Building a Culture of Resilience in Sales

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Resilience isn’t a buzzword or an abstract concept: it can be what separates good sales teams from great ones. It’s a muscle that can be developed not just at the individual level but at an organizational scale to help teams rebuild and recover after experiencing challenges.

“Resilience is: how do we help our sales leaders and sellers recover fast,” said John Dougan, senior director of global sales performance at Workday. “We want to make sure that any single circumstance or event does not define our sellers and sales leaders. Beyond that, we don’t want our sellers or sales leaders to attach their worth to the outcome rather than the process that gets them there.”

Resilience can be spread throughout an organization’s culture and define how the sales organization shows up every day. As sellers face market volatility, recession worries, or other economic uncertainty, it becomes even more crucial that enablement practitioners prioritize building up sales teams’ tenacity.

The impact of building resilience is measurable: resilient sales organizations are 58% more likely to achieve their goals, have better employee satisfaction, and experience lower turnover. Investing in resilience-building initiatives requires coordination among several stakeholders to secure buy-in from leadership, deliver dedicated training and coaching, and achieve some degree of organizational change. Enablement practitioners are essential in helping sellers and leaders grow their resilience and drive business impact.

Getting Buy-In and Support From Leadership

Having executive buy-in can increase the chances of success of enablement initiatives. Gaining buy-in can be challenging, especially for projects regarding organizational culture, where it can be difficult to guarantee a quick and accurate ROI. However, such projects can yield significant business impact and benefit from leadership’s support.

“It’s all about inclusion,” said Joe Booth, vice president of revenue enablement and operations at Onit. “If someone is going to buy in, they need to feel like they’ve contributed.”

By including executive stakeholders in the beginning discussions and throughout resilience-building initiatives, they can feel like they have more ownership in the process and its outcomes. Asking stakeholders about their goals, needs, and KPIs can ensure that enablement is aligned with their expectations. Involving stakeholders early can also yield important feedback and input, which can be critical for setting and hitting targets.

Having leadership involved in resilience-building initiatives can also help inspire reps. When leadership acknowledges and communicates the importance of building resilience, it can help assure sellers that personal development is worth the time and effort. By connecting executive sponsors to reps, enablement can amplify its efforts.

Building Resilient Sellers

As any enablement practitioner knows, sellers have unique needs. Building resilient sellers first requires an understanding of reps’ experiences and backgrounds. For younger reps, this may be their first time dealing with an economic downturn, so it’s important to lend extra support during resilience-building processes.

Coaching can be especially beneficial for more green sellers because it provides the unique opportunity for them to learn from more experienced reps or managers. Because managers are usually former reps that have experienced similar obstacles, they can provide invaluable insight and learning.

“We made the statement that those organizations that don’t invest in the mindset of their people will be left radically behind by those that do,” said Dougan. “We set up a coaching function because coaching is how we will influence the sales culture.”

Organizations with great coaching are better at retaining employees, and employees are happier when they feel like they are learning and developing. In fact, those with metrics-based, routine coaching that is managed effectively by enablement teams report 7% higher upsell deals.

Beyond coaching, providing other resources such as training and contextual guidance can also help prepare reps to navigate uncertainty with confidence. Enablement leadership can help teams by showing them what “right” looks like as clearly as possible, so that even if sellers receive a “no,” they know that they put their best foot forward. By removing the uncertainty of what “good” looks like, teams can respond more confidently.

“All of our teams are selling in a challenging time, so this is that time that we help build that resiliency muscle,” said Michelle Dotson, head of GTM enablement and strategy at Zoom. “What are the programs, and what are the conversations you’re having today to prep them? It’s [about] providing examples, building the playbooks, sharing the experiences, and partnering them up with mentors.”

Resilience-building initiatives can benefit both leaders and sellers to achieve their goals, leverage their motivations, emotions, and beliefs, build momentum and handle change. Resilience coaching is typically composed of two pillars: skill set and mindset. Building resilient sellers is more than equipping them with the necessary practices, it’s also about prioritizing personal development.

“Obstacles become opportunities,” said Booth. “Those obstacles that you can identify open up the door for so much potential for you to learn, develop your team, and collaborate with your peers.”

Developing a Resilient Sales Organization

While developing resilience is important at the individual rep level, enablement can also focus on how to drive change at the organizational level, as the values and standards set forth by leadership can heavily influence sales execution. Setting a vision as an organization can cause a significant increase in the beliefs, motivations, and standards that leaders set for their teams, which can boost sellers’ performance.

For example, an organization’s frontline managers are a crucial force multiplier that can benefit immensely from resilience efforts. In fact, when frontline manager effectiveness is a top goal for sales enablement, firms report 6% higher quota attainment. When enablement works to equip managers to be more resilient and helps develop a culture of empathy, they can influence key business results. Furthermore, involving the entire sales organization in resilience-building efforts can foster a sense of unity that can boost motivation.

“There are two things that it takes to be resilient: one is community. You cannot do this on your own,” said Booth. “[And two], you have to have courage.”

Resilience requires expecting the unexpected, knowing that challenges are part of a life in sales, and learning how to adapt to those challenges. When resilience is embedded deeply in an organization, each person is better equipped to bounce back quickly and help others through tough times.

Measuring the Effect of Resilience

Building resilience is an investment that can drive key performance metrics. When developing resilience-building initiatives, clearly articulating the desired organizational outcomes can empower enablement to help sellers achieve them. Sales resilience can yield both qualitative and quantitative benefits.

Enablement can measure the effect of resilience by using metrics such as ROI, quota attainment, or rep retention. A simple way to do so is by measuring a metric, such as win rate, before and after a training or coaching program focused on resilience is implemented. Enablement can also analyze rep behavior change by leaning on sales managers to monitor rep competencies and implementation of learned skills.

In addition to impact on metrics, a culture of resilience can yield other tangible benefits such as increased rep confidence and satisfaction. Enablement can measure qualitative impacts of programs aimed at building resilience by conducting surveys or getting feedback from reps and managers.

Every salesperson faces setbacks during their career, and the best salespeople are those that can learn from the challenges and move forward. Building sellers’ resilience as both a skill and a mindset can help them overcome hardships and eventually achieve more success. When enablement helps build a culture of sales resilience, the sales organization can better handle the obstacles that may come their way.

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