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Why Sales Team Development Is Exactly Like Saving For Your Retirement

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If long-term, sustained sales growth is part of your goal, you need to get serious about sales team development—before it’s too late.

Do you often wonder why you should be saving for retirement? Probably not. But how often do you wonder if you should be investing in your sales team’s development? Here are two commonly cited statistics that are meant to scare you:

What do these two statistics have in common? I will argue that the root cause is actually the exact same problem. Let me explain.

If you think retirement planning is your parent’s problem, I’ve got news for you. According to a recent study, nearly half of millennials have no retirement savings. The younger generation doesn’t see retirement as a priority, thinking first about student loans and financing the present instead. Getting people to save for retirement is an age-old problem, primarily because of “longevity disconnect bias”. People have a really hard time imagining what the future will be like, so they tend to ignore or de-prioritize it.

If you are a sales manager, you are faced with this same bias every day. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You manage a sales team and your primary objective is to get your team to quota each month, every quarter. In the short-term, that naturally means inserting yourself into deals that are closest to closing, personally carrying any deal you need to, and riding your stars to try and make the number. In the short-run, that may indeed be the best plan to reach your goal.

But what sacrifices are you making when you prioritize short-term goals for long-term sales team development?

You are putting minimal attention on cultivating your early-stage pipeline for future quarters, you are creating dependencies within your team by trying to personally make up for deficiencies, and developing new sales stars gets lost in the chaos.

This pattern of putting short-term interests ahead of long-term sales team development may work for some time…but the music always stops. It’s the equivalent of waking up at 65 and realizing you have nothing saved, so you better keep working because retirement ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

Make sales team development your priority

One of the investment products that may make sense for retirement is an annuity. An annuity is basically an insurance contract in which you pay a financial institution a lump sum or series of payments to be invested. Your long-term investment ultimately provides you with a guaranteed regular income in the future.

To get past “longevity disconnect bias” think in these terms when it comes to your sales team development. Ask yourself: “Are each of my salespeople paying me today?”

If not, what investments do you need to develop a future revenue stream? Delivering on your quota becomes more sustainable when you have more sellers on your team who are paying you.

Imagine your future self. How does it feel to have an entire team of sellers paying you?

Sellers do come and go, so it’s true that unlike annuities, they won’t be paying you forever. But there is actually another form of payment that—to some sales managers—is just as important. It is your reputation as a coach and your own development as a sales leader. When you commit to your sales team’s development, you become recognized as a multiplier of talent. You become someone that top talent wants to work for, and someone that people in your organization want to work with.

Continuing to look into the future, imagine what this would mean for your career. Sustainable, recurring “income” takes away the stress of just getting by day-to-day. And it allows you to strategically focus on the real challenges confronting you and your team in delivering sales objectives.

This future you’re imagining is not for everyone. Despite society’s best efforts, some of us are simply not going to save for retirement. Sales managers who recognize the long-term benefits of sales team development and are passionate about making it a priority are far more successful in generating revenue. If you are one of those rare sales managers who believe that the development of your team may be the single most important variable in your future success, you may be interested in learning about a proven sales team development framework, which we recently presented during BrightTalk’s Sales Training & Leadership Summit.

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Getting Multi-Threaded: Moving from Analog to Digital at LinkedIn Sales Connect 2016

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In 2014, CEB published a statistic that has become most synonymous in representing the complex selling world we live in:

“There are 5.4 buyers involved to win a deal.”

And, we learned that deals die without organizational consensus, which is hard to achieve.

However, beneath this statistic, at this year’s LinkedIn Sales Connect we found there is more to the story. Here are a few additional stats worth considering:

  • 1 in 5 decision makers turn over every year
  • C-level buyers turn over every 2.5 years
  • 1 in 4 reps you hire will not last the year

As a result, according to Mike Derezin, VP Sales at LinkedIn Sales Solutions, 40% of your deals are at risk and you likely don’t even realize it. Why? Because you are “single-threaded“.

Single-threaded means one point of communication or influence on both sides of a communication stream.

  1. The rep at your company
  2. The key stakeholder in your account

As a result, your deal is more prone to fail when one of those nodes “goes down.”

Before the internet changed everything, the world was single-threaded. That is no longer the case. Easy access to information and streamlined communication has created an increasingly connected world. In sales, this dynamic has resulted in the formation of buying committees where everyone needs to say yes, or the deal dies in status quo. Or worse, it is lost to a competitor.

Multi-threaded means there are multiple nodes in which you connect into the account AND vice-versa. There is no single point of failure in your ability to influence a deal.

Take Qualtrics, a leader in customer experience solutions and social selling early adopter. They found that in deals they won, they followed 3x more contacts in the account than in deals they lost. Following more contacts inevitably led to engaging more contacts using social selling techniques, which inevitably led to an increased number of customer conversations to share the value proposition, tailored for each particular buyer.

It turns out the best reps know how to do this intuitively – tailoring is a quintessential Challenger skill – but many organizations still do not effectively equip their reps to go talk to different personas. Sure, marketing may create those personas and even generate content, but how a rep communicates the value of their solution to IT vs. Marketing can be the difference between advancing to the next stage or having the deal die in dysfunction. Add in the complexity of talking to numerous C-level buyers and the challenge is truly significant.

That complexity by itself would be enough to take on, but still there is more.

In a multi-threaded world, enabling the Rep is actually just half the equation. Within your own company, multi-threaded means you have multiple contacts touching an account as well. Play this forward. The implication is that the next generation sales team is not what we know today. It is actually the entire company that will play some role. Every employee needs to be equipped to some extent to further your position inside an account or the full promise of being multi-threaded cannot be realized.

If you believe that the world will only become increasingly networked, then multi-threading is an obvious place to invest today. If so, asking how we arm those coming in contact with the different personas within the account to effectively engage is an essential capability that will lead to developing a competitive advantage vis-à-vis your competitors.

The genie is out of the bottle. Are you ready to not just survive but thrive in a multi-threaded world? If you have a perspective on this issue, leave me a note in the comments section below.

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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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Why Video is the Missing Ingredient in your Sales Training Plan

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As an industry, sales training has relied on a mixed bag of the same tricks – kickoff, webinars, sell sheets, roleplay, etc – each designed to promote learning and more effective selling.

Yet, into the 21st century, the facts remain stunning: according to a recent survey by Corporate Visions, only 41% of companies ask their reps to practice skills and messaging, and 34% say no one is responsible for coaching and certifying rep proficiency. The lack of a more robust training process results in the same set of outcomes that we’ve experienced for centuries: not enough reps meet quota, company goals are missed, and attrition rates remain high.

What Makes Video Different?

The way a rep learns varies from individual to individual, with no clear learning path that an organization can set. That means that sales leaders and trainers need a captivating and adaptive method to offer the least resistance to training for the most people.

Video differs from in-person learning or static content by offering a visual package that the viewer can interact with. In sales training, gaining a bigger share of a rep’s attention and focus pays immediate dividends, with the message sticking more often. Research by Brainshark suggests that “seeing and hearing messages increases audience retention by 3-6 times” versus traditional methods, boosting the viewer’s engagement and comprehension.

Video can be easily updated and highly reusable, making it easier for the training organization to revitalize content and deploy it across the team without a large lift.

Adding video to your sales training toolkit can help reps of all learning styles actually absorb and apply the right skills, messages, and behaviors in the marketplace.

How to Use Video

According to the above research by Corporate Visions, only 9% of sales teams are using video to engage their reps in practice. The progressive teams relying heavily on this medium, including Corporate Visions, have found some early data that suggests best practices for video.

At the end of 2014, CommercialTribe pooled its usage data and developed The Activation Hypothesis, an analysis of a year’s worth of videos, practice sessions, and interactions. While limited in its scope and size, the research suggested several key criteria to help plan a video-based practice program.

1. Keep videos short: 2-3 minutes

Our data found that reps lost interest in videos that lasted more than 4 minutes. Presenting a lot of content at once makes video content hard to digest in one sitting. Keeping videos short means more engaged reps and makes content updates easier to execute.

2. Aim for 3-5 review sessions per video

While reps in CommercialTribe practice best-in-class scenarios as part of their training program, many organizations are still just delivering one-way video for reps to watch. In either case, the same data holds true – reps need multiple views to truly absorb and apply the content. Give reps ample opportunities to dive back into videos, and measure how many times they review the content. If they are reviewing at least 3 times (assuming your videos are short), chances are high that reps are learning. The long-term results are also clear: reps feel more in control of their own learning.

3. Create opportunities for application

The ultimate test is always what are reps doing with this information: do they actually bring it into their customer conversations? Measuring this can be tricky. Tracking interactions in salesforce.com can demonstrate the type of conversations reps are having, but you can’t hear what they say on each call. Having reps practice what they will do differently is the best way to gain insight into whether behavioral change has taken place or not.

Why Not Just Video?

While video offers the most cost-effective and scalable medium for training, it is not a full replacement for your training program. Successful sales training relies on a blended approach to learning and must be reinforced by sales leadership.

A comprehensive program uses video to be more accessible but continues to use traditional, classroom-based learning, roleplay, and joint travel sporadically. The result is a program that is pervasive, reinforced, and effective. Though most reps from the YouTube generation will respond strongly to video, it may not appeal to hands-on or literary learners, who could end up absorbing less.

Creating ample opportunities for learning, with a wide variety of opportunities to consume and apply, offers the best chance for reps to adopt and apply the right skills, messages, and behaviors.

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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.

The Rep Strikes Back – The 2015 SiriusDecisions Summit

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The sales rep has taken it on the chin as of late. Conventional wisdom suggests that the role of the rep isn’t quite as important as it used to be.

In this digital age of social media, catchy sound bites like these get amplified. But at the 2015 Summit on Thursday, SiriusDecisions said, “not so fast.” Of course, digital buying behaviors are changing the buyer journey, but maybe not in the way you’ve thought.

According to research released at the Summit, B2B buyers interact with reps at every stage of the buyer’s journey. In fact, more than half the time, rep involvement starts at the beginning of the buyer’s journey. And in complex buying scenarios, sales rep involvement starts at the beginning of the journey two-thirds of the time.

Buyers all ask the same fundamental questions as they decide whether to make a purchase…

…but what happens from there isn’t as straightforward. There are three distinct scenarios organizations find themselves in relation to the buyer journey.

There’s nothing that revolutionary in suggesting that as price goes up, the sales process typically moves from transactional to complex – the latter typically characterized as longer sales cycles, with more key decision makers. But what should make you stop and think is the number and frequency of human and non-human interactions required to close a sale in the Independent, Consensus and Committee buyer journeys?

It turns out that the buyer journey is more episodic than linear, despite how much we’d like to bring order from chaos. The key takeaway from this finding is that a certain number of interactions need to happen in aggregate to close a deal, with a majority led by the sales rep (human) and supported by digital assets (non-human). If organizations actually track the number and type of interactions and match it up against these benchmarks, they may have a better sense of how far a buyer actually is on their journey.

And before we declare the rep dead, there’s one more piece of evidence that SiriusDecisions shared that should give us pause: of all the content assets absorbed by the buyer, it is the sales presentation that’s most important.

And who delivers the sales presentation? Last I checked, it was still the sales rep.

Perhaps in this new world of digital possibility, we’ve lost sight of what was most important, and what will always be most important. What’s more critical to influencing B2B buying behavior than ensuring your sales team has a compelling message and they are equipped to deliver it? It’s what I call the moment of truth. According to SiriusDecisions, “the number one reason reps fail to hit quota is their inability to articulate the value proposition.”

Buyers need trust, confidence, and validation to see their journey to a purchase – things non-human interactions will never be able to replace.

Turns out the sales rep is alive and well. #savetheb2bsalesrep

A Day in the Life of Your Sales Reps

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sales rep day in the life Slay_HuffGet a perspective on a day in the life of your sales rep team with Slay Huff.

Slay is CommercialTribe’s Business Development Manager, helping to drive the team’s scheduled visits and front-line sales strategy. CommercialTribe’s Business Development team is designed like a Sales Development or “scheduling” team, a vital role in ensuring that the right messaging and insights reach a prospect and that the team articulates value. Slay has worked with CommercialTribe for a year, the first member of a rapidly growing sales team. You can connect with Slay on Twitter and LinkedIn.

My morning always starts with coffee, but not too long after that, my focus turns to conversing with my prospects. They are essential to me hitting my goal, so it makes sense to place my attention on them first. Research seems to agree that prospects are most receptive before they get into their day, so getting in touch with them over a call or email first thing is vital. At the same time, I’ll check back over my other prospects in Salesforce and make sure that I’ve been in touch with them recently. My hope is to strike a balance of professional persistence.

Just before lunch, prospecting starts. We break it down by a lot of different buckets: role, location, industry. That helps us make sure that our messaging actually sticks with the exact person we contact and has value. A big part of prospecting is planning this out ahead of time, and we use the pre-lunch downtime to work together and align as a BDM team. We track it all in Salesforce, HubSpot, and latelt, ToutApp. Lunch is pretty simple, an Illegal Pete’s burrito.

I like to end the day like I started it. The afternoon is spent reviewing recent messages and prospects, seeing how I can reach back out and strike up a conversation. There’s never a bad time to have the right conversation.

sales rep day in the life - 2

The weekly plan follows a similar kind of setup: segmenting, developing impactful messaging, and equal time spent actually making interactions. We segment heavily, focus on the best outreach times, identify pain points, read breaking market research and news, and engage with prospects on social, and with a few custom SFDC fields, we can get this all automatically. The more I can do to develop my own skills and drive more insightful conversations, the better. We also do a weekly practice SpotCheck with CommercialTribe, alongside Upskilling exercises.

I really have two goals at CommercialTribe. The first is the business goal – engineering to the number. Our team doesn’t succeed unless we build out our pipeline. Personally, I want to develop the skills and knowledge to have value adding conversations that reshape an individual’s thinking. The most important part is just persistence – getting there takes time and effort.

To get there, I practice. I tend to relate everything to sports, and practice makes sense – I think athletics provides an interesting perspective into sales. There are plenty of different ways to practice – by myself, with the team, even in the game – but in order to earn that right to actually play, I have to put the work in ahead of time. It’s the same thing in sales. If I want to get on the phone and sell, I need to put in the time to perfect my skills.

sales rep day in the life - 3

The same goes for new insights and messages. Things change pretty quickly, especially at CommercialTribe, and we often have to fit new messaging into our conversations. Usually, I watch what our VP Sales, Jonathan Palay, does before I try it out myself. If it works for him, I know it can work for our team. I’ll start to put it into my call strategy, test it out, and adjust it until it works or fails. I really view myself in the sales team as an individual contributor, with the goal of aiding the Sales Directors and ensuring they get into the right places within the right organizations to drive CommercialTribe forward.

Above all, the most important thing in my role is what I take to prospects. I rarely get a second chance – there are no do-overs in sales. There is no other time to relate value to someone outside of that first 30 seconds. I have to be well prepared with the right messages and right timing to make it resonate, and that’s challenging. If I can get it right, we can hit the number and make something great.

It’s Time to End the Sales and Marketing Scrimmage

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It’s no secret that Sales and Marketing don’t always get along…

How familiar does this scenario sound to you? You’re the messaging quarterback, ready to make the final pass to score the winning touchdown – a new market segment. You’ve studied the competition, understood the market requirements, and have carefully crafted new messaging. The sales team is really going to love those quality new materials you developed. Now it’s third down and you just need to get your message into the end zone… but the pass is dropped.

What happened? Even with a perfect plan and practice, your receivers, the sales team, did not know the playbook you hoped to run. Outside of update emails and the occasional team meeting, it turns out that Marketing did not put an effective process in place for Sales Leadership to certify their team on entirely new messaging. As a result, the message wasn’t adopted. Sales missed the play, and the quarterback – Marketing – missed the signals.

While a lack of coordination on offense is typically rare in football, the disconnect between Marketing and Sales is a classic, constantly debated issue in any company. The Marketing squad takes their side, generating content that they hope the sales team will pick up. The Sales squad, in contrast, closes business, relying on whatever messaging they believe to be effective.

Sales and Marketing messaging alignment happens when both squads play on the same side, collaborating to not only learn new messaging, but also ensure it’s adopted and applied in the field as intended. The benefits are clear – new product lines reach their target sales goals and new messages shift the market. The breakdown isn’t with ego – instead, time and communication are at fault. Reps want to sell, marketers want to create, and neither think that they have the resources to huddle and regroup.

How do you flip the equation and start working together? Four steps can help create a Message Adoption playbook that the whole team can master.

1. Plan Ahead

Create a repeatable process with both sales and marketing long before you deliver a new message to reps. A marketing group without visibility into how what they do is applied in the field will more often than not miss the right way to launch a new message. Likewise, a sales leadership team not up to date on new message efforts before they happen, will not be as invested in what’s to come.

2. Look to Technology

Handing reps a binder full of new messages at Kickoff rarely works. Reps are forgetting 90% of all content within a month, and that means that marketing needs to find a better way to ensure adoption. Practice-based systems, can give the organization a more sustainable approach to aligning sales and marketing.

3. Improve Team Collaboration

Chances are, most reps barely get a chance to work with Marketing. Since Marketing’s success relies on some visibility in the sales organization, it is imperative to work closely with the entire team to build trust and communication. Instead of a once-per-year Sales Kickoff, packed full of messages that reps will forget, create a process where new message introduction something that can happen year round. Good teamwork comes from good communication, and when it comes to message adoption, it’s unparalleled.

4. Get Feedback

If Marketing is not constantly listening to how messages are received by prospects, they can miss crucial information about the success or failure of a campaign. Thankfully, getting feedback naturally means collaborating with the sales team. Set up weekly or monthly feedback sessions as new messaging rolls out – not only will you gain insight into the field response to your ideas, but you’ll find a whole new group of fans in the sales team, as they reach higher goals with the right messages.