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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Why 90% of Your Kickoff Content Will Be Ignored (and How To Fix It)

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The secret to gaining the greatest ROI from your kickoff content this year.

Your sales kickoff is meant to recognize the achievements of your sales team over the past year, and to get them hyped up around a new initiative for the coming year. This means you are likely either launching a new product, a re-brand and/or messaging transformation, or you are investing in a sales training solution to give your team a skills upgrade. This also means that you are working hard to produce kickoff content that will align with your initiative and empower your sales organization.

Your problem is that, while everyone seems excited about this launch initiative during kickoff, you have no way of knowing if they are going to stay engaged in the months following the event. You know from experience that they likely will not.

Ensuring that your kickoff content will have a lasting impact requires a year-long commitment to reinforcing the initiative launched during the kickoff event. This is critical because, while your sales team can learn about the new product, message, or process, this doesn’t necessarily translate to whether they are using it in the field.

The Problem: Your Kickoff Content Focuses on the Initiative Owner

Most sales kickoff content plans quickly degenerate into a glorified (and very expensive) PowerPoint Parade. Sales reps are subjected to hours of updates and new material—all without giving them the opportunity to interact with it in a way that comes naturally to them. As a result, they sit there idly waiting for the bar to open, politely allowing presenters to speak to a full, yet unengaged room.

If you don’t want your kickoff content to be ignored over the coming year, break the cycle and do something new to give your salespeople the opportunity to work with the content you are presenting to them during the kickoff event. Adult learners will only retain about 5 to 30% of what they see during kickoff presentations. Allowing them to practice the skills themselves increases that retention rate to 75%! Practice can come in the form of interactive workshops or access to a practice and roleplay platform during and after the event.

The Solution: Practical Adult Learning Techniques to Improve Your Kickoff Content

Kickoff Content-Kirkpatrick-Traditional-2Traditional corporate training and development programs focus on the quantitative aspects of a new program. These programs rely heavily on “butts in seats”, show and tell, and quiz or test scores to disseminate information to the sales organization and measure their understanding. This traditional approach is a great knowledge transfer mechanism, but it doesn’t cover the full hierarchy that adults need to learn and internalize new information to change behavior.

While classroom participation is a great first step for large sales transformations that require salespeople to gain information on a new product, message, or process, for example, it should not be what your entire initiative relies on. Your kickoff is meant to develop the skills of your sales team and change their selling behaviors throughout the year (and beyond) to improve performance.

Think about your launch initiative in terms of sales team development through the lens of the Kirkpatrick Model, a popular method of evaluating training effectiveness and provides a clear blueprint to creating training programs.

The Need: Kickoff Content That Sparks Behavior Change

Kickoff Content-Kirkpatrick-Behavior-ResultsIf you don’t want your kickoff content to be forgotten after the confetti settles and the hangovers wear off, it needs to be just a part of a larger behavior-based transformation initiative. All that work to plan and kickoff your initiative will mean basically nothing if your sellers do not transfer the message to the market.

To accomplish this, you need to cross the chasm to the realm of behavior change. The Kirkpatrick Model defines behavior as “The degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.” Change a seller’s behavior and you will change their results.

Assessing and influencing behavior change in sales organizations is traditionally difficult to do. You need an observational solution, a set of assessment criteria and processes, and you need to be able to use that information to relay feedback to sellers to reinforce kickoff content. How do sales organizations successfully manage this level of sales transformation?

The Secret: Engaging Your Sales Managers In Reinforcing Kickoff Content

If you find it difficult to reinforce and evaluate the behavior changes of your sales team and the results of your kickoff initiative, believe me you are not alone! We’ve worked with dozens of sales organizations who know they need to gain visibility into how their sales team is behaving in the field, but don’t have the mechanism to do so or a solid process in place to assess those behaviors.

The secret to success is to engage your sales managers and leaders in reinforcing kickoff content throughout the year. Most progressive (and successful) sales organizations carve out dedicated time for sales leaders and managers during or before sales kickoff and regional summits for targeted sales manager training and development. During that time, they get managers and leaders to engage with the kickoff content that will be presented to the organization and deploy assessment and coaching assets that will empower frontline managers to become force multipliers for the initiative.

If you would like to learn more about how you can facilitate such a sales manager workshop around or within your upcoming sales kickoff event, contact us. We will be happy to share a proven sales manager workshop agenda that will empower you to spend the best 90 minutes of the year with your sales management team.

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Sales Assessments That Will Save Your Sales Kickoff

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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

Sales Assessments-BaselineA 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

Sales Assessments-Team Report-BaselineBegin 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-Coaching MethodologySales 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

Sales Assessments-Progression

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?

 

Avoid the Post-Sales Kickoff Thud Get Your FREE Sales Assessment Map Template

The #1 Thing Most People Get Wrong With Sales Kickoff

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Create a behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement program that will keep the kickoff energy alive all year.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—when sales kickoff planning shifts into high gear. New products are rolled out. New messaging. New training. And while everyone is concerned with what to do during the event, sales kickoff reinforcement is always treated as an afterthought.

Everyone gets together, the energy is high, emotions are elevated, you’re at the center of a grand ‘ol party and you get to roll out your latest and greatest initiative that is going to change the world…

…And one week later, it’s all but forgotten. Noses are back to the grindstone and salespeople are back to operating exactly the way they were before. Their behavior has not changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I know as much as anybody how important it is to have the right theme, get a great keynote, and create valuable breakout sessions. But if you want your sales team to leave kickoff with more than just a hangover—and have the energy last all year—you also have to be prepared with a behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement plan.

Planning for Sales Kickoff Reinforcement

sales-kickoff-reinforcement-calendarReinforcement is defined as the process of encouraging or establishing a belief or pattern of behavior, especially by encouragement or reward.

Driving some kind of change, whether it is a new product or message, skills development, or a sales organization transformation is likely at the center of your sales kickoff. You and your team are going to put a ton of work into making it happen, so don’t let all that hard work go to waste. This is your time to shine—use it!

Help your sales force actually retain and use all your great content by putting a post-event reinforcement plan into place. There is no one-size-fits-all sales kickoff reinforcement program, the length and details will vary broadly depending on the size of your sales transformation. At a minimum, it should include three elements:

1. Sales Leader and/or CEO Communications

The more involved the authority figures are in communicating and driving post sales kickoff reinforcement, the better. Plan out and draft communications to come directly from the sales leader, using personalization tags to make the emails look one-to-one as often as possible.

Take a secret from marketing’s playbook and use automated workflows to tag those people who have not completed their work with a note from the boss. Give compliance emails that “I know you’re not doing what you’ve been told” vibe, rather than “If you haven’t done so already…”

Also, include sales managers in your reinforcement initiative early on. They can be your daily and weekly enforcers, as they already meet with their teams consistently. Consider running a contest with sales managers—the team with the highest participation rate each quarter gets a happy hour party or special outing.

2. Make It Relevant

Relevance is so simple in theory, yet surprisingly difficult for many enablement teams to pull off. With so much energy going into planning and creating content for the actual sales kickoff event, it’s easy to overlook post-event reinforcement content. But the basics are simple: don’t make the sales team do something that is not going to directly improve their ability to make money.

If you’ve done the important work of making sure your sales kickoff theme and content are relevant to the sales organization and business objectives, you’re halfway there. Make sure the information in your sales kickoff reinforcement curriculum is relevant to what everyone learned during the event, and what you expect them to apply in the field.

What do they absolutely need to know in order to make them as productive as possible? The magnitude of change that your initiative represents impacts how much post-kickoff reinforcement needs to be done. Don’t make people do any more work (or spend any more valuable time) than is absolutely necessary.

3. Make It Interactive

sales-kickoff-reinforcement-interactiveIt’s pretty rare to find a company that has created a comprehensive, behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement program. There are some real gems that I can think of, but most of the time post-event communications look something like this:

  1. A “required attendance” webinar provides a “PowerPoint Parade” overview of information and highlights from sales kickoff
  2. A pretty boring email campaign, maybe three emails deep, to “remind” people about the new messaging and/or process unveiled during the event

These are good things, but when it comes to working with sales teams, they just don’t stand up on their own. There is nothing here that lets them try the content on for size. They can watch the presentations, go through the eLearning and perhaps answer a few questions on the quiz, but they don’t have the ability to practice and respond in a sales context.

Transformation happens when you can not only deploy your content across your sales team, but also encourage them to practice that content themselves, view and score their peers, and receive feedback. Take it one step further and build this into your event by telling them there will be a highlight reel of the best performers and watch the interaction unfold.

Behavior-Based Sales Kickoff Reinforcement

Prior to and during sales kickoff, your sales force is being presented with information and, hopefully, are practicing new skills while you are all together. But how do you know if they are actually going to take new information and skills back to the field?

This is what I mean by behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement. The Kirkpatrick Model defines behavior as “The degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.”

To keep the initiative launched during sales kickoff going throughout the year, you need a behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement program that actively encourages and measures actual behavior change. In sales teams, the best way to do this is to implement a process and the tools to observe and assess the behaviors salespeople are exhibiting when they are “back on the job” and coach them on how to improve those behaviors based on consistent, relevant observable attributes.

Only through a structured, behavior-based and enabled reinforcement plan will your sales kickoff become a continuing success for your business stakeholders.

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Building A Millennial-Minded Sales Organization

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Build a millennial-minded sales organization to create a sustainable revenue machine.

Putting whatever prejudices you may have about millennials aside for a moment, building a millennial-minded sales organization isn’t simply about appeasing the “entitled generation”. It’s also about building a sales coaching and development culture within your sales organization that will benefit employees of all ages—and your top line.

Roughly 73 million people were born in the US between 1982 and 1996. Now the largest generation in the workforce, millennials are claiming their place on the org chart and challenging workplace norms. Millennials’ unique experiences and characteristics have inspired a tremendous amount of research, literature, training seminars, and (let’s not forget) ire from those who manage them.

But we’ve come to understand the millennial mindset much better since their debut in the job market in the early 2000s. Companies and teams have made significant changes in procedures, expectations, compensation, benefits, and review structures to engage and motivate their millennial workforce. However, the traditional sales organization continues to struggle with developing, motivating and retaining millennial sellers.

As sales leaders, we need to reconsider the traditional structure of our sales team to build a millennial-minded sales organization.

What is a Millennial-Minded Sales Organization?

Let’s take a look at the motivators that are typically characteristic of your millennial team. Millennials are the first generation of digital natives. They are connected to limitless information at their fingertips but remain unconstrained by norms and relationships. They don’t accept “the way it’s always been” and instead push for change they believe in.

Millennials are often characterized as idealistic, valuing experience and a sense of purpose over money. While this may have some truth to it, the underlying reality is that your millennial employees are paid less (inflation-adjusted) and have far greater debt than their Baby Boomer and GenX counterparts did at their age. They expect that, while they are just squeaking by financially now, they can achieve financial security by developing relevant skills that make them more marketable and gaining experience. They are very focused on professional growth, and they are impatient about how they get it.

Organizations are adjusting compensation, training and development, communication and transparency, and hierarchy structures to build millennial-minded organizations.

However, the sales organization continues to struggle with making these adjustments. With the fast-paced, “produce or perish” atmosphere typical of any sales team, making room for the millennial mindset is seen as being simply impossible.

Free Guide: Build Your Millennial-Minded Sales Organization >>

Are You Ready for a Millennial-Minded Sales Organization?

Millennial Molly vs. CSO CHris - Building A Millennial-Minded Sales Organization | CommercialTribeYou’re the CSO. You have about 18 months to prove that you can move the company’s revenue forward to reach its goal, otherwise you’re out. How do you prove you can do the job?

If you follow the traditional Sales Leader playbook, you rely heavily on driving activity and goal compliance through Salesforce. You focus on the classic top-down hierarchy of communication and squeezing maximum productivity out of each asset and hour you have available to you. All this means that you identify where people work at their best and then you keep them there. Because change creates waste—wasted time, wasted productivity, wasted effort.

Rather than moving people around, letting them try new things, and figuring out how to develop people, the comp plan is really your favorite motivator. And why not? We all know that salespeople are coin-operated. You put the money incentive in, and revenue comes out.

But with all that we’ve learned about millennials in the workplace over the past several years, the reality is that your traditional means of motivating people and operating a salesforce is quickly becoming irrelevant. This new crop of reps and entry-level managers expect something very different. They expect more. You can love them. You can hate them. But you can’t ignore the impact millennials are currently having—and will continue to have—on our sales organizations.

“Millennials Aren’t My Problem”

At this point, you may be thinking that this just isn’t your problem. Millennials are entitled and they need to just get over it or go back to living off their mommies and daddies.

Well, you’re wrong. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, a segment that will only continue to grow over the coming years. Furthermore, get ready for GenZ coming in behind them. While they are different from millennials in many ways, they are still expected to expect many of the same workplace reforms that millennials have pushed for.

Plus, you have a bigger problem. Only 56% of your sales reps are attaining quota, and you have better odds of winning it big in Vegas and being able to retire early than you do of getting an accurate forecast from your sales managers. You may have about a 25% turnover rate, largely due to missed quotas, burnout, and top reps getting recruited away. By the way, these numbers have been an issue for sales leaders around the globe for decades. You can’t simply blame it on the “new kids” coming in and not being loyal. This is your problem, and it’s only going to get worse.

You can no longer afford to maintain the status quo. You need a solution to developing your millennial sales team now, so you can enjoy the returns into the future.

Aligning Needs in a Millennial-Minded Sales Organization

We’ve established that your millennial-minded sales reps (and, potentially, entry-level managers) are looking for something perhaps a bit more than you are traditionally able to provide. But your revenue goal reality is not just going to go away. So how can you build a millennial-minded sales organization without sacrificing efficacy and performance?

Solution: The Sales Team Development Loop.

Using a sales team development loop, you can put the development of your entire sales team on auto-pilot, allowing you to improve your team’s overall effectiveness while satisfying your sales reps’ need for professional development and continual feedback.

HubSpot is an example of how this works for millennial-minded sales teams. Working with their SMB team, we were able to help young frontline sales managers learn how to coach their sales reps to help improve performance and retention on the team. Running a sales development loop with HubSpot’s SMB sales team, we partnered with sales leaders and operations to build a millennial-minded sales organization where learning and development are key to measuring and improving performance—and hitting quota every month.

Learn How To Buildi A Millennial-Minded Sales Organization | CommercialTribe

How To Make Quota Every Quarter with a Sales Development Loop

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The sales development loop helps you get your team to quota every quarter.

Your revenue goal for the quarter is clear. How you reach it is not. In fact, it’s likely that only 57% of your sales reps will hit their quota. What might that mean for you if this trend continues? Let’s try not to think about it.

The solution to the problem is clear: sales team development. Sales team development refers to the development of your entire sales team, from management to reps. What most sales leaders don’t realize is how much of an impact frontline sales manager development has on goal attainment. A company that invests $2,500 per frontline sales manager per year increases revenue plan attainment by 18.4%—on average, 106.7%—compared to those who don’t. Now, let’s think about what that might do for your career!

The sales development loop is a simple, yet highly effective process for improving the performance of busy sales teams. It puts the development of your entire team on auto-pilot by running each loop over the course of a quarter (three months), broken up into three 30-day segments.

Though we have run development loops that attempted to improve multiple types of sales interactions, we’ve found that they are far more successful when each loop is focused on just one specific interaction. Begin your sales development loop by identifying a specific area of the sales process that you want to improve.

For many teams just getting started with the sales development loop process, we recommend starting with the discovery call (or equivalent). The main reason for this is, based on the 30,000+ sales calls we’ve observed, 25% of qualified opportunities are wasted due to poor discovery calls. Even just a small decrease in that number will have a huge impact on your business.

Note that sales team development also includes managers, so you can also target the development of your sales managers using the development loop. Because training dollars are traditionally spent on sales skills training for reps, few managers receive relevant sales management coaching needed to develop critical management skills. Leaders who are interested in the development of their sales managers might target the forecast review, for example, to improve the effectiveness of manager-to-seller interactions.

The main idea is to pick just one interaction to focus on for each sales development loop. Once you decide on that interaction, take the time to identify what behaviors and characteristics make that interaction successful to create an “assessment map”.

Step 1: Calibrate Your Sales Development Loop

Download a Free Sales Assessment Map Template to Calibrate Your Sales Development Loop | CommercialTribeYour sales assessment map can be a simple spreadsheet that plots attributes and behaviors you are looking for in the interaction against the score you would give for each seller or manager being assessed. For example, when assessing your team’s sales discovery calls, you’ll want to identify how well they set an agenda, ask qualifying questions, build rapport, and close for next steps. Rate each behavior on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 meaning “non-existent” and 5 meaning “excellent”.

The sales assessment map will help you stay focused on the behaviors that you’ve identified as most important to making the interaction successful. It will also help keep your scoring and feedback consistent and objective for each person being assessed.

FREE Sales Assessment Map Template! Download Now >>

Step 2: Baseline Sales Skills Assessment

Take the first 30 days of the sales development loop to observe your sales team’s behavior in the specific development area you are focusing on to get a baseline for where your team’s skill level is currently. Resist the temptation to try and fix problems as you see them. Just focus on understanding the current state.

There are two ways you can observe your sales team. You can either sit in on a live call or you can have them submit a call recording. Either way, have your assessment map ready for each call you observe so you can score performance as you go.

Call recording can save you a bit of time, and it provides you with real-life examples of what great performance looks like. When you start coaching your team in the next step, showing these examples to your reps will help them understand exactly what you are looking for.

Step 3: Activate Sales Coaching & Development

The next 30 days of the sales development loop is dedicated to coaching. Based on your assessments, how can you most efficiently allocate your time and energy toward developing your sales team to have maximum impact? This will take some practice, but getting good at it will save you a lot of time.

Chances are you will find that some reps are great in some areas, but need further development in others. Your assessment maps will highlight specifically who needs help in each area, allowing you to efficiently and effectively coach based on personal strengths and opportunities for improvement.

Step 4: Measure Sales Development Progression

Finally, the last 30 days of the sales development loop is meant to observe your team a second time and look for skills progression. Can you see evidence that your team is improving? Celebrate progress on the skill the same way you would celebrate hitting quota and you will be on your way toward creating an environment for your people to get better.

Sales team development isn’t for everyone. It takes a certain type of forward-thinking sales leader to commit to “slowing down to go further.” But once they see the final results, those that do make the commitment are energized and excited to do more. And, no, it’s not just about keeping your job. It’s really about building a world-class sales organization and a sustained revenue-generating machine through continual coaching and development.

Download a FREE Sales Assessment Map Template to Get Your Team To Quota Every Quarter | CommercialTribe

3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan

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A successful launch plan creates better alignment by engaging sales team stakeholders.

Do you have a busy sales team that you need to get quickly up to speed on new products, messages, or processes? Time for a launch initiative! Creating a successful launch plan will provide you and your team with the framework to improve participation and drive engagement.

A launch initiative typically occurs anytime we need to get new information to existing people in the commercial organization. This happens during a new product launch, a rebrand or new messaging initiative, a merger or acquisition transition, a transformation of the sales process, and during sales kick-off.

Make sure all the hard work you put into your next launch initiative isn’t simply ignored by sales by applying these three simple secrets to creating a successful launch plan.

Knowledge

Knowledge & Information Delivery | 3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan | CommercialTribeEvery launch initiative must include an information delivery, or knowledge, component. In a typical launch plan, this will usually include a “required” global webinar. Depending on the size and complexity of the new launch initiative, it may include a live meeting or a sales kick-off event.

Often, the person or people who own the initiative are the ones who deliver the communication of the change. Unless that person is already a solid influencer within the organization, this is a mistake.

Furthermore, the content of the webinar or live event will be characterized as a “PowerPoint Parade” by attendees because it is heavily focused on the “feature dump” method and is rarely very relevant to the sales organization.

The secret to success in delivering the message is to establish “change agents” or “change ambassadors” who can help deliver the message to the sales team. These people can help make sure that your launch plan is delivering relevant information from the perspective of the people who are tasked with bringing that message to the market.

Also involve your change agents in the communications by recruiting one or more of them to present the content during the live event, and by scheduling emails or intranet posts to come directly from them. This way, the sales team sees that it is coming directly from their leadership, rather than “outside” of the team.

Skills

Sales Skills Development | 3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan | CommercialTribeSadly, the most common mistake in launch initiatives is that they tend to stop at the “knowledge” stage. This may be due to a lack of a mechanism to change behaviors and “certify” that the sales team has internalized the new message and can deliver it to the market.

But this is perhaps the most critical secret to a successful launch plan! People are busy, and even if they are really excited about a new product or message initiative, the reality is that they will forget about its core elements within hours or days of receiving the message.

Create a program through which sales managers and reps can easily develop the desired messaging and then certify that they can deliver it to effectively change the behaviors of your sales organization.

Results & Retrospective

Sales Results & Retrospective | 3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan | CommercialTribeThe results of launch initiatives are historically difficult to measure and vary depending on the type of launch you are initiating. For example, you may measure the results of your launch initiative by the number of new product units being sold over a number of months.

No matter how you measure the results of your launch plan, the secret to launch success is to make sure you are always performing a retrospective. What worked well? What did not work as well? How can your next launch be improved? Always ask these questions and include your change agents and, if possible, other stakeholders in answering those questions and planning for the next launch.

 

Sales Webinar: 5 Secrets to Sales Enablement Launches That Salespeople Love | CommercialTribe

How Growing Companies Create Sales and Enablement Alignment

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Creating sales and enablement alignment improves sales efficacy and quota attainment.

Does this sound familiar to you? Sales claim that everything that comes out of enablement is useless and should be ignored. Enablement says that, if sales would just engage in their initiatives, they could greatly improve their ability to attain quota. In my experience working with hundreds of companies—and from being a sales enablement leader in a former life myself—the truly great ones that are hitting growth goals have successfully created strong sales and enablement alignment.

There is a bit a truth in both sides’ pain. But if a sales organization strives to improve goal attainment, they have to find a way to align and work as a collaborative group. This takes some work and open communication from both the enablement and sales leadership sides of the organization—neither can do it all on their own.

Frankly, it is very difficult for sales enablement to assess and communicate their relevance. Their work is far away from the results of the field and, unless they have a close relationship with their sales counterparts, their contribution to the field’s success is frequently downplayed.

Sales, on the other hand, is openly exposed to the results (or lack thereof) of their contributions to the organization. Everyone in the company knows whether or not the sales team is hitting their quota, and they are only a quarter or two away from getting the boot if they don’t perform. They simply don’t have the time to engage every time a new initiative comes out of enablement—they need results.

Creating Sales and Enablement Alignment

Creating Sales and Enablement Alignment | How Growing Companies Create Sales and Enablement Alignment | CommercialTribe Sales Enablement SolutionSales managers are in a constant vice-grip between reaching quota and improving their sales reps’ skills. They are not resistant to using new information—they will do anything that results in getting more sales. Issues arise when the new information is not clear or relevant enough for them to apply it quickly and seamlessly.

While aligning sales and enablement organizations isn’t always easy, it’s also not impossible. Specific steps can be taken to get the movement on the right path.

1. Talk with Senior Sales Leaders

The most unfortunate, yet most common, characteristic of a poorly aligned sales and enablement relationship is a lack of communication. Enablement needs to understand what the sales organization needs, what the goals and objectives are, and share in the responsibility to get them there.

The best, most direct way of doing this is to get some face-time with senior sales leadership and ask them:

  • What can I do to help your team reach their goals?
  • What are the most critical performance gaps on your sales and management teams?

2. Claim a Seat at the Table

In the very best organizations that have strong sales and enablement alignment, enablement leaders are included in the setting and planning of the strategic direction of the commercial organization. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many companies today.

Without having a seat at the table during strategic sales objective planning, enablement is left at a strong disadvantage to have an impact on the attainment of those objectives. They are treated as mere support functions that must simply respond to the sales team’s every request.

If your enablement organization is not represented in sales strategy meetings, it is difficult for your team to understand where the goals, objectives, and asks are coming from. Your team is working in reaction mode, rather than proactively influencing how enablement can contribute.

3. Share Common Goals & Success

Sales and Enablement Alignment Goals | How Growing Companies Create Sales and Enablement Alignment | CommercialTribe Sales Enablement SolutionWhat are your department’s annual goals? Do they focus on training and development? Or are they tied to driving Sales Qualified Leads (SQL), optimizing pipeline conversions, and producing field-ready new hires from bootcamp? Do you see a difference?

Enablement must share the goals of the sales department to be relevant and successful in the organization. If your team is not laser-focused on how to get sales to their goal, you’re spending your time on the wrong things. Your success isn’t defined by finding the next cool new tool or trend, it’s about making the sales team better at what they do.

When sales and enablement are closely aligned, they are also better able to share in the successes of their mutual efforts. Rather than struggling to define your contributions to the organization, your contributions are shared in the common successes of the sales team.

4. Staff Enablement with Sellers

If you are not doing so already, consider how helpful it will be to staff your enablement department with sellers. It is shocking how often people in enablement positions are making decisions that will directly affect the sales team, and yet have never sold a day in their lives.

The best way to be relevant to the sales team is to have salespeople on your side of the office. Either through recruitment or cross-training, increasing the sales savviness of your enablement organization will further help align your initiatives and communications with what is most relevant to salespeople.

Managing Change in Sales Teams

Each time you launch a new initiative, such as a new product, new messaging, or sales process, you are changing the way you expect sellers to work in some way. This change creates “friction” for busy sales teams.

When change happens in the organization, they have to stop what they are doing and reset their team. Stopping means they are being pulled away from the activities that allow them to reach their goals in the ever-present forward momentum of the typical seller.

As you are creating greater sales and enablement alignment, change management becomes easier. First and foremost, you know that your launch initiative is highly relevant to the sales organization’s need for goal attainment. You are also better equipped to recruit sales leadership and management to help champion the change among their teams to create greater participation and compliance.

 

Sales Webinar: 5 Secrets to Sales Enablement Launches That Salespeople Love | CommercialTribe

 

Launch Your Enablement Initiative With Surgical Precision

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Bring the launch of your next sales enablement initiative into the 21st Century.

When a business creates a new product, evolves their message, or has critical business information to impart, it relies on the sales team to deliver that info to the marketplace. But the sales team’s ability to present that message is only as good as enablement’s ability to deliver it to them effectively.

When you need to introduce a new product or message to the world, enablement’s launch initiative acts as the central nervous system of your commercial organization to push information from the brain to the mouth.

The problem is that there is no mechanism to determine if sales really understands that information and can deliver it well. When enablement (or product development, or marketing) wants to deliver a new message or product to sales, they are frankly relying on very crude, blunt instruments to do the work.

It’s time to move into the 21st century in launching sales enablement initiatives by ditching the “spray and pray” method. By following a proven template to plan and execute your sales enablement initiative, your next new product introduction, messaging re-vamp, or M&A transition can be launched with surgical precision.

Free Launch Plan - Enablement Initiative Launch Calendar | CommercialTribe's Sales Enablement Tools

Plan

As the old adage goes: failing to plan is planning to fail. A comprehensive launch plan will not just include deliverables and dates. You should begin well before that by recruiting “change ambassadors” from stakeholder departments who can help you make sure the message is relevant to their needs. Think about who would be affected by your initiative, such as customer success, distribution, marketing, and certainly sales.

Because they are the mouthpiece of your organization, you need your sales team to get behind your launch initiative in order for it to be successful. The best way to align your launch initiative with sale’s needs is to include at least one representative from the sales leadership or management side to help you craft and deliver the new message.

Your launch plan should look much like a change management plan, in that you need to state the objective, define the relevance for stakeholders (WIIFM), include plenty of communication touch points, and identify a mechanism to enable behavior change.

Start Planning Your Next Enablement Initiative Using Our FREE Launch Plan Template >>

Knowledge

The next element of launching an enablement initiative with surgical precision involves delivering the information to the sales team, so they know what it is they are being asked to do. What is it that you want them to say? How are they to position it?

The knowledge component of the launch should include more than just an informational webinar where the initiative owner is simply putting on a “PowerPoint Parade” that few will pay much attention to, nevertheless internalize and use.

Use your e-Learning and quizzing program to help the sales team get a bit more interactive with the information. We use programs that include more than simply watching a video and then taking a test. Sellers are instructed to watch and respond in some way—it may be to try the pitch themselves or to practice a role play scenario with a colleague. The more interactive and “real life” you can make the knowledge portion of your launch plan, the better.

Your program should allow you to see who participated in this activity and how well they performed. This will inform your future communications to the team, providing you with insights on what areas are not resonating with the team very well and what aspects are really exciting them.

Event

Depending on the size of your organization and the complexity of the enablement initiative, you will likely hold either a webinar or a live event, such as a sales kick-off event, or perhaps both.

This is the keystone communication platform that stabilizes and supports all pre and post-communication. Include your “change ambassadors” in the communication of the “Why” and the “How” of your enablement initiative.

Since your team completed the knowledge component of your launch plan prior to the event, your sales team, and the rest of the commercial organization, already have the foundation of the message they are expected to convey and at least a basic understanding of what is expected of them. The event is meant to pull everyone together and create some energy and excitement around the initiative.

It gives your team the chance to address common questions and concerns, and provide further clarity on how the launch plan will be executed cross-functionally to the entire commercial organization.

Certification

Certification is the most overlooked, yet critical part of launching a successful enablement initiative. Most enablement organizations stop the communication to the sales organization after the event—they may send a follow-up email with a list of resources, but that’s about it.

But, as the brain of the organization, how are you receiving signals that the mouth understands what it’s supposed to do?

Message certification—or “Certify to Fly”, as we like to call it, allows sales reps the opportunity to play the with the message and make it their own in a safe environment. It also provides a platform to ensure that everyone has received the information, understands it, and has internalized it so they can effectively bring it to the field.

Learn How Veritas Used CommercialTribe to “Certify to Fly” >>

Retrospective

Any big change initiative needs a retrospective. Gather your team to discuss what went well, what could be improved, and what needs to take place before launching your next enablement initiative to make it better. Look back at your launch plan and consider your objectives—have those objectives been met? Are they on the right path to being met? In hindsight, were they the right objectives in the first place? Could they be defined better?

Give your launch initiative an unbiased score on a scale of 1 to 100. Did it do what your team had set out to do?

It is the 21st century and we have very precise tools for every aspect of the business. From marketing automation to inventory control to payroll, every functional area of your business has embraced new technologies to make their jobs easier and their outcomes better. Isn’t it time that the enablement organization finally starts using a sales enablement solution that allows everyone in the commercial organization to align and start singing from the same song sheet?

 

Find Out How To Launch Your Next Enablement Initiative With CommercialTribe's Sales Enablement Tools. Request A Free Demo Today!