[Podcast] Glen Lally on the Future of Sales Enablement for Large Organizations: Episode 23

In this 14 minute

podcast Glen will outline:

  • How to achieve cross-functional alignment for your sales enablement initiatives
  • What to look for when evaluating sales enablement technology
  • How bot technology will transform sales enablement in the future

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Sales enablement means different things to different people. Some think of it as training and knowledge while others view it as being about developing sales capabilities or improving the overall effectiveness of their deals.

“My northern star when it comes to sales enablement is how do I enable people to transform an organization, to transform faster and better than they did before,”

states Glen Lally, Global Vice President of Enablement and Innovation for SAP.

“SAP is a large organization with 90,000 people, so we have multiple lines of business and each line of business has their own enablement function. It’s important to work cross-functionally with sales operations, with marketing, with the sales organization and put the field at the center of what you do. Understand what’s working and what’s not for them, and be that cross-functional partner that can bring all of these different pieces together to be successful,”

explains Glen.

“Netflix summed it up well by saying you need to be tightly aligned and loosely coupled.”

This, coupled with a growing sales stack, are some of the biggest challenges facing sales enablement leaders in large organizations when trying to enable their sales teams effectively.

The Missing Link in B2B Selling: Prescriptive Selling

B2B-sales-prescriptive-sellingWhile buyers have access to more information, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re equipped to make better decisions. In fact, all this information has the potential to overwhelm them, making it even harder to make a decision about a big purchase. The result is a prolonged decision making process and an elongated sales cycle.

Research by Corporate Executive Board has found that more information just means customers have more questions, with 65% spending as much time getting ready to speak to a sales rep as they’d anticipated the entire purchase process would take. When coupled with an increase in the number of decision makers – up from 5.4 to 6.8 people in the past two years – it’s even harder to get a decision.

This brings current selling techniques into question. While reps have been focused on responding to customers by giving them more information to help them make decisions, this reduces the ease of purchase by 18%. Whereas reps who are more prescriptive in their approach actually increase the purchase ease for their customers by 86%.

What is prescriptive selling?

Prescriptive selling involves making a recommendation to customers backed with reasons why it’s the best solution for them. This approach involves the rep demonstrating their understanding of the customer’s pain points and needs while offering a valuable solution. It’s proactive and makes it easier for the customer to purchase. It may even reduce the chances that the customer will regret the purchase later on.

And here’s the clincher – a supplier is 62% more likely to win a high-quality sale if they make purchasing easier for their buyers.

The key to prescriptive selling isn’t just about giving the customer a clear recommendation – it’s actually in the organization’s approach to selling. Sales organizations need to be more prescriptive in how their reps can convey these messages in their customer conversations.

So how do you start?

The starting point for any prescriptive selling approach is the customer’s journey. This journey must start before the customer is even aware of your organization or product. Because it’s at this early stage when they’re first bombarded with information and need a prescriptive approach to help guide them through their decision. This means each piece of content across all channels should have a prescriptive lens.

This approach then flows onto all aspects of the sales process. How reps approach conversations, how they articulate the value proposition, and how they deal with objections, should all be more prescriptive. They should all focus on how to help customers make a decision, rather than why they should purchase your product.

This approach also requires a more prescriptive approach to how your reps sell. While formal scripts are rarely appropriate in many complex sales situations, sales organizations should be more prescriptive about how their salespeople should approach different sales situations.

Don’t worry, consultative selling still has its place

While it may seem like prescriptive selling is moving away from the consultative approach to selling, and towards a more rigid sales process, it actually brings together the best of both approaches. Customers won’t respond to well something that feels like a hard sell. Rather they want a solution that meets their specific needs.

But salespeople can rely on more prescriptive content and diagnostic exercises that help customers pinpoint their needs. By providing reps with access to information and real-time training that helps them respond to a customer’s questions they can be more prescriptive and more consultative in how they sell.

The end result is a consistent sales approach. All reps sing from the same songbook, and the way they guide customers along their purchasing journey is similar. With everything tied to the customer’s own purchasing journey, it should also make the process easier for the customer. And as the research shows, the easier the purchasing journey the more chance of a positive decision.

While marketing content is one important part of this process, sales reps also need to be enabled with the tools and information they need to be prescriptive. That may include role plays to practice their messaging, on-demand feedback and coaching from their managers, success stories and examples from their peers, and up-to-date information that they can apply in their customer conversations.

This is a fundamental shift away from the traditional sales approach. No longer can reps just focus on how to get a customer to buy their product. Their role now is to help customers make a decision, full stop. Their customers will thank them for it, and so will their leaders.

The End of Sales Training As We Know it

Sales training as we know it has changed.

Sales roles are becoming more specialized. In B2B tech this is most prevalent with sales teams divided into Sales Development, Sales Engineering, Account Executives, and Account Managers. Within each of these groups, there is often further segmentation – based on account size, industry, and territory. The larger your sales team, the more specialized your roles are likely to be.

This type of segmentation helps with focus, productivity, and scale. When you dig deeper you find that sales reps are also grouped based on their individual performance – “A” players, “B” players and “C” players form the traditional bell-shaped curve.

While most companies do this and it is commonly accepted, one important element seems to ignore the different segments – sales training. Training is rarely tailored to suit the different needs of each segment of the sales organization.

Routine training sessions tend to be mandatory and pushed out to all reps at the same time. Sales kickoffs, whether annual or quarterly, are notorious for treating all reps the same. Forcing them to sit in a room for hours on end listening to the same sessions. And even sales onboarding programs tend to be structured for the masses. The entire class of new hires have the same training sessions and only break apart for separate sessions that are based on the rep’s main role (e.g. SDR vs AE).

These training sessions also rarely engage reps or require them to demonstrate outcomes. There may be a quick test at the end to make sure they heard everything, but it rarely provides any real information about whether the reps are sales ready for their specific role. We know sales reps thrive on outcomes – they chase revenue because they have targets, they use content because it helps accelerate deals – so why don’t we train them to sell better rather than just rote learning?

New technologies are more convenient for training. They enable on-demand and online training and give reps the ability to consume training content at their own pace. But this approach lacks a basic tenet of adult education – it needs to take into consideration the learner’s experience, background, and preferences (e.g. accessing training and content on mobile devices vs computer).

This means your top-performing reps should be treated differently to your middle performers when it comes to learning. But that’s not all. It’s also important to understand exactly what areas of improvement each person needs and how to improve their performance.

Mapping competencies in sales training and enablement initiatives

When it comes to sales enablement, the most mature companies have created specific models for sales competencies. These have been developed with full buy-in from the company’s leadership. They understand that an ideal sales rep has certain skill sets and follows particular behaviors, and have codified those into different categories. How reps are measured is also clearly communicated to them.

Taking each of these categories into consideration, enablement and training initiatives are then mapped to each category. It’s important to note that ‘training’ and ‘enablement’ are different and the sales team should be evaluated against each of them.

If you map each sales rep against the respective competency list for their specific role you can then identify if there are any gaps and start tailoring their training requirements and deliver specific training to address them. This means each rep will receive very specific training that they require to improve how they sell and excel. Reps that are already at the required competency level won’t have to participate in unnecessary training.

We have also seen companies take this to the next level by tying sales compensation to reps corresponding “sales readiness” levels.

Automating competency mapping

I know this all sounds great, but how do you actually implement something like this without hiring more staff? The answer lies in technology. Traditional LMS focus on solving the perennial HR problem of whether employees have completed their required courses. They tend to focus on compliance rather than building competencies.

Sales reps need to build specific sales competencies and leaders need to see how each directly contributes to revenue. That’s why sales readiness technologies have gained traction. They help companies transform their approach to sales training.  They can do this in several ways including:

  • Identify trends in sales performance: Using outcome-driven analytics your leaders can see how teams are performing against specific sales competencies and identify trends. For example, see what kind of information or training teams have completed (like commercial insights, negotiating techniques or pricing), and determine which of these are translating into more sales.
  • Identifying competency gaps: Using analytical tools that allow you to drill down into regions, territories and even individual sales reps, you can see whether there are any gaps in sales competencies or if perhaps there are other areas that need to be addressed.
  • See the big picture: Put all your training initiatives into one place – including role-plays and coaching initiatives – so you can have a precise picture of their combined impact in achieving the competency levels. This also allows you to identify opportunities to tweak or even create new programs.
  • Share insights and reports with sales leadership: It is easier to demonstrate what leaders need to do when you can show them hard data. By proactively sharing reports on gap analysis along with your suggestions for improvement, you can highlight how sales performance can be improved.
  • Demonstrate how training has improved sales: Overlay the reports on your training and enablement programs with pipeline and sales reports to show just what improvements the initiatives have made to topline revenue, your pipeline, and deals.

Sales readiness technology has the power to help your sales organization refocus your training toward sales competencies. This can dramatically change how your training is delivered, how your reps perceive sales training, and your sales team’s overall performance.

The end of traditional sales training is nigh and successful companies are already riding this new wave of competency-based dynamic training. It’s helping them scale their sales teams and enabling them to beat the competition. Are you ready to jump onboard?