Up-Leveling Rep Skills in Turbulent Times

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In times of economic uncertainty, organizations that choose to invest in optimizing and enabling their revenue-generating teams are the ones that are often better prepared to survive or even thrive when the economy shifts.

Enablement can be a key lever in ensuring that, regardless of turbulent situations, reps can feel equipped and ready to handle various challenges with prospects and customers. Through ongoing sales coaching and training, enablement can help reps build the relationships required to develop long-lasting trust between an organization and its customers.

In fact, as the most recent State of Sales Enablement Report found, 54% of enablement teams that manage sales training programs report a 6-percentage-point increase in customer retention, signaling the need for enablement to be a critical partner in ensuring customer retention and satisfaction.

Explore how enablement can work with reps to bolster skills through experiential training programs and effective sales coaching that allow reps a fail-safe environment to build the skills needed to effectively navigate the challenges they may face in economic uncertainty.

Strengthen Negotiation Skills Through Experiential Sales Training

In economic downturns, sales teams can experience difficult conversations with prospects and customers that they may not have experienced before. As competition becomes even more challenging, it’s worthwhile to focus on the areas a sales organization can control — strengthening the skills needed to navigate difficult conversations with customers and prospects.

Enablement can establish training programs designed to specifically show, not tell, the situations reps may encounter when speaking with a customer. For example, as organizations begin to potentially cut costs and reevaluate their needs as a business, it’s vital for salespeople to know how to handle objections or enter into negotiations with confidence. Experiential training can leverage tools such as role-plays and interactive courses with live Q&As to have reps practice real-life scenarios and responses they can be prepared to answer in conversations with customers. Organizations that are highly effective at providing individualized training and development are 159% more likely to be highly effective at negotiating and handling objections.

“Because the reps are starting to do their job, they are coming to training with real-life questions, objections, scenarios that they’re encountering on their calls, and we can help them work through it,” said Amanda Romeo, senior manager of revenue enablement at DailyPay, Inc. “You could probably think of a scenario where you were learning something new recently. When you can practically apply that to your everyday life or your past experience, that learning becomes stickier in your brain.”

When building out a training program, consider the following questions that reps may have when looking to up-level their skills in negotiation and objection handling:

  • Do reps feel prepared to have conversations or have challenges thrown at them regarding objections?
  • Do reps feel like they knew that objection might have already existed?
  • Do the reps know of someone good at handling that objection? Have they heard how they handled it? Or are they figuring this all out on their own?

Once those questions have been sufficiently answered, it’s up to the enablement team to design learning experiences that can help reps effectively sharpen their skills. Whether through a certification course or even a standalone lesson plan, to drive desired behavior change, it can be helpful to ensure that standardization is in place so reps have examples of talk tracks or certain resources they can return to be efficient.

Measure Behavior Change to Help Establish Reliable Results

Checking in over the course of the program and gathering rep feedback can also help practitioners understand and optimize the effectiveness of their programs and demonstrate that impact to stakeholders. Measuring desired behavior change with consistent checkpoints ensures that everyone is on the same page and is aligned with the expectations and anticipated outcomes.

“Behavior change is hard to measure; I will be the first to admit it,” said Romeo. “I usually hear a lot of people stopping here because it gets a little gray, but when you get to behavior change and looking at the results components, those last two stages, the one key piece of this is benchmark data. For behavior change, you can leverage a conversation intelligence tool to measure rep performance before and after an initiative. For results, you can look at benchmark data for ramp time before implementing an onboarding program and after implementing to see if the program was impactful.”

Training programs are a continuous investment to the business, and to ensure their effectiveness and optimization, enablement can be a key driver in ensuring that reps are engaged and receptive to training programs that will help them in their daily roles and responsibilities. When enablement leads sales training efforts, organizations are 10% more likely to have high rep engagement, which can be a significant indicator in ensuring the consistency and reliability of rep performance.

Bolster Rep Confidence and Strengthen Foundational Skills through Sales Coaching

Organizations with more mature sales enablement programs and teams are dedicating more resources to sales coaching as an emerging field of importance to support their reps. The State of Sales Enablement Report 2022 found that 43% of organizations have at least one person dedicated to sales coaching.

During economic uncertainty, ensuring sales teams feel confident and ready for more challenging conversations with customers and prospects can have long-term effects on the overall health of the sales organization. Enablement is uniquely positioned to help drive the success of coaching programs that can help reps navigate through the various stages of the sales cycle when speaking with a prospect or customer.

“Confidence is a really important part of how we show up, and it’s one thing to learn something, but it’s another to really have confidence in what it is that you learn,” said Rebecca Reyes, vice president of sales enablement at IBM.

When reps can visualize how certain behaviors can be applied in specific scenarios, particularly in areas where they may be stuck or struggling, they can build on their confidence when entering into tough conversations. Enablement can help prepare managers with questions and guidance on implementing a successful framework for coaching their reps that allows for deeper conversation and greater awareness of opportunities to improve.

“I think that one of the core components to a successful coaching framework is really just being able to dig in and have a very transparent, open, vulnerable discussion with the sales reps to get them to open up and describe what their current challenges are, really get them to start thinking, and being consciously aware of where their gaps may be,” said Evangeline Earl, director of sales enablement and training at Granite Telecommunications. “That’s one way where we’re able to start to pull out from the sales rep themselves different areas that they might be struggling with or different challenges that see for themselves.”

The stronger a business’s talent is, the more prepared it will be to manage risk at every turn. Economic stress and uncertainty can pull into focus what an organization can prioritize, like investing in people, their strengths, and their ability to achieve. The health of the sales teams relies on training and coaching programs that focus on building up reps’ skills to navigate challenging situations with customers. Enablement is poised to address these challenges head-on and provide impactful value to sales teams to weather the storm.

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