Many companies’ sales enablement programs are outdated and, well, rather dull affairs. A new starter joins a sales, pre- or post-sales team they attend a fast track enablement program to become a bottom-line revenue contributor in the shortest time possible.
As companies and their leaders move into survival mode during the COVID-19 health crisis and prepare for the economic crisis to follow, investments into training and development often are the first budgets to be cut.
Cutting back on sales enablement could well be a decision many companies and sales leaders look back on and regret.
Consider the 2008 Financial Crisis that triggered the rise of FinTech companies that shook up the financial sector. The same will occur following this crisis. We will see the classroom change forever with the rise of EdTech, which includes how companies manage their sales teams’ enablement and skills development.
Company leaders who perceive their investment in sales enablement and training as early cost-saving casualties should first consider the transformative power a well-designed education strategy can deliver.
If your sales training and enablement are no more than an extension of your existing activities. You must challenge them, especially if they are not supporting your salespeople transition to their new reality that includes virtual selling, and assisting your company in reinventing itself.
Getting through this crisis is about planning, transformation, and reinventing your strategies. Review any decision to continue activities that contract more debt and are challenging to measure. The action may need to be axed, but not your investment in a sales enablement strategy because it will become central to your company’s and staff economic success.
Most companies find it challenging to measure how their sales enablement investment contributes to its economic success. You may have accommodated such investment in the past. However, that is no longer a luxury; many companies are willing to accept.
If you are going to cut these budgets, hold back and first consider how you can reinvest those funds and more, into sales enablement and training strategies supporting your business reinvent itself.
The rise of EdTech
EdTech offers you links between your sales enablement and the outside sales world in ways traditional training and sales enablement could not.
The key to EdTech is solving problems – technology provides the most significant opportunity to make substantial leaps forward in delivering education and sales enablement outcomes.
User experience and engagement is fast becoming the main differentiator. Content is increasingly immersive and has stronger links between the virtual classroom and the outside world, including your systems and every deal flowing through your company’s sales pipelines.
The way we consume education and sales enablement is changing in similar ways to how cloud technologies have changed the way we consume music and television.
Within our own Sales Pipeline Development Platform, which is cloud-hosted, we have combined sales enablement with sales tools to give your staff their own training space and tools that integrate with their work regimes and your systems and processes.
Better managing and guiding collaboration, also internal, prospect and customer conversations will improve your deal reviews leading to more robust and reliable sales pipelines.
Your management, supporting functions and salespeople benefit from adaptive learning that feeds data back into the sales pipelines managed by your systems. Adaptive learning simulations allow your salespeople to continue working on their sales pipeline and selling while developing their selling skills and discipline.
Now is the time to reinventing your sales enablement
Reinventing your sales enablement strategies and activities needs to include the rise of EdTech. Doing so you will:
- Bring down costs and engage your sales and supporting salespeople in new innovative approaches to be better prepare them for the shift to virtual selling. We discuss this further in the sales blog – Are you adapting your sales discipline to be competitive virtual selling?
- Equalise and raise sales behaviour and discipline standards across your company required to improve sales performance and business value growth. We discuss this further in the sales blog – How can I be successful in a digital-first sales environment?
Your company’s future success depends upon your ability to invest in your salespeople, with programs that lock into your internal and the external knowledge economy.
Now, once you have performed your immediate emergency activities to safeguard your company, it is the time to reinvent your sales enablement and training. Doing so, you will better position your company to manage through this crisis and bring about the change you need to remain competitive.
Your sales enablement strategy is also central to evolving your appraisal, development and reward systems to attract and keep sales talent you will depend upon to achieve success.
Sales enablement must, therefore, be considered a central part of your company’s innovation strategy to achieve your short-term sales revenue goals and longer-term value growth objectives.
Reinventing your enablement strategy is more than setting up a Zoom account
Delivering sales enablement and learning online is a lot more complicated than setting up a Zoom account.
There are two steps we recommend taking when planning to reinvent your sales enablement strategy.
- Do not become fixated with the process and mechanics moving online.
Focus on the purpose of why you are delivering the learning and sales enablement. It is our mission to support you strengthen your sales pipeline, and why we are laser focus on our positioning in the EdTech market.
- Avoid the trap focusing on your product content alone.
Most companies’ sales enablement fall into this trap. Give greater focus to how your staff and contacts within your sales prospects and customers work with and relate to each other. Now, this has become more important with increased anxieties having to cope with virtual selling and the risk falling back on bad selling habits. It is the reason we included a Habit Buster within our Sales Pipeline Development Platform’s online training to support the socioemotional aspects of good salesmanship.
When transitioning online, give priority focus to the learning outcomes you need to achieve supporting achieving short-term revenue goals and longer-term value-growth.
Avoid confusing communication with empowerment
Often, those responsible for sales enablement and sales leaders, obsess about the ideas they want to communicate and the platform they want to use. Consequently, they confuse communication for empowerment.
Learning, including sales enablement, is meant to accomplish empowerment, rather than to tell your salespeople what they should be doing.
Sales leaders need to figure out how to prepare for digital learning; otherwise, your business will struggle. The challenge is it is that much harder now because we are amid the most significant health and economic crisis anyone of us has ever experienced.
This crisis, which has accelerated the world of virtual selling, will provoke increased anxiety throughout your company, especially with your managers.
Their temptation will be to embrace a simple, narrow view of learning and sales enablement as an efficient transmission of knowledge using digital tools. Good leaders and managers will, however, maintain focus on achieving their sales enablement outcome to support your business reinvent itself.
At Nazca Services, we consider sales enablement is a collaborative relationship that frees up thinking, allowing your sales and supporting sales teams to be creative. It is this collaboration and creative focus that fosters growth, especially coming out of a crisis.
Combine collaboration and a creative perspective with supporting buyers solve their buying struggles and move along their buying journey is the reason why we developed Timeline Reporting. Accurate sales forecasting is all about time.
It is the reason we incorporate tools supporting collaboration between salespeople and managers sharing scorecards, a term we use for a sales lead, prospect or opportunity flowing through your sales pipeline.
Sales enablement should not be a once a year scheduled investment. It needs to be an ongoing part of your sales teams’ work regime and standards management. Instead of considering sales enablement as an event. Consider it as a continuing conversation and collaboration between sales teams and their managers.
The deal review is the logical point to focus, raising standards, strengthen sales pipelines and improving forecast accuracy. I discuss this further in the sales blog – Are you adapting your sales discipline to be competitive virtual selling?
How does learning work?
We learn in two ways:
- Cognitive learning – Focus is given to information and skills to complete a task. Typically, this is factual information we learn from our peers and managers supporting us, books and articles. It is where most companies’ sales enablement focus.
- Socioemotional learning – This learning focuses on how we and others feel and think about what we are communicating or a new situation; and how we manage those thoughts and feelings.
Traditional sales enablement skirted over the importance of socioemotional training and focusing more on factual information on how to manage and sell the company’s product, solution or service.
To equip your salespeople and managers with the skills they need to be successful, you need to give more focus to socioemotional learning. Doing so will help your sales teams better manage the social world, which is at the heart of effective selling and earning trust.
Consider the following metaphor – “He could sell sand to Arabs”.
Australia does sell sand to countries in the Sahara region because their sand is better for building purposes. Upon further research, I also discovered it is better for camel racing!
The point is – The best salespeople learn about the people and their situation and struggles, which explains why they are your consistent high performers.
The problem is – Most sales enablement focuses only on factual information related to the product, service or solution, which is a major mistake, especially during and following a crisis.
Your sales enablement needs to focus on supporting your salespeople to adapt to radically different circumstances. It is why we give priority to your deal reviews, collaboration and sharing experiences, skills and wisdom to develop and strengthen deals flowing through your sales teams’ pipelines.
You need to address everyone’s disorientation moving online to virtual selling. By focusing your sales enablement on your deal reviews, you will foster a more adaptive learning and skills development helping your business reinvent itself and adapt to the new reality.
Help everyone acknowledge their new reality
Daniel Pink sums up what it is to sell with the title of his book – To Sell Is Human that has sold 2 million copies worldwide. Effective sales enablement must focus on the human aspects of selling, which means giving greater focus in your sales enablement to socioemotional training.
Our priority as sales leaders and managers must be to raise the standard of sales discipline and behaviour within our companies. Doing so will help your salespeople and managers to adapt and come out the other side of this crisis prepared for their new reality.
You will improve your people to acknowledge the New Normal. If you focus only on delivering cognitive product-focused training, your company will struggle because it ignores the human social factors required for successful selling.
All learning, growth and your company’s agility to adapt and succeed in the future starts within each member of your team committing themselves.
If your company is to reinvent your sales enablement, focus on implementing a strategy that combines socioeconomic learning with cognitive learning to increase sales competence and keep your sales engagements human.
Being more human in sales will become one of your competitive edges. Even before this crisis, forward-thinking companies recognised this fact, especially as more companies augment Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning into their systems and processes to support their sales teams. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the urgency reinventing sales enablement to remain competitive, retain and attract the right sales talent.
Your frontline is your prospects and customers, not your sales pipeline
In the sales blog – How can I be successful in a digital-first sales environment? We discuss the front line is not tracking a sales lead through your company’s sales pipeline and reporting it in a forecast. It is not marvelling at the application of AI or machine learning to deliver more valuable insights, although this is a crucial component of the new data-driven sales playbooks.
The front line is your prospects and customers, their buying struggles, and helping them through their buying journey.
Consider the salesperson who works through the technical aspects of a deal addressing the priority needs but does not spend the time to learn about how the stakeholders felt about it. How many times have you seen a sales lead slip or lost to your competition because of missing human interaction?
From your prospects’ and customers’ perspective. Those stakeholders in companies that cling onto their beliefs and ignore what you are saying are equally at risk during this crisis. The skill to deal with cognitive biased sales contacts is also an essential part of reinvented your sales enablement.
Finally, consider the struggles your salespeople and managers are handling. Neglecting to give your people the tools and socioemotional learning supporting them adapt is particularly dangerous in times of crisis.
Adjusting to remote working may be alien to some of your team who rely on regular social interactions with their colleagues. These rapid changes in our working environment that create our new reality will be creating different levels of distress and anxiety throughout your sales business.
If concerns and anxiety preoccupy your sales teams and managers, it will erode their cognitive capacity and skills to learn and adapt. It is why you need to give your team the collaborate tools supporting them to adapt to their new reality.
Acknowledging this new reality is also central to reinventing your appraisal, development and reward processes and system, which we discuss in the sales blog – How should I develop and reward sales talent?.
Pulling it all together
Reinventing your sales enablement strategy must focus on empowering your sales and supporting sales teams adjust to their new reality.
Avoid undertaking wholesale cuts removing sales enablement just to weather this storm. Instead, challenge your sales enablement activities and strategy. Use this opportunity to review and reassign your budgets, resources and commitment to implement a reinvented sales enablement strategy.
Your first step must be to figure out and prepare for digital learning and EdTech to avoid your company struggling and risk losing key staff when the market picks up again.
Give more focus within your sales enablement strategy and programs to developing your sales teams’ socioemotional skills. It is these skills augmented with your cognitive and product training that will better position your company to manage through this crisis and bring about the change you need to remain competitive.
EdTech will help keep your sales enablement human supporting your salespeople build the space within their work regimes to be more creative. That space, which is time, fosters greater collaboration that is central to enabling your salespeople, demonstrate and deliver the value required to earn buyers trust and win more business.
Fail to do this, and you will continue the focus on execution, execution, execution. Your sales activities will lack the supporting discovery, insights and focus on earning trust required to execute on the right plans necessary to deliver value.
Cultivating your sales enablement culture will protect and strengthen your company and sales teams for the challenges and road ahead.
It will give them the courage, competence and guidance how to transition to virtual selling and their new reality while reigniting a spark within your company central to keeping your sales engagements remain human in the new reality that is emerging.