Leader-First Sales Enablement Activates the Multiplier Effect In Your Team

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Improve sales performance with leader-first enablement.

Leader-first sales enablement is a relatively new concept to many enablement organizations. The traditional approach is to train reps, but leave sales leaders and managers out because they either don’t feel like they need the training and/or they are too busy to participate. But then everyone wonders why the reps never truly adopted what they learned. With leader-first enablement, enablement and management work together to ensure initiatives are relevant and that they are reinforced across the sales organization.

What is Leader-First Sales Enablement?

what is leader-first sales enablementLeader-first sales enablement recognizes that sales leaders and managers are key to successful transformation adoption among the sales team. 

It involves training and “certifying” your sales managers before reps go through the same training. Some teams will also train managers along with their reps, but training beforehand allows them to provide additional feedback and support before the bulk of the sales team enters training.

A leader-first sales enablement approach also helps foster a close, collaborative alignment between sales and enablement. It improves the communication between the two departments and results in providing better, more relevant services, training, and content to the sales team. When sales and enablement teams are closely aligned and pulling toward the same goals, sales performance quickly improves.

Why You Should Use Leader-First Sales Enablement

When sales managers don’t know what is expected of their reps, they cannot reinforce the skills or content that was taught in training to form the desired behavior changes. Everyone wonders why training was never adopted by sales reps and applied in the field. The answer is that, first, they likely forgot 70% of it within a week. Then, their managers are on them to perform at all costs. They have little (or no) idea what their reps have learned the week before. They are stuck in “status quo” land, and they keep their reps there with them.

Using this approach guarantees that the enablement and sales functions are working against each other, rather than with each other toward their common goal. Leader-first enablement aligns enablement initiatives with sales objectives and goals. It helps enablement develop sales manager partnerships in facilitating long-term initiative success, which leads to improved engagement and adoption. And, as we all know, improved adoption of important enablement initiatives leads to improved sales performance!

How To Structure Leader-First Enablement

structure leader-first sales enablementStructuring a leader-first enablement mindset can be a bit tricky, particularly for legacy organizations that are used to doing business the same way for a long time. But, it’s important to note that the most progressive (and successful) sales organizations in the world are being trained in this way today. The need to change to leader-first sales enablement is economic.

Start by meeting with sales leadership at the beginning of planning period (usually the year or quarter) to understand sales objectives and goals. Then, create an enablement strategy that aligns with these goals and refine it with feedback from sales leadership and management.

Some examples of enablement training we’ve worked with that work particularly well for aligning sales goals with enablement initiatives include:

  • Improving early-stage pipeline size
  • Improve funnel velocity
  • Improve conversion rates
  • Close key skill gaps
  • Get X% more reps to goal
  • Improve retention X%

Once you’ve created a plan and developed the content, train and certify sales managers first; then go to sellers. Establish a framework for how sellers will be assessed and certified during the initiative and provide managers with observation, assessment, and coaching tools.

Don’t let the momentum drop with a “thud” after your training event. Provide managers and reps with on-going reinforcement materials.  These could include:

  • Announcement videos
  • Email templates
  • Highlight reels
  • Success stories (i.e. “Jamie increase her sales 10% by introducing {New Product} to her customers!”)
  • Ongoing observation, assessment, and coaching until mastery of the message, skill, or process is reached

4 Mistakes to Avoid In Leader-First Sales Enablement

1. Skipping Alignment

Alignment and buy-in from sales leadership and managers are critical to creating a successful leader-first sales enablement framework. Without close alignment, sales managers will only continue to disengage or ignore completely your enablement initiatives. Ensure enablement initiatives are closely aligned with sales objectives and establish working relationships with leadership and management during training and transformation initiatives.

2. Skipping Reinforcement

I have witnessed countless enablement initiatives end with a “thud” after training or kickoff. Your plan must go beyond the main event to continue providing reinforcement and motivation throughout the year, and possibly beyond. Leader-first sales enablement requires that enablement partner with sales leaders and/or managers to help make reinforcement relevant and impactful.

3. Not Enabling Sales Managers

In leader-first enablement, sales managers need a structured framework to observe, assess, and coach their reps to effectively reinforce desired behavior changes. Work with sales leadership and management to find a tool and create the processes needed to gain visibility into the sales team’s daily interactions with customers and prospects. Gaining insight into how well reps perform in the “real world” provides the most valuable information for sales managers to coach and develop them on an ongoing basis.

4. Not Measuring Progress

How will you know if the training or transformation is having an impact? Integrate your sales and enablement teams to develop a framework to measure how well reps and managers are progressing against the desired changes—and how those changes are translating into revenue for the company!

Leader-first sales enablement is a powerful framework for both sales and enablement leaders to activate sales managers as coaches and improve quota attainment. 

By partnering with sales managers, enablement leaders create a collaborative relationship that ensures both departments are working toward the goals that improve team performance and revenue attainment.

 

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Do Your Sales Managers Need A Motivation Makeover?

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How Core Drives Can Deplete Or Increase Sales Manager Motivation

This guest post was originally published on yukaichou.com: Why Sales Manager Motivation Needs A Makeover

Previously, we explored the core drivers of motivation in the sales organization and why our traditional coin-operated, compliance-driven sales culture may finally be ripe for disruption in Why Seller Motivation Needs a Makeover.

Conventional wisdom suggests that we place more training and development emphasis on the seller. Look no further than the budget spent on training sellers vs. managers. In this article, let’s explore why the frontline sales manager is actually the key to change, their current sources of motivation, and how to disrupt the status quo to build a sustainable revenue generating machine.

Sales Managers’ Complex Task List

Most sales managers started as great sellers. Then, they are promoted into a management position where we expect them to gain a completely new skill set than the one that made them a successful seller overnight. Here are just a few of the common tasks sales managers are expected to perform on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis:

  • Field Travel or Joint Calling
  • 1on1s and Team Meetings
  • Forecast Reviews
  • Pipeline Reviews
  • Deal Reviews
  • Account Plan Reviews
  • Territory Plan Reviews
  • Win / Loss
  • Quarterly Business Reviews
  • Performance Reviews
  • Hiring and Recruiting
  • Rewards and Recognition
  • Training

The sales management hierarchy uses Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance to drive compliance and ensure these tasks are happening on schedule. Are our reps doing effective discovery? Join the sales call. Forecast needs to roll up. Better vet it. Is a key deal we’re forecasting to close qualified? Deal review time.

We expect managers to perform these tasks. But doing them well…that’s another story. Try sitting in a forecast review and you may be less confident about the forecast, but you will learn more about that particular seller’s upcoming weekend plans!

Don’t Miss Your Quota

Managers, like sellers, are on a variable comp plan. But, instead of being responsible for one quota, managers are responsible for a team quota. The average sales manager gets about 50% of his sellers to goal, but that is not going to cut it. So how do sales managers make plan? Most managers have a couple stars they can count on to overachieve and maybe they even sell a few deals themselves.

The quota system relies on Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience as managers race to capture their earnings opportunity for the time period before it evaporates. It’s no wonder busy sales managers feel justified abandoning some of the tasks we previously explored that don’t help them draw a straight line toward delivering their number this quarter. For everyone in the sales organization, the short-term pressure to hit quota can feel overwhelming. What’s a sales manager to do?

Overreliance on Black Hat Core Drives is Fatiguing

sales manager motivation burnoutCore Drives 6 and 8 are Black Hat, making us feel obsessed, anxious, and addicted. While they are very strong in motivating behavior, in the long run, they leave us feeling fatigued because we feel like we have lost control.

For the sales manager, this often means managing their team feels more like a game of Survivor than a successful career. When half of your reps are underperforming, you have an open headcount and one of your best sellers is threatening to quit, it can feel like the job never ends. It’s no wonder managers are left feeling overwhelmed and underdeveloped. As a result, the tasks we expect them to perform to help their team hit quota are either sub-optimized or abandoned entirely.

Getting More Of Your Sales Managers To Plan

The sales manager role has gotten far more complex over the years, but we are still using the same motivational drivers to try to achieve our goals. With today’s millennial-minded sales manager who is looking to be developed and not just hit a number, these forces threaten to either burn people out or churn them out of your organization entirely.

Sales and enablement leaders need a thoughtful plan to counteract these forces that drive long-term engagement and skills mastery. These are known as White Hat drivers. White Hat drivers make us feel powerful, fulfilled and satisfied. It may sound obvious, but consistently getting more managers to plan relies on getting more sellers to plan. And the only reliable way to get more sellers to plan is to develop your sales managers into coaches.

Light The Coaching Fuse

We’ve all had a coach at some point in our lives. When effort meets opportunity it feels like anything is possible. That’s what it feels like to be coached. On the flip side, coaching has its own rewards. Phil Collins said: “In learning, you will teach and in teaching, you will learn.”

Use Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling, to help your sales managers realize their higher purpose beyond just delivering their team quota. The best way to tap into their inner Tony Robbins is to coach the coach. Observing sellers in action to provide coaching is commonplace through joint calling or even field travel, but for some reason, we don’t apply the same philosophy to our managers. Help them realize their calling by sitting in a one-on-one between manager and seller. Don’t talk, just listen, and then use this observation to coach the coach. Coaching your managers to become better coaches will light the motivational fuse that reminds them why they became a sales manager in the first place!

Learn More About Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis Gamification Framework for Improving Behavioral Design & Team Engagement >>

 

Give Your Sales Managers A Choice

sales manager motivation coachingTo many, coaching is one of those disciplines that is way more art than science. But if you are going to democratize coaching for all your managers, you will need to demystify what the best coaches in the world do intuitively.

Use Core Drive 3: Empowerment and Creativity to not only get all your managers on the same page but also make them feel enfranchised in the process. To do so, look no further than the list of activities expected of sales managers we discussed above. I’m sure you have a point of view on what should happen during those activities. Build a list of criteria.

Now here’s the magic: Put those criteria in front of your sales managers and let them choose which criteria matter to them. What they choose may be different than what you intended but by giving them a choice, they are FAR more likely to use them to coach their teams.

Time for Your Motivation Makeover

The Black Hat core drives that motivate sales manager behavior aren’t going away anytime soon. And even the White Hat techniques discussed won’t be sustained without becoming part of a larger system that makes managers feel like coaching isn’t such a deadlift each time.

Think about what drives motivation for your sales managers. Is it time for a sales manager motivation makeover? Try integrating these White Hat techniques into a quarterly plan focused on improving one interaction within the team’s workflow. For your sales managers, the goal is to establish a system that puts sales team development on autopilot.

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The More You Know: Creating Sales Transformation That Sticks

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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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

sales transformation certificationMany 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.

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How To Structure Sales Manager Enablement To Crush Your 2018 Goals

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Three key insights into sales manager enablement that will help your sales organization reach (or exceed!) 2018 goals.

There is a deep-rooted problem in today’s sales organizations. Frontline managers are trapped in a vice created by the traditional approach to sales: Hit the number at all costs. The status quo has sales organizations lurching from quarter to quarter, barely keeping ahead of the game, and rarely pausing to improve. There is a mantra in leadership theory that we have to “slow down to speed up“. But this is a luxury that sales simply cannot afford in their quota-driven world. As forward-thinking organizations are just beginning to build sales manager enablement programs, the burning question is how to structure programs that sales managers will actually want to use.

This year, CommercialTribe hosted five Sales Manager Effectiveness workshops around the country. In the beginning, we weren’t at all sure how this concept would be received by the market. There wasn’t much work or research being done that focused specifically on the frontline sales manager role, and part of our intent was to see how important and relevant sales manager development is to sales organizations, and to work with some of the most progressive sales organizations in the country to understand how they are structuring solutions to the sales manager enablement issue.

Who Needs To Be Involved In Sales Manager Enablement?

sales manager enablement trust alignmentThe interest in sales manager enablement cuts across all the main stakeholders of an Enterprise sales organization. We began our outreach by focusing on the sales enablement function, thinking that these leaders are most familiar with the benefits realized by training and development. We quickly realized how important the topic is to sales operations and leadership as well. Each function has a slightly different stake in it, but all recognize the acute need for developing better sales managers.

Sales Enablement

Sales manager enablement is much bigger than training—it’s the next generation of enablement. Creating buy-in and measuring the impact of initiatives is a perennial issue for sales enablement. Sales manager development helps enablement create a bridge between their central function and the field. It is a catalyst for leader-first enablement, where sales managers become force multipliers by enabling their teams in the field through coaching.

Sales Operations

Sales operations leaders care about sales manager enablement because they recognize that the data they need is only as good as the people entering it. This data entry, of course, largely falls on the shoulders of frontline managers and reps in the field. They recognize that a well-developed, highly professional sales manager has a greater appreciation for the importance of data-driven management. Further, they need sales managers to consistently and effectively coach their reps on how to enter data correctly in order to maintain (or, in many cases, create) data integrity.

Sales Leadership

Forward-thinking sales leaders want to create a sustained revenue generating machine. This goal is easier said than done, and there are many parts to building such a machine. But sales leaders we talked with quickly recognized how improving the effectiveness of their sales management team multiplied the impact of improved rep performance and productivity. The ability to develop their entire team—to “shift the middle”—is central to their ability to build and sustain their revenue engine.

The purpose of the Sales Manager Effectiveness Workshops was to show these stakeholders how to align their needs to create a successful sales manager enablement program in their own organizations. Three key insights to making sales manager enablement succeed in your organization came out of these workshops: trust and alignment in creating a sales manager enablement program are critical, sales manager enablement cannot solely be solved centrally, and teams must focus on developing specific interactions—in workflow—rather than training on skills. Let’s take a look at each of these insights in greater detail.

1. Trust & Alignment Are Critical For Sales Manager Enablement

The fact that you need to be able to observe, assess, and coach to develop a team is basic. But what you really need to do this effectively is trust. What I mean by trust, in this context, is not about trust in individual people or managers (though that is important, too). It’s that everyone in the organization trusts the criteria that they are being evaluated against, and how that criterion manifests in their coaching.

Unfortunately, this trust is largely missing from most sales organizations today. The reason it is missing is that it’s extremely difficult to get all the stakeholder groups in a sales organization aligned on the skills that they believe drive results. When you think about the three main personas profiled above and what their stakes in sales manager enablement are, getting each of these functions, as well as all the individual people within them, to agree is no easy task. There are very few organizations that have aligned on key skills to assess for their sellers and even fewer that have accomplished this for their frontline sales managers.

The exciting part about this is that sales organizations are truly beginning to understand the importance of doing this and they are working on tackling this issue of trust by aligning around sales assessments. But it’s one thing to talk about it, another thing to actually put it down on paper, and a completely different world to put it into practice in a sales manager enablement process by measuring the effectiveness of coaching and development.

So, how do you create trust in your organization around evaluating the right skills and then coaching to develop them? The key to accomplishing trust is a step in the process of building a sales manager enablement program we call Calibration. In this context, calibration is code for alignment. It’s how you create alignment in all layers of the organization, including enablement, ops, and sales leadership, as well as sales managers and reps who all need to trust in the evaluation criteria and the coaching process.

If your organization—in particular, your sales managers—are not aligned with the assessment criteria and how to coach, the program becomes a mess. People don’t know what to expect, they have different experiences. And when there is no consistency in how people are being coached and evaluated, there is no way to pull real insights out of the data to enable effective, targeted coaching at scale. In this environment, there is no way to get coaching and development to stick.

2. Sales Manager Enablement Must Happen Within The Team’s Workflow

sales manager enablement in-workflowSales enablement creates great training and practice programs using their LMS and/or learning paths that provide the sales team with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the field. The problem with this in sales manager enablement is a time management issue. Frontline sales managers will do anything to get their team to hit the quota, but they are starved for time in their daily lives to “slow down to speed up”.

In reality, sales managers have very little time, and often less desire, to participate in enablement-lead learning and development. They need coaching and development that is timely, highly relevant, and succinct. They need development that happens within their daily workflow.

What do I mean by this? Sales managers and their reps already have scheduled meetings—many of which happen on a regular cadence (hopefully). The most effective sales manager enablement initiatives will work within these meetings to evaluate interactions and provide relevant, timely feedback on how the manager, seller, or both can improve. Sales manager enablement that happens within workflow helps to create trust in the process, improves engagement, and significantly increases the performance of sales teams.

3. Focus Sales Manager Enablement On Developing An Interaction, Rather Than On Skills

This insight is so beautiful in its simplicity that it’s difficult to think that very few organizations are doing this today. Most sales training programs focus on skills development. They create a skills-based framework and try to train the field to develop all of these skills to apply to their interactions. At first, this makes sense. After all, if a manager or rep develops active listening skills, for example, she can apply that skill to each of her interactions whether it’s a 1-on-1 meeting or a discovery call or a negotiation.

The critical reality is that this type of training is simply too much information for a global sales organization to internalize and apply in the real-world with any great impact. We know from research that only about 30% of training content is retained by participants. When they go out into the world they end up simply reverting to old habits, putting hundreds of thousands of training investment to waste.

Instead, focus your sales manager enablement program on improving specific, real-world interactions they have in their daily lives. For sales manager development, consider focusing on 1-on-1, pipeline review, deal review, or forecast meetings. For sales reps, this may include interactions such as the discovery call, the demo, or negotiation call.

The message is clear: sales organizations need to focus on sales manager enablement by providing them with the training, tools, and coaching they need to coach and develop their reps. In so doing, we create force multipliers within the sales organization who can help create agile, sustained revenue-generating sales teams now and in the long-term.

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4 Sales Leader Resolutions That Will Fail (And The One That Won’t)

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Why Do Sales Leaders Make Resolutions That Are Bound To Fail?

How did 2017 end for you? Did your team smash their goal, barely squeak by, or fall apart? As a sales leader, your success is based entirely on your team’s performance. So, no matter what happened in the past year, I’m willing to bet that you’re making some resolutions to be a better sales leader—to improve your team’s performance.

Benjamin Franklin said: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”

If you want improved performance (and what sales leader doesn’t?) you need to change something. But what will you resolve to change this year? What can you resolve to change this year that will have an impact?

sales leader resolutions goalsChange is hard. The most common New Year’s Resolutions fall into three main buckets: being healthier, self-improvement, and better financial management—all worthy desires we can all attest to wanting. But research (and common knowledge) says that 88% of us fail to achieve our goals, illustrating that the desire to change alone is not sufficient to actually achieving goals. What do the 12% do that the rest of us don’t? Read on.

For sales leaders, change is an even more daunting task. Every year (and quarter, and sometimes even month) is Groundhog Day. Remember Bill Murray? Wake up and go knock down the number all over again…

For many sales leaders, this pressure gets handed down to the team and can make it feel like nothing else that matters. Hit the number. Hit the number… But while the number will be how you are measured, the process you follow to get to it is what you can improve.

So, did you resolve to be better this year? In the spirit of new beginnings, here are four resolutions I know you’ll have trouble keeping, and one that you actually can.

Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #1

I will spend more time developing my team.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute advocate for developing sales teams. It’s what I’m passionate about. But the pitfall with this common sales leader resolution is that, without the proper structure in place, you will eventually let sales team development slip as daily pressures and competition for your time intensifies.

Steve Jobs said: “The most precious resource we have is time.” We often don’t think about it that way, but time is scarce. To do something is to take away something else. What are you going to take away in order to spend more time developing your team? What will your managers and reps have to give up?

Here’s a list of stuff the average sales team does on a routine basis: Sales Calls, Field Travel, Forecast Reviews, Pipeline Reviews, Deal Reviews, Territory Reviews, 1-on-1s, Team Meetings. Then there are the fire drills that constantly derail everything.

Keeping all the trains running on time in and of itself is a significant undertaking. Finding more time outside of these settings to develop your team is not likely to be sustainable. Eventually, your focus will flounder and the time you put aside for development will revert back to old habits.

Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #2

I will be a better coach.

Coaching is a skill that can be learned. Getting better, like any skill, requires repetition. You’ve probably read a lot about the multiplicative impact of coaching, so you’re ready to dig in. But how will you be better?

First off, you’ll need to carve out the time and space for coaching in an already chaotic schedule (see #1 above). You’ll need to be able to identify not just how to coach your team but, more importantly, what to coach them on. Your high-performing managers will need to develop different skills than those that are struggling with high turnover and under-performance. Then you’ll need a feedback mechanism to help you understand if you’re making progress toward becoming a better coach.

Better sales coaching is a critical need in today’s business, and working to become better is certainly a worthy goal; however, you’re likely to abandon it when it feels hard and the impact is unclear.

Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #3

I will build a great team culture.

sales leader resolutions team cultureThere’s a famous Peter Drucker quote that says: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You may be feeling like the key to success is a better team environment. There’s nothing more fun than being part of a team that loves coming to work each day. But cultures are lived, not made. Nor are they easy to measure and identify. How will you do it?

For many leaders, more time as a team outside of work is an answer, including team building events or everyone’s favorite boondoggle. These are time-tested tactics that can have an impact but may not necessarily change how your team performs on the job.

Culture means different things to different people, and building a great culture is certainly a worthy sales leader resolution. But it’s bound for failure if it simply revolves around happy hours and forced “team building” interactions.If you want to build a great culture, think about how your team interacts with each other every day. Think about what your people value, what their professional goals are and how they are empowered to work toward those goals.

Sales Leader Resolutions Bound For Failure #4

I will mint more stars.

Every sales leader has their stars. And every sales leader wants more of them. On the best sales teams, star managers and sellers push everyone else to be better. On the worst, the team’s performance is overwhelmingly reliant on them. So how do you get more of them?

There is a severe shortage of sales talent out there, so you can either hire them or you can make them. The problem with hiring them is that they are tough (and expensive) to find, and they often come with baggage. Making them is far better, particularly for growing sales teams,, but it’s not like flipping a switch—developing stars takes time.

If you want to mint more stars, put a plan in place today but don’t expect anything to come to fruition overnight.

What Do These 4 Sales Leader Resolutions Have in Common?

Time.

None of these sales leader resolutions are bad goals to have. But remember we’re talking about resolutions here. And the #1 reason resolutions fail is because YOU’RE TREATING A MARATHON LIKE A SPRINT.

In the sales world, time is currency and managing it leads to long-term success. Small changes are more likely to be achieved because they aren’t so intimidating and they can happen within your sales team’s existing workflow. The last thing you want to do is shoot for something big, only to find out you don’t have a realistic plan to attain it.

So, what is the one sales leader resolution you can actually keep?

The One Resolution You Will Actually Keep

I will make my team better at one activity they are already doing.

Now hear me out. You can do this. There’s definitely something that’s gnawing at you coming into the new year. Has your team ever missed a forecast? Ever feel like you’re handing down a goal and praying the team can build enough pipeline to hit it? Have you ever joined a sales call, only to cringe at what you hear?

Whatever it might be that’s on your mind, your team can get better at it. Pick the one activity you want to improve and then go to work. Where do your people already do that one activity? Is it the forecast meeting or opportunity review? Perhaps the discovery call or demo? The most critical activities for your sales team to improve are already on everyone’s calendar every day, week, and month. Pick the event and start observing to understand what’s actually happening.
What you’re probably going to find is there aren’t clear expectations, leaving it up to each individual’s interpretation of what “best practice” looks like. Or maybe you’ve set those expectations but your team struggles to apply them, but now you know why. Either way, you’ve got a coaching path to solving the problem.

One final piece of advice and this is important. When you start showing up to meetings and calls that you never used to before, people are going to think its about performance. Nothing puts people more on edge than feeling as if they’re being evaluated and that evaluation will be used against them in a performance related discussion.

You can help alleviate this natural anxiety by communicating your positive intent. Your mantra is to pick everyone up, not bring them down. If you set it up right, you just might start to chip away at some of the other failed resolutions we explored earlier.

We will probably never stop making resolutions. It’s in our optimistic human nature to continually strive to be better. But why go to all the trouble of trying to change if you can’t actually follow through? Shrink the size of the change and create a clear plan to execute. Focus on making it as easy as possible for you and your team. If you have to think too hard or do too much, you’re off track.

Do you want to build a team that is capable of taking on bigger goals every quarter?
Do you want a great culture that attracts and retains the best talent?
Are you tired of taking your team out of the field for training with questionable impact?
Do you feel like you can’t add any more non-selling work to your team’s plate?
Do you want a SUSTAINABLE REVENUE MACHINE?

 

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Top Sales Technology Solution Providers of 2017

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CIO Applications Magazine announces the top 25 sales technology solution providers of 2017

Nicholas de Kouchkovsky’s 2017 Sales Tech Landscape notably includes over 700 sales technology providers organized into 32 categories (up from 300 in his first edition, published in 2015). It’s astounding to see how far the sales technology industry has come in just a few short years! Management of the sales tech stack is proving to be, understandably, complicated for sales organizations large and small. In his article, de Kouchkovsky illustrates:

“I have vivid memories of a well-known company sharing at an American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) meeting that its inside sales department was using more applications than having people!”

(de Kouchkovsky, Sales Tech Landscape 2017: Making Sense of 700+ Players)

sales technology solution CIO MagazineCIO Applications Magazine steps in to help Chief Innovation Officers (CIO) make informed sales technology purchase and integration decisions for their own sales organizations. In reviewing this burgeoning industry, CIO Application Magazine’s review panel of CEOs, CIOs, and VCs selected just 25 vendors most capable of providing the best sales technology to fulfill management needs. The resulting Top 25 Sales Technology Solution Providers list helps CIOs provide value to the business by enabling a smarter, more productive sales organization through innovation and technology.

See The Full Top 25 Sales Technology Solutions Providers List

CommercialTribe is honored to be included in this list. Our continued commitment to improving sales manager development through our platform and services solutions uniquely enables sales teams to achieve above average quota attainment. We fully believe that activating frontline sales managers as coaches is the next big key to sales performance enhancement. That belief has, and continues to be, validated through the work we have pioneered in partnership with some of the most progressive sales organizations in the world.

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Align Sales and Sales Enablement to Hit Your Revenue Target

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What does it mean to align sales and sales enablement, and why should it be important to you?

I recently came across a blog by Tenfold that describes sales enablement as “like archery (without the lethal pointy bits).” I particularly like this analogy because it goes on to highlight the importance of aligning customer-facing functions in an organization. Just like an archer must align his whole body to making his shot, sales organizations must be aligned with customer support, product and enablement to hit their targets.

Though sales enablement was created to help improve sales performance, most organizations find it difficult to align the sales and enablement functions in a meaningful way. As a result, enablement continues to launch training and content initiatives that are ignored by sales. And sales continues to devote valuable selling time to creating their own ad hoc content and processes.

What is Sales Enablement?

Sales and Sales Enablement Alignment

Sales enablement is so much more than training and content creation. The function has evolved significantly in recent years. Thierry van Herwijnen, Global Head of Worldwide Sales Enablement & Sales Operations at WIPRO and host of Sales Enablement Lab podcast defines sales enablement as “optimizing the supply chain behind sales.”

Training and content development is just a small part of optimizing a sales supply chain. It begins with the sales strategy. When enablement is included in the creation and direction of defining a sales strategy, they are able to then direct and create the elements that will make that strategy become reality.

Why is Sales Enablement so Difficult to Get Right?

The greatest challenges for most sales enablement organizations is influence and relevance. As Dan Sincavage in his Tenfold blog writes, “All too often, sales leaders treat enablement like a short-term quick fix.” Sales has a habit of wanting to “go it alone” only to pull in enablement for assets when goal attainment starts going sideways on them.

In such an organization, sales has too much control over enablement. Sales enablement should be the long-term, strategic arm of the sales organization, allowing sales to focus more on short-term quota attainment. When sales and enablement are equal partners in defining and executing strategy, enablement is allowed to work the way it is meant to.

We are also working in a very fast-paced business environment. As the creators of content, it is sometimes difficult for enablement to get the right information into sales’ quiver at the right time. Agile sales enablement is an emerging trend in sales organizations that helps increase speed to market but requires a high level of sales and enablement alignment to work well.

Aligning Sales and Sales Enablement

Sales Enablement Quiver

Aligning sales and enablement into a cooperative, collaborative group helps mitigate these difficulties. When sales and enablement share common goals and objectives, enablement is more empowered to create relevant initiatives and content that are more likely to help improve sales performance. Here are a few simple steps that can be made to create sales enablement alignment in your organization:

  1. Schedule consistent, periodic meetings between enablement and sales leaders to discuss goals and objectives, needs, and share insights
  2. Include enablement in sales strategy discussions where they can proactively influence direction and communicate where and how enablement can contribute
  3. Develop common goals and celebrate shared successes amongst both sales and enablement
  4. Staff your enablement team with sellers, giving your enablement team the critical insights they need to creating relevant content and training that sales teams will love

Like hitting the bull’s eye is the result of the combined effort of the archer’s fingers, hands, arms, torso, back, legs, and eyes—hitting your sales target takes the combined effort of a team working toward a common goal. Your sales team cannot determine the direction of the company to hit their number. Rather, they need to be the arrowhead that drives the combined efforts of your entire team to a shared goal.

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How To Improve Sales Productivity With CommercialTribe

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Improve sales productivity by improving the performance of your sales managers and reps.

Anyone can become a salesperson, but very few are actually good at it. True professionals are always on the lookout for how they can improve sales productivity. The ability to take those that have chosen to become not just great salespeople, but great sales managers and leaders, and give them the tools they need to improve their craft is why the team at CommercialTribe gets out of bed every day.

The reality of the sales profession is that the “make it or break it” mentality is what is keeping sales organizations from attaining the next level of sales productivity. Our big idea is that we can improve sales productivity by moving sales teams into a sustainable world where people are being coached and developed on an ongoing basis. A world where sales teams reach their maximum productivity not by waiting for the next improvement in CRM technology, but through the improved effectiveness of each of their interactions.

Becoming a great sales professional is just like becoming great at anything. If you want to become a guitar player or basketball player, you practice your craft. You practice every day, and you put your practice to the test by performing in concerts or games. In a quota-driven environment, the ability to hone your craft as a salesperson is compressed. You have to get to performance level fast, and you have very little time in your schedule to do it. You need a tool that enables practice, reinforcement, and feedback to get you to your goal.

Founded by sales executives and built by reps for reps, CommercialTribe has a broad set of observational modalities to capture reps in both simulated and live environments. This gives sales managers and leaders visibility into critical interactions that they are currently blind to and provides reps with a clear path forward to improved performance.

Learn how you can improve sales productivity with CommercialTribe >>>

Two Fundamental Shifts In Enablement At The Sales Enablement Soiree This Year

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This year’s Sales Enablement Soiree, hosted during Dreamforce, demonstrates the momentum building in the function.

Attending the Sales Enablement Soiree at Dreamforce this year was an eye-opening experience for me. The sophistication of the topics presented and the quality of the content made attendance well worth it. It was also a testament to the ongoing development and clarification of the sales enablement role—and its significant importance in influencing revenue goal attainment.

While there were a great variety of topics presented during the Sales Enablement Soiree this year, there were two themes that specifically captured my attention. Both represent a fundamental shift in how businesses are structuring the sales enablement role in the organization, from content creators and trainers to sales team developers.

Leader-First Sales Enablement Multiplies Success

sales enablement soiree leader-firstIncreasingly, the sales and enablement world is recognizing that enablement isn’t just about sales rep enablement. Sales managers and leaders must also be empowered and developed into force multipliers for any new initiative (whether it’s a new product or messaging launch, re-brand or M&A, or a process change) to be successful.

What this means on the ground is that, during a sales transformation, the whole organization is “certified” on new product, messaging, and process initiatives and it starts at the top, rather than just focusing on the reps. When sales leaders and managers are certified first, they can reinforce and coach reps toward the desired skill development and behavior change more effectively. It’s a simple, yet fundamental shift: when frontline managers are trained on what their reps are expected to do, they are better able to coach to that change.

For this reason, leader-first enablement requires a commitment to the development of sales managers into coaches. With leader-first enablement, leaders and managers must let go of status updates and stat reporting interactions with their teams. They must develop the skills they need to coach their teams to improving sales skills and applying behaviors in the field to create real-world outcomes from enablement initiatives being launched.

This approach also requires a high level of sales and enablement alignment. The most successful enablement organizations are closely aligned with sales leadership. They share objectives and goals and meet on a regular basis to align with the tactical sales plays the team will be running that month to support those objectives. Only with this level of alignment can the enablement organization develop resources that are relevant to the activities and objectives of the sales team.

Salesforce.com, for example, is now consistently using the leader-first sales enablement approach to successfully upskill and pivot their global sales organization of 30,000. I’ve also witnessed this approach first-hand only in our most successful customers here at CommercialTribe.

Agile Sales Enablement For Just-In-Time Pivots & Transformations

sales enablement soiree agile-enablementAgile sales and enablement is definitely an emerging theme this year. Agile Alliance defines agile development as “The ability to create and respond to change in order to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment.”

Truly, what can be a more uncertain and turbulent environment than the sales environment—and the relationship between sales and enablement in many organizations? In an agile sales enablement organization, enablement initiatives are developed in close alignment with sales goals and objectives. Sales and enablement are not two distinct organizations, but a collaborative working group in which feedback loops and learning cycles are condensed and communication passes between the functions freely.

In an organization that applies agile principles to sales enablement, enablement is the hub that disseminates information and feedback between sales and the business. They set up a consistent cadence to provide sales with new information. And they know how to package new information in a way that is useful and consumable for the field. This structure ensures that “idea of the week” noise isn’t automatically passed through to blind-side the sales organization and knock them off their track. The field knows when to expect updates, new information, materials, and/or tools on a consistent basis.

The trick to agile sales enablement is in getting just the right cadence to ensure sales is receiving (and using) relevant information just-in-time, but are not being overwhelmed with a constant barrage that may or may not be useful or relevant to them. The ideal timeline will differ for different businesses, largely depending on the speed of growth or change happening in your business and/or industry. Generally, a monthly or quarterly cadence is your best bet. Monthly or quarterly cycles get relevant information to the sales organization quickly, but also allow for uptake, learning, and feedback.

Leaving the Sales Enablement Soiree just a few short weeks ago, I felt a renewed sense of energy for sales enablement teams everywhere. While sophisticated processes and tools have long since been created and perfected for other functional areas of the business, the still relatively new sales enablement function has yet to receive the dedicated attention it so desperately needs. As more attention, structure, and technology is being applied to improving sales performance through enablement and development, I am optimistic that we are experiencing a new era of sales improvement through performance alignment with a strong and formalized sales enablement team.

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CommercialTribe—More Than Just A Pitch Certification Platform

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CommercialTribe is a SaaS Sales Team Development Platform—Developed by Salespeople for Salespeople.

After decades of working his way up the ranks of some of the most well-regarded sales organizations, CommercialTribe’s CEO and founder, Paul Ironside, realized that something wasn’t right in the industry. As a sales leader, Paul had access to all the data one would need to analyze sales activity, forecasts, pipeline metrics, cost of sales, goal attainment, etc. But he lacked the ability to actually observe his sellers and managers in action consistently. Without efficient observational capabilities, sales leaders around the world were restricted to viewing their world from the vantage point of lagging indicators. They were only able to see that something was wrong after their team missed their goal or after their top performers quit. This reality was simply unacceptable.

Paul began searching for a tool that would provide him with the ability to observe his sales team in action and empower sales managers and leaders to coach and develop individuals based on their specific needs. While his search for what he needed came up empty, the idea continued to fester and grow. Finally, he realized what he had to do. He had to create it himself.

From Paul’s vision came CommercialTribe. Born as a practice platform for sales reps, CommercialTribe has matured into so much more. As we partnered with some of the most progressive sales organizations in the world, such as LinkedIn, HubSpot, nVidia and more, the insights that our customers provide have helped shape the CommercialTribe of today—and continue to do so in the future.

CommercialTribe is no longer simply a practice and pitch certification platform. It is an environment that empowers the entire sales organization—from sellers and their managers to sales operations and enablement—CommercialTribe has become a platform that aligns the entire sales organization to increase productivity and improve performance.

From onboarding to launching a new product, re-branding to sales transformations, upskilling to professional development and more, global sales organizations rely on CommercialTribe to execute, measure, coach and improve.

Ready to take your sales organization to the next level? Schedule a demo today and tell us what your sales team needs!

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