As selling becomes more competitive each year, one trend is clear: sales readiness and enablement have never been more important.
Why all the fuss? Companies are looking for new ways to “wow” today’s demanding buyers, gain an edge and beat the competition. Increasingly, they’re viewing sales enablement and sales readiness as the answer.
CSO Insights found that 61% of organizations have sales enablement functions, which is more than triple what it was just 6 years prior. Another 50% of firms plan to spend more in areas that support better sales readiness – such as selling skills development and value messaging – during the next 12 months.
As more people use sales terms like “enablement” and “readiness”, it’s important to understand the differences between each. Let’s explore them before taking a deeper look at why readiness matters, and how it helps reps sell more effectively.
Sales Readiness vs. Sales Enablement
Sales enablement covers a wide range of activities and responsibilities that influence the entire sales process. The term can have different meanings to different companies, but the following definition provides us with a great starting point:
“A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and front-line sales managers along the entire customer’s buying journey, powered by technology.” – CSO Insights
For more, read: What is Sales Enablement? 3 Definitions That Tell the Story
Sales readiness, on the other hand, is all about certifying whether salespeople possess the skills and knowledge needed to have effective conversations throughout the buyer’s journey. Key readiness activities such as assessment, training, and coaching all help develop more productive, agile and prepared sellers.
The goal of readiness is to prepare reps to close more and bigger deals. However, it’s also important that buyers leave each interaction feeling their time was well-spent, whether it took place in-person, on the phone, or via web conference or email.
For more, read: What is Sales Readiness? And Why Should You Care?
Here’s the difference: sales readiness is a critical component of sales enablement that involves answering the question, “Are your reps ready?” Sales enablement is broader in scope, involving everything from change management to internal communication and collaboration.
Sales Readiness is Not Sales Training
Make no mistake, sales training is a critical part of preparing reps to succeed. It covers a wide range of need-to-know topics for reps, from product details and key skills to process and methodology.
But training is really just a first step on the road to your ultimate goal, which should be readiness.
Why? Let’s imagine you’re studying to be a neurosurgeon. You’ve bought a pile of expensive medical textbooks and read them cover-to-cover. You know it all by heart.
Are you ready to start operating on a live patient? Thankfully for the rest of us, no, you’re not. There are hours of practice and testing that take place before you’re ever allowed to touch someone on the operating table (as it should be).
While the stakes of sales aren’t life-or-death, the same concept applies. Just because a rep has completed their training does not mean he or she is ready to apply what was learned in a live selling scenario.
That’s where sales readiness activities like practice, coaching, and assessments come into play.
Say a company just overhauled its go-to-market messaging. Sales managers might simply “check the box” to ensure reps completed the required training courses, and then turn their teams loose on buyers. Bad idea.
In contrast, a readiness-driven approach would equip reps to practice the new messaging on their own and enable managers (or peers) to provide feedback on where they can improve. Then the organization would assess whether sellers can position the company accurately and consistently before trying it out on a buyer.
The assessment piece might happen during a live role play session or via video coaching technology, which allows teams to assess reps in the field, at home, or anywhere else in the world. (Related: field sellers spent 89% more of their time working remotely in 2017 than they did in 2013, according to InsideSales.com.)
Bottom line: sales training alone won’t put reps in position to succeed or save them from making avoidable sales mistakes. A sales readiness strategy will do both.
The Path to Sales Readiness
To be ready, sales teams need to put in the work. But that’s often easier said than done.
Sales managers, for instance, might lack the time or skills to provide effective coaching.
Reps, meanwhile, aren’t always held accountable for applying what they learn during training, either. They’re laser-focused on hitting their numbers, and often little else.
That’s why sales readiness requires organizational commitment. Without buy-in from the top, managers and reps aren’t likely to change behaviors, instead relying on “what has always worked.”
But once you’ve established the need for change, the path is clear: developing a readiness strategy that ensures reps can maximize every buyer interaction. That can mean bringing on a dedicated sales enablement leader to guide your readiness initiatives, but it can also mean investing in technology that supports better sales readiness.
Do that, and your sellers can become a true competitive advantage – one that will lead to more closed deals and satisfied buyers.