A Guide to 'Always-On' Enablement: The 4 Pillars of Sales Readiness
Preparing your sales team – really preparing them – doesn’t happen overnight. From product information and selling methodologies to objection handling and CRM usage, there’s a lot salespeople need to know. Even if you train them once, the tides of business are constantly changing, meaning information is changing right alongside it.
This is what makes sales readiness is so important.
Sales readiness, a core component of sales enablement, involves strategic activities designed to prepare sellers with skills and messages needed to make every buyer interaction. Think of it as an always-on approach to training not only your sales reps but all customer-facing team members, with a focus on 4 primary pillars: foundational, continuous, transformational, and reactive.
Each pillar represents a series of situations within the lifecycle of a rep (or your business) that require strategic training and preparation – with sales enablement leading the way.
1. Foundational Readiness
Foundational readiness consists of the efficient transfer of all the knowledge new hires need to be successful. Its goal is to accelerate the time to full productivity and improve retention across every sales role in the field.
Foundational readiness is about creating a ready-to-execute onboarding program for every role in your field force, including field sales, inside sales reps, business development, sales managers, and sales leaders.
According to The Sales Management Association, 41% of firms don’t specifically support sales manager development efforts. But when sales managers and leaders are new to their roles, they need onboarding just as much as everyone else.
Identify foundational competencies for all sales roles and develop readiness paths for each. For example, readiness paths for sales managers and leaders likely won’t involve a full-time boot camp program (like it would for sales reps). If new sales managers and leaders need to ramp up in 90 days, make it so they can review on-demand learning courses on their own and attend workshops with colleagues.
Sales enablement software makes it easy to set up unique readiness paths for different roles as online courses that can be accessed via email, mobile, and a company’s CRM. Assessments or video coaching activities can be included with the courses to validate whether salespeople understood the material and demonstrate comprehension through a quiz or digital role-play. Issue certifications when salespeople have passed a significant milestone in their training.
2. Continuous Readiness
Continuous readiness ensures every sales force member is up-to-date and ready with the latest releases, competitive intelligence, market insights, and ongoing performance improvement. The goal is for every sales force member to be ready in every moment and maximize every buyer interaction.
After foundational readiness, the learning isn’t over; onboarding won’t cover everything salespeople will encounter as they start selling. Continuous readiness takes standard product and skills training and makes them more proactive and easier to assess. Sales enablement leaders need to understand where a salesperson stands from a competency perspective and enable them to develop further.
Competencies can go beyond core skills. Create training for those interested in moving into other sales or customer-facing roles. These courses will lay out possible career paths for salespeople through certifications, making transitioning across the company straightforward – sellers can simply take courses with the goal of advancement.
Sales enablement software can provide a simple way to continuously send out courses and assessments to each role in sales. The key here is setting up courses in an automated fashion ahead of time. Once reps complete one course, they are automatically met with the next one eliminating learning gaps. These courses might cover new products as they’re released, as well as crucial skills training.
3. Transformational Readiness
Transformational readiness is a holistic shift in strategy and go-to-market tactics, including targeting new markets or buyers, mergers or acquisitions, or new selling methodologies. With transformational readiness the goal is to “re-board” the entire field force while minimizing the impact on productivity and revenue.
Carrying out transformational readiness activities should start at the sales manager level. Frequently, sales managers are one of the key groups involved in the transformation, whether it’s acquiring a new company, adopting a new sales methodology, or entering a new market.
Sales enablement leaders need to make sure managers are ready to lead and have the tools to do so. Ensure sales managers buy into the transformation by providing critical information about the change to thoroughly understand the business reasons and the path forward. Educate them on the new learning paths for the sales force and make them part of the continuous communication stream for the change management efforts.
It’s essential to think about how reps’ conversations with buyers will change due to the transformation. Sales enablement software can help to design and deliver training courses to address those changes. Formal and informal assessments in the form of video coaching activities can be used to determine if reps are truly ‘message-ready.’
For example, suppose reps were once selling to CIOs but are now selling to CMOs. That’s a significant change and will require re-boarding in several areas, including persona training, pitch delivery, objection handling, and responding to common questions regarding the transformation. Update existing material to reflect the changes and develop courses around new developments that reps may encounter as a result.
4. Reactive Readiness
Reactive readiness allows you to ready the sales team to leverage or manage events with immediate impact on the business, such as good or bad news about your company, competitors, or geopolitical events. The goal is to get your entire field force ready in days or hours, not weeks.
Ideally, sales enablement leaders should have an “emergency kit” for significant events when reactive readiness is needed. This kit should entail an execution plan for all communications and processes, and tools to allow you to build and deliver content quickly.
The key here is to pivot and react to the changes as quickly as possible. Having a plan of attack in advance will allow you to spend more time preparing the sales force and less time scrambling to compile the information. These kinds of organizational or market changes have a short window of time. Reacting quickly is the only option if you expect your sales force to adapt and communicate appropriately with prospects and customers.
Get sales managers involved in the content creation process to help craft the responses and FAQs your reps need. By designing coaching activities where reps must respond to buyers’ questions, managers can then evaluate and sign off on responses. In addition, the sales organization will want to hear from the leadership. Facilitate this by helping to create and deliver a quick video where leaders talk about the news.
For example, if two of your biggest competitors are merging, let reps know immediately and then roll out your reactive readiness plan. (Even if the merger is just a rumor, if it’s a big enough deal, it may warrant a condensed plan, so reps know how to address questions.) Use sales enablement software to deliver content and assessments or coaching to reps and have managers offer feedback right away. Then get reps back to selling as soon as possible since the news is timely.
With the speed of business today, sales teams of all shapes and sizes need foundational, continuous, transformational, and reactive readiness plans. The goal of these plans is to be proactive about preparing salespeople no matter what comes their way.
By anticipating the needs of their sales team, planning for changes in the business, and continuously providing training and assessments, sales enablement leaders can prepare the entire sales organization to capitalize on opportunities.
Readiness is not a one-and-done process; it’s a practice that needs to be always-on and evolve for every scenario.