Today’s modern reps move to new companies and roles every few years (or less). With this ever-shrinking sales talent lifecycle, enablement feels increased pressure to maximize productivity. That means finding better ways to focus and deliver readiness efforts (like training or coaching) when, where and how the sales force works.
After years of dominating Sunday night television, HBO blockbuster Game of Thrones has just one episode left to put a bow on its record-breaking run.
Longtime fans have already developed strong opinions about the show’s eighth and final season, which has taken some interesting turns leading up to the much-anticipated series finale. And, while we may not have dragons or massive armies at our disposal, there’s a lot we can learn from the warring factions of Westeros about life, business and – yes – sales enablement.
So whether you’re a devout Thrones follower or simply a casual viewer, here are 3 lessons from Season 8 that apply to the much less dangerous (but equally exciting!) life of sales enablement professionals.
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
1. Having a Vision is Not Enough
When Jon Snow “bends the knee” to Daenerys in Season 7, he does so with noble intentions. He sees that combining their forces will help ensure the safety of his people. Ultimately, he sacrifices personal pride and power (as King of the North) to follow what he believes is the best course of action.
However, many of Jon’s fellow Northerners disagree with his choice at the beginning of Season 8. This includes not only lords and ladies who’ve pledge allegiance to him, but also one of his closest allies, Sansa Stark. They question Jon when he says it was their only chance at survival. Ultimately, it’s not enough to convince Sansa, who works to undermine the alliance between Jon and Daenerys behind their backs. Jon's choice may have been the right one, but his mistake was failing to get other key stakeholders on board with the plan.
In sales enablement, you must also be able to sell your vision. You may feel great about the new initiatives you’re working to roll out this year. But if your sales managers and reps aren’t on board with it, or if you don't have the support from the C-suite, changing the status quo in your organization becomes much more difficult.
In other words: don’t be like Jon and assume everyone will think your ideas are great. Methodically work to get leadership and other important influencers on board by explaining how your sales enablement initiatives will benefit them directly.
2. Readiness Really, Really Matters
In “The Battle of Winterfell,” our team of heroes’ battle plans go horribly awry, leading to the deaths of longtime characters, unarmed survivors, and an army's worth of Dothraki warriors.
The problems begin right at the start of the episode, when Daenerys sends her horde of horsemen charging into a pitch-black field full of undead wights. Although the Dothraki were armed with some nifty flaming swords, we see the light from their weapons extinguished almost instantly during their breathtaking battle charge. Very few make it back to the castle alive, all because they didn’t properly anticipate the level of resistance they’d face.
Later in the episode, we see the defense plan continue to fall apart when the Night King revives dead Stark ancestors buried in the crypts of Winterfell. Because the crypts were the one place everyone believed would be safe, there were no soldiers around to defend the women and children. More tragedy follows.
Your sales reps’ buyer interactions won’t always go as planned, either. The stakes won't be life-or-death in sales, but organizations still can’t afford to waste buyers’ time or miss out on potential deals. They need a sales readiness strategy that equips them with the knowledge and skills to succeed, every time.
Just like what happened with the Dothraki, letting unprepared sales reps charge headfirst into their next buyer engagements is a recipe for disaster. Game of Thrones might have a seemingly endless supply of soldiers willing to fight (and die) for various causes, but talented B2B sales reps are hard to find (and harder still to retain). Ensure new sales hires stick around at your company by supporting them with onboarding, continuous training, coaching and career development that starts from Day 1.
3. Don't Throw Too Much at Your Sales Reps
A major drawback of Game of Thrones’ final chapter has been its pacing.
Instead of the show’s typical format of 10, one-hour episodes, Season 8 has been condensed into just six episodes, most of which are about 80 minutes long.
As a result, a show that has built its reputation on complex, interlocking story arcs has felt more rushed, quickly jumping from one scene to the next, and even abruptly moving on from certain storylines altogether.
This change, combined with some intense, drawn-out battle sequences, has made for a chaotic viewing experience where we’re forced to digest a lot of action in a short amount of time. Raise your hand if you’ve had to read a recap right after an episode ends!
Being able to recall the specifics of a Throne episode isn’t all that important. But when it comes to sales, your reps can't read a training recap during their next sales call. They need training content that is engaging and memorable, so that learning can be applied in the heat of the moment.
And considering all the info today’s reps need to have valuable conversations, it's fair to say that long-winded presentations and boot camps won't cut it. Research shows that when the brain absorbs a large amount of information too quickly, our short attention spans naturally start to seek out alternative stimulation (a phenomenon known as "cognitive backlog"). This can sometimes happen after just 10 minutes of presentation, according to leading biologist John Medina.
Many organizations have begun relying on microlearning to combat cognitive backlog. By delivering knowledge in “bite-sized” chunks that reps can easily consume and access as needed, companies can improve training content engagement and increase sales force learning retention.
Whatever you do, don’t leave sales reps feeling like Sam Tarly when they're viewing your training content: