Jun 29, 2021
There’s a cruel reality facing many revenue leaders today: most sellers aren’t ready to adapt to the fast-changing business environment they face daily. It’s not that they aren’t talented; it’s that traditional sales training and enablement programs are failing them.
While the statement sounds hyperbolic, plenty of research supports it. According to CSO Insights, only 27.5% of stakeholders feel that sales enablement initiatives meet or exceed their expectations, and another research report found that 90% of sales training programs fail after 120 days.
This squares with my experiences. Prior to Mindtickle, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges of enabling hundreds of sellers. The basic problem? Large scale certification and kickoff events create an initial burst of knowledge transfer and skills development, but fall off day-over-day, week-over-week, and month-over-month.
To transform revenue organizations, they must embrace sales readiness. This post will offer a definition for it, and a framework for how to make it a reality.
What is sales readiness?
At Mindtickle, we define sales readiness as:
Sales readiness is a continuous state of excellence to grow revenue by utilizing a suite of tools and processes to increase knowledge, enhance performance, and adapt to change.
How do I achieve sales readiness?
We’ve developed a Sales Readiness Framework that outlines what revenue and sales leaders must do to achieve it. Whether you have a sales readiness platform to help you do it, or you manage it with separate tools, spreadsheets and serious hacking skills, the concepts remain the same.
The Sales Readiness Framework includes five core steps:
- Define excellence
- Build knowledge
- Align content
- Analyze performance
- Optimize behavior
Step 1: Define excellence
Most organizations track hard sales metrics such as quota attainment, pipeline and revenue. While you could argue hitting those goals constitutes excellence, excellence in this context is an order of magnitude more specific: what is the ideal rep profile and associated competencies? This notion of excellence needs to become more scientific than “this rep has an ‘it’ factor” and other vague business cliches that don’t create organization-wide excellence.
Every business is different, but some that have been important for Mindtickle customers include:
- Competitive knowledge
- Product and services mastery
- Industry proficiency
- Persona and buyer comprehension
- Sales process discipline
- Product demo proficiency (without requiring a sales engineer)
- Use case development
Every organization will prioritize and weigh the importance of each competency differently. Take the time to partner with other members of sales leadership to define a readiness index based on the competencies you believe make up the ideal rep profile. It will help set a baseline for what knowledge, skills and capabilities each sales rep in your organization should possess.
Step 2: Build knowledge
According to Gartner, B2B sales reps forget 70% of the information they learn within a week of training, and 87% will forget it within a month. To move beyond the once-a-year kickoff meetings when sellers sit through hours of training, best-in-class sales organizations invest in modern sales enablement that emphasizes continuous excellence. These programs include three core components:
- Spaced reinforcement to create “everboarding.” So much focus in enablement is on onboarding, but what happens after? With spaced reinforcement, you can intelligently create programs that revisit key themes and topics by facilitating scenario-based questions with videos, images, and explanations. The program should automatically adapt or double-down on questions where rep proficiency looks weaker.
- Micro-learning. Sellers are busy, so it’s better to let them chip away at knowledge building bit-by-bit with quick-hitting notifications and questions. While each one may not be as comprehensive as traditional training programs, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
- Engagement mechanics. While selling is serious business, learning the skill sets necessary to win can, and should be, fun. Time-bound quizzes, missions, achievements, leaderboards, and the elevation of top performer’s reputation is proven to drive more engagement with sales enablement.
Step 3: Align content
Alignment is the critical word here. While partners in marketing can create compelling content, today the majority of it goes unused by sellers. The reason is simple: while the intent by marketing is to help advance the buyer journey, there’s a pragmatism sellers employ with content. They will leverage it if it’ll advance a deal forward; they’ll avoid using it if it won’t.
When sellers are enabled and equipped with relevant content, it plays an undeniably important role in driving deals forward. The key is enabling sellers to be ready to use it. A great example would be when a new case study is available. It’s vital that it’s not only shared in a central location, but sellers are given quick training on what it is, who it’s relevant to, when to use it, and how other sellers have leveraged it to move deals forward.
Step 4: Analyze performance
For so long, we’ve spent significant time, money and resources on enablement programs. While they transfer important knowledge, they’re often done in more hypothetical, academic environments. The good news is that the rise of conversational intelligence abilities means we can start to see how these pieces of information actually resonate.
Sales readiness means you have visibility to analyze the messaging, themes, and topics that are carried to market in the real-world interactions between sellers and customers. It’s imperative for sales leaders to understand the habits of great sellers if they are to course-correct those reps who need more guidance. A comprehensive sales readiness strategy should include conversational intelligence capabilities that leverage AI and machine learning to provide sales leaders insight into what’s happening in the field, and tie that back to competencies that were or weren’t achieved from an enablement standpoint.
Step 5: Optimize behavior
Based on the insights you gain from analyzing field interactions and rep competencies, the final step is to follow up with effective sales coaching programs. Role-play scenarios, scorecards, and practice are important first steps at the human, manger-to-rep level. But a comprehensive sales readiness program should also leverage AI to make programmatic changes and recommendations for coaching based on critical gaps that get identified in real-world selling scenarios.
These coaching activities help sellers practice and prepare so they know how to handle complex selling situations. With these activities in place, you are essentially closing the readiness loop and ensuring feedback makes its way back to not only individual reps, but to your entire readiness program.
Why sales readiness matters
Without a structured sales readiness program in place (no matter if you’re following this one or not), the same problems will continue to persist. Sellers won’t be prepared for the moments that matter – when money is on the line. Understanding and prioritizing readiness activities helps organizations create the culture of sales excellence that is essential to driving revenue.