What separates good sales enablement programs from great ones?
Great sales enablement requires a coordinated effort between departments (sales, marketing, product, etc.), a formal strategy and executive sponsorship. The best programs are data-driven, highly engaged with sales reps and continuously evolve as businesses change. For many organizations their current programs don’t meet stakeholder expectations meaning there’s plenty of work left to do. Stop settling for good and learn how to achieve greatness.
1. Jumpstart onboarding with pre-boarding
By waiting until day one to start onboarding you are putting yourself and your new rep at a disadvantage. With pre-boarding, you can start new reps on their onboarding paths as soon as they accept a position. Send short training videos to the new hire to help them get familiar with basic company and product information as well as what to expect on their first day. This way, when the rep comes on board they’re already well on their way to full productivity.
2. Lean on institutional knowledge
An often overlooked resource is your sales reps themselves. They’re practicing and perfecting their techniques each and every day. Over time your entire team has built a wealth of expertise beneficial not only to new reps but also the whole sales organization. In order to share these best practices, ask reps to help develop training content, such as how a deal was won, how they handled an objection or even something as simple as an elevator pitch.
Learn more: Infographic: What is Peer Learning for Sales?
3. Be prepared for unexpected changes
When an unexpected situation happens – such as changes in the market (e.g., two competitors merge or make new executive appointments) – your sales team needs to be message-ready for anything that comes up in a buyer conversation. To prepare for these situations, create an ‘emergency kit’ including content templates and plans for all communications and processes. This allows you to spend more time preparing the sales team, rather than scrambling to find information.
For example, assign video coaching activities asking reps respond to questions buyers may ask so managers can evaluate and sign off on responses.
4. Thrive during sales transformations
If your sales team is going through a transformation, whether due to a M&A, a new sales methodology or a major product launch you will need to get them up to speed quickly. It may be necessary to redefine behaviors, skills and knowledge while designing (or adjusting) training accordingly. Then follow up with video coaching assessments where reps record a video response to a key question, such as ‘what does this merger mean for X customer?’ From there, sales managers can evaluate reps’ skills before they’re faced with questions from buyers.
5. Coach the coaches
As much as we all wish it weren’t true; not every sales manager is a great coach. This could be due to a lack of time or skills but either way sales enablement can help. Provide your sales managers a playbook with tactics for providing meaningful feedback to reps in coaching situations. For events like product releases, create manager training programs enabling them to master the material before coaching their reps. Video coaching tools can also help managers coach more effectively because they make it possible to reach more reps in more locations and provide more consistent feedback.
6. Expand your sales enablement audience
Traditionally enablement programs have only focused on sales reps and managers, but it is important not to neglect other client-facing teams who also need the latest product and company information. One particular group is your customer success managers (CSMs), who interact with customers on a daily basis. To best position yourself take on this new group, first evaluate their unique needs. Work with managers on the CSM team to identify the areas where content, training and coaching would make the sense.
For example, clearly CSMs need product training around each release, but what they may not have is training around soft skills (active listening, presentation, relationship building, etc.), so discuss what types of programs would be best to help them improve upon those. Once you’ve come up with a plan, start assigning CSMs training where they can work on these skills and prepare for customer conversations.
7. Nurture tenured reps
With so much focus on getting your newest sellers up to speed, it can be easy to forget your tenured reps. One way to combat this is to provide continuous proactive training. Depending on where reps are against required competencies, you can continuously push microlearning courses to them via the systems and devices they use every day.
For example, offer best practices around advanced negotiation skills, so reps will be prepared for and anticipate tough late-stage deals. You can also create learning and assessment paths where reps can upskill for other sales positions or develop leadership and management skills.
8. Develop a sales enablement business plan
This may seem obvious but can all too often be left undone. Whether you’re establishing a new sales enablement function or trying to improve your strategy, it is important to put together a comprehensive plan. This creates a roadmap you can reference to ensure you’re staying aligned with your strategy. To create a sales enablement plan, follow these steps:
- Talk to key stakeholders to align with your company’s business strategy, mission and vision
- Evaluate of the current state of affairs to uncover areas to prioritize
- Define your objectives, goals, roadmap and the roles and responsibilities of your team and collaborators
- Outline your initiatives and how success will be measured
9. Prioritize sales process readiness
If reps don’t understand your sales process or how to follow it, then you can’t accurately forecast your company’s revenue. The goal of sales process training is for reps to understand for each stage: 1) which activities they should be doing and 2) which activities the customer should be doing.
It’s also important for reps to learn about exit criteria for each stage (the activities that help them move from one stage to the next), and the tools that will help them complete these activities (sales readiness, document automation, sales engagement technologies, etc.). Take it a step further by training reps on how to move a stalled deal forward. Reps can then review all their touch points with customers, such as how they presented the proposal or how they handled objections, so they can pinpoint why the deal is stuck and how to move it forward.
For example, a sales process learning path could include a course defining the discovery stage, how to complete key activities (i.e., the discovery call), and assets, such as slides for the discovery call and follow-up content for the customer.
10. Engage your sales force to retain them
Engaging your sales force is key to the effectiveness of your enablement initiatives, as well as rep retention and performance. When a sales team is engaged, they feel supported, motivated and fulfilled and clearly see the positive impact they have on prospects, customers and the company. Here are some ways to better engage your sales team:
- Collaborate with sales managers: Managers can communicate and reinforce your initiatives with their reps.
- Encourage peer learning and mentoring: Reps feel more connected if they can share and utilize information from peers regularly – and they’ll feel valued if a fellow rep uses their suggestions.
- Expand training opportunities: Provide reps with growth opportunities, such as learning about other sales roles, job shadowing or participating in a leadership or management workshop.
- Add friendly competition: Sales readiness platforms often include leaderboards which can drum up friendly competition between reps, but you can also create your own mini contests or incentive-based programs to motivate reps to participate in various enablement programs.
11. Embrace AI to improve sales
When it comes to sales, artificial intelligence (AI) offers efficiencies to reps and managers via sales readiness and asset management technologies. For example, Brainshark’s AI-powered Machine Analysis helps sales managers identify who is truly ready to sell by automating the scoring and feedback of video coaching activities. Sales asset management platforms use AI to make content recommendations. AI identifies content based on geographic location, product type, industry and more, through advanced tagging capabilities and serves it up during relevant stages of the buying cycle, helping reps quickly identify the best content to engage prospects.
12. Develop a plan for your first 100 days
Companies often hire enablement leaders because of poor results or a lack of support for sales reps – which means by your first day on the job, you will have a ton on your plate. Having a plan is key to avoid being overwhelmed and to achieve results quickly.
In your first 100 days:
- Audit the current sales onboarding program to determine areas of improvement or expansion.
- Read up on key competitors, shadow sales calls
- Conduct a deep dive into sales and enablement processes
- Meet with key people in the organization to discuss how you’ll collaborate
Towards the end of your first 100 days:
- Create a 6-12-month plan
- Determine KPIs
- Get buy-in from key stakeholders
13. Be a savvy solo enabler
Even with continued focus on and growth of the role, many sales enablement professionals are managing enablement in a part-time or single-person function. These small or one person teams will quite often encounter challenges due to the lack of bandwidth and resources. In spite of this the savvy ones can use the following strategies to maximize results:
- Leverage peer learning to supplement sales training. This way, you don’t have to create all training content on your own; you can use your own reps as the source.
- Create and nurture enablement champions. Seek sponsorship from the C-suite so you can get support for your initiatives.
- Lean on subject matter experts in other departments to help with content creation and execution of training deliverables
Learn More: 9 Tips for the Solo Sales Enablement Leader
14. Adapt learning to today’s modern rep
Gone are the days of text-heavy PowerPoint presentations and binders of learning materials – or at least those days should be gone. Today’s sales reps want (and expect) learning content that’s quick and easy to consume. It’s your job to adapt to the modern learning preferences of your sales reps to keep them engaged and ensure they absorb the material. Create bite-sized, microlearning courses accessible anywhere, anytime, no matter where reps are working. Video formats often work best, where reps can stop and start whenever they’d like.
15. Give reps ‘reps’
To master key messages, reps need repetition and practice of key messages to refine their craft and get mistakes out of the way before they go into the field. But to really see a difference in performance, reps need to practice purposefully with the help of managers and peers. Traditionally reps could do this via in-person role plays with sales managers but given the current state of things it is more likely to be done through video.
For example, if a rep is trying to perfect their elevator pitch, they can record themselves with as many ‘takes’ or attempts as they’d like. Once the rep has a ‘take’ they feel good about, they can request feedback from managers and peers to refine their pitch.
Learn More: 8 Ways to Use Video Coaching for Team Readiness
16. Be strategic about sales content
Without a strategy, content can be inconsistent, hard to find and unruly to manage. Take the following steps to create an effective sales content strategy:
- Establish who creates what: Marketing may create customer testimonials, while sales enablement creates sales assets such as playbooks.
- Do a content audit: Determine what content needs updates, what content is missing and map existing content to the buyer’s journey so it’s easy for reps to identify and utilize.
- Connect content to desired results: Define why you’re creating each piece and how it will help reps.
17. Make onboarding agile
Reps need to know a lot when onboard, such as product information, competitive differentiators, the sales methodology and more. But by adopting an agile approach to onboarding (based upon agile software development principles), you can break the often months-long ramp process into shorter periods of training and coaching, focused on building proficiency in key competencies through sales activities. This approach allows you to certify reps have mastered each activity or identify who needs more training in specific areas.
For example, give a new rep two weeks to prepare for their first demo call, where they’ll complete training courses and pass a certification. Once completed, they can use these skills immediately on their first call, while preparing for the next key activity in the sales cycle.
18. Diversify your sales coaching
If you’re only coaching reps using one approach, then you’re likely not getting the full picture of rep readiness. Video coaching technology can help expand your sales coaching program with a variety of options. Text-based coaching activities allow you to evaluate reps’ email writing and outreach skills (i.e., proper messaging, tone and consistency) and provide feedback at scale. Call-recording tools can be used to record reps’ prospecting calls so you can review what they did well and where they can improve. And screen recording capabilities let you see reps’ presentation skills in real-time. By varying your coaching activities, you can get a clearer picture of how well reps are positioned to complete every activity in your sales cycle.
19. Measure ROI with 3 big questions
Determining ROI is critical to getting buy-in for your sales enablement initiatives. But where do you start? By focusing on three key questions, you can more clearly show the value of your efforts to sales and company leadership.
1. Are reps ready to sell?
Incorporate assessments to determine whether reps can apply their learning in the field opposed to just if they have completed courses.
2. Are reps performing the right activities?
Establish benchmarks for activity levels, such as prospecting calls made, or outreach emails sent, based on your organization’s sales cycle length and average deal size.
3. Are reps producing the expected results?
Understand rep productivity by using metrics such as, run rates, sales velocity, and conversion rates. Also understand which measurements you can directly influence (time reps spend selling) and indirectly influence (time to first deal).
20. Develop SDRs to grow your future sales force
Sales development reps (SDRs) are one of the most important groups in sales. They are not only the first line of interactions with future customers, but they are also (hopefully) your future account executives. By applying these coaching and development tactics you are helping your SDRs perform best in their current and future roles:
- Teach reps to fish: Don’t tell reps the right way to do things, lead them into it by asking questions, such as ‘what could you have done differently?’ or ‘what’s another question you could’ve asked?’
- Tailor your approach: Every rep has unique interests and strengths. It is your job to figure out what makes each tick and coach them accordingly.
- Establish a dedicated coach: Coaching is critical for getting SDRs to learn and grow, so more and more companies now hire a dedicated person to help them develop key selling skills.