Mar 13, 2020
Sales cycles have become more complex and take longer than ever before. Buyers are more informed and their expectations have evolved, while buying teams are expanding to include more decision-makers. These trends mean it’s critical to engage and delight prospects and customers at every moment, including person-to-person interactions, to drive revenue and create a positive brand experience.
The most effective sales reps are always ready to deliver the right message at the right time to the right prospects. When sales teams are well-equipped and well-prepared, they perform confidently and drive revenue. But to make that happen, organizations need a robust sales readiness strategy that gives sales reps the right tools to access relevant content, understand how to use the knowledge and skill, and execute on that strategy.
Do your reps have the tools, information, and management oversight and coaching they need to close the sale?
When all team members are engaged in a successful sales readiness program, they’re better equipped to identify qualified leads and bring the right information to the table to engage the prospect—at every single stage of the sales funnel. Sales readiness is a game changer, providing all the tools the sales team needs to succeed, along with a continuous learning system that keeps things fresh and updated.
What is sales readiness?
Sales readiness means empowering your customer-facing teams to be on message and on task every time they interact with a prospect. A sales readiness strategy may include a wide range of activities, including training, coaching, eLearning and role playing, but sales readiness is more than specific exercises. Sales readiness is frequently confused with sales enablement, but, while an effective sales enablement program is an essential part of readiness, these two concepts differ greatly.
Sales readiness is a results-oriented approach to improving your sales team. By measuring representatives’ skills, setting individualized goals, and implementing a plan to reach those goals, sales managers have the tools (and the data) to improve the effectiveness of the entire team.
The strategy behind sales readiness involves ongoing development that prepares each team member for buyer interactions through role-specific training, customer-facing development, field coaching, and continual reinforcement of key skills. Training modules, simulations and live exercises, coaching practices, process documentation, and other elements are continuously assessed and updated to be current and relevant for sales reps.
At its core, sales readiness is about building confidence by providing your team in the field with a strong offense and defense. Once they have the knowledge and skills to think on their feet, sellers can speak with conviction and confidence about the issues prospects care about—most of which go far beyond the product specifications.
With a strong readiness program, you can better equip your reps to have the right conversations and nurture leads throughout the customer journey.
Let’s get a better understanding of what sales readiness is, and how it can provide the tools your sales team needs to be successful in the field.
Why is sales readiness important?
Outcome-oriented sales readiness improves the preparedness and effectiveness of your sales teams at any level of interaction with prospects and customers, especially in-person communications. Sales readiness incorporates elements of sales training, but goes much further than that. Readiness incorporates sales training, content management, and coaching all in one data-driven system to help you identify gaps in knowledge, develop specific skills in individual reps, and track progress toward development goals.
Here are just a few of the benefits of a strong sales readiness program:
The most obvious benefit of adopting a sales readiness program is the growth to both the top bottom lines. Businesses that commit to effective onboarding and ongoing communication, coaching, and training are investing in the most important asset in their revenue building machine—the sales force.
When done well, sales readiness has several effects that are near and dear to revenue. An effective sales readiness program:
- Reduces ramp time
- Improves productivity
- Shortens time to achieving quota attainment
- Increases close rates
- Enables reps to identify and pursue cross-selling opportunities
- Prevents negative outcomes of sub-par onboarding
When more time is available for selling (and for practicing those sales skills again and again), your sales reps have the power to drive long-term revenue.
Equips leaders with the right metrics to analyze seller effectiveness
A sales readiness program doesn’t just provide easy access to different knowledge bases, though. It’s also an easily accessible source of analytics and insight into how sellers are developing their skills. Rather than an admin, manager, or enablement leader pulling together several different tools and disparate data points to assess team members, a sales readiness platform provides and presents all of that information in one place. Some platforms even roll up different metrics for key competencies into one metric you can track over time.
At Mindtickle, we refer to this source as the Sales Capability Index™. Because it tracks individual reps over time in the context of their specific roles, it can be aggregated at different levels of the company to provide a deep understanding of revenue-producing activities. This means that you’re not only capturing data in one accessible place, but you’re also equipped with an understanding of that data—allowing you to then apply it to improve sales reps’ performance.
Improves communication & relationships with prospects
A sales readiness program enables reps in real time to access and use the right marketing materials, key talking points, and other relevant information to have better and more informed conversations with prospects. In addition, 1:1 coaching sessions and ongoing training exercises as part of a readiness program help assess, engage and reinforce key behaviors, concepts or skills. More importantly for new hires, sales readiness builds and maintains sales-specific behaviors from Day 1.
For example, a sales manager may do coaching sessions on active listening to evaluate reps’ communication skills, identify areas for improvement, set goals, and track progress toward those goals to create better connections with prospects. The art of communication combined with the right knowledge from your business leads to better outcomes in the sales process.
Provides easy access to all training materials and product documentation
Each business has unique products or services to offer. Knowing how to sell, position, and speak intelligently about those offerings involves ongoing learning and coaching about the company, the products, specific features, and upcoming enhancements. A sales readiness program helps reps easily access training materials and product documentation, even if they are stored in multiple places.
Providing seamless access to internal documentation enables your sales team to work smarter. Reps always have access to the latest product spec sheets, talking points, company vision and mission statements, goals, key wins, and product roadmaps. Armed with this information, your reps are always ready for meaningful conversations with prospects, no matter their role; they have the latest API documentation for developers, the latest case studies for the CFO, and so on.
Sales readiness means putting this information—regardless of where it lives—in the hands of your salespeople so they spend less time searching, and more time selling.
Enables reps to get past “no”
An effective sales readiness program helps sales reps develop their soft skills (e.g. building rapport, small talk, and conversation starters), which are essential for handling tough conversations. Sales readiness programs include a number of tools to help sales reps develop and practice their soft skills:
- Role playing is a great way for sales managers and administrators to recreate specific, real-life scenarios and help reps practice managing tough conversations.
- Virtual micro-learning uses bite-sized, individualized training content like videos, games, and quizzes to teach and reinforce key concepts in the near term and over time.
- Continuous coaching is a great way for managers to upskill reps in the areas where they need it most. Since coaching is a 1:1 experience, rather than a large training setting, reps can get specific feedback and guidance on how to improve their communication and selling skills, turn negative questions into positive answers, and more.
Using sales readiness tools to improve sales reps’ soft skills helps them turn ‘no’ into ‘maybe,’ and ‘maybe’ into ‘yes, next quarter.’ It also gives them the skills and support to move past rejection, identify new opportunities, and better meet the needs of potential customers. This means fewer surprises in sales conversations, and when surprises do come up, they are prepared to handle the situation gracefully.
Boosts engagement through communication & updates
A successful sales readiness program also includes regular, thorough communication of events and updates. Win wires, field updates, and virtual events like bootcamps and webinars are shared via mobile apps and bite-sized content files to ensure that reps are always in the know. This empowers your reps to stay informed and engaged without having to sift through lengthy emails or hard-to-find resources. Your organization’s goals should be underlying each of these updates, which further emphasizes overall strategy to get all your reps on board.
Now that you understand just how essential sales readiness is for ongoing growth and development, let’s take a look at the foundational elements that build a successful sales readiness program.
The elements of sales readiness
Sales readiness should be a complete program: a 360-degree view of a team, who they are, what they know, and how well they can communicate your key differentiators to customers, all correlated to actual business results.
It can be helpful to think about the elements of sales readiness as the major activities that fall underneath it. Keep in mind that traditional programs like talent management and sales training, among others, are key parts of sales readiness.
The four pillars of modern sales readiness are:
- Sales capability development: Looking for the right talent for your sales team can be challenging. Hard skills like product knowledge and demonstration expertise can be taught, but competencies, behaviors, and characteristics must align with your company’s needs. Evaluating these core areas will help you determine how open and teachable a potential new hire will be to the continuous learning required by a sales readiness strategy.
- Sales training and coaching: Training and coaching help cement foundational and continuous readiness by providing information, micro- and mobile-learning, sales skills, role play opportunities, and certifications. These resources teach the skills necessary for successful conversations with customers. Complete information provided in an easy to absorb manner ensures more effective and achievable results. This pillar includes insights and analytics, which help to assess the competencies, strengths, and weaknesses of the team. Managers need this information to ensure sellers are learning and retaining knowledge, meeting specific goals, and following up on underperforming areas when needed.
- Communication and events: Ongoing communication through field updates or releases, successful and unsuccessful stories, and through virtual events like bootcamps and webinars keep continuous learning accessible by bringing excitement and news directly to the sales team.
- Sales content management: Sales readiness enables users to know what content to use and when to use it, whether it resides in a single system or multiple systems. This prepares reps to remain consistent with brand messaging to enhance seller productivity.
Sales readiness tips to get you started
Whether sales readiness as a discipline, function, or even concept is new to your organization, or your quest for continuous improvement in effective customer-engagement has hit a roadblock, here are a few useful tips to get started:
- Lead with the outcome in mind: Define the elements of your long-term strategic revenue plan or effective customer engagement first. Starting with a clear view of the goal will help determine the right steps and identify blockers that must be resolved before you can meet your goals. For example, your long-term goal could be to build a more predictable, high-performing revenue engine. But right now, some regions are significantly underperforming others. In order to make the revenue stream more predictable, you need data to understand how exactly this region is falling behind. With a sales readiness platform, you can evaluate sellers’ capability and performance in key areas, like converting first calls to discovery meetings or developing closing plans. Once you’ve identified that the close rate is 25% lower in this region than others, you can create a training and coaching plan to specifically address first call meeting best practices or developing a mutual close plan, then track reps’ progress over time. This allows you to take measurable, data-driven, personalized steps to improve the effectiveness of your sales team.
- Focus on long-term objectives instead of short-term wins: Sure, you can celebrate the wins, but don’t get distracted by smaller wins along the way. Instead, concentrate on how that win provides a stepping stone en route to the long-term objective. Don’t let it pause the forward momentum.
- Don’t operate within a vacuum: You’re not alone! Speak to your peers, others within the enablement community, and your product marketing and training leaders to understand what works and what doesn’t.
- Find the right place for technology: Sales readiness software enables you to bring together a wide range of readiness initiatives—onboarding, training, coaching, etc.—for a common goal. Analytics and measurable outcomes are essential for understanding the effectiveness of sellers and of the enablement program as a whole. Are reps getting to the right level of knowledge and training? If not, what can you do to improve enabling them? Evaluate different options, ask questions, and consider how you will implement the solution in your existing tech stack.
At the end of the day, it’s about choosing the right technology partner that provides a proven sales readiness strategy. The proper platform will help you take your well-chosen new hires through an onboarding program that includes all the basics, coaching opportunities that allow sellers to experience life-like selling situations, and support all the way to successful customer conversations. All that in a continuous, ongoing program that provides small digestible snippets will keep your sellers on track and ready for more opportunities.
See sales readiness in action
Mindtickle is a Sales Readiness platform designed for the challenges and opportunities of modern sales teams. Measurably connect seller potential to in-field behavior and revenue performance growth, track sales reps’ progression in desired competencies against target objectives, and improve the onboarding, upskilling and coaching across your sales department. Mindtickle’s visuals make monitoring easy to understand, putting the power of valuable analytics in your hands.
Imagine you could clearly connect sellers’ learning, proficiency, coaching, and quota attainment performance to revenue growth in one easy step. Mindtickle’s sales readiness platform helps your organization to tackle the challenges associated with readiness, offering capabilities that are proven to drive revenue and ongoing development.