Dec 5, 2016
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.