I couldn’t be more excited to kick off the 2017 ATD International Conference & EXPO with the 7th Annual Sales Enablement Lunch & Learn! Joining me on stage will be four amazing panelists:

  • Kerri Barton, Director, Global Field Enablement–Content, Splunk 
  • Scott Comptois, Global Director, Sales Training, Sealed Air 
  • Don Schmidt, Senior Director, Sales Effectiveness, Edmunds.com 
  • John Tintle, Director, Content and Communications, Highspot.

Sales enablement, although a relatively new field, is evolving rapidly. Every day there are new tools and methods that are supposed to make salespeople more productive. But even if we take vendors out of the equation, in an effort to make the sales machine better, we sometimes overcomplicate things and end up doing more harm than good. Different departments within an organization are constantly trying to communicate new initiatives or implement new processes that touch the sales force. Kerri warns that “Not all sales enablement messages are equal. You should control the communication channel to and from the field and stop letting everyone communicate to your audience all the time.” In essence, sales enablement should serve as a filter between the rest of the world (external and internal) and the sales team.

To help us understand how to succeed with sales enablement in 2017 and beyond, we asked our panelists to think about how sales enablement has evolved, focusing on three major areas. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Training and onboarding Millennials, who have very different expectations from work, technology, and success measurement

Kerri: Mixed delivery mechanisms keep all learner types engaged.

Scott: The emerging workforce challenges traditional training models. Millennials have grown accustomed to on-demand knowledge when they need it (e.g., Google and YouTube), rather than accumulating and storing knowledge for later use. This creates an urgency in the shelf life of training materials, shortening them to the point that they need to be relevant in the moment. In turn, this requires us to provide content as close to real time as possible.

A second dynamic is the age of spin, which Millennials have grown up in. What this means is that many have a need to “calibrate” their learning from multiple sources, rather than trusting a single source.

Don: Edmunds is a results-oriented work environment (ROWE), which means that employees can work from anywhere, start and end at any time, and work the hours they need to complete their jobs. This has been a boom for our recruiting of Millennials.

With Millennials, we utilize more online learning than traditional training methods. Most online learning forces the users to watch long courses to learn a new skill or improve their current skill set. Our e-learning is built upon “bite-sized” videos that answer specific questions in under four minutes. We find that Millennials often see the value in e-learning because it helps them get unstuck from a specific problem they are experiencing.

When it comes to Millennials, the days of handing out a printed workbook in onboard classes are over. We have found that most Millennials are kinesthetic learners (they learn by doing). We have adapted our in-person classes to more hands-on exercises often including custom-designed gaming that drives home the main content goals.

John: One-stop solutions are vital to Millennials, who expect technology to help them get more done in less time. Sales enablement has evolved to accommodate this need by allowing reps to consume training and onboarding content on their own schedule. This helps reps maintain a larger degree of autonomy in their day. It also allows reps to remain in tune with everything they need to drive revenue from a single interface.

2. Arming the modern sales rep with the tools and techniques they need to sell from the anywhere office—including in-context training opportunities

Scott: Sales professionals today work in a dynamic and fluid environment. Selling is no longer a step-by-step process. It requires the sales rep to pivot in the moment based on the understood needs of the customer at that time—juxtaposed against the overall strategy. Enabling a sales professional to thrive in this modern environment means supplying tools, content, and collateral in a format that is available anytime, anywhere, and on any device. This includes on-demand learning, where sales professionals need to access simple, concise, and focused learning modules without the need to sit through extended or planned sessions. The emerging workforce is already driving this rationale and helps us equip even the most tenured sales professionals.

My advice: Learning modules don’t always need to be highly polished productions. Production quality can be sacrificed for relevant and current content that gets to the point quickly and concisely. In short, the value of the content supersedes the quality of the production.

Don: It is imperative to integrate sales enablement with the sales process. Using virtual playbooks embedded within your CRM [content relationship management system] makes this easier to support your sellers and increases productivity. The time to offer marketing collateral, scripts, and training support is when the seller is on a specific stage of an opportunity. Traditionally, sellers have been forced to leave their CRM to go hunting for enablement material that would help them move the sale forward. By linking enablement material to a specific sales stage within a CRM opportunity, sellers can access the information they specifically need, and at the right moment.

Our strategy and approach behind enabling a mobile and dispersed sales force is integrating everything into one platform. It is all about just-in-time learning. In the mobile age, learners are expecting to find answers to questions immediately. Your enablement tools need to be mobile-optimized with a simple search feature. A learner is looking for a solution to get them unstuck, and bite-sized e-learning videos that answer that specific question resonate with them.

We follow a simple philosophy: “No one recycles when the recycle bin is in the other room.” Meaning all enablement materials need to be served up to the seller when they need it and there is no going to a separate URL or tool to find it. Every vendor product you add to your enablement program must integrate into your CRM. By housing all your material in one place, the users are more willing to use and access it.

John: Modern salespeople are always “on.” To win, they need strategies, tactics, and tools that are more flexible and powerful than the competition. Leading sales enablement features, such as in-context training, help them pursue their goals with greater confidence than ever before. They can transition from one task to another in seconds, armed with the precise information they need to close deals anywhere, anytime.

3. Aligning your sales cycle to an agile buyer’s journey to achieve the best results

Scott: It’s very common to see sales professionals who think they are further along in their sales process than their customer is in her buying journey. This dysfunction has a profound emotional impact on the sellers, as they have to rationalize in their own minds why they are not being successful. It’s most often a simple misalignment.

To help sales professionals truly identify where a customer is in her buying journey, it's critical to help them with “indicators” based on the customer’s actions, and then align their efforts to where the customer is through verifiers (i.e., key actions to solidify where the customer is on her journey). When this is done correctly, sales professionals are not only able to meet the customer where she is, but also to anticipate the logical next step. This also equips sales professionals to guide the customer to that point. When sales professionals realize their real role is to serve as a tour guide for the buying journey, they will experience the type of success they seek.

Don: In the beginning of my career, I would make sure we recorded details on every single interaction, but back then there was no strategy on what to do with that information to actually facilitate the sales and buying processes. I learned from those missteps by partnering with the organization’s analytics teams. These are some extremely smart individuals who can offer methods to draw from that data to get predictive and prescriptive about the sales process. The challenge is that the analytics people can provide you with information, but it is your duty in the enablement function to create and share a data-driven story.

John: Legacy sales enablement solutions were centered on a more linear set of activities than exist today. With buyers that are increasingly self-directed and deals becoming more complex, alignment between sales processes and the buyer’s journey has never been more essential. Modern sales enablement helps reps make lateral decisions and deliver relevant content to buyers they can put to use immediately. As a result, conversations are more productive and deals more forward faster.

SE 1 - Sales Enablement Lunch 'N' Learn: Succeeding With Sales Enablement in 2017

Sunday, May 21 | 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM | Room A412

Join our panel of industry experts to learn about the state of sales enablement in 2017 and beyond.

Panelists will share personal experiences with building structured, measurable sales enablement practices-including fostering processes, people, training, and technology for best results. They'll also cover common (and uncommon) issues to consider as you research and roll out sales enablement in your organization.

While enjoying lunch with your peers, you will learn how to:

  • train and onboard Millennials, who have very different expectations from work 
  • arm the modern sales rep with the tools and techniques they need to sell from anywhere-including in-context training opportunities 
  • align your sales cycle to an agile buyer's journey for best results.

You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions in real time, and will walk away ready to get started on a path to sales enablement success!

Limited seating is available; first come, first served. Add this session to your ATD 2017 schedule.