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Accelerating Career Momentum with Professional Development Programs

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People crave momentum in their lives – personally and professionally. That means that finding passion and fulfillment within their current role is important to remain satisfied at work.

Sales enablement can play a crucial role in helping to connect the dots between personal and professional success by ensuring that salespeople feel supported and challenged to grow in their roles through professional development programs. In doing so, sales enablement can also help boost retention of high-performing reps.

Human resources can be a critical partner to help sales enablement understand why people leave an organization, and further, how sales enablement can address those issues through programs that help reps accelerate career momentum.

“By cultivating a meaningful relationship with HR, we’re able to take a holistic approach and go beyond the bottom line and basic metrics to actually develop and nurture our sales team and really our full employee base,” said Devon McDermott, vice president of enablement at Persado.

Crafting professional development programming that supports team members at every point in their life cycle within the organization helps make sure that reps are succeeding, leveling up, and seeing progress in their careers. Here’s how implementing professional development programs, such as robust ever-boarding, leadership training, mentorship programs, and support for external programs, can drive retention and create a more satisfied sales force.

Robust Ever-boarding

Whereas onboarding introduces new hires to foundational knowledge and develops core skills, ever-boarding is needed to expand upon those skills and foster continual growth for sellers at all stages in their career. Dedicating time to skill development – beyond just onboarding or obligatory training on new features – is critical to ensure reps have the ability to continually excel within their roles.

Robust ever-boarding programs help sales teams stay ahead of the game. Buyers, markets, and technology all change frequently, so it is sales enablement’s responsibility to ensure that reps are well-equipped to handle different situations at a high-performance level. Ever-boarding programs offer the opportunity to hone in on specific skills, allowing reps or teams to get additional help in areas where they may be struggling.

To implement effective ever-boarding programs within your organization, consider the following strategies:

  • Set a cadence for optional training and certification programs. Creating a calendar of activities for ever-boarding programs sets clear expectations, and allows reps to easily prioritize their schedules around the programs they want to participate in or certifications they want to add to their toolbox. Make these optional to allow those who opt-in to focus on leveling-up or addressing certain skill gaps, while ensuring programs don’t become perceived as a burden for busy sales reps.
  • Keep it short and digestible. Making programs practical and concise helps encourage reps to continuously sharpen their skills without taking too much time away from their core responsibility – selling.
  • Align programs to career or competency maps. Make sure that ever-boarding programs target skills that reps actually use or need in order to level up within the organization. Map out competencies to identify critical skills at each stage of a rep’s career and create an achievable path towards growth. Then, leverage on-the-job certifications and training to help reps continually develop and demonstrate the competencies needed for the next step in their career, creating clear steps to success.

Ever-boarding programs create the opportunity to sharpen existing skills, adapt to dynamic environments, or course-correct when needed. With continuous learning, reps are prepared to provide value in every customer interaction and develop their expertise over time.

Leadership Training

Developing leadership skills is essential for salespeople – not only to progress to more senior roles, but also to become more effective team members and sellers. Sales enablement can help reps become leaders through training focused specifically on developing leadership skills.
Many of the skills required to be a sales leader do not follow successively from a sales rep role. Therefore, leadership training helps equip sellers with the necessary skills to be more effective in their current roles as well as prepare them to start producing results quickly as they climb the ladder.

“Becoming a leader is a different skill set,” said Chad Dyar, director of enablement and strategy at Hearsay Systems. “Getting people to do what you want them to do, learning how to really listen to people and understand their strengths and weaknesses, a lot of that has to be learned.”

In addition to formal leadership training, utilize the following strategies to help reps develop leadership skills and set goals:

  • Create a strong leadership culture. Lead by example. Demonstrate leadership that cares about developing individuals, pushing performance, driving results, engaging sellers, and celebrating each others’ wins. Take time to recognize that different team members will learn, develop skills, and produce results at different paces. Share best practices from those who are further ahead, or leverage their expertise by encouraging them to mentor or assist those who need extra help or are at earlier stages in their careers.
  • Help sales reps create a map of their goals. Ensure that reps have a clear vision for their goals and their purpose – why they are motivated to pursue certain outcomes or achievements. Then, help reps develop a method for how they will reach those goals.
    • Try following the Four Phases of Leadership growth, as developed by John C. Maxwell, author of “Leadership 101”. Use each of the following phrases to empower reps to think about their professional growth, what competencies they need to exemplify to be able to get there, and how they can grow into their next role:
      • “I don’t know what I don’t know” – Use current skills as a baseline for growth.
      • “I know what I don’t know” – Identify core competencies needed for leadership roles.
      • “I know and grow, and it starts to show” – Create a path to develop those skills and competencies over time.
      • “I simply go because of what I know” – Ensure that reps can exemplify the skills needed to excel within their next role.
  • Encourage reps to take on leadership opportunities. Create opportunities for leadership on a smaller scale. For example, encourage reps to lead trainings for the team. Doing so helps reps develop mentorship abilities, and ensures that reps feel challenged to grow as leaders.

Leveraging leadership opportunities can also be greatly beneficial to sales enablement in enlisting sales enablement champions. Involving sales reps in helping to lead activities can help to drive adoption of new sales enablement initiatives and turn reps into advocates.

Devoting time to developing leadership skills is key to professional development. Ensure that reps have attainable goals for themselves and their teams, and use sales enablement as a crucial tool in creating paths and opportunities to reach these goals. With training focused specifically on the skills needed to succeed as a leader, reps are empowered to strive for leadership roles – and excel once they get there.

Mentorship Programs

Mentorship programs are an effective way to build environments that foster a culture of collaboration, and more importantly, help sales reps grow at a personal level. Done correctly, mentorship programs can be beneficial to both mentees and mentors. New hires or less experienced reps can develop essential skills and become more familiar with the organization, while mentorship programs can help mentors develop their leadership skills and fill in their own knowledge gaps along the way.

Mentorship programs allow sales reps to flex their managerial muscles in a meaningful way and develop the skills needed to become a sales leader. For example, consider tying mentoring to onboarding where mentors act as a “manager-in-training”, supporting, coaching, and helping to certify and empower new hires that come on board. Create mentorship pairings that last beyond their onboarding track to help cultivate meaningful relationships between pairs and drive continual learning.

It’s critical that mentorship structures are implemented with care, so as to avoid creating an undue burden on mentor productivity. Establish relationships that equally help mentors develop the skills they need to level up and become a leader without taking too much time away from selling. For example, giving mentees the opportunity to shadow mentors on sales calls provides beneficial guidance without disrupting mentors’ daily workflows.

“Instead of making the mentor responsible for some of the tactical training and baseline information elements, free up the mentor to be able to provide more strategic guidance,” said Marcela Piñeros, vice president, go-to-market enablement at New Relic.

External Program Support

Encouraging salespeople to seek out deeper enrichment externally is essential to support a learning culture and mindset. For skill development programs that aren’t available in-house or covered in-depth, providing the support to pursue external programs helps reps reach their potential and pursue their goals.

Sales enablement can demonstrate support for external programs by utilizing the following strategies:

  • Provide access to external courses. Work with sales leadership and HR to provide stipends or another form of funding for external programs such as certification courses. Beyond just monetary support, make it easy for reps to utilize external resources by ensuring sales teams have the time, and leadership support to seek out such opportunities.
  • Encourage collaborative learning. Encourage reps to keep the momentum going by building a collaborative learning environment through small, easily managed programs. For example, start a book club with topics focused on professional development, or utilize office communication tools to create a thread dedicated to useful resources, webinars, TEDTalks, and more. Implementing collaborative learning strategies can help reps seek out further enrichment without being a large time-drain.
  • Encourage best-practice sharing. Provide a forum for team members to present their findings from external programs with their teams in order to celebrate each other’s wins, share key learnings, and encourage others to seek out external learning opportunities.

By providing structure around career development and professional progression, sales enablement can help salespeople feel supported and utilize the resources they need to grow. Ever-boarding, leadership training, mentorship programs, and external program support are all critical ways in which sales enablement can foster the development and success of sales reps.

Ultimately, ensuring that salespeople have the resources they need to grow and are actively encouraged to utilize these opportunities drives retention, creates a more satisfied sales team, and establishes sales enablement as a key partner and advisor in professional development.