6 Reasons Your Managers Need Sales Leadership Coaching


We know that sales coaching is an important part of sales management. It helps your reps become better salespeople overall, improves their skills, increases their engagement with your organization and, of course, improves your topline revenue. Studies have found that effective sales coaching programs can improve sales reps’ performance by up to 20%. But many managers actually don’t know how to coach well. Despite their abundance of experience as a rep, the promotion to a management role doesn’t always come hand-in-hand with specialized training.

Effective sales coaching isn’t about occasionally auditing your reps’ activities, or giving some in-person feedback every once in a while, but about building a regular cadence to provide useful, insightful and specific coaching in areas where individual reps need help. After all, coaching sales reps can be tricky for management because each individual has unique areas that they excel and others where they need extra guidance.

Here’s the thing: Sales Development Reps (SDRs) are one of the fastest growing teams inside B2B sales organizations. But when you look at some of the data about these specialized sellers you find out that over 80% of them have less than 2 years of experience and their average tenure at companies is 1.5 years, according to the Bridge Group.

This presents a few challenges for sales managers. First, very inexperienced sales hires require a lot of information about industry, processes, methodologies and overall basic sales knowledge than your tenured salesperson, and their short tenures mean you will be constantly onboarding new sales development reps which may strain your onboarding program but most importantly, you need to ensure extremely short ramp times.

To best enable the SDR team you have to think of your enablement program as more than just onboarding. Having a great sales onboarding program is great and the best way to ensure quick success for the SDR but think of it more holistically including:

  • Ongoing knowledge reinforcement
  • Experiential training and practicing
  • Coaching and career development

For example, if your rep has five areas where they need coaching, how do you know if their sales managers can address every single one? And how do you prepare your managers to find these gaps in the first place? Perhaps they’re great at pipeline management but struggle when it comes to deal coaching.

Given the breadth of the role of sales manager, it’s simply not possible for them to know how to coach sales reps on everything. But, just like their reps, they need sales leadership coaching so they can fill their own gaps.

Look in the “too hard” basket

Another issue that all sales leaders deal with at one point or another is “avoidance”. If something is difficult to do, or someone simply doesn’t know where to start, it’s much easier to put it in the “too hard” basket and forget about it until something bad happens.

Trying to coach sales reps only in adversity, like when they’ve just lost a big deal, is hard for both the manager and the rep. After all, no one wants attention just because they haven’t done their best, and coaching isn’t about yelling at someone for not performing. It’s about encouraging and developing reps to be their best.

That’s why it’s sales leadership coaching is so necessary; it’s important to ensure sales managers are coached to provide their teams with the skills and behaviors they need,  proactively rather than reactively.

So what exactly is sales leadership coaching?

Before we get into the detail of how to help your sales managers learn how to coach their reps, it’s important to differentiate between coaching, training, and managing.

  • Management is about overseeing things and making sure they stay on track.
  • Training focuses on learning new knowledge.
  • Coaching is about developing skills, improving performance and/or changing behaviors.

Sales coaching is the ongoing, one-on-one mentorship of each rep on a sales team. It is a conversation between the rep and a coach, where the rep does most of the talking while the coach listens, observes, and offers feedback.

It’s not about telling someone what to do, but about helping them look at different ways to achieve better results. When done well, sales coaching can drive sales’ productivity and effectiveness.

1. Develop a coaching framework

The first step in helping managers learn how to become an effective sales coach is to develop a sales coaching framework. But beware, there is no one-size-fits-all solution because every business is different. To work out what your coaching framework should include why not ask your sales reps what they need. Speak to your sales managers to find out what they would find useful, and ask your executives about the overall objectives.

This information can then be used to build your aX + bY + cZ formula for effective sales coaching. This framework is tailored to your organization’s needs while ensuring you cover the necessary aspects of sales coaching including knowledge, messaging, sales skills, process, and execution rigor and discipline. While no sales coaching program will be identical, it’s critical that each ensures that managers have:

  • The knowledge required to coach in all the areas
  • The skills to actually coach
  • The tools required to build a cadence for coaching
  • The discipline to execute the coaching framework consistently

2. Put the sales coach into training

Once you’ve identified the key areas that your salespeople need coaching, you’ll need to identify whether your managers have the requisite skills. The best way to ensure managers have the knowledge and skills to coach is to provide them with formal training. There are many ways this can be done, from formal in-class training to peer to peer learning.

Football coaches have to be certified before they get to coach players. In fact, the process for certifying a football coach is thorough, with several levels, depending on the experience of the coach and the level of the players they seek to coach. It should be the same for sales coaches.

One of the most effective ways to coach is to give both the reps and their managers the same information and knowledge and make sure they are certified in key areas. This ensures they have the same baseline knowledge, and the certification ensures they have absorbed the information and are able to apply it.

For example, one of our customers, a high growth tech company was launching a new product and wanted to ensure their sales team delivered a consistent message to prospects. To enable their sales managers to coach sales reps through this they first certified them on how to sell the product themselves. This ensured that they knew exactly what the reps had to do, and when combined with their own experience and skills were prepared to coach their teams effectively.

When this approach is complemented by guidance on how to coach, it can be powerful.

Provide live examples to managers on how to have coaching conversations. Help them understand what they should be looking for and what areas to focus in on for the greatest impact. Provide them with the opportunity to role-play their coaching so they can play it back and learn from it.

3. Leverage reporting and tools

All the training and practicing in the world won’t be of any use to a sales manager if they’re going into their coaching sessions blind. That’s where good reporting on the right things is critical. When determining what they should be coaching sales reps on, most managers just look at lagging indicators like pipeline activity and what deals reps have won or lost. But this doesn’t always provide enough useful data. That’s where efficiency and capability indicators are important.

While effectiveness indicators look at the behaviors that sales reps can demonstrate to drive lagging indicators. Coaching is about behaviors, not quotas, this qualitative information needs to be available to managers so they know what to coach on.

This information can be identified by bringing together information from several places, whether it’s from a CRM, sales enablement software or competitive intel. The key is giving managers the tools that can help them identify which indicators to look at and access to get the right information.

For example, if you’re looking at what the indicators are for salespeople who win deals, your sales enablement software can provide you with information on what content your best reps are accessing before a big meeting. This may provide data about what behaviors are correlative with winning deals, and in turn what behaviors may need to change in order to improve the results of some of your reps.

With useful data-driven reports in hand, managers are able to identify what specific areas individual reps require coaching in, and start working on improving their behaviors and results.

4. Mentor the coach

With the right tools, your sales managers will be much better equipped to coach. But they will still need to learn how to use tools to achieve the best effect. One of the best ways to learn coaching is to learn from peers. Your sales reps buddy up, so why not “buddy up” your sales managers? With role models to help mentor and demonstrate good practice, managers will be able to ask questions and share their knowledge with their peers.

While mentoring and buddying is usually a one-on-one activity, you can encourage collaboration and peer-to-peer learning amongst the management team by bringing them together. Some of our customers have organized manager workshops that give sales managers the opportunity to share what works and what doesn’t in a supportive and collaborative environment.

It’s also a great idea to encourage managers to share their coaching wins with the entire sales team. This has a dual impact for allowing the sales organization to learn from what works, and also demonstrates the value of coaching to any skeptics.

5. Provide regular feedback from executives

If your organization has a sales coaching culture then your sales leadership will want to know how your sales managers are performing. Rather than observing from afar, they should be encouraged to see how managers are coaching regularly and provide their own feedback and insight to the team or when appropriate, even individuals. By getting involved they can demonstrate just how important the sales coaching program is to the success of their sales team, and in doing so, boost engagement in the process.

6. Incentivize successful coaches

Along with executive buy-in, rewards and incentives are another good way to engage sales managers. While successful sales managers are incentivized when their team meets quota, how often are good sales coaches recognized or incentivized?

Consider adding in a coaching specific incentive to your KPIs for encouragement for those who learn how to coach well. When used as part of a structured coaching program, these six steps will ensure that you give your sales managers the knowledge, skills, and discipline to coach consistently.

Concluding thoughts

Ultimately, more than helping SDRs craft an email or hone their pitch, sales enablement training for a manager can help them coach their reps based on the competency model that was developed (or recruit the managers to help craft it). Part of the problem most companies face is not giving good guidance for managers on what to coach their teams on and ensuring all managers are consistently coaching their teams on an ongoing basis. While this can be tricky to implement initially, some organizations turn to Coaching Reports in the form of an Excel file, Word document or similar which although well-intentioned end up being a burden for the managers and makes it difficult for the enablement team when it comes time to compile information and glean insights from it.

Finally, technology here can help as well. With the ability to create electronic coaching forms that follow a competency profile and different online forms for different coaching situations you can ensure managers are all following the same guidance and the data collected can be analyzed and shared back with the managers to show them how their teams are doing in their expected competencies as well as guide the managers to where more coaching is needed.

The ultimate takeaway here is that it’s extremely important to treat your sales manager training differently from all others –making sure to tailor each program to the needs of your particular reps based on their experience, tenure, and skill level will help your managers’ coaching significantly both in the short and the long run.

5 Reasons to Modernize Sales Enablement

As the pressure of digitization on sales functions has ratcheted up in the past couple of years, companies are taking another look at modernizing sales enablement – for good reason. Among them:

Selling is getting harder.

Fewer reps are hitting their quotas. According to a recent article by Forbes, 57% of sales reps missed their quotas in the last year – concluding overall that what’s truly hindering sales’ success is the lack of cohesion between departments and the way new sellers are being introduced to the product.

Onboarding is taking longer.

With today’s complex product lines and ever-changing business models, it can take as much as nine months to ramp up new reps.

Buyers are bypassing sales for the information they need.

Customers often complete as much as 70 percent of their journey from their own research, according to industry estimates.

Faced with these challenges, companies are increasingly seeing sales enablement as a strategic imperative that’s vital the sales organizations success. The stage is set for a new kind of sales enablement. For hard-pressed sales organizations, it can’t come soon enough.

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is a catch-all phrase with many meanings. But more importantly, what is its purpose?

The idea of training new sales reps, or any other customer-facing employees, to align their objectives with the company’s goals and gain insight to be successful is not a new concept. Knowledge of product(s), brand, and the competitive landscape is imperative to their quickly becoming effective. In the search for continued revenue growth, companies have sought to better equip and prepare those on the front lines of revenue generation: sales teams.

The goal has been, and continues to be, to enable them to reach quota as quickly as possible and consistently, thus the creation of sales enablement. However, as the state of sales enablement constantly changes in scope, it’s needless to say that there’s yet to be a single, universally adopted definition.

Here are a few takes:

  • Search Google and you’ll find, “modern sales enablement is the enablement of sales teams with information, tools, and content that help salespeople sell more effectively.” A more visionary definition of sales enablement from SiriusDecisions explains, “Enablement’s purpose is to ensure salespeople have the skills, knowledge, behaviors, and tools needed to engage [buyers, team, other] in rich conversations.”
  • Forrester Research says, “Sales enablement is 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 on investment of the selling system.”

When Forrester Research asks, “What is sales enablement?” they characterize it with the idea that companies should put their customers upfront. Putting customers first is an excellent approach to creating your sales enablement initiatives. That said, it’s just as important to determine whether your business needs a dedicated sales enablement manager, a big decision for any company.

No matter its current definitions, sales enablement has come a long way in the last five years towards helping sales teams perform better. Reps today are more comfortable in competitive environments, as well as those which sometimes require more complex strategic sales motions.

At the same time, engaging with today’s highly informed and ever-more scrutinizing customers requires salespeople to retain and effectively use ever-more knowledge, skills, and behaviors.

While sales enablement is designed to help sales turn more opportunities into revenue, most traditional sales enablement solutions cannot show how programs correlate to individual outcomes.

What most don’t realize is that there are huge, previously untouched areas where enablement solutions (tools, platforms, and best practice methodologies) can bring more value and revenue to companies.

What Gartner has to say about sales enablement

Companies, both purposefully and accidentally, are missing some useful and obvious strategies. This short-sightedness also applies to sales consultants and training or learning tools vendors –all of whom have implemented or offered otherwise great technology for sales enablement. Let’s take a look at some numbers behind these pain points. Here are some key statistics Gartner recently shared at their conference about the complex reality of most salespeople today:

  • Customers are more complex: over 6 people are typically involved in B2B purchases with over 3 different functions represented.
  • Product complexity: the product portfolio that sellers represent have increased in size by 2.3 times, and only 37% of sellers find it easy to customize their offerings.
  • Internal complexity: sellers have reported that 16.4% of the sales cycle is spent on internal approvals and only 24% of sellers can easily calculate their variable compensation.

What the figures above tell is a story of increased difficulty and complexity for the salesperson in your average B2B company. Now add the picture above with the new reality of how salespeople develop their skills, according to Gartner:

  • 58% of sellers develop their skills through their colleagues
  • 35% of skills sellers use today were acquired in the last year
  • 66% of sellers expect most learning and development to occur outside the classroom
  • 60% of sellers expect to learn and develop just-in-time

Traditional training programs and methods are falling short of the expectations and needs of sellers today and leaving much to be desired. The facts presented by Gartner point in a few different directions as well:

  • Managers are more than ever required to be involved and help drive sales learning and coaching
  • Onboarding programs have to adapt to the new realities of today’s sellers and better enable them to help buyers during their journeys
  • Manager enablement is a critical need to help managers have better conversations, give feedback, identify seller skills gaps, and have career conversations with their reps

Most sales enablement teams would agree that the biggest problem or obstacle they face when rolling out programs is getting managers to spend time with their sellers and with the programs.

The key takeaway? Working with managers to show the impact that their actions can have in sales performance is one of the most important action items in your next sales enablement playbook.

If you have a platform that allows you to measure your sales team’s “readiness” and you can show managers the skill gaps identified through the different initiatives rolled out, you’ll have a much easier conversation when it comes to implementation of a new sales enablement strategy. Regardless of technology, the first step is changing the frontline managers’ mindsets and presenting them with a strong case for enablement.

What modernizing sales enablement programs can do for you

The goal of modern sales enablement is straightforward: to help you and your team win more and bigger deals.

“Sales enablement optimizes the selling motion in order to increase pipeline, move opportunities forward and win bigger deals more efficiently to drive profitable growth.” – Sales Enablement Society

It helps achieve that goal through three its three core capabilities. In short, sales enablement:

  • Helps sellers build out skill sets to deliver phenomenal customer experience. It personalizes, gamifies, coaches, and provides micro-learning modules to deliver resonant and memorable experiences that help sellers master and operationalize new skills.
  • Combines a modern enablement platform with best-practice methodologies. Sellers need a digital solution that they can access anytime, on any device. Modern platforms’ design is informed with industry-leading insights on how acquired skills translate into revenue production and customer engagement.
  • Shows the connection between actions and outcomes. Modern sales enablement platforms harness artificial intelligence and data-driven analytics so you can see how your programs are improving sellers’ capabilities. You can identify knowledge gaps where you might want to do some coaching. The platform provides a clear picture of how sales capabilities impact sales performance and business outcomes.

So without further ado, here are the top five reasons you should consider modernizing your sales readiness programs.

1. Business is in a high growth phase

Many businesses experiencing high-growth tend to deal with business challenges that are right in front of them. Usually when business is booming it’s easy to forget about the longer term future. This short-sightedness can cause major headaches down the road, particularly when there are no streamlined processes in place to track personal or business performance.

Referring to an HBR blog Science of Building a Scalable Sales Team, Mark Roberge from Hubspot points out the importance of taking a disciplined approach when training salespeople so that everyone has good foundational selling skills. According to Mark the result at Hubspot stated that “our salespeople are able to connect on a far deeper level with our prospects and leads”, a process that has consistently resulted in high growth.

2. New sales reps take a long time to meet quotas

Hiring new sales reps is a significant investment for any company, and the longer they take to onboard and ramp up, the more money burned.

“According to Aberdeen Research, companies that adopt best practices across their sales teams had double the quota attainment of their peers. Each sales enablement program that gives a rep more time for core selling nets more revenue. Each best practice program that makes reps more effective translates into topline improvement”.

Modernizing sales readiness programs will help each member of the sales team achieve peak performance. Therefore, sales enablement programs should always include finding ways to improve sales reps’ efficiency and effectiveness with prospects so they can meet their quotas and keep on performing into the future.

3. Sales reps spend too much time on non-selling tasks

The primary job of any sales rep is to continually work on their sales process, generating and qualifying leads, conducting sales demos and closing deals. If Anytime they’re not on these selling tasks it’s usually unproductive, and a poor use of a valuable resource.

“To increase sales productivity, you have to reduce or eliminate tasks that aren’t productive.”- Nancy Nardin

Modernizing the sales readiness programs with a data driven sales enablement platform will help your organization have vision into the sales process and identify how it can help reduce non-selling tasks and increase efficiency across the entire process.

4. Need to increase individual sales quotas next year

According to CSO Insights, 94.5% of firms they surveyed said they were raising quotas. If you too are planning to increase quotas, then you’re going to need a new strategy and a new set of sales enablement tools to get more out of your sales team. A dedicated sales enablement manager should help to ensure that your sales reps be well trained regarding your customers’ needs, be up to date with industry and product news, have the necessary tools and information available with them when they need it. As CSO Insights discovered.

As CSO Insights discovered that the key to achieving higher quotas with the same sales team is to keep your sales team well trained and ready with a new set of skill.

5. Marketing efforts aren’t helping sales sell

If you are increasing your marketing budgets but that’s not translating into helping sales sell more, then having a sales enablement manager could be the reason. A significant part of marketing’s role is to create sales collateral for each persona for every stage of the buyer’s journey, so, it’s crucial that both sales and marketing are aligned and work closely together.

A sales enablement manager can help bridge the gap between marketing deliverables and what the sales team needs. Working with both sales and marketing can make a difference in sales ability to provide valuable content and collateral to customers. For example, the HubSpot sales enablement team sits with the sales reps but reports through to the marketing.

Why change?

To sum up, moving in a direction of a revamped, modernized sales enablement program has the potential to completely turn things around when it comes to your team and their sales readiness. A comprehensive and collaborative approach to sales enablement just might be that secret ingredient when it comes to revamping the way your organization tackles – and wins – sales deals.

Ultimately, here’s what a modern sales enablement platform do for your organization:

  • Accelerate and enhance onboarding to telescope time-to-productivity
  • Coach sellers in the exact areas where they need help
  • Energize your meetings and kickoffs to propel profitability
  • Build sellers’ confidence and effectiveness through guided role-play
  • Track and accelerate business outcomes through reporting and analytics
  • Build reps’ skills through tailored, highly engaging learning and development activities
  • Help sales leaders to make their skills go viral, company-wide.

Let’s Catch Up at Dreamforce!

It’s hard to believe that another Dreamforce is already upon us. While the memories of rocking out to U2 are still fresh, we’re raring and ready to blaze a new trail this year. As veterans, we know Dreamforce is exhilarating but equally exhausting.  Between booth dating, session racing, and, of course, cocktailing, all you want to do is put your feet up and have some time out.

We’re here to save you

We’ve lined up some fabulous havens where you can take a load off, and we’d love you to drop by. So, as you enjoy some delicious drinks and bites, let us show you what “great” looks like when it comes to building a world-class sales enablement program.
Most enablement technology drives efficiency but it takes a lot more than efficiency to win consistently today. We’re about making sure your sales team are as confident and capable as they can possibly be when it counts. We’ve got a range of options to suit whatever takes your fancy, and we guarantee that you’ll leave feeling physically and mentally refreshed. Here’s where you can find us:

Eat, Sit, Drink: The Future of Sales Lounge

Future of sales loungeThese couches sure look inviting, don’t they? They’re waiting for you on the ground floor of the Marriott Marquis. It’s a fabulous spot and you can register to attend here. While it would be nice to know you’re coming, you’ll still be welcome if you come by without registering.

Sales Enablement Soiree

This is the hottest ticket in town. Specifically for sales enablement leaders, thought leaders will be sharing insights and best practices and great solutions will be featured.
This exciting event also offers the opportunity to network with your peers and meet us, of course. The Soiree will be held on 8 November at the Four Seasons. It’s advisable to register to attend here, but you can always take your chances and drop by.

Speed date with us

Our dance card is open so come and meet us at either Booth 240 or 1734. If you’re after a chat, a demo, and a complimentary pair of VR glasses, then we’re a sure thing!

Happy Hour

Join us for cocktails and let your hair down at one of San Francisco’s renowned Latin fusion restaurants. We’ll be there for happy hour on November 7th, along with other sales leaders, for a chat and cheeky salsa if you’re daring. Register here.
We look forward to seeing you at Dreamforce’17!

Building a Business Case for Sales Readiness – Step 2: Define the Problem and Calculate its Value

Building-a-business-case-for-sales-readinessIn my last post, we discussed how to go about identifying the issue or symptom that your business is experiencing. The next step in building a business case for sales readiness is to define the exact problems your business is experiencing.
The only way to start honing in on the problem is to identify the metrics that you need to measure for each issue. This will also help you measure your baseline, and in the future, demonstrate the benefit of your readiness initiatives.
Some examples of translating issues into specific metrics include:
With your broad metrics identified you can then design your end goals. For example, if your metric is to improve onboarding ramp-up time, your goal may be to improve how long it takes for your new hires to reach quota. To determine the metrics your business needs to focus on partnering with Sales Ops. This will ensure that you’re both in agreement on what your goals are and work towards reaching the same desired state.
It’s also important to ensure your programs are tightly aligned with the objectives of your sales leadership. While it’s easy to focus in on training, this may only solve part of your problem. Sales reps need to be enabled with a range of things – knowledge, skills, coaching, reinforcement, content, and process – not just training. That’s why it’s important to have access to as many analytics and data points as you can. Research has found that organizations that use sales analytics increase team quota attainment 4x faster than non-users. Sales Ops is often the starting point here, as they use sales analytics to improve forecasting, find ways to ensure that revenue becomes more predictable and identify opportunities to improve sales effectiveness.

Identify all the stakeholders

Sales Ops, as the expert in data and impact correlation, is an important stakeholder for Sales Enablement but they’re not the only one. 36% of businesses don’t make a concerted effort to foster collaboration between sales enablement and other parts of the company.
For your sales readiness initiatives to succeed, Sales Enablement must be the hub that connects the sales team to the different departments that can influence their performance or will be affected by it. For example, if an initiative will save money then involve Finance – they may even be your champion or decision maker further down the track.
Other key players include Marketing who understands messaging and Product who is crucial for any product training and updates on features. And of course, the leadership team who are enablers when it comes to achieving alignment across the company. If you can demonstrate the success of your initiatives you will be well-positioned to ask the leadership team to help you – whether it’s involving other teams or driving adoption amongst your sales organization.
While reps are usually the focus of enablement initiatives, frontline managers also need to be enabled. Win rates can increase by 9% and revenue attainment can increase by up to 18% if you invest in your frontline sales managers.  For example, providing them with structured coaching frameworks can increase quota attainment by 10%.

Calculate the real value of your initiatives

Once you’ve identified your stakeholders and key problems, prioritize them so you can identify which to focus on first. Best-in-class businesses select just a few initiatives to implement successfully before moving onto the next.
The best way to prioritize your initiatives is by the value each will add to the business.
This isn’t easy to do, especially when you don’t have access to perfect data, but it’s an essential part of the process. Benchmark your business against external research, ask stakeholders what benefit they expect to see and speak to Sales Ops to deter
mine the best way to measure your initiative
For example, to measure the effectiveness of your reps demos start with their current conversion rate – perhaps demo to opportunity is 20%. If certifying your reps increases the conversion rate to 25%, then extrapolate from there. If each demo potentially earns $20,000 and each rep does 50 demos a month then: $20,000 * 50 * 5% = $50,000
That’s $50,000 more revenue each rep can earn a month or $600,000 a year. That’s $6 million a year if you have 100 reps. Now, that’s a compelling argument. This table shows some metrics alongside external data points that may help you calculate the value of your initiatives.
While not all of these metrics will be appropriate for your sales readiness initiatives, they provide you with a starting point to define your problem and back it up.

Building a Business Case for Sales Readiness: Step 1 – Identify Your Pain Points


“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

Albert Einstein

Sales-enablement-business-caseAccording to the Bridge Group, sales productivity is the biggest challenge for 65% of B2B organizations. But stating the obvious isn’t a good enough reason to convince your sales leaders and the C-Suite to invest in sales readiness.

But if you told them that the number of reps attaining quota is dropping – from 63% to 53% over the last 5 years – and they could turn this around with specific readiness initiatives, like structured coaching then they may take notice.

Over the next three posts, we’ll outline how to put together a business case for sales readiness that will have your leaders asking where to sign up.

The first step in putting together your business case is identifying what problems sales readiness will solve for your business. To determine what needs to be solved you first need to determine what your pain points are.

Pain points aren’t always obvious so cast your net wide

Pain points are not always easy to identify and they may be different depending on who you ask. That’s why it’s important to gather as much information and as many data points as you can from relevant people internally.

To gain champions internally your business case needs to be aligned with the priorities of the business. So work with Sales Ops to understand where most of your leads drop-off. Enabling your team with competitive insights could be the solution to a $20 million problem, or certifying your reps to do demos could improve your top line by $10 million. By collaborating with Sales Ops you can determine which couple of initiatives present the biggest opportunities and park any that are secondary. By partnering with Ops when presenting to leadership, you also strengthen your positioning.

Sales leaders are not the only people that should be interviewed though. Speak to your end-users and then analyze their responses to see if there are any overarching trends. While you won’t be able to resolve each of their individual tactical problems, if all your reps seem to be struggling at the same point in the sales cycle or with their demos, for example, then you can see where your biggest problems lie.

But it’s not just important to talk to the top 20%, the middle 60% and bottom 20% should also be included, cast your net wide to determine the true issues. For example, if all your reps are complaining about their win rates, then you have a place to start, but if it’s only one group of reps then it may be a reflection of your onboarding program, or something else.

To really identify what’s actually causing some of your problems will require some deeper digging. For example, CSO insights found that aligning the sales process with the customer journey can have a marked impact on win rates, as much as 15%. But before jumping to the conclusion that this will solve your problems, speak to your reps and determine if misalignment with the customer journey is actually part of the problem. Even if it is, there are several ways that this root cause can be addressed – from content for each stage of the buyer’s journey to training, coaching and tools. To determine which combination of these is right for your business and will give you the biggest bang for the buck you need to dig deeper. In this process, you need to connect the dots between what the problem looks like and what is really causing it.

It’s good to be creative when looking for information about pain points and perhaps look beyond your own people. For example, some companies conduct buy cycle reviews to identify issues in their win rates. This involved new sales reps interviewing clients of deals that were recently won, lost, or ended as no decisions to find out what went right and what went wrong. The information is invaluable and may highlight some customer issues that your reps or sales leaders aren’t aware of.

It’s also important to work with sales ops to identify the top areas for improvement. They have access to the data and are most familiar with analyzing the information and your CRM. A common problem for many companies is the amount of non-selling times their reps are doing. Sales Ops may already have data available on this, so partner with them to find a solution.

For example, research has shown that the average rep needs to update over 300 CRM records per week.

If each record takes just two minutes to update that’s 600 minutes, or 10 hours, a week. If you and Ops can find a way to halve that task, that would give each of your reps an extra hour a day to sell.

So speak to them to see if they’ve identified any issues. Perhaps they’ve noticed gaps in your CRM data or have identified some parts of the pipeline that are lagging behind benchmark indicators.

Armed with all this information you’ll be ready to start really getting into the root cause of your issues. In the next post, we’ll discuss how to define your problems and calculate the value you can add by fixing them

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.

3 Reasons why your CEO Can’t Ignore Sales Readiness any Longer

3-reasons-CEO_invest-sales-readinessOnly 32.7% of companies

have a sales enablement or sales readiness function. This is the area that is responsible not only for sales training but ensuring reps are coached, receive appropriate reinforcement and have all the tools they need at their disposal. According to research by the ATD, continuous investment in training and reinforcement activities, like coaching, with sales reps results in over 50% higher net sales per employee. This translates into a 40% higher gross profit per employee and 20% higher ratio of market-to-book value.

Now mentally calculate what a difference those achievements would make to your bottom line and your shareholder value. It’s a compelling case for sale readiness, but how do you convince your CEO?

Here are three reasons why your CEO can’t ignore sales readiness any longer.
Give them context: Disruption is the new normal

The C-Suite can no longer just set a strategy and watch it being implemented over the next 6 to 12 months. Every industry is changing rapidly and all hands are required on deck to ensure your business doesn’t fall victim to the next disruptor.

According to Eugene Clerk of Credit Suisse

, the average age of a company listed on the S&P 500 has fallen from 60 years old in the 1950s to less than 20 years old today.

That means the company that is getting ready to disrupt your business may not even exist yet.

With so much change occurring, your frontline teams need to have direct alignment with leadership. Whether your business is just tweaking strategy or pivoting, your sales reps need to be able to deliver the vision as soon as you make a change. Otherwise, thanks to the wonders of the internet, you risk your customers and competitors being more up-to-date than your sales reps.

That’s why your CEO needs a direct line to the frontline teams, so they can change their messaging quickly.

Most companies tweak or change their messaging regularly, to keep up with competitive changes and new product updates. A lot of time and effort goes into each change, especially if it involves a new product rollout. Given that anywhere

between 33% and 80% of new products

fail, and each can cost millions of dollars, it’s worth taking the time to try and get it right. According to Harvard research, the

biggest reason new products fail is lack of preparation.

A lot of resources are devoted to designing the product, but the finer details of the launch are forgotten, like preparing your sales team to sell it.

Add on top of that, the cost and lost sales that you’ll incur by taking your reps out of the field to attend classroom training each time you roll out a new feature, and it builds a compelling case to find a sales readiness solution that works.

Reps belong on-the-field, that’s why sales readiness technology is crucial now. It enables your reps to cope with constant change while they’re on the field.

2. To grow shareholder value you need to measure effectiveness as well as efficiency

In order to maximize your shareholder value, you can’t just deliver some training to your sales reps and cross your fingers. Your business needs to be able to measure what knowledge has been transferred and quantify how much topline revenue it will generate.

Quantifying results has traditionally been easy to do with tools that profess to improve the efficiency of your sales team. Automatic diallers and emails, and a vast array of other selling tools have all helped your sales organization achieve more with the same amount of resources. But when it comes to effectiveness, you need to be able to demonstrate the ROI to your shareholders.

One way that you can measure the revenue impact of efficiency initiatives on your sales organization is by tracking if they are achieving larger deal sizes and increasing their win rates, for example. Sales readiness tools help reps improve these metrics by improving how effective they are at selling.

Research by CSO Insights

looked at how win rates increased after reps received appropriate training on social selling. They found that training that met or exceeded expectations also improved win rates by 38% and improved quota attainment by 51%. Then a

dd on top of that the impact of effective sales coaching, that can see

win rates increase from 25% to 54%

over 18 months.

But for a sales coaching program to be effective, it needs to be systematic. Sales leaders can use sales readiness tools to identify what reps need to be coached on, and leverage tried and tested programs to coach their reps. Overlay individual sales performance before and after coaching, and you can predict what the longer-term impact on your revenue will be.

Of course, if you’re scaling it may also be necessary to hire more reps, to cover broader markets and industries as well. However, hiring 10x more reps is unlikely to translate into 10x revenue. That’s because new reps need time and skills to ramp up and become productive. Depending on your product and market this can take 6 months or more. That means your bottom line will take a hit while your top line remains flat, placing your ambitious expansion plans in jeopardy.

Sales readiness tools are also designed to onboard and ramp up your new hires quickly. They give managers and sales enablement leaders the tools to identify and nip any problems in the bud and work out how to get each individual new hire to productivity as soon as possible. The quicker they’re onboard, the more shareholder value they will generate.

Research by Aberdeen has found that 34%

more new hires achieve quota after receiving reinforcement for their training. When you consider that the average B2B sales rep costs $29,000 to hire and takes 7.3 months to achieve full productivity, anything you can do to bring that down will have an immediate impact on your top (and bottom) line.

Sales management can predict the impact of these initiatives on your bottom line by measuring how much quicker new hires are becoming productive – time to first sale or time to achieving quota, for example. If all your reps achieve their quota a couple of months earlier, that’s two months worth of revenue that goes straight to your top line.
3. Show the long-term value of your investments

The C-Suite rarely gets into the minutiae of sales initiatives. For example, they might see some glossy publications and a rather hefty cost centre, but do they know what the return on these investments really is?

To make decisions on where to allocate resources they need to see the bigger picture. What economic impact will sales readiness initiatives collectively have over the course of the year?

Take collateral for an example.

Research indicates

that between 70% to 80% of collateral is never used. That’s a huge sunk cost, but it doesn’t mean that the content isn’t valuable. Rather than just cutting the budget, show the C-Suite how much more value this investment can create if you enable your reps.

According to SiriusDecisions, one of the reasons 63% of sales reps fail to achieve quota is because they can’t find and use the relevant content. Now if sales readiness tools can enable your reps to use collateral to their advantage, those reps who aren’t making quota can potentially improve their performance. A simple calculation can show you just how much of an impact that can potentially have over the course of an entire year.

Now extrapolate that over the course of every single product launch or new feature that you release. If sales readiness tools can improve how your reps sell each new product and feature, how much more will you sell each year?

It’s a compelling argument that your CEO will find difficult to ignore. Then the question doesn’t become whether you should invest in sales readiness, it’s why haven’t you invested in it yet?

Striking a Balance between Proactive and In the Field Sales Coaching

proactive-in-the-field-sales-coachingMarathon runners don’t go out on the field and keep running until they get an injury. They work with their coach to put in place a plan that makes them strong and keeps their muscles supple. All those hours in the gym and time spent with trainers is helping them to increase their chance of winning and reduce their chance of injury. This ensures they’re not worrying about it when they’re racing towards the finish line. But when they’re in the race they still need refreshments to keep them going and performing their best.

They need both proactive coaching and refreshments in the field.

It’s no different for sales reps. They need proactive sales coaching to help build and improve their sales skills for long-term benefit. But they also need on-the-field coaching so they’re refreshed and ready for their next customer meeting.

The benefits of sales coaching are well established, but coaching is often misunderstood.

While coaching on the pipeline and tactical sales activities is important, reps need more to be successful. They need a proactive approach that reinforces behaviors. And they need a cadence to this, it’s not enough to rely on coaching sessions at QBRs or sales kickoffs. That’s why managers and sales enablement teams need to find the right balance between the two.

Too little proactive coaching and your reps will be unprepared for the field. Not enough in-the-field coaching and they might find themselves struggling to close deals.

Proactive sales coaching is about prevention

Proactive coaching is about honing your rep’s skills, building their knowledge and ensuring they understand and can articulate the messaging. It focuses on product knowledge, competitive insights, and industry information.

Now I can hear sales managers starting to gasp. After all, you’ve got a lot on your plate – helping out with demos and objection handling – but your role as a sales manager is much bigger than that.

That’s why best practice sales organizations have a structured coaching program. It provides a framework to coach consistently and ensures reps are up to date and trained in the areas they need the most regularly. By leveraging technology, your reps can handle part of the process themselves. They can practice a demo and allow you to give them feedback without having to be in the same room.

If you are in a hyper-growth industry this type of coaching may occur quarterly, or even more frequently.

In-the-field coaching is about reinforcement

Traditionally, most managers have focused on in-the-field coaching. You sit through a meeting with a sales rep and, in the car ride back to the office, give them feedback and coach them on how they could improve their performance. This is trigger based coaching – you saw something that needed to be coached and reacted.

While this kind of tactical coaching has its place, it isn’t strategic. For in-the-field coaching to be strategic it requires managers to have the ability to step back and look at the bigger picture. What are your reps doing well and where do they need to improve?

For example, if a rep is struggling in three stages – demo, competitive objections and closing – how do you approach all three? This requires a structured approach – show, observe and remediate. You need to show them how to do their demo. This must be coupled with regular, on-field observation so you can monitor how they are performing. Then finally it requires remediation at each specific stage, not just a broad brush approach.

Their coaching strategy also needs to be aligned with the broader business objectives and identify what ongoing issues their individual team members need to have reinforced. This then sets the foundations of what to coach on.

To achieve this, the proactive coaching must be specific and well-structured.

Data holds the key to coaching

Traditionally, managers have had access to lagging indicators to help them identify what to coach on. But by the time you can see your win rates declining, it’s already too late to stop the losses from happening.

To stay ahead of the game, managers need to leverage data to identify what their reps need to be coached on and identify their gaps. This is important for both proactive coaching and structuring in-the-field coaching. That’s where data analytics comes in.

Thanks to the advent of sales readiness and enablement technology you now have access to a wide range of data that can help you identify where your reps might be struggling or where their knowledge or skill gaps are.

Structured coaching on baseline knowledge, new product updates and message articulation can be performed when it is convenient for reps using sales readiness technology like Mindtickle. Coaching is accessible anywhere and reps can complete role plays when it suits them. Feedback can be provided instantly, or reviewed by the rep when they have time.

Certifications and quizzes give managers information about who is up to speed and what areas your individual reps may require additional training or coaching on. When integrated with your SalesForce CRM you can also conduct analysis based on role, region, cohort, whatever way you want.

This data can also be used for in-the-field training. Analyze how your best reps use their sales readiness technology before meeting a prospect. This information can then be used to identify how to coach your B and C players before their next big meeting. Leverage quizzes to identify areas where your reps need to have their knowledge reinforced. When combined with structured activities, like specific objection handling exercises, managers can provide valuable in-the-field coaching based on what reps actually need, rather than their own intuition or observation.

With the power of data at your fingertips, you can make a fundamental shift in how you coach your reps, build their sales skills and resolving immediate issues. Rather than solving a problem once it’s come to your attention, you can proactively nip issues in the bud.

So rather than waiting to find out where your reps weak spots are, leverage tools that help you prevent issues becoming injuries that leave your sales reps sitting on the bench.

How Does a Sales Readiness Solution Differ from an LMS?

sales readiness versus LMS 1Just the mention of the phrase “sales training” usually elicits a groan from sales reps and managers alike. That’s because it’s traditionally been expensive, time-consuming and may offer little visible benefit. While technology has automated and improved almost every business area, from Finance to Marketing, sales training seems to have been left behind.

While good old learning management systems (LMS) have had an important role to play, in a dynamic and agile world they now seem a bit outdated. Content creation and delivery are still important, but the emphasis is now on how we deliver content and the outcomes they produce.

For forward-looking sales enablement leaders, the traditional LMS just doesn’t help them make the impact on the sales organization that they need. And without the desired impact or outcome, they’re left struggling to elevate the role of sales enablement within their business.

That’s why many are now turning to sales readiness technology. Sales readiness shifts the focus of sales training away from imparting knowledge to delivering real outcomes.

While traditional LMS enabled sales training, sales readiness technology enables sales effectiveness. Sales readiness platforms also enable sales training, but they also actually help your sales reps become better at selling by focusing in on improving their skills and execution.

Sales readiness is an outcome-oriented approach that identifies the capabilities your reps need to win more deals and enables them to develop these. It provides tools that enable your reps with the right knowledge and helps them develop their selling skills so they can use that knowledge in real life scenarios. It also helps sales managers and subject matter experts build a regular cadence to coach sales reps, and gives them the analytics they need to monitor how their reps are improving.

LMS only focuses in on one aspect: providing knowledge through training. An LMS focuses on learning management, while the objective of sales readiness solutions is to achieve learning outcomes. They do this by honing in knowledge, skill development, execution discipline, and analytics.


Sales readiness solutions are a natural evolution from LMS. In an agile world, outcomes become even more critical, and sales are all about outcomes. So anything that can help your reps improve their sales performance is business critical.

Sales readiness tools help your reps improve their capabilities whenever they need to. It’s like when you’re preparing for a marathon. All those weeks and months in the gym help flex your muscles and prepare them. But your barbells aren’t going to help you on the day of the big race. That’s when you need all the little things that make you agiler and keep you performing at your best – great shoes, plenty of fluids and little bursts of energy.

While LMS have traditionally helped do the hard yards in the gym they don’t have the same agility and just-in-time capabilities that sales readiness solutions have. In this day and age, having the right information and tools just when you need it can make all the difference between closing a deal or losing to a better-equipped competitor. Which outcome would you prefer your reps achieve?

Why Sales Enablement needs to work with Sales Ops

Why-Sales-Enablement-needs-Sales-OpsThere are many functions powering modern sales teams, Sales Enablement, and Sales Operations are two examples. As a company grows each function evolves and roles are more clearly defined, it will become easier to identify the organizational structure. But organizational charts don’t always reflect the dependencies that different roles have on each other.
While Sales Enablement and Sales Operations may solve different problems in your organization, they need each other a lot more than you may realize.
Sales Enablement is focused on ensuring reps are prepared and effective at selling. They are often responsible for a broad range of deliverables from sales training, coaching and onboarding to communication, sales process and even performance analysis.
Sales Operations is the data engine room that is constantly looking for ways to improve the sales execution, optimize processes and report to sales leadership on any gaps that need to be plugged. Their role may include managing the CRM, process design, and management, territory planning, deal routing, contract management, optimizing and overseeing sales incentive plans, forecasting and performance analysis.

Sales Ops bookends Sales Enablement

As Sales Ops is responsible for much of the data analysis that supports the sales function, they are often the first port of call when management is searching for insights. For example, Ops may identify that certain reps get stuck at a particular point in the sales process, like just after they’ve given a demo. While they may be the first to alert sales leadership that there is a problem, further investigation will be required to determine what the problem is and how to fix. That’s where Sales Enablement steps in.
Sales Enablement can take these insights and investigate to identify the core problem and determine the best way to fix them. By working out what’s causing the sales cycle to stall at that particular point, Sales Enablement can determine what their reps need to speed up the process and get them closer to closing the sale or moving onto a new prospect. The quicker this problem is resolved, the more revenue your sales engine can potentially generate. By relying on Ops to help detect issues at the start of the enablement process, Sales Enablement can identify business issues and fix them. This gives them the ability to be outcome-oriented and create a measurable impact on business results.
At the other end of the enablement process, Sales Ops also plays a crucial role in measuring the impact of enablement initiatives. With all that data at their fingertips, Ops have the ability to identify the right indicators to determine if enablement initiatives are having the desired effect or if reps are still stuck at the same point. They can also track these metrics so that Sales Enablement can demonstrate that their enablement initiatives are working.

Together Ops and Enablement are stronger

Sales Enablement and Sales Ops have the potential for a perfect partnership. Their roles complement each other and they have the same overriding objective – for the sales organization to be more effective and efficient.
There is another key benefit for Enablement to collaborate with Ops, by combining forces the two functions can have a much greater impact and a stronger voice. While Sales Enablement may rack up some spectacular wins, it can be challenging to ensure they get the management attention they deserve. That’s where partnering with Ops can help.
As Tamara Schenk points out, collaboration is key to a productive relationship with Sales Ops. To facilitate this collaboration the business will require a defined interface that ensures their process, messaging and communication is consistent and connected. To achieve this collaboration, an alignment framework is helpful.Why-Sales-Enablement-needs-Sales-Ops
Sales Ops is typically involved in the front and back-end processes that create the strategic framework, forecasting, and analysis. They are also responsible for managing sales automation processes that often improve the efficiency of the sales organization. Sales Enablement’s role is focused on the reps and their capabilities. Building knowledge, sales skills, execution discipline, and effectiveness.
While the two roles do not overlap, they rely on each other to play integral roles in improving the sales organization. Sales Ops on its own can improve the efficiency of the sales machine, but it’s Sales Enablement that ensures it is effective.
By backing up Sales Enablement wins with metrics from Ops, together you can demonstrate how much more effective the sales organization is operating. Enablement and Ops share common goals, which means they can leverage each other’s strengths to achieve even more.