This year, sales enablement leaders who are focused on developing sales capability have some unique challenges ahead of them—each one presenting an opportunity to put wins on the board for our organizations and to deepen our own professional credibility in the process.
It’s no mystery that inflationary pressures have been affecting our businesses in various ways. From the inevitable layoffs to demands that we drive stronger outcomes with fewer resources, this ongoing tension between the macro environment and the increased expectations of our senior leadership teams will require a steady, yet strategic, sales enablement hand to execute plans effectively.
There are three trends emerging in 2023 that can make or break success in developing sales capability. They focus on the complete sales training life cycle, deploying purpose-driven reinforcement and committing to better data storytelling.
Trend #1: Focus on the complete sales training life cycle.Borrowing from the discipline and practice of career pathing or succession planning, it will become a best practice to zoom out and go beyond basic job profiling and mapping. The opportunity lies in assessing the full continuum of sales capabilities that are required in our organizations for high levels of performance. The scope of this assessment begins from the moment a new salesperson walks through the door and will continue to track their journey as they move up the career ladder within the organization. This review would also include technical, product, marketplace knowledge, and soft skills. Leaning into this trend creates a robust, objective inventory of development areas from which to start important conversations around priorities.
Trend #2: Deploy purpose-driven reinforcement.For arguably the last 40 years or so, sales training has been implemented mostly as a series of events. The type of event may have evolved over time from the typical two-day instructor-led workshop with a one-hour lunch and two 15-minute breaks toward a more time conservative, 30-minute e-learning course. Or, more recently, virtual learning has been pared down to a five-minute micro-learning video.
However, the way we continue to approach sales training is still largely event based. In this year of fewer resources, there may be fewer training events to lean on, which creates an opportunity to shift our focus. Rather than counting how many events we can produce, we can shift conversations toward what we’re doing in between training events to help people build the sales performance habits that matter. So, if we have a lunch and learn related to “selling on value,” then the next win for sales training becomes a strategy around what happens over the next 21 days to ensure that the key actions of “selling on value” become a performance habit. This purpose-driven reinforcement positions us on the front lines of finally addressing the issue of diminishing knowledge retention in the days, weeks, and months following our training events.
Trend #3: Commit to better data storytelling.Most functional areas of the business demand deep, data-based insights to make informed decisions. For example, tracking customer acquisition costs in marketing and allocating additional budget toward the tactics that work tends to get a lot of attention. Though, when it comes to learning, we’re comfortable with superficial reporting, also known as Kirkpatrick Level 1 (number of completions, smile sheets, and so forth). If we want training to be viewed as an essential function and not discretionary, we must level up our reporting. Basic learning management system (LMS) stats and postworkshop surveys can be supplemented with pulse surveys together with a balanced collection of quotes, sorted by top and middle performers. This three-dimensional picture will be packaged, visualized, and communicated in a compelling way that matters to senior management.
These three trends represent the sort of visioning and courageous execution in the face of undeniable headwinds that can help smart and ambitious sales enablement practitioners serve our organizations better and take a big leap forward in our own professional journeys.