Knowledge may be half the battle, but that’s no reason to stop your sales transformation there.
I am 39 years old, which puts my Saturday morning cartoon watching timeframe somewhere between 1985 and 1993. I have this slogan that sits with me today…”The More You Know”. Somewhere during the 2nd commercial break of Saved By The Bell, a jingle would hit my ears and that slogan would flash across the screen. It was NBC’s attempt to enter my juvenile mind and help me to understand that diversity matters, that education matters, that health matters, that people matter.
Somehow lessons from your youth can stick with you in funny ways. The last 17 years have taken me from a sales guy turned frontline manager, to enablement and sales ops team member, to Head of Global Learning. But today it has gotten me to thinking: How does this concept of knowledge at scale impact the world and science of selling?
While NBC’s effort to inform the masses is admirable, it only scratches the surface of what is needed to change behaviors in the real world. In my line of work, I have witnessed so many otherwise great enablement organizations make this same mistake. Knowledge is a critical first step, but in the business world, you need to enable real-world application by breaking old habits and creating new, desirable ones. How do you accomplish this? By reinforcing changes through observation, assessment, and coaching.
Observation: Create A Window Into Sales Interactions
Enablement organizations suffer from a perennial visibility issue. While your efforts are meant to help sales become more effective, efficient, and productive, you have very little visibility into if or how sales enablement initiatives are being implemented. You may report on initiative successes based on engagement and survey ratings, but it is extremely difficult to prove real progress or return for what you create. This is where more progressive organizations have begun to implement an observational element to training.
Often referred to a “message certification”, sellers submit a practice pitch to certify that they are ready to go-to-market. Traditional options for observing salespeople at scale are quite limited for this approach:
- Webinars: While scale can be achieved, you can not typically see your audience and sellers are prone to multi-tasking. Webinars also don’t give sellers the opportunity to practice the pitch and make it their own.
- In-person training: These events are typically very expensive and require a good amount of travel, taking your sales team out of the field where they would otherwise be working toward making their goal. Sales training is increasingly including role-playing, which is great, but it is really tough to see everyone demonstrate the content in this environment.
- Ride-alongs: Perhaps the best of the three, the ride along allows the frontline manager to observe a seller in action. One must ask, though, how effective that manager is at not only not hijacking the call but transferring observation into impactful coaching. Not to mention that this approach is anything but scalable in a practical sense.
Newer sales enablement platforms are taking the best of all worlds and allowing enablement and sales leadership to observe sellers in-action at scale. This can be done in a simulated environment to allow sellers to practice and perfect their pitch before going to market. They can also give leaders a window into actual, live conversations by recording sales calls and meetings.
The point here is that, after providing the knowledge sellers need, observation is the critical next step to changing the behavior of a global sales team. You cannot reinforce the training, message, or content that sellers are expected to start using without gaining a window into how (or if) they are applying it in the field.
Assessment At Scale: Reinforce Training By Spotlighting Performance
Many corporate readiness initiatives I have witnessed will merely stop after the observation portion. Sellers record their practice pitch, ship it to enablement, and enablement checks a box that the seller has “certified”.
That’s simply not good enough. Do you think NBC would have kept The More You Know running for 30 years (and counting) without ever assessing the show’s performance? Even public service announcements need to show value to have that kind of staying power.
When you have the right tools available to observe your sales team, assessment becomes easier but it doesn’t happen on its own. You have to start by coming to a consensus with the sales leadership team on what specific behaviors are desired. Do you want to see your sellers asking specific questions? Tell a story? Build a vision of use? These and more are the things that your team needs to map out to make assessment practical and scalable.
This sales assessment map makes assessment at scale practical for your organization. With a minor amount of training, others within your enablement and sales organizations can assess submitted sales calls (or pitch practices) relatively consistently and without bias because they are all using the same criteria. In my experience, sellers are also more likely to trust and appreciate feedback when they know that their performance is being rated on an established, well-thought-out, and consistent criteria.
Coach: Changing Behaviors Through Coaching & Development
Why is all this important in the end? What does it mean for your sales team, and how is this information going to be used? It is used to effectively activate your frontline managers as force multipliers in improving the performance of your sales organization.
A CSO Insights study found that 47% of managers spend less than 30 minutes a week developing their teams. And yet, the same study found that organizations that use a formal sales coaching process enjoy a 61.5% quota attainment rate (compared to the study’s average quota attainment of 55.8%). Formal coaching was also found to increase forecasted win rates by 11%.
These stats are difficult to ignore, and yet so many leaders do just that! You leave coaching up to your frontline managers without giving them the proper tools, training, or coaching themselves to have any real impact on the outcomes. I know from personal experience that observation and assessment help fill this gap by providing your frontline sales managers with the knowledge they need to effectively coach their sellers.
Rather than leaving coaching up to them without any information, assessments provide sales managers with distilled information that allows them to quickly pinpoint the specific areas that their sellers need to improve. In other words, observation and assessment at scale allow frontline managers to personalize coaching, making coaching effective, relevant, and just-in-time to help them get more of their sellers to goal.
“The More You Know” has become so much more than a public service announcement in our world. Apart from the fun memes and pop culture references, it has become an axiom for those of us who have dedicated our lives and professions to knowledge, training, and improving performance. Learn how you can build a “The More You Know” culture in your sales organization with CommercialTribe.