Primer: Sales Enablement and Training
Sales Enablement is generally focused in the pre-engagement and early stages of engagement with the customer. As sales move further away from a transactional model and more towards a consultative approach, sales operations play a key role in supporting the salespeople to develop themselves. Sales enablement ensures that the salespeople have access to the necessary knowledge to perform and excel at their jobs. A sales organization’s sales tools and other platforms or applications commonly fall under sales enablement. The main areas of sales enablement are in training content, sales tools and sales processes. This also includes selecting and adjusting the above to support the organization's sales strategy. The goal is to deliver value to the sales team in a flexible and scalable manner and to do that, sales enablement must select and implement tools that are integrated, robust and cost effective. Sales process adoption and compliance are a change management process.
As processes are constantly being accessed, modified and updated, enablement is a change management process. Ideally this should be a planned process rather than a reactive one and should be tailored to each organization. It is the responsibility of the sales operations team to prepare the salespeople as they adapt to the changes identified by the organization as necessary. This includes equipping them with the appropriate tools such as manuals and supporting them by providing coaching and reinforcement after training.
There are four steps to implementing a change.
1. The first step of a change management process is identifying what changes will be made including the resources and people involved. That will facilitate the process.
2. Present business case. Stakeholders including upper management will have different expectations and experiences and buy in will be necessary. The stages from beginning to outcome must be clearly laid out along with the factors for success and failure. Bringing it down into smaller steps will provide better control of the process and allow successes to be measured more carefully.
3. Implement change. Identifying, planning onboarding and executing a change management plan requires good communication. Culture, background and capabilities of salespeople need to be taken into consideration when implementing change. These factors are the main cause of resistance which is an inherent part of the process and arises mainly due to the fear of the unknown and risks whether real or perceived associated with the change.
4. As change management is a process, review is essential in adjusting the strategies. Reviews like communication should occur constantly and involve all stakeholders as well as those impacted by the change. While change management may be a discipline unto itself, there are three key things to note in this aspect with regards to sales operations.
a. Communication is key. When change occurs there will inevitably be resistance. This is mainly due to people being removed from their comfort zones. This can be countered by early constant and open communication between management and the people who will be affected by the change.
b. Feedback is important. When receiving feedback it is important to understand the underlying concerns of the salespeople. Some of the concerns they bring up may require a new process that should be adopted in a way that is pragmatic to both the salespeople on the front line and the sales operations team. Other concerns may stem from fears misinformation or misunderstanding which should be addressed.
c. Show the value. While the ultimate goal of the change is usually an improvement on the top or bottom line the people affected by the change must understand the value that it would bring to them. Whether it is a reduction in workload or requests for information or an improvement in getting support on their tasks. Sell the change to them by explaining what is in it for them as individuals.
As sales moved to a more consultative approach it is becoming more and more important for salespeople to constantly train and update their skills. The development of training curriculum and material is the purview of sales enablement, as is the actual training. Both the development and training may be outsourced to vendors, while sales operations play a consultative role in the process. With the prevalence of developing technology, it is fairly common for some of this training to be delivered via training portals or employee portals online where feedback and results can be given instantaneously. Some of the types of training are.
Sales methodology training.
Understanding the methodologies used by the sales organization increases individual performance and also helps increase predictability in the funnel. By identifying where opportunities are stalling sales, operations can identify where salespeople need help in moving a sale forward.
Understanding the market is important for salespeople to bring value and engage their customers in an insightful way. By understanding the market. Salespeople are better able to help customers make informed decisions and be seen as an adviser or partner, rather than a vendor. Sales operations should be the source of this information, supplying the data analysis and insights to the markets.
Those products are constantly updated changed and launched, salespeople need to constantly improve their skills on product offerings. Product training is focused on the specifications, the facts and the features of the organization's product offerings. This training is to help salespeople understand the products that they are selling and be able to address any questions that come up from customers.
When implementing new tools in the organization. It is common for sales operations to conduct training on them or get the vendors to conduct such a training. It is important to salespeople who will be using the tool understand how they can use it to improve their performance.
This is a type of training given to new hires usually within their first few months in the organization. Onboarding helps to impart the culture methods and processes of the organization into the new hire as early as possible to improve adoption and learning. Internal certification from sales training is a practice that ensures a minimum competency of salespeople and may be broken down into basic, intermediate and advanced levels. Each certification level could define a certain mastery or different level of the above training.
Mentorship is a common practice in organizations to groom the next generation of leadership. By setting up a formal program. Sales operations can ensure a transfer of skills, culture, best practices and knowledge to emerging sales leaders. Successful mentorship programs expose participants with different managers at senior levels and retain internal talent. Along with an onboarding training, a mentoring program will also help new hires to integrate with the organization at a quicker rate as they have someone to help them understand the organization's culture communicating to your salespeople. Having a channel to communicate with all your salespeople is useful in disseminating critical information. Newsletters, announcements and updates are essential platforms to reinforce processes. Highlight best practices and encourage compliance to new procedures. These platforms are also useful in celebrating wins which can serve to positively reinforce the above salespeople who adopt best practices set forth may produce success stories of their own. This aspect while often overlooked in my experience is an essential tool in helping salespeople learn from each other and improves interaction, which leads to a reinforcement of culture by underlining a sense of team belonging.