Scaling Sales Readiness Initiatives: 4 Tips
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Salespeople cannot win on talent alone. They need to supplement that talent with behavior, skills, and processes to effectively engage with buyers. And it takes more than simple sales training programs to hone these successfully; it requires sales readiness.
While training provides reps with the knowledge necessary to be competitive, sales readiness focuses on developing and sharpening skills to prepare reps to confidently drive sales engagements with an outcome-oriented approach.
It is one of the fundamental pillars of sales enablement. However, it is also an area that can be difficult to scale. Facing constraints of time, budget, and capacity are already a reality for many practitioners, and the added challenges of applying programs across verticals, segments, and geography when scaling only increase the complexity.
For sales readiness to drive business impact, it needs to be designed and delivered in ways that will resonate with all sales reps across an organization.
Here are four tips to help enablement professionals successfully implement sales readiness initiatives at scale.
1. Build out simple frameworks that can be easily customized
One of the most difficult aspects of scaling sales readiness is rolling out initiatives that are digestible and definitive for every seller in the organization – regardless of region, experience, tenure, or other differences. If a readiness program is built with only one type of seller in mind, it will not succeed in driving impact at scale.
For example, global organizations often experience challenges when attempting to apply programs built for one region across all other locations. Language barriers might be an obstacle for roleplays while cultural differences might mean that certain training and communication methods could be appreciated over others.
“The solution we’ve come up with is to do fairly simple frameworks that are then easier to localize,” said Simon Rider, director of global sales enablement at GfK. “What we’re doing is creating central content, but then making a simplified English version that is easier to translate as needed.”
Beyond just regional nuances, these simple frameworks also allow for customization based on a variety of differences across teams within the sales organization, such as segment, vertical, or seniority. For instance, keep the general information delivered at a training program consistent, but rely on subject matter experts to help design and facilitate an activity that will reinforce the information for the relevant audience. Doing so will ensure readiness programs are adopted and effective on an international scale.
2. Understand internal customer personas
Salespeople that span different product lines, teams, and regions often have different processes or workflows that are unique and effective in their line of focus. Similarly, generational differences in the workforce mean that sellers will have different preferences in assets, training, and sales processes based on what they are used to and how they were initially trained.
When delivering information to each group, it’s important to do so with the consideration of what will be familiar and intuitive for them so that it is easier to digest. For instance, where a Millennial might utilize gamification or video content in training, a more veteran seller might prefer content delivered in person. Treat them like external customers and take the time to learn what their needs and preferences are. Then, map out each persona and use it to guide the format and delivery of sales readiness programs.
“Create the persona of the different sellers that you’ve got to train,” said Paul Roberts, principal consultant at DSG. “Actually expand on what works for them, what doesn’t, what they’re looking for, and so on.”
In catering the delivery to each persona, reps will be more likely to absorb and retain the information presented to them.
3. Invest in frontline managers
Sitting between upper management and the salesforce, frontline sales managers serve as both a catalyst and a liaison. Thus, they are critical to ensuring that new content and initiatives are successfully executed on by reps. Spending time enabling frontline managers to help their reps do their jobs more effectively will have a domino effect on scaling sales readiness across an organization.
“‘Scalable’ is when you find ways to do it across the entire company,” said Mike Kunkle, VP of sales enablement services at SPASIGMA. “I can’t be the single-threaded point of contact for all that stuff that happens. I need to start being able to develop other people who can support that process so that it can scale across an entire salesforce.”
Sales enablement needs to prioritize the development of coaching skills in frontline managers so that they can help champion sales readiness initiatives with their teams. Doing so will also build consistency in how reps are coached by providing all frontline managers with the same skills, tools, and frameworks for coaching.
“We need to systemize, codify, have those sessions with the coaches,” said Rob Durant, manager of digital sales enablement and training at ThriveHive. “And it needs to be consistent such that the sales rep could sit with any sales leader across the organization and they would get the same feedback and the same input. That is where the scale comes in.”
4. Leverage video to execute roleplays at scale
One sales readiness exercise that can be useful is roleplaying. Roleplaying is effective because it mimics real-life sales situations, however, it is difficult to scale by nature. After all, roleplays take two to tango; they require the time of both the sellers and the manager, mentor, or coach participating with them. This is where technology becomes invaluable to the delivery of sales readiness initiatives.
Relying on recorded video content can save time for managers and reps alike while also serving as a teaching tool for reps to reference how they are improving over time or best practices from peers.
With the prevalence of smartphones, recording video content is simple – and there is no shortage of apps that support video sharing. For example, a sales rep in Europe could share a recording with an enablement manager in the United States within a matter of seconds, making video a highly effective strategy to combat barriers such as remote workforces, time zones, staff capacity, and more.
The modern sales environment is at a point where buyers have more information than ever before, and the margin for what can be considered a competitive advantage between companies has become paper-thin. Where organizations could once rely on simple sales training to prepare reps with sound knowledge of the solution, customer, and competition, they now need to incorporate sales readiness for the ongoing development of sales reps to remain competitive.
By understanding how to tailor content and training to fit preferences and then scaling it through customizable frameworks, internal personas, frontline managers, and video roleplay, sales enablement can help reps across all sales personas and regions feel prepared for any buyer interaction.