Sales Enablement Strategies to Help Sales Reps Meet Key Competencies

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On the surface, it can be assumed that all successful salespeople share common traits: charismatic, ambitious, confident, competitive, and the like. While these attributes can certainly be beneficial for a salesperson to possess, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every salesperson with them will be successful or that those without will not.

With the right knowledge, training, and coaching, sales reps can develop the skills necessary for them to meet key competencies that breed success – and sales enablement plays an essential role in providing that.

First, sales enablement needs to align closely with sales to determine and define what the key competencies are. Just as the traits of successful salespeople are not the same across the board, competencies will differ from company to company.

It all comes down to the top priorities of the sales leadership; what specific goals are they trying to achieve that quarter or year? And within the company, what has caused salespeople to be successful in executing on those goals?

Assuming that one size fits all when it comes to sales reps is a dangerous game. It should not simply be expected that salespeople will inherently know how to execute on initiatives. Sales enablement programs designed with that in mind will help ensure that reps with diverse experiences, backgrounds, learning styles, and personalities all have the same skill set to be efficient and effective in their roles.

By understanding what needs to be achieved and more importantly, the experiences that have led to success in the past, sales enablement practitioners can establish competencies and build programs around what sales reps need to be able to know and do to reach them. Here are three strategies sales enablement practitioners can use to help sales reps meet key competencies.

Create a Fail-Safe Environment

At the end of the day, training programs are all about practice. As reps are learning new skills, it is important to create an environment where they feel safe trying out what they’ve learned earnestly and candidly, without fear of failing. That way, they can get honest feedback and refine accordingly so that by the time they are applying that knowledge in the real world, the skill is not new anymore.

For example, sales reps are often asked to participate in role-plays to practice new skills. But in the wrong environment, sometimes this can be counterproductive, as failure in an environment where reps don’t feel safe doing so can be detrimental to their confidence.

Instead of putting reps in front of peers right away, consider having them practice role-plays digitally, where they can record themselves giving a pitch or presentation and receive feedback directly from their managers. Or, conduct role-plays in small groups to allow for more open discussions on what went well and what can be improved.

By applying a training mentality that emphasizes the existence of a circle of trust, reps are encouraged to fail as many times as they need to be set up for success. Then, after they are able to succeed in certifications, mandatory training, and role-plays for the new skill, they earn their wings and can leave the safety of the nest.

Leverage Frontline Managers to Prepare Competent Reps

Frontline managers are pivotal presences for sales reps. When they do not care about the success of their team, they can be of little value. But when they do care, they can be so significant that they are the type of person that will change a seller’s career trajectory.

Many early-career reps need someone to trust them, to take the rep under their wing and demonstrate what success looks like. Those frontline managers that are truly effective will not only be there to help their reps when they need it, but they are also always proactive in giving quality feedback.

However, a lot of sales reps do not have a manager like that. Instead, their typical interactions with their manager might be doing a weekly forecast, talking about a deal status, or just as a point of escalation for any issues they are experiencing. In such cases, reps aren’t getting the skill development and coaching that can really help position them for success.

A good sales rep that has a good mentor is going to be significantly more productive than one that does not. Sales enablement needs to empower the sales rep themselves but also lean heavily on frontline managers to offer critical support.

In order to do this, give the frontline managers visibility into what the objectives are from a sales enablement perspective; what the training is, why it is being rolled out, and what their reps will be expected to do. Then, be sure to communicate if there are individuals on their team that either are or are not hitting these training objectives. This transparency will earn the trust of frontline managers because it will prove to them that they are working toward the same goal: improving the success of their sales teams.

The reason why most frontline managers went into management is that they aspire to have leadership roles. Often, they are not as money-motivated as individual sales reps because they are compensated differently when selling isn’t their only responsibility. The motivation of an effective frontline manager should be oriented around the success of their team, and as such, they rely on sales enablement to help provide them with the tools they need to empower their teams.

Sales enablement should build strong partnerships with frontline managers so that they can effectively provide feedback, coaching, and mentorship to their sales reps. With this extra support, sales reps are much more likely to have the resources they need to meet their competency expectations.

Teach to Different Learning Styles

Learning styles of individual reps can be hard to decipher – and it’s never just one type. There is always a blend of styles, even if one is dominant.

Often, sales enablement practitioners fall into the trap of either presenting all information in one way, or in smaller teams, tailoring based on what they think an individual rep’s learning style might be.

While this might still work on a 1:1 basis, it is not feasible at scale. Instead, sales enablement practitioners need to deliver training and learning programs with the understanding that in any group, there will be a blend of learning styles.

One method to do this effectively and at scale is EDPF: Explain, Demonstrate, Practice, and Feedback.

  • Explain the information – those that are more oriented toward auditory learning are going to be able to pick up information delivered through speech.
  • Demonstrate the concept – the visual learners are going to be able to understand by watching what they need to do.
  • Practice it – kinesthetic learners are going to retain the information by putting it into action.
  • Feedback – as the facilitator, provide feedback for each learning exercise in the corresponding learning style.

Once practitioners understand the need to tailor their teaching style to the learning styles of the audience, they can start getting creative with their program delivery. For example, in a new hire training program, incorporate a mix of classroom-style with lectures from subject matter experts, quiet reflection time with workbooks, and group whiteboarding exercises to get people up and interacting with each other.

While working with the group and talking to the individuals, it starts to become apparent what their learning needs are and one can continuously refine program delivery accordingly. On the practitioner’s end, this approach is not a heavy lift; it just takes a little bit of practice, creativity, and attentive listening.

Helping reps be more efficient and effective is the driving force behind all sales enablement activities. To influence this, organizations first need to define their goals and expectations of the sales team.

While the exact programs and initiatives will vary in nature based on the competencies identified, all sales enablement practitioners can position reps to succeed by letting them practice in a safe environment, partnering with frontline managers, and teaching through multiple methods to appeal to different learners.

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