Growth is a priority for most organizations. But navigating this growth and the change that comes with it can be a challenge, especially for sales reps. Whether it’s new offerings, new buyers, or acquisitions, reps need to be ready to engage with buyers and prepared to succeed in the new landscape. If they’re not, it will result in lost opportunities and lost revenue, the exact opposite of what you want in a growth-oriented organization.
Enter Sales Readiness
The good news is there is a solution and its sales readiness. When you integrate a successful sales readiness program for your team, you can certify whether salespeople possess the skills and knowledge to have effective conversations throughout the buyer’s journey. Key sales readiness activities such as assessment, training, and coaching help develop more productive, agile, and ready sellers.
A prime goal of any successful sales readiness program is to prepare reps to close more and bigger deals. However, it’s essential to leave buyers feeling their time was well spent. It doesn’t matter if the deal moves forward or not; you want a buyer to think: “That’s a company I’d like to do business with” or “That’s someone I’d want on my sales team.” Sales readiness can help you achieve this, so even if you don’t win today’s deal, you’re ready for tomorrow’s.
Connecting Readiness to Your Growth Strategy
If you’re like most organizations, you’re focused on growth. That means no matter how you performed last year, you’re planning for this year’s numbers to be bigger and better. Organizations need to define and align around their key growth lever(s) to help drive results.
Research firm SiriusDecisions has studied the way most companies accelerate, manage and plan for growth and has identified 5 primary pillars:
- Expanding into new markets
- Targeting new buyers
- Launching new products
- Growing through mergers and acquisitions
- Driving productivity
No matter what is triggering your growth strategy, you must get your sales team ready for what’s to come. For sales readiness and enablement leaders, it means arming your sales organization with strategies that support company growth. Ask yourself, “What do our salespeople need to have to be successful with our strategy?”
Sounds simple, right? Not exactly – especially for the 54% of organizations without dedicated sales enablement functions.
Let’s take a closer look at the five ways companies plan to grow, the unique challenges and considerations for each, and how sales enablement leaders can support your salesforce along the way.
Entering a New Market
“How do we get our reps ready to sell in this different environment?”
When companies choose to grow through new markets, they’re either looking to enter new verticals or heading into new geographies.
Entering a new market is one of the most common triggers for growth, but despite this, sales reps don’t always get the training they need to succeed in a new space. CSO Insights reports that 50.5% of salespeople say their training around customer marketplaces needs improvement, and 20.4% say their training needs a complete overhaul.
3 Ways to Get Sales Reps “Conversation Ready” in New Markets:
- Learn the buying process. How do these buyers make decisions? For example, in one industry, you’ll find that no deals go through procurement. In another industry, every deal does. Make sure your salespeople are ready and understand the difference.
- Understand the industry and markets. Your reps should be able to answer questions like: What are the value drivers? What trends are happening in this industry? How are companies in this industry structured? What is the vernacular? Who are the personas, and what are their unique value drivers? Who are their customers?
- Be aware of new competition. Often overlooked, but going into new markets means your reps may be facing existing, entrenched providers. They need to learn how to sell against them and move buyers away from the status quo.
Calling on New Buyers
“How do we enable reps to have better conversations?”
Let’s pretend your sales reps have conversations primarily with CFOs. Now, you’re transitioning buyer personas to focus on CMOs. You might assume that your A-player sales reps can sell to anyone. But the truth is, these are entirely different conversations with buyers who have new pain points, responsibilities, and goals. It will take some powerful enablement tactics to get reps up to speed and sell to several audiences.
The key? Reps need to feel both confident and competent to speak to these new personas.
For sales readiness and enablement leaders, this means a potent mix of just-in-time training and ongoing coaching. In training, reps will learn how to sell to their new audience, while coaching will ensure they feel confident.
Remember: No one wants to look stupid or appear uninformed. If reps go into the field and aren’t prepared with a new approach, you can bet they will freeze up and revert to selling the way they feel most comfortable.
Introducing New Products and Offerings
“How do we create a sales infrastructure built around change?”
Innovative companies constantly introduce and make improvements to their products. And whether you introduce a new product every day or once a year – your sales reps need a comprehensive plan of action.
In a sales environment where change is imminent, focus on how reps can find information and absorb it once found. For example:
- Content that finds your reps – not the other way around: An organized content portal should be home to all product update information and content supporting it. Make these assets extremely easy to find through tagging, using proper search terms, and creating content alerts.
- Focus on just-in-time/just-when-needed learning: Think about a company with hundreds of product updates every month. If each rep had to step out of the field to attend training around every update, the time spent in the field would be very low. By focusing on just-in-time learning, reps can access bite-sized training modules from any device, at times that fit into their busy schedules.
- Guided selling: Organizations often don’t give reps a clear strategy for tough conversations around changing or sunsetting products. Sales reps are humans. They don’t enjoy having tough conversations – particularly when they don’t feel prepared. Guided selling can help reps feel more comfortable approaching a problematic customer or prospect conversation.
Planning For Mergers and Acquiring
“That is what we were. This is what we could become.”
Depending on your organization and industry, mergers and acquisitions can be a rare, monumental transformation – or a quarterly event. But, whether it happens once every twenty years or once every two months, a clear strategy must be mapped out.
Here’s why: 70% of mergers and acquisitions fail to meet business expectations.
One reason? Change is hard, and companies don’t capture the hearts and minds of the people involved. There’s a wealth of sensitivity that comes with change, and defenses can run high.
3 Sales Readiness Keys to Remember:
- An inventory assessment is critical. Look into the hiring, onboarding, training, and coaching that both organizations currently use and decide on one methodology going forward. Too often, acquiring companies assume what they use is best. There might be significant strengths in one aspect of the organization that is lacking in others. Analyze your top-performing teams, and create a training and coaching plan to help your other teams emulate their colleagues’ successes.
- The language you use with your sales teams is critical. The blending of company cultures is one of the most challenging things to accomplish – especially if you are trying to integrate two very diverse cultures. Be sensitive to the average person’s reluctance to change.
- Competitive positioning relies on speed. Once a merger or acquisition is announced, competitors will create fear, uncertainty, and doubt for your prospects and customers. Prepare your newly merged sales team for these arguments, and create a unified story.
“How much can I do, and how well can I do it?”
Think of increasing sales productivity as a baseline for growth. No matter what other pillars you’re deploying, increasing productivity should always be a goal.
At the most basic level, there are two levers you can pull to improve productivity: efficiency and effectiveness. Of course, the net result for either is to improve yield per rep.
Making reps more efficient involves streamlining processes to give them more time for active selling. The goal is to minimize or eliminate low-value activities (expense reports, re-drafting proposals, etc.) in hopes of getting reps to sell faster and use their time more productively. (On average, 35% of reps’ time is spent on internal meetings, administrative tasks, or other miscellaneous activities that don’t include actual selling.)
Sales readiness and enablement are also about making reps more effective at high-value activities and reducing the time spent on the abovementioned low-value activities. The goal is for reps to have the knowledge, skills, and key processes to maximize every buyer interaction. You can accomplish this through:
- Better onboarding: Build a system that is competency-based and mastery-centric. Create a plan that focuses on the skills, knowledge, and critical processes reps need to master. Then chunk, sequence, and layer your learning so reps can retain the information.
- Meaningful training: Focus on developing the competencies of sales reps to meet buyers’ needs through personalized sales training and development programs. Create structured, on-demand training so reps can access it in the field at any time.
- Improved reports: Reporting on mastery, not consumption, allows reps to progress at their own pace and should help reduce time to competency. Establish guidelines on when competencies need to be mastered, and the reps who fall behind will require coaching and feedback.
- Continuous learning: One-time learning sessions might provide reps with the information they need to perform at the moment, but through continuous learning, veteran reps will have a better chance at maintaining success throughout their career.
Ready, Set, Go!
When growth is the priority, organizations need to be prepared for the growing pains that can come along with it. It’s important to continually communicate why changes are being made and share early wins.
By emphasizing sales readiness, reps become more equipped to adapt and thrive in the face of change; their confidence breeds competence — which ultimately results in success.