The One-Two Punch For Selling

Sales Training and Sale Enablement


The Bad News

When sales teams are under-trained and unprepared to use sales enablement tools effectively, firms can spend a lot of time, energy and resources accomplishing very little.

The Good News

A well-designed, current training program within a culture of learning cultivates primed sales reps, willing and eager to learn and use new tools and understand product enhancements.

We've all been to the annual meeting where the CEO defines improving sales as a core strategic initiative for the next quarter or year, and all departments are called on to help sales achieve their goals.

The company leaves the meeting energized and
a flurry of activity happens to meet the CEO's objectives. Product management is ready to develop new and higher margin products, marketing is prepared to create new collateral and drive new leads to the sales team, and sales leadership puts initiatives in place to optimize channel or regional coverage. It sounds great: the entire company doing their part to support the sales team.

Unfortunately, this kind of executive-directed activity can easily result in uncoordinated support that ends up confusing sales people and customers alike.

CEO's will always set (sometimes unrealistic) strategic goals for sales, and when this happens it's sales management's responsibility to keep it simple and protect the sales training process. Even with the activity around them, remaining laser-focused on excellent sales training helps your sales team meet the needs of your customer.

The end goal for any executive or sales leader is the same: make the existing sales team sell more and sell faster. To do this sales behavior must change, which doesn't happen quickly or easily, but when the existing sales team is successful the rewards are worth the work.

Unfortunately the Status Quo of Sales Training isn't Working. According to Forrester Research:

* 65% of buyers "almost always" or "most of the time" choose vendors who work with them to turn a vision into a clear path to value.

* 80% of buyers will spend more money with suppliers who understand their business.

Which means

* 85% of buyers find meetings with sales people ineffective!

* 56% of buyers say that vendors who understand their business and are focused on helping solve a problem, or finding a clear path to value, are more strategic.

How can your sales organization change behavior to improve a team's productivity and help clients see a clear path to value? Great sales training and sales enablement can set the foundation for companies to hit and exceed the CEO's objectives and buyer's needs.

SALES TRAINING: PUNCH 1

Oftentimes, sales training programs default to a one- time event. Either at new hire orientation or maybe at an annual sales kickoff. The rest of the year, sales reps are on the job and expected to be generating revenue, while meeting or exceeding goals.

The results of this strategy speak for themselves: sales teams who participate in regular training are more effective than those who receive irregular or occasional training. Why? 84% of training content is forgotten within 30 days, so ongoing training ensures sales representatives are client ready before talking to a customer.

According to the Association for Talent Development, sales reps receive an average of 31.5 hours of training a year, and 63% of sales reps say it's not enough--the greatest need for investment within their organizations is ongoing training and coaching.

Moreover, surveys also solidify the need for updated training materials. 62% of training professionals say their organization's sales training materials should be updated every 3-6 months, but 42% say that their organization's training content gets updated once a year, which is clearly not often enough.
Leaving a sales training program untouched for a year or more creates a vicious cycle: outdated and incorrect messages can lead to confusion among reps causing sales to misrepresent the details of the products and services they are selling.

In any discipline "practice makes perfect" and providing ongoing training bridges the gap between initial training/onboarding and on-the-job performance. Current data shows that sales teams are unprepared to address the needs of buyers; 
being knowledgeable about the company is just
 a part of sales training. The other part is properly communicating the messages and having the
skills to get the sale. This is where new learning technologies, like LearnCore, are helping sales teams learn by doing to get client-ready. Leading companies are improving sales training with best-in- class tools that facilitate all types of learning styles through reading, listening and action.

It's the responsibility of sales management to meet the need for ongoing, updated training though it's clear that some of us are failing. 
Even though we know sales training should be coordinated, regular and built for all learning types, this clearly isn't the norm. Only 32% of firms describe their current sales training programs as "effective" and 48% of sales training pros say their organization's sales training content isn't engaging, even further, 25% say the materials created don't match sales teams' needs. All this means that there is significant room for improvement for sales training.

SALES ENABLEMENT: PUNCH 2

The lack of ongoing and effective sales training created a void management teams filled with sales enablement because sales training "wasn't working." Lots of firms have varying definitions of sales enablement.

According to Forrester Research, "Sales enablement [should be] a strategic, ongoing process that
equips all client-facing employees with the ability
to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system."

The Pedowitz Group's definition is even simpler, "Aligning marketing processes and goals, and then arming sales with tools to improve sales execution and drive revenue."

When you get right down to it, sales enablement is simply the set of tools and content that help move the sales process along. Sales enablement sounds great, but any sales manager will tell you just equipping people with good content isn't enough.

Sales enablement tools are designed to "equip client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation." What makes the idea of sales enablement so attractive is its veil of simplicity: just enable your sales people with lots of tools and they will be effective. But anyone who understands sales success knows there's more to it than great tools. When sales teams are under-trained and unprepared to use the tools appropriately, firms can spend a lot of time, energy and resources accomplishing very little.

The old adage rings true--don't put the cart before the horse. A well-run, ongoing and regular sales training program builds the knowledge and skills that form the bedrock that must be established before sales enablement can be effective.

The CEO that puts sales at the top of the strategic initiative list is right: It is the responsibility of the whole company to enable the sales team.

For a sales enablement campaign to be successful, a multi-disciplinary team is needed to work across organizational boundaries. In the end, a well- designed, current training program within a culture of learning is a requirement for effective sales enablement, because sales reps will intuitively understand and know how and when to use sales enablement tools.

Without the commitment to a smart and ongoing training program, the sales enablement strategic initiative is likely to end up another executive- directed fire drill with little to no measurable results.
Vishal Shah
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vishal Shah> all articles
Vishal is CEO and Co-founder of LearnCore, a sales training focused LMS designed to improve mission critical skills and create more top performers in your organization. LearnCore helps high growth and Fortune 1000 companies including Twitter, CDW, and SunGard. The platform is especially suitable for customer facing departments and environments where the sales force is geographically distributed, products/services are complex or they are changing.