Unlocking Sales Agility With Training and Coaching

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The sales landscape is dynamic and can change in the blink of an eye. Sellers need to be nimble in order to continually deliver value for their customers despite changing buyer needs, shifts in the market, and fast-moving competition. They also have to be able to quickly pick up on new information and adjust their approach to make sure they can provide a tailored sales experience.

However, only 39% of employees feel capable of responding to changing business and customer needs. This means it is increasingly important for companies to prioritize programs that help unlock sales agility. When reps are agile, they can embrace change and keep momentum even as circumstances shift.

The ability to navigate change is a skill developed through training and coaching. Enablement can be a force multiplier by designing and implementing training that teaches agility, as well as facilitating coaching to reinforce learning. With proper training and coaching, sellers will be able to more confidently address changing selling environments.

Craft the Foundation for Sales Agility With Learning Objectives

The first step of planning a training program is deciding the learning objective. That objective should be a statement that describes something the learner can do or a result they can achieve as a result of the training session. All content of the program will revolve around this goal, so it needs to be observable, measurable, and action-oriented. Most importantly, it has to prepare reps for the inevitable changes they will face in the field.

To ensure that training will be helpful and productive for reps, use feedback from sales managers and other stakeholders to inform learning objectives. They will be able to provide valuable input on what knowledge reps would benefit from and the specific needs or skill gaps training should cover based on the priorities of the business. Using these insights to establish the direction that trainings take and the learning objectives ensures that the programs will be agile and anticipate market shifts.

“The design process can be really different based on your goals, your audience, the topic, and the importance,” said Aurore Pautet, senior sales enablement manager at Malt. “I’ve tested different formats, such as coaching sessions with live use case partners, roleplay with the manager, online training made by our own sales teams, shadowing, elevator pitch, etc. The choice of the design depends on the topic and the volume of information.”

Leverage Training Techniques That Empower Agility

To keep training programs flexible and responsive to change, consider incorporating techniques in the design of learning material that can be dynamic and easily tailored to the needs at the moment. For example, the following elements can help inform an agile approach to learning:

  • Incorporate feedback from top performers and offer peer-to-peer learning: Programs that train for sales agility should be informed by the frontline salespeople who experience firsthand the changes in market and customer needs. While building training programs, find the top performers and lean on their insights to help construct the program.

“Identify the best person who is skilled on this topic, and with their help, build the training,” said Pautet. “[This can drive adoption] because the other salespeople on the team want to go to the training of one of their colleagues. We can also ensure the training will be actionable and directly linked to the business issues salespeople have been confronted with.”

  • Make content and frameworks flexible: Rather than creating rigid scripts for reps to follow, aim to create broader frameworks they can use to respond to customers in a personalized and relevant way. Using this model can help reps develop their own personal skills and proactively change their selling behavior according to the situation at hand.
  • Keep programs concise and digestible: Sometimes in sales training, less is more. Shorter training that is focused and condensed can be easier to adjust and iterate, allowing programs to be easily maneuverable to changing seller needs or different market dynamics that come up down the road.

“My advice, in terms of keeping training programs agile and flexible, is to keep the message in the training very simple and very concise,” said Daniel Haden, senior director of global GTM strategy and enablement at DocuSign. “Pick a few key points that you’re trying to make and really find effective ways of crafting that message concisely so that if you do have to make updates later, it’s much easier to inject those updates.”

  • Provide optional supplemental learning resources: Open communication is essential to nurturing a rep’s ability to stay agile, and they have to feel comfortable asking for help in the areas they need it. Creating opportunities like Q&A sessions, office hours with enablement, and hosting “ask me anything” sessions can set them up to know what is expected of them and how they can achieve success in their role.

Using effective enablement tools to build training programs can build a strong learning foundation for reps, but by bolstering those programs with individualized support, reps will more easily be able to adopt and perform the behaviors they learn.

Reinforce Training Through Practice and Coaching

In addition to the time spent in the actual training program, learning through practice and coaching prepares reps to navigate a variety of scenarios that they will need to handle in today’s selling environment. Behavior change is a process, and practice shortens the transition time from knowledge to hands-on action.

“Knowledge or content alone is just not enough to be successful,” said Haden. “Whether you’re in sales, whether you’re learning a language, whatever it is, you’re going to have to practice, because ultimately, it’s the change in behavior that’s going to take you to a much more effective place where you’re going to be more effective at selling.”

A rep’s learning journey should never be one they take alone. Supporting them through peer-to-peer team sessions, best practice sharing, or gamified role plays can all serve as collaborative methods to reinforce behavior change.

Coaching is another vital area where collaborative support can take place. As the rep’s first point of contact, sales managers are positioned to give them personalized and definitive coaching and boost their skills. Even a quick tweak on a concept a rep doesn’t have a solid understanding of can help save a deal or keep a customer more engaged.

“Free up some time to hold specific one-on-one coaching and follow-up,” said Pautet. “For example, if we identify that a salesperson didn’t correctly master the CRM or finance process, I can take that person into a one-on-one meeting and offer them specific coaching to fix it.”

Enabling Sales Agility into the Future

Especially in volatile business environments, it’s important for companies to be prepared and committed to staying agile and flexible to changing buyer needs. By staying curious, practitioners can help keep an ear to the ground and learn best practices from others to help their companies stay ahead of changes in the market.

“Be close to peers in enablement from other companies within your industry to get training insights,” said Pautet. “Be close to all the different teams within your company so you can always be aware and up-to-date on all the planned changes. I think this is key, you just need to be really curious about other new training ideas. Curiosity allows us to be up-to-date.”

Change is a constant for salespeople, so it’s important that they are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources to navigate it. By providing reps with opportunities to flex their agility muscle through training and coaching, enablement can prepare sellers to provide personalized and relevant value to each customer, regardless of the circumstance.

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