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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, Pure Storage, 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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4 Sessions to Watch at the 2016 ATD Conference

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ATD’s 2016 Conference is taking place at home in Denver on May 22nd-25th. The Association for Talent Development’s annual conference covers all aspects of the learning and training space, with a particular focus on the strategies and technologies that enable sales. As usual, the event is packed with sessions to move enablement forward.

As the learning market changes and as enablement continues to grow in impact and responsibility, the need to combine best practices is only increasing. ATD meets the need of an evolving space by combining practitioners and innovative thinking.

With the conference just days away, the agenda is now live and sessions are filling up fast. To help you pick the most impactful use of time across the days, we’ve profiled four sessions from the Enablement space that any sales development practitioner cannot miss.

A Credible Way to Measure the ROI of Sales Training

Jason Jordan, Vantage Point Performance
Sun, May 22 | 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM | Session Information >

The author of Cracking the Sales Management Code, Jason Jordan, shares his strategy for tracking ROI across training and development. During the session, Jason will highlight more on building a measureable sales metric framework – made up of Business Results, Sales Objectives, and Sales Activities – that can be implemented in any organization. We’ve highlighted the benefit of Jason’s framework when building your yearly plan, and the impact of a measureable sales organization continues to resonate.

Is an ROI of 907 Percent Really Possible in Sales Learning?

Conrad Smith, Corporate Visions
Dave Jenkins, IBM
Melody Astley, FinListics Solutions
Tue, May 24 | 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM | Session Information >

Yes.

Through a program of adaptive sales learning that takes into account the need to create stronger, more capable sellers, training can deliver an impact nearly 1000 times greater than the investment. Getting there requires laying the groundwork for change, a process that, while not easy, sets up a multiyear program of development and scalable learning. Pair the program with metrics that show lagging and leading indicators of success and you can build a sustainable feedback loop for tenure-long sales training that exceeds the number. Corporate Visions’ experience in enabling organizations to defeat the status quo will help create an attainable training program.

ATD Forum 4 – Innovative Practices from Practitioners in the Field

Kuntal McElroy, Ericsson
Darryl Cross, LexisNexis
Laura Rodriguez-Costacamps, MediaMath
Rachel Hutchinson, Hilti
Tue, May 24 | 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM | Session Information >

A panel session across a sample of the most progressive sales organizations promises the opportunity to see how leading companies advance the enablement function. Across industries, buying centers, and even sales models, there is still a clear need to invest in learning and development that creates more impactful reps and a better enrichment experience for all. Not only do reps gain more ability, but managers and leaders who invest in enablement find a team that can deliver more predictably and reliably toward ever-growing goals.

Competency-Based Sales Enablement

Robby Halford, Appirio
Tue, May 24 | 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM | Session Information >

Appirio’s Robby Halford takes on a story all too familiar across enablement teams: “random acts of enablement.” With enablement continuing to rise in impact and prominence across organizations, the time is right to give up on sporadic training and invest in a plan. Enablement based around cadence, with continual touchpoints made up of both light and heavy activities, creates reps that can articulate value and advance their abilities throughout their tenure.

Three Traits of World-Class Onboarding Programs

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Part of working with enterprise sales teams is being able to witness the range of approaches to new hire training. With so many different potential avenues to engaging reps early and driving long-term learning, it can become challenging to identify what an organization does right, and what is stunting growth.

Luckily, when you look at the top programs, you can identify three distinct characteristics that make an onboarding approach best-in-class: longevity, cadence, and practice.

CommercialTribe has the opportunity to help a wide range of organizations build world-class onboarding, and to identify the broad traits that these approaches share. Generally, we advise clients to focus on three aspects of the approach when revising or planning for onboarding: eliminating the idea of a “program,” building a cadence and adopting practice.

The Traits of Winning Approaches

world-class onboarding programsWhat makes for a winning onboarding approach? As HubSpot’s Andrew Quinn shared, it depends. Generally, the true differences made by a great program are a reduction in time to productivity and an improvement to the productivity of each new hire.

When looking at programs that reach these goals, we found that world-class onboarding programs do not use one time programs, and instead extend learning beyond a set period of time and through a rep’s tenure.

The first rule of onboarding at a world-class organization is that you do not talk about onboarding. Instead, you onboard perpetually. Best-in-class onboarding extends far beyond the first 3 months, continuing through a rep’s tenure and updating as new releases, messages, or skills are introduced. The dynamo of new information forever spins, and reps are always learning.

When a world-class organization brings on a group of new hires, they certainly still put them through a few days or weeks of accelerated learning, but the program does not stop there. Even as they graduate out and reach full ramp, reps are engaging with small, medium, and large forms of learning, with ample time to practice.

No longer does enablement have to hand off learning to sales, nor does sales have to guess at the experience or ability of new hires and their impact on goal.

World-class onboarding programs base learning on a cadence of mixed learning approaches and touchpoints.

Mixing up the learning approach, from varying the length of time reps spend learning to the actual method of viewing and practicing content, ensures that reps continually engage and remain sharp. World-class programs do not rely on a single “bootcamp” or program to stand as a frontloaded source of rep learning. Instead, they break learning into individual elements – certification, quick spotchecks on knowledge, simple watch and respond exercises – and execute these strategically across the year.

Instead of spending two weeks in bootcamp and 30 minutes in coaching each month, reps spend minutes each day, week, and month perfecting a broad range of content – all while selling.

World-Class Onboarding Programs Incorporate Practice

World-class onboarding programs are cultures of practice. Simply put, practice becomes the single-most important element in the ongoing learning of reps, and these organizations encourage and enable their reps to practice.

Practice allows reps the chance to more thoroughly engage with any type of content, learn it deeply, and use it in everyday selling. It goes far beyond a one-time bootcamp or program and extends into every selling day. Practice can be targeted, with a formal certification course taking 30 minutes over a week, or light, taking the form of a quick skills check.

The important point is that reps have access to practice content, and are encouraged by sales and enablement to actually practice through their tenure.

Building a best-in-class onboarding organization takes work, but it is not reserved for the Fortune 500 alone. Any company, with a dedicated and prescriptive approach to building their onboarding, can see reps ramp faster, sell more effectively, and return on the training investment more quickly than ever.

The Power of Cumulative Practice

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Practice is an incredible tool for sales teams. What reps say is critically important to whether a deal closes or a prospect converts, and the better reps can share the right message, the more likely they are to see a positive outcome.

Yet, practice does not automatically get at what SiriusDecisions calls the #1 reason why reps fail to hit quota: the inability to articulate value.

Introducing practice to your organization is a great step forward to driving better alignment and understanding, but does not ensure that reps will remember or apply anything weeks later. Reps still forget most of the content within a few days.

Similarly, just because a quarterback reads the playbook once a month does not mean that they can apply the right plays over the season.

So what is missing? Repetition through cumulative practice.

Cumulative practice offers your team the chance to go beyond practice alone. The magic of practice forms only when practice is deliberate, repeated, and cumulative. This allows the greatest chance to truly cement concepts and to build upon what reps have already learned.

Back to the sports example – despite millions in endorsements and a demanding pro circuit, Rory McIlroy does not spend his free time signing autographs. Instead, you’ll find him on the driving range, practicing just as much as he did back when his career first started.

Why? The more often he practices and builds upon skills, the more likely it is that he will master more aspects of their game and win more often.

To truly accelerate learning for your reps, the chances to take concepts that they learned during onboarding or the latest product launch must be frequent. The most simple way to do this is to take whatever method you currently use for practice – perhaps a platform or even roleplay – and schedule it to be repetitious. Ensure that reps are engaging in practice every week or month, and create content to practice that builds upon existing skills.

CommercialTribe is proud that reps using our platform practice each scenario 7 times on average before submission. Yet, we’re more proud of that idea that the same reps are coming back into the platform repeatedly over their tenure to practice the same content again, building while learning something new. This dedication to cumulative practice helps reps produce incredible results – doubling pipeline values, boosting conversion rates across the pipeline, or hitting quota quarter after quarter.

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Video Alone Will Not Change Enterprise Sales Learning

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A great recent article in Training Industry – Video Bytes: Just in Time Sales Training – gets at a change happening across the enterprise: video is becoming the best medium for learning initiatives. The benefits of video are rather clear, with reduced travel costs, deep engagement, and reusable content, and the impact is certain to grow through the next decade.

But there’s a catch: video alone will not meet the needs of the changing enterprise.

Research from Corporate Visions backs up the case for video – while only 9% of companies surveyed are using video in a coaching setting, organizations broadly across industries are creating incredible volumes of content.

Why does video miss the mark?

Like any content medium, a video is only effective when it is watched and absorbed. Simply getting a rep to watch a new piece of video content does little to ensure that they engage with the material, take away thoughts and ideas, and implement them in the field.

With just video, the pressure is on the sales rep to seek the content, purposely review it as many times as they need to learn and take that new message into sales conversations. If those habits seem familiar, it is because they are common to top performers, those actively seeking to advance performance. Across the balance of the team, this proactive hunt is generally less active.

Chances are, reps will review the required content a few times, perhaps occasionally refreshing themselves afterward, but ultimately forgetting most of the new message. There simply is not a mechanism in place to make broad adoption of successful video commonplace or automatic.

What’s missing? Practice.

Practice, in contrast, gives sales dedicated opportunities to purposely engage with video and do so in a way that mimics what top performers are doing. The same videos that Training Industry rightfully recommends – short, topical, engaging pieces of content – are fit into a culture of practice, which expects sales to enter the platform, portal, or database, seek or be prescribed relevant content, and review it multiple times.

Rather than being just a replacement for standard learning whitepapers, video becomes a weapon of choice for Sales, Marketing, and Enablement to deploy messages and strategies rapidly, and know that reps are practicing, and then taking those ideas into the market.

We’ve covered the idea of building vs. buying a tool, but fundamentally, systems designed to execute video across the enterprise utilize workflows, lessons, or some form of practice to drive actual viewing and engagement. Building a tool internally often just means introducing a video database to the team, with the expectation that reps view, absorb, and apply – without a means of actually tracking adoption and ensuring a degree of engagement.

The result of deploying practice goes beyond video, lifting the suite of content used to share messages and skills with the organization. Yet, with the ability of video in particular to drive deep engagement, practice becomes an incredible ally in making messaging happen.

How is your organization using video? Is the delivery static or dynamic, requiring engagement?

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Video-Based Practice: Build or Buy?

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When evaluating the need for video-based practice in a sales training toolset, today’s market may seem confusing. After all, anyone can record themselves via an iPhone, save that file, upload it to a shared folder, and voila – video! But at some point, the technology reaches a point where your homegrown system has to be compared to a professionally developed platform, which can make all the difference in addressing the problem you are trying to solve.

There was a day not too long ago that CRM ran off of spreadsheets. Today, few companies would consider running their business off spreadsheets, and, like CRM, we may be approaching a similar tipping point with video-based practice solutions. Nevertheless, you still have two choices today: build or buy.

But are these choices really equal? We can peel back the full spectrum of costs associated with building a solution to see which option presents the most value.

Build

For larger organizations, the prospect of internally sourcing a video-based practice system seems promising. Video recording technology exists, and many of the typical components of a video platform are perhaps already created: content management, analytics, and commenting/feedback are all large parts of the solution.

In reality, while 70% of the work may be feasible, the last 30% is incredibly demanding, requiring domain expertise, time, and large investments. Organizations that we have worked with that have attempted to build their own solution more often than not drop the idea before even reaching a first prototype – after spending millions.

Beyond the features, though, are technical concerns that make a workable platform difficult to produce. While much has to be in place to make the system work – the basic view, practice, submit workflow, feedback tools, an in-house champion or training team, or even just budget – a well-constructed solution addresses the below broad considerations:

Recording and Sharing

Video practice solutions are built on the idea of the bi-directional video platform, which saves video content in a cloud-based platform, automatically sharing it with groups as needed, pairing it with content or activities, and allowing coaches to evaluate it. Even with webcams built into most computers, building a solution for teams to record video and share it across the company is time consuming and challenging. The recording technologies used in current-generation video-practice platforms are cutting edge, requiring dedicated R&D to reach and use reliably.

Analytics

A core part of a practice-based solution is the ability to track who watches content, how often they interact with it, and any performance increases that result. With an internal solution, these details are difficult to track – and costly to discover. While you can attempt to track practice through raw data alone, it is typically only possible to count how many times content is engaged with, and not by whom. This leaves a gap in your ability to understand intent and engagement, and ultimately to make more informed adjustments.

Security

With any enterprise tool, questions of scalability and security are paramount. Can an internal solution support a global or distributed team? Will it be secure and safe enough to support company intellectual property and information? Because sales messages and strategies are often the differentiator between a company and its peers, the idea of having these secrets leaked or shared inappropriately would be catastrophic.

Reliability and Scalability

A homemade system is at higher risk of breaking – without a dedicated team constantly developing it, bugs and long-term issues go unnoticed. When this happens, who is responsible for fixing it, and how? While it can be less expensive upfront to rely on existing tools, over the long term, in-house systems are more likely to fail and require more investment to repair, taking time away from an internal team trying to build the next product for you to sell.

Likewise, mass recording of video is not the same as mass consumption of video. Typical challenges include access to recording bandwidth and upload and routing speeds. With an internal investment, your IT team suddenly inherits support for an undocumented tool.

Cost

It is increasingly expensive to build an internal solution, due to the level of support, sophistication, and complexity present in most video-based practice systems. A team would look to a meaningful investment to build out a rudimentary internal system, which does not take into account updates, new features, or support and stability. Typical costs include research, development, licensing, team and training, bandwidth and storage, and time taken from marketable product development. Unlike an internal static content portal, video practice systems are dynamic, and will constantly require new investments in stability and administration.

Ultimately, the investment will require several injections of new support, directly financing a single-use tool.

All of these factors make internal development of a sophisticated, and thus effective, video practice platform unwise. The sheer volume of resources, time, and research will push delivery of the solution out across several years. By the time the system launches to your reps, it will be out of date.

When asking whether to build or buy a video-practice solution, we have already reached the tipping point. Unless your organization is prepared to become a provider of a video-based practice platform, it is far more effective to buy, rather than build.

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Conversations that Win: Unshackle Buyers from the Status Quo

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The dominant theme to this year’s Conversations that Win Conference was made clear on the main event of Day 2: a trip to Alcatraz and a tour of the infamous prison. The now beautiful historic park, and site of one of the most intolerable places in US history, had an underlying message that Corporate Visions CSO/CMO Tim Riesterer shared in his keynote.

Our buyers – all of them – are shackled to the status quo, all for various reasons – fear of failure, the difficulty of change, poor communication, etc. Conversely, our reps – nearly all of them – are not producing messaging that is capable of motivating a buyer to buy.

CVI_Conference_Status_QuoThe point Tim made was absolutely right. Whether we know it or not, our reps are leaving buyers stuck to the status quo. The key to unlocking them from a “no decision” conversation is your messaging. And without messaging that is actually capable of breaking the status quo and convincing a buyer to change, you will not consistently succeed.

Yet, while we invest in messaging and tools, and see benefits, the approaches that we see organizations use to ensure consistency in how reps execute these messages are the same that we’ve used for decades.

Reps are still practicing infrequently, if ever, with only 41% of organizations surveyed by Corporate Visions mandating some amount of practice. The same reps are taking inconsistent, perhaps even ineffective messaging into the marketplace. Reps are failing to break through the status quo, and ultimately create deals that end in no decision.

Even if we create the right best in class messaging across our individual industries, we will not likely see the lift we expect. Teams often fail to codify their messages with practice and accountability, reverting back to their comfort zone when challenged with a real prospect interaction. We witnessed this exact behavior at Dreamforce and can see the growing divide between what enablement is trying to get sellers to understand, and what reps are actually doing.

The question remains: how do we actually get reps to practice and use what we teach them?

Shifting gears, I saw another highlight in a speech by Shawn Achor, who shared his Harvard-backed research on what actually makes people feel happy. As it turns out, a level of happiness can be constructed from simply ritualizing happy tasks, from sending a peer a heartfelt email or writing down a happy memory every day. The result is a new brain chemistry, but more importantly, a habit.

Just like Tim’s prison example, unpacking Shawn’s keynote is crucial to really getting at how we start to make changes in a sales organization. While you can have the key to unlocking yourself from the status quo, you still need to know how to use it. Even if you know how to make yourself happier, it will not happen until you actually ritualize the methods in the same way Shawn profiled.

Shawn wrote down a happy memory every day for 21 days. Your reps are engaging with your core messaging once per year. Shawn is, fairly objectively, happy. Your reps are missing goals and performing worse year over year. Perhaps psychology has the right answer.

Until we start to fundamentally raise the efficacy of our reps, to make them better at taking messages, skills, and tools and molding them into powerful conversations to move buyers, we will continue to see the decision gap get larger.

Like Alcatraz, the model we’re using today to drive messaging into organizations and ensure that it sticks down the road is outdated and falling apart. Do we shut it down and make something better, or let it go on for another year?

Thanks to the team at Corporate Visions for the opportunity to speak and learn at this year’s Conversations that Win conference!

3 Ways That Graduation Looks Like Sales Training

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First and foremost, congratulations to all May graduates. By the time you put on your cap and gown, the work has been completed, which, in my opinion, makes the actual ceremony a great time for reflection.

As I watched one of my good friends walk across the stage this weekend, I couldn’t help but reflect a bit on how the learning styles we have adopted in the school system have created the structure of our graduation ceremonies. I took note of a few examples:

It’s unenjoyable to watch an entire ceremony

There’s just too many graduates. Hundreds of students received their diploma and by the end of the event, two hours had passed. Just like the diploma, each graduate became, for better or worse, the same in my eyes. It was monotonous, and as the event progressed, I all too quickly lost sight of what was required of each student to make it to this point.

If you asked each of them individually to describe their learning journey, not a single story would sound the same. Some would speak to their profuse reliance on coffee or Red Bull. Others might make mention of a particular class that truly shaped their development. Perhaps a few would speak very little of their schooling altogether. They all took different steps to make it to the stage, yet I never got a sense of their individual journey.

Recognition is small

As a crowd member, I could appreciate the effort to speed up the ceremony. In particular, the one I attended decided to have two people call names from both entrances to the stage. If you weren’t quick enough, you might miss your opportunity to congratulate your grad. Something seemed to be missing: recognition.

I personally believe that recognition is one way that we push an individual onto their next endeavor. It’s why at the beginning of nearly every MVP, Championship, or award acceptance speech that we watch on TV, the recipient’s first inclination is to thank their mom. As an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, I can’t help but be reminded of Kevin Durant’s MVP acceptance speech from last year.

I think that, if the ceremony was structured differently, and my friend was given the opportunity, he would have paused to thank the people that helped him to this achievement. And upon exiting the stage, we as members of the audience would have had a better opportunity to push him toward his next goal. Although I am confident in my friend’s ability move forward, after all the work over multiple years, his recognition seemed too short.

Not all graduates are the same

90 percent of the graduates this weekend graduated without honors. When a name was called for someone who did, it was followed with the designation of Magna or Summa Cum Laude — in quite a boisterous and baritone voice, I might add. I’m not here to say that this designation ensures the student developed mastery in his or her field, but it’s certainly a good indicator. So how do we continue the education for both the 90 and 10 percent groups? Hopefully, this graduation ceremony doesn’t mark the end of their learning. How should the curriculum/learning styles look different for both groups as they move forward? It obviously shouldn’t look the same.

I started at CommercialTribe in May of last year. I would tell you that my sales experience has been a product of my time here: I’ve learned to cold call, articulate CommercialTribe’s value proposition, diagnose key issues, and more, but I’ve yet to graduate. As a matter of fact, I don’t see that day coming. This upcoming year I’ll continue to learn, refine and evolve, a journey toward mastery.

Troubling Sales Turnover: 34% of SaaS Sales Reps Will Not Finish the Year

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Recent research by The Bridge Group and For Entrepreneurs shares an ongoing shift in 2015’s SaaS inside sales organizations, data that together tell a story of declining returns and growth in training.

The Bridge Group surveyed 342 B2B SaaS companies to build their report. The numbers tell a stark story: the average rep turnover rate (excluding promotions) is now 34%, with “involuntary turnover [making] up nearly two-thirds of that number.” The same research suggests that one in ten companies experience turnover rates above 55%. The new average time for reps to ramp to productivity has reached 5.3 months. On average, only 67% of reps are making quota, “down from 74% in 2012.” From any angle, the story reveals trends that sales leadership hoped would be going in the other direction, and ineffective training is one of the primary root causes of the problem.

The data tells a familiar story for sales managers watching the past decade of change within sales teams: relying purely on traditional sales training and onboarding remains expensive while failing to onboard new reps quickly and effectively and ramp them to productivity as soon as possible leads to turnover. We’re simply not catering to how a majority of reps learn and grow.

Turnover rates near 35% can be expensive in any organization, requiring not only the costs of wasted training and investment but also of acquiring a replacement. The results can be dramatic – with the average rep receiving $3,400 in training per year, turning over even 10 reps can cost more than an entire new hire.

You need to get more out of your existing sales force while increasing the success of onboarding. How do you beat the odds and normalize the impact of sales training back toward growth? Three key strategies can help.

1. Better Sales Onboarding

Onboarding can be the single most important time in a sales rep’s tenure. The bulk of the information, training, and coaching that a rep gets is usually concentrated in their first two weeks. The problem, however, is that only so much can be done in such a short period of time.

Extending the sales onboarding effort can be a way to get after the problem. Reps who experience 30, 60, or even 90-day sales onboarding programs, supplemented by continuous training and practice, stand a much better chance at quickly ramping and reaching quota. Reps tend to forget content and strategy not because they are bad learners, but because they don’t have all the context in their first 90 days. This is precisely why some form of onboarding should continue during the first year.

2. Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice is the idea that, in order to get better at something, you need to purposely practice it as much as possible. It’s the philosophy that drives star athletes to success, and it works just as well in sales training. Reps can’t be expected to pick up the phone and drive a perfect sales pitch if they haven’t done so in practice many times before.

Give sales reps opportunities to practice new and existing sales skills, closing techniques and messages as much as possible, and push them to complete lessons. Often, sparking exclusivity around the training can help drive interest in the practice, increasing rep interest in participation. Segment your reps and build treatments where needed. Three common segments are high performers, the core, and under-performers.

Align sales managers behind continuous training efforts that promote coaching as a significant part of their job.

3. Engaging with Technology

In 2015 and beyond, your average new hire is likely to be a Millennial. As the children of the 2000s, these reps are very experienced in technology and are adept learners. Yet, many of our existing training relies on slideshows, printed guides, and binders of materials, as opposed to more interactive learning that’s now possible with technology.

It’s time to make the change to new technologies. Instead of ripping off the band-aid, make a gradual shift by combining your traditional sales training curriculum with concepts like the flipped classroom that require the learner to be more prepared when they enter a live training environment. The availability of video and practice-based technology means reps can get “trained” on their own time as opposed to just your time – the reality is that you probably don’t have enough of it.

 

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The Future of Sales Training with Xactly’s Sean Murray

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future of sales training sean murrayWe spoke with Sean Murray, Xactly’s Senior Director NA General Business, about the role of technology in sales and how onboarding and training are changing. As technology continues to impact organizations of all sizes, the first to adapt often set the example for their peers.

Sales technology is one of the fastest growing segments in the market. New solutions offer ways to organize entire teams, train naturally, and monitor growth.

 

CommercialTribe: How has technology changed sales?

Sean Murray: Technology has made selling easier and harder, and I think it’s really because customers are smarter.

On the outbound side, technology has changed. The days of going to see every prospect in person are gone. Most things are done virtually because the capabilities have changed. It’s probably cliché to say that executives, prospects, or customers are busier than ever, but they seem busier. They don’t want to go to dinner, they don’t want to play golf.

Buyers are more educated than ever, thanks to expanding ways to connect. This impacts how sales teams react to leads and engage prospects, and how customers actually close – reps have to be more prepared than ever.

CT: There’s a common quote in sales – “buyers are 60% of the way through the process before they even talk to a rep.” Do you find that these buyers actually know what they’re looking for?

SM: They have a sense, but it’s usually high level. That’s probably the biggest change I’ve seen in the past 15 years. It makes messaging more important, segmentation models more and more important.

CT: How are reps and managers adjusting to the idea that a prospect is going to come to them with a perspective already developed?

SM: A lot of it is in messaging and getting to the point faster. There’s a word that we use (that we didn’t invent) – unteaching. That changes the entire dynamic, since it’s more proactive rather than reactive. It’s more imperative now to be able to break that apart, and sometimes tell them where they’re wrong and teach them what we really do. We’ve got to be – reps and managers together – smarter today. The days of feature dumping are gone.

Something that’s really important is how to create need and how to show them the problem that they think they have to get at the problem they really have. It’s a complex diagnostic. The overall theme: it’s hard.

CT: Do you segment reps by their ability to close inbound leads, or do reps receive all of the tools necessary to handle any level of buyer awareness?

SM: Everyone gets the same coaching. It’s very uncommon that executives that, when they come to us, are 60% through the process and all we have to do is the final 40% – it just doesn’t happen.

Teams are crossing oceans to meet the demand for global selling. With that shift comes radical new questions on alignment and training, and newer solutions to solve the challenges.

CT: Xactly now has a global team. What are some of the classic challenges with a global sales team, and how do you get them aligned, on point, and selling the same?

SM: I don’t manage our European team now, but it’s something in my comfort zone. I’ve done it for a few years in different offices. It’s just difficult, but today’s technology makes it easier, whether it’s video conferencing or different tools that we’re able to use where we can stay in sync with one another. But it’s difficult because people are people and it’s hard when you’re far away – you don’t get that personal connection.

Onboarding is a classic focus for Sales Leadership, Sales Enablement, and even Marketing. It offers one great chance to steer a rep’s learning and progress before they go out to sell, concentrating best practices, messaging, and tribal knowledge into one span. Yet, the exact timing, strategy, and playbook often varies from company to company and even between managers.

CT: When you’re onboarding new reps, do you find more success with a robust, continual onboarding, or with a solid base and continual coaching?

SM: We need to get better there – onboarding and collapsing productivity time is always hard. We have a team member, Brian Groth, who has built out a playbook and plan that’s really very good. We use it as we’re constantly hiring and growing, and it feels like hiring is something that we never stop doing. Having said that, onboarding can always be a lot tighter. I don’t know if constant certification is necessary, but the message changes constantly as we add new products, for example, and have to share what’s new and how to differentiate it from the competition. Ongoing certification is something that we can always do more of, just making sure that we’re getting the right message in the market.

The tenured rep question is always hard. You don’t want to push them out of selling, but their insights are always interesting. It’s that interesting balance of, “hey, we trust you, you’ve been here 2 years and you can probably figure it out” and training.

CT: You mentioned the idea of onboarding being continual, with the message evolving constantly. Do you think that they model of the once-a-year Sales Kickoff is going to shift or have to adapt?

SM: It should change. Real time example – we’re not having a Kickoff this year. What we want to do is have a series of quarterly events.

I think that once-a-year is cool. Getting everyone together to have recognition and high-fives is important, but the problem with doing it four times a year is that it’s expensive – it’s not realistic. A Kickoff with 100 reps can cost a quarter-million dollars, easily. What we want to start doing is smaller bites and being a bit more virtual. Things are changing quickly, and having this once a year feels normal because that’s what we’ve done for a million years, but that model should change.