to identify what and where needs fixing, right? Then why would you coach and develop your sellers without conducting a similar diagnosis?