Jun 16, 2017
You need a license before you can drive a car. Your SAT scores open the door to grad school. Applying the same lens to sales teams, how do you know if your sales team are ready to have customer conversations?
If you don’t know whether your reps are sales ready, you’re really just hoping they know what to say and how to address your customer’s pain points.
While your business might be winning deals today, a more agile and sales ready competitor could leapfrog you and adversely affect your quarter in an instant. There are so many things that could and do affect your deals, but sales readiness is one of the few that is within your control.
Sales readiness ensures that your reps aren’t losing deals because they simply do not possess the required knowledge or skills, or they aren’t receiving the right coaching. These are all things that you may not know about if you aren’t measuring the sales readiness of your reps.
So how do you know if your business is sales ready?
Your company strategy filters down to tactics and go-to-market strategy
Business strategy doesn’t operate in isolation. For a business to be successful it’s sales and go-to-market strategy has to be continuously aligned with the changing strategy. Businesses that achieve this are able to align their sales organization with their strategy seamlessly. Consider these questions:
- How confident are you that a random sample of 20 of your sales reps can articulate your top three value propositions consistently?
- Are your other customer facing teams, from technology support to Customer Success, using the same messaging and philosophy when communicating with customers? How do you track whether they’re on message?
- How often do your sales reps lose a deal because they weren’t aware that a particular product feature existed?
Sales enablement is a priority
While some businesses have jumped onto the sales enablement bandwagon with vigor and understand its importance others are still a bit sceptical. Then there are those who set up a sales enablement team because everyone else around them is, not because they see the value in the role.
Only businesses who prioritize sales enablement at all levels of the organization will succeed. However, if you’re not sure whether your entire business is along for the ride consider this:
- Do you have a formal sales enablement function and prioritized sales enablement initiatives?
- Is your C-Suite aligned with the sales enablement priorities? Are they investing sufficient time to ensure that your sales team accepts your sales enablement initiatives?
- Are you able to demonstrate the ROI of sales enablement initiatives to the C-Suite and your sales team?
- How much collaboration is there between sales enablement and other areas of your organization (such as Marketing, Sales Operations, Product and the C-Suite)?
- Does your sales team have access to sales enablement tools that they use regularly? Can you measure how effective these tools are and how engaged your reps are with them?
Your new hires are ramping up quickly
If you don’t start them on the right foot your reps are less likely to succeed. MongoDB has experienced sales success because they set up a robust onboarding program – this has translated into $200k more revenue per rep in their first year and a reduction in new hire ramp up time from 11 to 5 months. Some questions to answer about your organization include:
- Are your new hires ramping up at a consistent rate or are there large variations in time to productivity?
- How do you know whether your new hires understand the knowledge they’ve been trained on?
- How often do you check back to see if they’ve retained this knowledge?
- Do you have a process in place for reps to demonstrate that they know how to apply their knowledge in customer conversations?
Your sales team is meeting quota
According to SiriusDecisions only 27% of sales reps meet or exceed their quota. If the majority of your team are meeting quota then hold onto them because they’re clearly ready for any situation that’s put before them. However, if many of your reps are struggling to meet their targets then it might be time to consider the following:
- Do you have a strong pipeline of opportunities in place? How can this be bolstered?
- How closely are you tracking the performance of individual team members against forecast? Do you know if your reps are delivering the right value proposition to your prospects?
- Is there consistency in your deal size, or is this haphazard? Are some reps more consistent than others?
- How do your win rates stack up against your competitors? Are there any specific competitors that present a greater challenge for your reps? Why?
Coaching is an integral part of your organizational culture
The better your reps’ sales skills are the more sales ready they’ll be. One of the best ways to improve sales skills is through coaching. Research has shown that as little as three hours of coaching a month can increase average close rates by 70%. But if your business supports sales coaching at all levels then you already know this, if not perhaps ask yourself these questions:
- How do your managers know what to coach each individual sales rep on? How are knowledge and skill gaps identified?
- Is sales coaching left up to your sales managers or are subject matter experts from across the business brought in when appropriate?
Your reps are all singing from the same songbook
The larger your sales team, the more challenging it is to ensure that they’re all on message. While there was less urgency for consistent messaging in days gone by, there’s too much happening these days to wait until your annual Sales Kickoff to bring all your reps up to speed. If your reps understand your value proposition and can articulate it on-demand then you’re on track, but if you’re not sure consider these questions:
- How well can your reps adapt their message to a specific context?
- Do your reps know how to connect your product with their customer’s specific pain points?
- How well do your reps understand your competitive advantages? Do they know how to articulate this and connect them to your customer’s pain points?
The bell curve of your A, B and C Players is flattening
Let’s admit it, in most companies only a handful of reps consistently meet quota, and it’s virtually unheard for every rep in a sales organization to make their target. Businesses that have effectively managed to bring each of their reps closer to meeting quota are those who are able to tap into what makes their A Players tick.
Focusing in on leading indicators is key to achieving this, yet most managers still focus their energy on lagging indicators like pipeline and conversion rates. But managers aren’t to blame, they require training and frameworks that help them identify what drives those leading indicators and coach their reps to achieve this. Here are some questions that you should answer if you’re not sure how your managers coach your reps:
- Are you able to identify what makes your A Players tick? Do you know how to replicate their winning formula?
- What is your plan to enable those B Players who are putting in the effort but still not meeting quota?
- How wide are the capability gaps between your A and B Players?
- How consistently do your reps articulate your value proposition and message to customers? Do you have a process in place to remediate message gaps and inconsistencies?
Your sales team know what’s going on internally and externally
New product features, competitor movements, industry changes; things are changing so quickly in the digital age. This means sales teams need to receive and absorb a lot of information quickly to be sales ready. When your team is on top of everything they’re well placed to stay one step ahead of their competition. If you’re not sure whether your reps are up-to-date, consider these things:
- Do your reps often complain that they weren’t aware of a new product feature or industry change?
- Do you have a process in place to coordinate and communicate product, competitive and industry updates to your sales reps?
- Can you measure or identify how well your reps can apply this new knowledge? Do they understand what it means to their prospects and how to articulate that effectively?