Sales enablement teams go to great lengths to produce the data, marketing content, product information, research, tech stacks, and other tools to help salespeople close deals. It’s their mission to make sure the sales team has the resources they need to convert more leads and drive more revenue for the business.
Yet one of the most common frustrations among sales enablement teams is that much of what they create doesn’t get used or doesn’t get used effectively. Many salespeople simply default to what they always do in customer meetings, which is share product information. But even those who take advantage of other resources may not be using them in a way that’s meaningful to the customer. And if that’s the case, the sales enablement work was essentially all for nothing.
This situation is similar to the last mile in telecommunications. If the final leg of delivering connectivity to the customer isn’t effective, then everything that came before it will be compromised. It doesn’t matter how much money, time, and effort have been spent if there are problems with the last mile.
The real impact of sales enablement often comes down to this last mile in sales. If salespeople aren’t using the resources in a selective, well-timed, and targeted way to help customers get value from them, they’re worthless.
Selling Skills That Create ValueTo deliver the last mile, salespeople need the skills to engage in effective conversations and leverage the right resources in a value-creating way for the customer. This requires thoughtfully weaving the tools into the conversation so the customer gains new insights and can articulate what their real needs are.
Even if a customer states a need upfront, the most effective salespeople hold back on presenting solutions right away. They ask questions to help the customer think it through and uncover the deeper, more consequential problems. Then, when the salesperson presents a solution using resources that speak directly to that customer-articulated need, it has a much greater impact.
Sales Conversations at the Last MileSales skills are important when having these kinds of value-creating conversations with customers. But it takes more than skill.
There are three conversations that determine whether a salesperson can leverage the hard work that sales enablement has done and have a value-creating discussion:
1. With the customer: Here’s where skills like asking good questions to uncover needs and create value come into play.
2. With themselves: This is what salespeople tell themselves about their capabilities and the level of success they deserve. If they don’t believe they can close a certain kind of deal or don’t feel good about what they’re doing, it will affect engagement, how they work, and the activities they prioritize. Negative self-belief becomes a self-imposed barrier that limits their success.
3. With their coach: Coaching conversations can help salespeople break free from these barriers—or they can reinforce them. The manager’s coaching mindset plays a big role in whether their salespeople believe they have what it takes to accomplish their goals.
Bridging the Sales Training GapWhen we asked leaders at last year’s ATD SELL Conference what percentage of their top performers’ success is due to sales skills, product knowledge, and what they know (conversation #1) versus achievement drive, self-belief, and who they are (conversations #2 and #3), it was no contest: More than 86 percent said achievement drive was at least 75 percent responsible for their top salespeople’s success.
And yet, when we asked what percentage of their sales training addresses these kinds of issues, the vast majority (77 percent) said 25 percent or less is spent on achievement drive.
Having great sales enablement tools and going through product and skills training isn’t enough for the last mile. It’s much easier to get people to memorize product information or learn selling skills and techniques than it is to get them to reflect on what drives them, what they believe is possible for themselves, and where those inner beliefs stem from. But their unconscious decisions will affect their sales success if not confronted.
With so much volatility in the market now, we need our salespeople to be ready, motivated, and able to capitalize on opportunities by strategically leveraging sales enablement resources to close deals. But all the work of the sales enablement team is wasted if they don’t have both the skill set and the mindset to create value at the last mile. Now’s the time to align your training and coaching efforts with what we know delivers results.
An expanded version of this blog was originally posted here on IntegritySolutions.com.