Sales readiness and sales training are the same things, right? Not quite.
While it’s a common misconception that sales training and readiness are the same, sales readiness actually encompasses much more than just training. Training is about knowledge, learning what you need to know about your customer, the product, your industry, and how to sell. When you train your reps you want to be sure they understand and retain what they have learned.
But when you prepare your reps to be sales ready, you are ensuring that they have the skills they need for successful customer conversations. Sales readiness prepares your reps with an outcome-oriented approach. It is an agile way to ensure they are better prepared, more effective and achieve predictable results
Sales readiness covers everything your reps need to be ready for the moment of truth; when they’re in front of a prospect or customer. Training is obviously an important part of this, but in this day and age it’s not enough to just train your reps, they need to be agile as well. With so much information to consume, reps need to have the right inflow of product, competition and peer success information when they need it. They also need to be able to hone their craft on-the-go and receive guidance and feedback regardless of where they are.
Sales readiness is about enabling your reps so they have everything they need to maximize their effectiveness and productivity.
“Sales readiness is a continuous process of creating and executing strategies to ensure preparedness of an organization’s sales force to meet its business objectives.”
Running a four-minute mile was once an elusive dream, but in 1954 Roger Bannister achieved the impossible. Fast-forward 60 years and the 4-minute mile is a rite of passage for professional runners aspiring to beat Hicham El Guerrouj, who currently holds the world record with a time of 3:43:13, set in 1999.
For athletes, success is a powerful motivator. Once they know one person has achieved the impossible it inspires others to not only follow in their footsteps but smash their record. And it’s no different for salespeople. After all, they’re a competitive bunch, which is why sales success stories are a powerful motivational tool for sales reps.
What is a sales success story?
A sales success story is designed for the purpose of internal communication where a sales rep talks about how they navigated the buying process and closed a sale with a customer. They provide insights into how the rep achieved success, and can give their peers ideas about how they could apply the winning techniques. Success stories may also provide insights into how customers use your product (or solution) and the value it adds to their business, providing more information that can be applied in sales conversations.
However, like any sales enablement tools, they’re only effective if the content is useful and if it’s delivered to your reps in a way that they can consume easily. That’s why it’s important to enable your reps with sales success stories that have been well researched and delivered. In this post we’ll take you through how to create sales success stories that will help your reps sell more.
Why are sales success stories important and how are they used?
Sales success stories are an important element of peer-to-peer learning. They are internal tools that can be used to train new hires on how deals have been won, and inspire and educate seasoned reps. They can be used as training tools, where reps learn how their peers have successfully sold to similar customers, different verticals, or beat the competition. The success stories may also provide anecdotal evidence of how your product is used and its success. Reps can use this knowledge in customer conversations to explain the value your product can provide to a prospect.
How do you create a sales success story?
Sales success stories can be created in several different formats, depending on what is most useful for your audience. For sales reps, I’ve found it best to deliver them as short but powerful snippets of information that are delivered direct to their mobile device and / or inside CRM system. Some of the formats that I’ve seen used include:
A 3 to 10 minute video of the rep explaining their story;
Written collateral like a case study that’s available for reps to read in their downtime;
A few PowerPoint slides that have dot points with the relevant information; and
Audio or podcasts that can be listened to while reps are traveling.
By making the information short and punchy it’s easier for reps to consume while they’re on the go. One of the most effective ways to do this is by creating a standard structure for your customer success stories. This structure guides how you collect the information, all the way through to how it’s presented to your reps. I suggest following this four point structure:
Some other ways that you can make your success stories easier for your reps to access and digest include:
Make them searchable, particularly if they’re longer case studies. This will help your reps find them quickly when they’re preparing for a meeting
Make them available on their mobile device. Many field sales reps use their cell phone or tablet as a pseudo office nowadays, so it’s imperative that they can access success stories on them
Make them available on your CRM system like Salesforce.com
Make them available offline. This will enable your reps to go through them when they’re on a plane or find them even if they don’t have Internet access, and
Keep it simple. While there’s a lot of information that you may want to convey, keep it short or use bullet points so it’s easier to skim through. And follow a standard structure as suggested so that reps know where to find what they’re looking for.
Collecting the information for your success story
It’s always best to go straight to the source when collecting information, that’s why I suggest interviewing your sales rep directly for your success story. If your customer is open to it you can also ask them to be included in the interview process. That way you can obtain their perspective on the sales process as well. And because the interview will only be used for internal purposes, I’ve found that most reps (and customers) are much more open and candid about their experiences.
If you’re not familiar with interviewing people it can be a bit daunting. To help you get the most from your sales rep (and possibly customer) interviews, I’ve suggested below some questions that you can use in your interviews. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather it’s intended to be guided to help you through the process. So you can pick and choose which questions to ask in your interview based on the situation and how the interview is going.
Once you have collected your information it’s just a matter of editing your video or audio or writing up your success story and publishing it on your sales enablement tool or content management system.
Understand the situation
An overview of your customer’s business
Please give me a quick overview of your customer’s business?
What does it do and how long has it been in operation?
How many employees are there?
What are its revenues?
Your champion’s role within their business
Can you please describe their role
Where does their role sit in the broader org structure?
Your customer’s customers
Who are their target customers?
How do they use their product?
What other solutions was the customer looking at?
How did you find out about your competitors?
Was there any saboteur in the deal? How did you overcome them?
Define the problem
The pain points and challenges your customer faced
What were the key challenges that your customer’s business was facing prior to using our product?
Were there specific pain points in their process that they wanted to remove?
What were they doing before to solve for these issues?
Did they use other tools or processes? How did they work?
The impact on your customer’s business
How did these challenges impact their business? Higher costs? Productivity? Revenue?
The decision-making process
What were other people involved in the decision making process?
How did you navigate the internal politics of the customer’s decision making process?
How did you identify your sales champion within the customer’s business?
How did the champion help you get the deal over the line?
Outline the solution
How you helped your customer solve for their pain points and challenges
Explain how you went about identifying your customer’s pain points or the challenges they were facing
How did you address these challenges in your customer conversations?
How did you help them resolve these challenges?
Who else helped you resolve the challenges?
Did they need to make any changes to their business to resolve these challenges? How were these received by their sales teams? Other internal teams? Their executives?
What support did you receive from other departments in their business?
What objections did you encounter from other departments in their business? How did you overcome this?
Did you encounter any other challenges or objections in the sales process? What were they? How did you resolve them?
How your customer uses our product
How is your customer currently using our product?
What features do they find helpful?
How does our product help alleviate their pain points or solve their challenges [describe what these challenges were]?
How does our product help them achieve their goals?
Has your customer reduced costs as a result? How do they quantify this?
Has your customer improved productivity as a result? How do they quantify this?
Has your customer increased revenue or sales growth as a result? How do they quantify this?
Has our product helped you and your team achieve success in your goals? How?
Do you have anything interesting about this sales or the sales process that you would like to share?
Improve Your Sales Rep Productivity!
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Listen nowto hear how AG Salesworks helps businesses prepare their SDRs for success.
In this 13 minuteinterview Ferrara and Snell outline:
What core competencies make an SDR best in class;
How training for a new SDR differs from an experienced professional; and
What are the best metrics to use when benchmarking your SDRs.
To download or subscribe to the Sales Excellence podcast login to Soundcloud, Stitcher, iTunes or find it here.
“It’s just like the framework of a car. It doesn’t matter what color they are. It doesn’t matter what the whistles in the car are. It’s what the frame is, and you can take that one frame and make it blue, and then make the next one red. And the red one has a pleather interior and a blue one has got leather interior. But as long as the framework is where you can take that from sale to sale with you.”
Training SDRs is just like building a car according to Chris Snell, Strategic Advisor at AG Salesworks. And Craig Ferrara, VP Client Operations agrees.
“We’ve worked with nearly 400 companies’ in completely different spaces. And whether they’re HR or IT or operations, the core competencies that we typically follow, our training process is relevant to all of them. You know that foundation, no matter what industry, will still have application and it works across all industries.”
So it begs the question, what framework do you need to train best-in-class SDRs for your business.
When I first joined ForeScout it became very clear to me that we needed to up-level our sales process. We had a documented sales process but it just wasn’t being followed consistently. Moreover, from a messaging perspective, there was no consistency across the sales organization. In order to scale the business and to accelerate our new hire ramp up, we needed to re-engineer our sales process and more importantly document that.”
Three solutions were identified
To address the key challenges, the company focused its efforts on three key areas.
Creating a sales playbook
“The goal of the playbook is to capture and certify what your top performers are saying, asking and doing at every stage of the sales cycle. A playbook needs to provide guidance around first the deal, the call and the forecast management best practices throughout the sales process. Because we have a complex sale process and we work with a lot of very high stake deals, it’s critical that the playbook clearly defines the roles and responsibilities and the rules of engagement of all the different seller stakeholders, to ensure that we in the end delight that buyer throughout the selling process,”
“The playbook should use the sales process as the framework. This approach has enabled us to give that clear direction and guidance on what the rep should do say, do and ask it at every stage of their sale cycle, replicating the best of the best. Then as part of this, it should also include a review section which is the coaching questions at every stage. This is where the manager comes in and plays the part of the coach with the rep, it’s a must-have.”
“We also have sections for the buyer role profiles, so we understand the buyer we are selling to and what they are doing through the sales process so we can lead them through it. We have security topic focus conversational tracks that really draw out the business value for why we are talking to those buyers and then we have an objection handling section which is again one of my favorites. And then we have key customer success story section where reps can talk about other customer successes again embellishing that conversation with the customer,”
The sales playbook is currently being migrated to Mindtickle so that the technology can be leveraged for all aspects of the process.
Instituting a corporate pitch certification program
When approaching the issue of consistent messaging, ForeScout decided to institute a company-wide corporate pitch certification program.
“This corporate pitch program serves as a framework to which we present our capabilities, our differentiators and our values to our customers. It enables that discussion again around security buyers’ challenges, we present use cases, the current infrastructure gaps that could be occurring and then we help walk the customer through how ForeScout can uniquely address each one of them.”
“I call it the 30 – 3 – 30. You need to be able to just give a 30-second pitch on your company. I think everybody has to have that in their arsenal of conversation. Then we go into the three which is the “three-minute elevator pitch.” That’s where you start talking a little bit more about the buyer challenges and a few of the use cases, but not in too much depth because we have to stick to three minutes. And then the last is, of course, the 30, and that’s where we consider the full-on pitch,”
Each pitch is recorded and reviewed using Mindtickle and feedback is provided back to the reps. This then enables the certification to be recorded as well.
Building a robust onboarding program
ForeScout’s onboarding program builds on the sales playbook.
“We use the playbook content as the basis for developing our sales university and we use Mindtickle. Our perspective is that the playbook beckons that onboarding program. It’s the basis for developing the university courseware and the referencing coaching guide that drives our overall process and best practice application post the onboarding experience,”
“We have tackled it in a 30-60-90 day approach. The first month is focused on completion of the online courses that we have put in Mindtickle, along with the prescribed shadowing activities. Around week four to six we bring in the new hires to a boot camp, where we expose them to the best people. We bring the concepts that were taught in those online courses to life, and learning scenarios and role play sprinkled with a little bit of tribal knowledge and customer situations. In my opinion, the best way to learn is to have the trainees apply the concepts to real deals so we also have them do teach back concepts, that’s the role play. We do a lot these role plays, where the trainees have to present what they’ve learned to their peers, and it’s through that collaboration that the learning really starts happening.”
“That’s why I got the platform:
because all of that is in Mindtickle. We use that platform to push out quick updates, to make sure that they haven’t forgotten what we taught them initially in the courses and the missions. One of my favorites is the pitch back because you really want to know once the rep knows it. You want to know how they are using it on a sales call and the only way you’re going to know that is if they tell you. So the pitch back is so important for us to hear what they are going to say when they get to the customer, a great way to reinforce the learning through listening,”
“Mindtickle allows me to ramp up my onboarding as well as my ongoing field training. I enable the technology sooner rather than later. Don’t feel intimidated to add the technology early on, because it won’t just help with the cycle time,”
“It’s the ease of use for both the administrator and the user. I’m on both sides of the platform all day long. I quickly set-up a course, a mission, a pitch back. It’s so easy and then from a user perspective, I love the UI. It’s just beautiful and simple and clear, you know what you need to do. We also love the fun and interactive learning experience. Invariably we hear comments like ‘this was the best learning experience I have had, very positive’. I think people learn a lot from seeing themselves.”
New hires are now hitting productivity targets within six to nine months
In a dynamic industry that is constantly evolving getting new hires to ramp up is challenging, but ForeScout has found their sales playbook and onboarding program so effective that by the six to nine month mark their new hires are hitting their productivity targets. They are also expected to deliver their corporate pitch within their first 30 days, using a scorecard to help judge it impartially.
“If you partner with the right companies they will work with you on your team. Mindtickle’s been great. I don’t look at them as a vendor, I look at them as a partner. So when I get stuck or have a challenge, I call my Customer Success rep and we work through it. It’s really like having another person on my team. That’s how I have been able to be successful,”
This post is based on a podcast on how Nutanix scales its revenue with channel partners. You can listen to the entire podcast
Nutanix is an enterprise cloud platform that helps businesses focus on what’s really important without sacrificing security. They rely on channel partners to scale their sales fast and effectively. “
I see basically channel resellers as an extension of our sales,”
explains Joan Morales, Senior Channel Marketing Manager for Nutanix. “
That means having the knowledge, the tools, access to the resources that they need, including marketing programs and training materials, so they can be successful in selling Nutanix.”
The business has been expanding rapidly since its inception in 2009. In only a few years it has gone from having a few hundred channel partners to several thousand, selling across dozens of countries and reaching thousands of customers globally. Recently the business went public with a stunning stock market debut.
Making their channel partners successfulis was the challenge
With their heavy reliance on channel partners for sales breadth and reach, the key challenge for Nutanix was identifying what they needed to be successful in their sales enablement strategy, and how to deliver it to their reps in a way that was easy to access and digest.
Geography was another challenge they faced. While Nutanix is headquartered
in San Jose they needed to be where their channel partners and customers were.
Channel partners are an extension of their own sales force
The core of Nutanix’ channel partner strategy is to treat them as an extension of their own sales force; with the same care, love, respect, and passion.
“Making it easy and simple and as complete as we make it for our own employees, with the same tools, and in most of the cases the same content. So that everybody goes back to the same core knowledge and the same core aspects of Nutanix,”
Leveraging technology for ease of access
“Ease of use is one of the most important aspects. Making an experience that is easy, sociable, fun. What is really critical for us is giving access to as many things as we can give access to,”
comments Morales. “
When we have live training for our own employees we bring them back into the headquarters and we train them for a week. We could not do that for our channel partners of course because the scale and the reach is really large. So we thought about how we can make all of that great content accessible to channel partners around the globe in their own time.”
“We made a huge inventory of all the content we needed to share with partners and we looked for a platform that was a video-based platform. Easy to use, completely web-based, with no software to be installed, that’s actually more of a consumer experience than an enterprise experience. We wanted to deliver to our partners an experience that is actually closer to Facebook or a video game, not a boring enterprise software experience,”
After a detailed market survey, Nutanix chose Mindtickle to deliver this experience to their channel partners (and employees). “
Mindtickle was one of the best in terms of delivering all aspects of the training.”
Engage users by reinforcing concepts
To engage their channel partners’ reps and help them learn, Nutanix leveraged gamification and reinforcement features in Mindtickle.
“Basically we were able to put all our training in video and we created small weekly modules of training. After each one of the weekly modules of training, there are different types of tests that you take on Mindtickle. You have video testing, with points associated to every single thing that happens. This makes cumbersome training into a game. You get exposed to a new concept and then right after you get questions on that new concept that you just listened to. By doing this and replicating this time after time you’ll build knowledge very easily. Mindtickle has a very large menu of different types of test questions,”
“So Mindtickle basically was able to deliver that kind of fun, engaging, easy to manage, easy to deliver the experience. We were trying to find a partner that could be a company that was eager to innovate, eager to do things quickly, to basically helps us deliver these new types of experience for our channel partners. And that’s a very important aspect that we also found in Mindtickle. We found a team that is eager to innovate, is eager to work beyond the normal hours sometimes when it’s necessary to make sure that things happen on time.”
Track key metrics closely to identify gaps
Metrics play an important role in managing Nutanix’ channel partners. There are three types of analytics that they measure closely:
Deal size:This helps them identify where they can close larger deals;
Sales cycle:The faster they can sell the more deals they can close;
Success rates:The more success their partners have the more they can sell.
The business does look at other metrics to track how well their channel partners are performing, such as days to close their first deal. These metrics all help Nutanix identify which channel partners are the most successful.
Nutanix’ success is evident in their revenue and channel partner feedback
Nutanix’ channel partners have provided positive feedback on their sales training and updates. “
We have had many channel partners come back to us, telling us that the training that we are delivering is the best thing they have seen. All their salespeople are willing to take the training because it’s easy, it’s fun and it’s a video experience that basically is entertaining,”
Through reporting and analysis, Nutanix has identified that channel partners who have access to their training program through Mindtickle are able to close deals faster. They also have deals of higher value and able to drive more sales more consistently over a longer period of time.
This is the second part of my series on learnings from the
event in San Francisco. This post looks at key takeaways from some of the top companies in Silicon Valley on their sales onboarding plans and experiences. You can find also find part 1 of this series here.
Facebook: Laine Forman, Global Programs, Learning Program Manager
Laine gave us a great overview of how sales onboarding is being revamped at Facebook and how critical it is that it’s aligned with the company’s values of “
move fast and make an impact
At a company that has
product updates, it is important to have a dynamic sales onboarding program. Facebook breaks down sales onboarding into 6 key areas:
New hire orientation
Global sales orientation
eLearning and testing
Mentoring and shadowing
A new operating framework establishes what is done on a global level and outlines what needs to be regional, to account for cultural differences and local nuances or example, although new hire orientation and global sales orientation are done at the HQ in Silicon Valley the sales boot camps are done regionally.
Another important fact that Laine highlighted is that change, especially on a global scale for a company the size of Facebook is extremely hard. Getting different stakeholders involved early on is key to make it happen.
Awareness is important. Is everyone aware and agree on what problem needs to be solved and why your onboarding program needs to change?
Transparency to everyone involved will move things along. Don’t just communicate changes to the onboarding program but rather bring people to the table to discuss.
Collaboration with the right people will ensure your program succeeds. Get training facilitators and content creators in the mix, not just sales leaders, as you will need their buy-in for the program to be accepted.
Focus on what will be most effective for the learner as you creatively think about the different elements of your onboarding.
Microsoft: Hector Rosales, Global Program Manager – Sales Onboarding
It was very interesting to learn how a behemoth like Microsoft has deployed their sales onboarding. Their approach was somewhat different from other companies in that they decided to go for a fully online experience with no classroom training. Microsoft developed their own learning platform (running on Microsoft Azure, of course) in which all sales reps have access to training programs.
Microsoft’s sales onboarding program focuses on sales, discipline and product fundamentals. They implemented an interesting framework called Manager Checkpoints that revolves around the following elements:
These three elements are foundational for sales managers to ensure the reps are managing their plans (territories, accounts, etc.), are pitching the solutions correctly and can drive towards closing the deals.
Don’t overwhelm reps in their first 90 days with too much information. Microsoft has condensed information that is important for the reps to know during onboarding but doesn’t want them to get too many details that are not relevant until they have fully onboarded. This ensures reps are still knowledgeable but not lost.
Checklists rule. Providing manager checklists can help with coaching sessions and ensures consistency and the ability to track progress.
Structure the onboarding experience. New reps will appreciate a guided approach to what they need to learn.
Use stories to highlight the importance of certain key elements for your sales pitch and sales situations.
Give managers visibility into “where’s my new hire and what do I need to do” – this is easily done with the right technology (and you don’t have to build it yourself).
Autodesk: Kriss Ryan, Program Manager, Global Sales Onboarding
Kriss from Autodesk gave us a more detailed look at how to involve sales managers during onboarding. Kriss created an “advisory group” that oversees the entire process from interviews of new hires, defining sales manager processes, elements of foundational learning and onboarding delivery. The advisory group was essential to get everyone in sync about the importance of sales onboarding and the crucial role managers play.
What also stood out was Autodesk’s Sales Management Bootcamp. This is a program designed with the sales manager in mind that had three modules:
Module 1: Creating early Engagement (how managers can stay connected with new hires from interview through the first 90 days)
Module 2: New Hire Expectations & Standards (establishing early how you manage and how you will measure your reps)
Module 3: Accelerating Time to Productivity (sales accelerator and onboarding bench development)
Module 4: “In/Outboard” (new hire progression to performance management and identification of reps that won’t make it)
Onboarding is not the same as orientation. This was a great point and some companies do make the mistake of thinking that the traditional HR orientation is the onboarding. Make sure to distinguish the two for your company.
Have your managers attend the sales onboarding. Having gone through the experience themselves will help to not only get their buy-in and feedback, they will be better able to coach reps and connect with them through the program.
Track, measure and communicate the success of your sales onboarding program. If improving onboarding can impact even 1% of revenue per employee, this is huge when you think about the cumulative effect to the bottom line. Find out what the right metric is for your company.
Treat sales managers as your customers. They are the fundamental piece for a successful onboarding.
Don’t be afraid to release “imperfection”. You can’t wait to have the perfect sales onboarding, so don’t waste time and course-correct.
HPE’s presentation was interesting as it focused on the key element that is on everyone’s mind when the talk is about sales onboarding: time to productivity.
How do you sell sales onboarding to senior management? What are the key metrics that will resonate with them?
Use sales numbers to sell your onboarding program.
If you don’t have sales experience, hire someone for your team that has that kind of experience or partner with someone that can provide that perspective.
Build a successful program by thinking about what will make it successful. For example, HPE devised the following framework
Business aligned and supported
Targeted recruiting and pre-boarding
Structured and comprehensive solutions
Formal productivity targets and metrics
End-to-end program management
Nutanix: Joan Morales, Senior Manager of Partner and Alliances Marketing, Cloudera: Phil Aaronson, Director of Global Onboarding and Readiness, Mindtickle: Mohit Garg, Co-Founder and CRO
This was a panel discussion and presentation from two hyper-growth companies (Nutanix went IPO just 4 weeks ago and Cloudera is on the IPO path) and Mindtickle. After talking about some industry stats, the discussion centered around sales competencies and onboarding for channel partners.
Define what sales competencies are important for your reps to succeed so that you can effectively measure onboarding success
Give reps the opportunity to go through a real-life scenario that forces them to think about all the different elements they will encounter in selling situation (pain discovery, technical questions, potential objections, etc.)
Make onboarding a fun, engaging and competitive. Gamification technology can help drive new sales reps and channel reps to not just go through content but pay attention as well.
Provide reps with learning paths and visual maps to tell them where they are, where they need to go and what will take to get there.
Have your best sales reps produce the content your new hires will consume. It will feel more authentic, earn their respect, and the reps that produce the content will help spread out the word about onboarding.
There were so many great learning that is difficult to capture all of them in a simple post, I hope this nuggets of information will give you some food for thought and help you create better sales onboarding.
where Sales Enablement leaders from some of the top companies in Silicon Valley shared their sales onboarding plans and their experiences in what proved to be an extremely productive discussion.
Here are part 1 of the key takeaways from each session. You can find part 2 here.
Autodesk: Julie Sokley, VP Global Sales Operations
Julie gave a great overview of the challenges she faced when taking over Sales Ops at Autodesk. She had to enable a team of over 250 sales reps globally. Her approach followed three key elements: Processes, productivity, and people.
Focusing on the “people” element, she established a sales methodology, built out a hub-based selling approach and created a sales onboarding program.
Think about structuring your sales onboarding into three phases:
Before you join
While you are here
Pre-work is important. Autodesk gives new sales hires 50 hours of pre-work.
Autodesk transitioned from product-based selling to pain-point selling, which contributed to their growth. How are your teams approaching selling situations?
Don’t send sales reps data, send them stories. This was a critical takeaway as we sometimes get so focused on data that we forget that you need compelling stories to change sales behaviors.
Focus on the “why” of training, not the “what”. This will help you get executive buy-in and involvement in sales onboarding.
Google: Jen Bradburn, Sales Training and Development Lead
For the past ten years, Jen has led sales training programs at Google for different groups. During her presentation, she explained how she has changed the sales onboarding for new Google sales reps from a pure online and self-serve experience to interactive and case-study based training. The use of real scenarios during the onboarding program has helped prepare and give reps the confidence they need to work on deals as soon as their onboarding is over.
Use real sales scenarios and make them interactive case studies for the reps, so they can apply the theory into real sales situations.
By overloading the reps with the information they would face in a live selling scenario you can simulate what they would encounter in real life and assess their selling skills.
Reps face many surprises in real life, so how can you add those dynamics during onboarding? Google reorganizes the teams going through onboarding so the reps have to scramble and form new teams as they work on case studies which mimic challenges they will have in real situations.
Google has designed their sales onboarding with a mix of 50/50 instruction and practice. Find the right balance for your organization.
LinkedIn: Amy Borsetti, Global Director of Sales Effectiveness; Naomi Davidson, Sr. Operations Mgr of Sales Effectiveness; Thomas Igeme, Sales Effectiveness Strategy & Innovations Lead; Jade Bonacolta, Strategy, Innovation & Analytics Associate
Four people from LinkedIn led an incredibly interesting session focusing on data-driven sales coaching, which aims to address the most important question in everyone’s mind:
Are sales reps truly ramping effectively?
Amy had a great slide that said:
“Successful onboarding calls for mutual accountability across sales effectiveness and sales managers”
She talked about the importance of involving sales managers during onboarding and beyond. The new sales onboarding at LinkedIn also has a different approach, focusing on five phases:
Phase 1: Structured pre-work
Phase 2: Classroom-based simulation
Phase 3: Role-based sales clinics and leader-led series
Phase 4: Sales coaching
Phase 5: Success program for under-performers
They also have an interesting approach in which they talk about “Learning Quota” (Phase 1 and 2), “Behavioral Quota” (Phase 3) and “Sales Quota” (Phase 4 and 5).
But the most impactful change the team at LinkedIn did was related to sales coaching. They deployed a “Coaching for Gold” program to train sales managers on how to coach. It explained why to coach, how to coach, and who to coach. They also taught managers the difference between teaching, coaching, and mentoring and implemented a tracking tool to help them record and track their coaching sessions.
Approach your onboarding program with the different types of quotes in mind and create KPIs for each phase. You want to identify reps that are not going to be a good fit early on.
Focus on your B players. LinkedIn saw the best results in terms of lift in performance from their B players.
Managers should prioritize coaching efforts and identify the reps who need the most. In fact for reps that received 3 or more coaching sessions on the same competency the lift in quota attainment was up to 14% more than before. That’s a huge impact on revenue.
Identify what are the core competencies every rep needs to master and document it and measure how each one impacts results.
Build a culture of coaching at your company starting with senior level executive sponsorship so that it becomes a habit for all sales managers.
Zenefits: Elizabeth Pierce, Director of Training and Enablement
Elizabeth walked us through the sales onboarding program at Zenefits and the technology they rely on to get reps up to speed. From pitching, flashcards, quizzes, and more, the sales reps are fully supported by a variety of technology tools that help them ramp up faster.
At Zenefits she implemented a 70:20:10 learning model that splits the time reps spent on different learning activities:
70%: Experience (immersion, experiential learning, learn and develop through experience)
20: Exposure (social learning, learning, and development through others, feedback, and coaching)
10%: Education (formal learning, learning and development through structured courses and programs, in-house and outsourced training and e-learning)
Leverage the technology your reps are comfortable with. At Zenefits most of the new hires are millennials and use SnapChat, so they created specific training that leverages the platform the team is comfortable with. It also has the added benefit of giving them 24 hours to see and act on a video or other training component. Very creative!
Link sales reward with certification. By linking opportunities in SFDC with sales certification, they ensure reps can only see sales opportunities if they keep their sales certification up to date (as soon as their certification expires, they lose visibility into new opportunities).
Ramp time needs to match the company’s stage. Startups can’t wait 9 months for a rep to be fully ramped. Your ramp time needs to acknowledge your company’s stage in growth and lifecycle.
Use ongoing assessments in the form of short quizzes to keep reps on top of their game and share the data with the sales manager so they have full visibility.
MongoDB is the database for giant ideas. It offers the best features of traditional databases while providing the flexibility, scale, and performance that modern applications require. It is known for helping its customers gain a competitive advantage by leveraging information and technology. It helps customers reduce their risk for mission-critical deployments and accelerates their time to value, enabling them to bring new and interesting apps to market faster. It also dramatically reduces the total cost of ownership across an organization by harnessing the innovations of the NoSQL world and maintaining the core tenets of relational databases.
The company is expanding globally and hiring new sales staff to keep up with its phenomenal growth trajectory. It is seeking more enterprise-ready salespeople to help more organizations leverage their product to scale faster and achieve success.
Maintaining sales effectiveness is a challenge
The key challenge MongoDB faces as it scales is maintaining the effectiveness of its sales team,
“We have to have a very effective onboarding program and support sales to be more effective, be more productive. That’s the main goal and that’s our focus,”
outlines Jeremy Powers who heads up Sales Enablement for the company.
“The goal is to provide the sales team with an in-depth understanding of the industry, our customers, our technology and our solution sets. We then build upon that baseline and knowledge to equip our reps to consistently qualify for opportunities and getting and setting great meetings with the right people. Then ultimately prepare them to engage in highly effective, highly valuable conversations with prospects. Ultimately we want to arm our sales team to not only differentiate themselves based on what we sell but also based on how they sell and how they interact with the customer. We want to provide an environment through our onboarding program where they can practice these things and really receive feedback, valuable feedback as part of the process,”
Onboarding, advanced training, and analytics are key to sales effectiveness
MongoDB has taken a three-pronged approach that leverages technology to maintain and improve the sales effectiveness of its sales team.
Onboarding sets the baseline
MongoDB has established a 30, 60 and 90-day onboarding program. In their first month, new hires attend a week-long boot camp. Prior to attending the Bootcamp the new hires use Mindtickle to read up on pre-work so they have a baseline knowledge before attending in-person training.
“We have tried to put participants in the best possible position to succeed and get the most out of the training, the pre-work really provides a great foundation upon which they can build,”
“It introduces new folks to all kinds of things: the industry, our customers, what we sell and how we sell it. It’s a very comprehensive program that also allows them to do missions that are really effective and provides an opportunity for sales reps to really try things on, have them record themselves delivering a customer success story or proof points.”
Mindtickle is then leveraged to deliver follow-up courses and advanced training, along with new product releases and information to keep sellers up to date.
Advanced sales training brings in real-world learnings
Everyone undertakes advanced sales training within their first 6 months. This is a three-day comprehensive deep dive that builds on their onboarding and learnings from the real world. This boot camp style training is delivered by a cross-functional group that includes executives, sales leaders, product marketing and the sales enablement team.
“We’ve really made the choice, as a company, to make a significant investment in our time and our resources, in order to provide a great development opportunity for our sales team. In fact, we ran the numbers on this and we spent over 6 times the industry average on developing our sellers and that is something we are really proud of,”
Mindtickle is leveraged again in the advanced training to deliver relevant content, conduct missions and deliver feedback to management and the sales enablement team.
Accountability and constant evaluation keep the team on track
To help keep reps accountable MongoDB leverages Mindtickle’s functionality.
“We really believe in setting clear expectations and a standard of accountability and this like anything else really starts with the sales leaders. We refer to it as leading from the front,”
“When we look at performance to really evaluate how can we move the needle with specific sales teams and sales reps, objectively we have been able to gauge the degree to which folks really understand and complete the pre-work and quizzes through Mindtickle. We can leverage things called missions in which we have reps record themselves delivering customer success stories that they learn or delivering a standard pitch. We get feedback and managers can also see how someone’s tracking.”
“In Bootcamp we have an entrance exam to kick things off and the much anticipated final exam towards the end of the week. These things give us a really good sense of, Is this sinking in? Is it sticking?”
“There is a feedback mechanism that we have in place to capture all this data and anecdotal stuff as well, and then feed that into the follow-up process. In terms of adoption and reinforcement, we leverage Mindtickle in a spaced learning concept keeping the contents and concepts top of mind.”
New hire ramp-up time has reduced from 11 to 5 months
This comprehensive program has really started to deliver results for MongoDB, allowing them to reduce their ramp-up time for new hires from over 11 months to just 5 months.
“I think the thing that really set us apart is being able to identify where people are struggling, giving them the support they need, and keeping things recent and relevant. Staying up with new things, new and interesting and great things that we are releasing in the product that address more and more customer problems. Helping them to achieve business outcomes and really being able to attach to that and enable reps to have great conversations. We really find that this process dramatically improved our onboarding,”
By using the data within Mindtickle MongoDB has been able to provide data to its managers that give them the ability to really focus in on how to improve the effectiveness of each individual rep.
“The great part about it [Mindtickle] is that we are able to take all the data points like the exams and the minor feedbacks from the final presentations and really give managers some great direction. Hey what are the key things that you need to focus on, where are the knowledge gaps, and really equipping and arming them to have a great targeted approach in how they coach and develop their teams,”
Listen nowto hear how Besecker has created a customer-centric perspective to sales enablement to Qualtrics.
In this 16-minuteinterview Besecker outlines:
How to put customer experience at the core of your sales enablement strategy;
What a “white gloves” onboarding experience includes; and
How to improve the sales enablement experience of your reps.
To download or subscribe to the Sales Excellence podcast login to Soundcloud, Stitcher, iTunes or find it here.
“One of the mistakes that a lot of companies are starting to kind of fall into is really just death by complexity,” observes Charlie Besecker.
As head of Qualtrics’ global enablement function, his focus is simple, “You’ve got a group of insanely engaged, motivated, ambitious people that are smart and angry. What can we do to make this entire process more efficient and ultimately more effective?”
Qualtrics is the leading customer experience software, and it lives and breathes its customers first approach right down to how it enables its sales force. “Our success is directly correlated with the satisfaction of our customers. We don’t succeed if they don’t renew and if they don’t love our product and love the experience they have with Qualtrics then they won’t renew. And so that’s why we don’t really talk about Qualtrics’ success in sales without the other being the success of our customers,” explains Besecker.
This approach permeates all aspects of its enablement strategy from professional development to the onboarding experience of its new hires. Besecker has termed the latter a “white gloves” experience. “The whole white gloves concept is really akin to some of the finest hotels that you can visit, where we are attempting to anticipate that wants and needs of our new hires before they realize those needs themselves.”
This post is based on a podcast on Avalara’s five levels of sales certification. You can listen to the entire podcast
Avalara is the leading provider of sales tax compliance technology. The company has been growing aggressively, achieving an average growth each year of between 40% and 60%. Its sales team has become increasingly complex as it has grown; 325 salespeople are located across the 3 major offices in the US, internationally in Europe and Asia, and with some remote roles working from home offices across the country.
There are five distinct sales roles within the sales team that each have their own unique challenges. The diversity of the team adds to the complexity of their sales enablement requirements.
According to Chuck Marcouiller, Director of Sales Learning,
“Avalara aspires to have the most successfully, highly skilled sales force in the software as a service technology sector. For us sales excellence really is having a marketplace leading highly capable sales force, creating customers at a rate that meets or exceeds our growth plan. For us, sales enablement is providing the training and tools that meet the salesforce’ needs to meet the needs of our customers and adapt to the ever-changing marketplace dynamic.”
Avalara faced three challenges when enabling its sales teams
When Marcouiller first started the business two years ago he was faced with several challenges.
The onboarding program was inadequate
The onboarding program was originally just a week-long course. It was conducted in person and supplemented with periodic webinars. This was not sufficient to convey the necessary knowledge, engage the sales team and ensure that they remembered and could apply the messages.a
Building progressive sales skills
The business has identified different core competencies that they required from their sales team. These include marketplace skills, business acumen, sales skills, product skills and knowledge of their sales tools. Avalara’s challenge was finding a way to progress their new hires through the different levels of competency so that they could become capable and consistent sales performers.
Creating consistent messages across multiple sales teams
Managing five different sales forces with different skill sets and needs is challenging. But the key enablement issue is making sure that each team had the same look and feel from a customer perspective. This consistent messaging was considered essential to the business’ success.
The technology was key to solving Avalara’s challenges
Avalara implemented several initiatives to achieve its goals.
Use technology to engage the team in learning
“One of the first things that I knew that I had to implement two years ago was a sales enablement platform or a technology tool that would allow us to efficiently capture and deliver learnings in bite sized nuggets, meaning somewhere between a YouTube video and a Ted talk. Because great sales people are, I’ve found over time and include myself in this, are attention deficit children. You got to keep it short, sweet and focused otherwise we’re going to lose interest,”
With these requirements in mind, Avalara chose Mindtickle for its ease of use and ability to deliver updates and information in quick and easily digestible formats, including audio and video.
“It’s far more efficient to have an online video that people can use to learn the base concepts then to run small classes that meet everyone’s schedule. Humans are the most expensive component and we adopted a phrase of “record once, learn many times to then only get a chance to sit in front of a live instructor,”
Implement five levels of competencies
The next step was to implement a learning program that met their needs, progressing sales people through Avalara’s competencies.
“We’ve developed 5 levels to certification,”
“The first level is when something is brand new the most efficient way to teach someone or help share information to someone is through a recording. Because we learned from study after study if you make a learning module somewhere between a YouTube video and Ted talk people will sit down and learn when they have the ability to learn, and it’s a great way to get the information out. If they want to refresh they can go back and hear the recording at any time.”
This is delivered to sales reps on their mobile devices via the Mindtickle app.
“The second level is after you put the sales enablement course out there, you have to have a test to make sure that they learned and were actually paying attention to the course and they got the key learning objectives,”
explains Marcouiller. He chose Mindtickle because of its ability to conduct tests online that reinforce the key learning objectives of the course.
Only once the test is passed is a rep considered ready for live instruction. “
Because sales is a contact sport we want to make sure that our sales people can take the learnings, be it the product or sales skill, and actually execute it and use it. So what we wanted to do was have an online testing tool. In order to be able to test this process and make sure we could listen to their talk track, see their demos, listen to their ability to handle objections, and then have them rehearse that and then evaluate that,”
Mindtickle was chosen for its role play capability so reps could demonstrate their demos and objection handling. Detailed analytics allows the sales enablement team to identify which reps are competent with the material and whether any are struggling with some parts of the course and require additional time or support.
Once an individual has passed this phase they’re ready to do a live role-play in front of their manager. Once they’ve passed this stage they’re ready for the final stage and are certified to sell. This process has ensured the consistency of their sales team
Avalara is a leader in leveraging sales enablement for its competitive advantage
By leveraging technology for its sales enablement initiatives Avalara now has an onboarding program that engages its new hires while bringing them up to the requisite level of baseline knowledge quickly.
Each member of their sales team also has a clear path to progress their learning and management has an objective method of determining when an individual is ready to sell thanks to their five-level certification program.
Finally, everyone sings from the same song sheet at Avalara, regardless of the product or customer they are selling to. This means they portray a consistent and robust message to customers and prospects, clearly articulating the value of their product.
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