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TD Magazine Article

Too Much of a Good Thing

With the seemingly endless number of digital selling tools, companies need an effective training strategy to get sales reps up to speed and actually using the resources.


Thu Jun 30 2022


In late 2021, tech startup GetAccept hosted a webinar titled The Sales Tech Buying Scene | The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. When asked about his opinion on the current trends in enterprise software, panelist Chris Rothstein, CEO of sales tech company Groove, stated: "There was a palpable shift in the industry where companies went from falling behind Iin the market because they weren't adopting the right tech to support their teams … to our pain point now, of having almost too much tech, to a point that it has become overwhelming."

It is truly a Goldilocks conundrum—the porridge is either too hot or too cold. So, the real question is: Can companies get it right?


Application overload

Right now, try and list every platform and technology that your company's salespeople touch on a daily basis. At Cisco Systems, where I work, each business development representative (an entry-level role) toggles between 15 and 17 applications daily between their sales engagement and sales enablement platforms, customer relationship management and HR management systems, learning management system, and the nearly half dozen communications channels on which they are constantly responding. That's a lot of different applications for sales reps to be jumping between on an hourly basis to reach outcomes and get paid. But instead of shrinking that to hopefully get to a warmer spot, the company had plans to grow that list by three to four applications this year in the hopes of "simplifying" the sales process.

You read that right—20 applications are supposed to provide sales teams with a more simplified and optimized experience compared to what they were doing before.

Organizations small and large and global and domestic all find themselves in the same situation of bringing in new technology that promises to help sales teams do their jobs better and faster, thus increasing the bottom line. But what are the statistics on companies getting their business value out of those tech investments?

In the GetAccept webinar with CEOs from sales tech companies, the executives shared some eye-opening data on the disadvantages of digital selling tools. The figures show that the top drawback is low team adoption, with 45 percent of sales leaders identifying it as their leading concern. That refers to tools that companies purchased and deployed to teams with all the promises of helping them reach organizational goals.

That troubling statistic has led to increasingly more organizations looking for innovative and engaging ways to quickly train their experienced sellers on new technology, onboard an incoming generation of technology-savvy Gen Zers who lack selling skills, and respond swiftly to the seemingly revolving door their organization has become as part of the Great Resignation. However, COVID-19 threw traditional training a massive curveball.


Employers banished traditional training and onboarding selling boot camps to the confines of webinars and screen shares. Where training and onboarding events were once high-energy, highly collaborative events with everyone in matching company hoodies, employers are now quickly cutting them in half. Sales teams gradually stopped turning on their cameras and subsequently started tuning out and resenting training webinars that were pulling them from the sales floor.

Workflow learning

In response to this new world of work, companies have been looking for alternatives to webinars as well as innovative ways to provide the right information to the right employee at the right time. One case study is Cisco, which is going through a large digital transformation as it switches from hardware to software and adopts a subscription-based selling model. With the new sales model comes new strategies, new processes, and new workflows for teams of highly trained and specialized sellers.

Our team of 400 sales enablement and talent development professionals is driven by the 70-20-10 training methodology that subscribes to only 10 percent of all learning taking place in formal training environments. For a global company like ours, with more than 150,000 full-time and contract employees, Cisco's work-from-anywhere policy means that our sales enablement teams also should be dedicating only 10 percent of their own resources to creating formal webinars and e-learning courses. Social learning makes up the next 20 percent, comprising coaching, mentoring, and role-playing activities where workers can learn from one another and immediately begin to put knowledge to practice. The remaining 70 percent of all learning, development, and upskilling for our sales teams takes place within the flow of work.

In my experience, companies of all sizes have leaned heavily on traditional formal training, which tended to be the 70-20-10 model backward. Cisco's strong emphasis on workflow learning means we have been going through our own transformation, upskilling our enablement professionals.

Instead of teams of instructional designers who build e-learning modules on life cycle selling the Cisco way, those individuals are interviewing top-performing sellers and building life cycle selling playbooks based off their performance. Where before we had modules housed in the LMS, the enablement team integrated the dynamic playbooks directly into the CRM on pages where other sellers can access them right where they need them within the flow of their work with the help of our digital adoption platform. The sales teams have gone from learning about the theory of life cycle selling in a formal e-learning module to instantly being able to implement their high-performing peers' playbooks into their daily routine.


A digital adoption platform fuels and aligns a company's overall training and content strategy to support the sales strategy's knowledge dependencies by providing a single source of truth that is available within the seller's flow of work. And by not confining the digital adoption platform to a single training event or a sheet of content housed in a data repository, sales enablement teams can use the platform to reinforce the messaging, change communications that require new process adoption, and gather and evaluate the success metrics while measuring the sales enablement programs' success. Such consistent measurement enables teams to in turn iterate and optimize the strategy as they grasp user behavior within the tech stack, track who is reaching the desired performance, and truly gauge the impact that the technology stack is having on outcomes.

"Rather than launch, train forget, update, train, forget, etc., where companies essentially keep moving peoples' cheese, a digital adoption platform helps normalize the amplitudes and frequency of these waves in a way that is truly life-changing in the corporate world!" Raj Sundarason, digital transformation leader and chief digital adoption evangelist, writes in his book The DAP Strategy. "No longer are updates a cause for anxiety. People aren't asked to learn and retain new functions in some learning center, only to be released back to their workspace and expected to remember it all."

A shift to workflow learning that empowers sales teams to succeed de-risks the investment an organization has made in its tech stack by aligning the content on the screen with the desired performance and business value promised when the company signed with that technology vendor.

Tech stack adoption

During a Dreamforce 2021 session, Matthew Bigelow, senior director of global revenue enablement at WalkMe, presented five strategies for sales enablement professionals to drive the adoption of their tech stack with a digital adoption platform.

Take a look into the tech stack and define what is mission critical. This can be easier than you think. Instead of investing in analytics software, simply shadow a few of your sales reps throughout their day during key processes. Are they using that expensive sales tool for account prospecting, or are they using LinkedIn to source more leads?

Define goals and outcomes, and measure, track, and evaluate success. When do sellers get paid and contribute to measurable business growth? Are business development reps paid when they get a qualified opportunity? Are you promoting cross-selling or signing new customers within your sales teams? The only outcomes you need to focus on to begin with are when the sales team increases your organization's revenue.

Leverage data to understand where users are struggling. Once you've determined what the outcomes are, drill down to the specific tasks sellers perform to get to those outcomes. Are the business development reps prospecting to the right account? Are they prospecting at all? Are the account managers regularly meeting with customer success teams and solutions engineers to identify opportunities for cross-selling or upselling?

A digital adoption platform can integrate into each sales tool to target key points in workflows and identify where sellers are dropping off within the process. That can then feed your talent development strategy with clear data on where performance gaps are.

Take data-driven action to support users at the time of need. Now that you have your outcomes and understand the gaps in seller behavior, this is where the real power of a digital adoption platform comes in. For example, if data shows that sellers aren't reaching out to their account team soon enough in a goaling period, you can place pop-ups on account pages within the CRM to remind them to set up those meetings. You can likewise use the data to determine whether there is a knowledge or skill issue versus a behavior issue with the seller.

If the seller is receiving pop-ups and workflow support and still not taking action to perform the next task and produce outcomes, that tends to mean that the root cause of their poor performance is more of a behavioral issue that requires coaching and mentoring to improve the behavior.

Redesign the user experience to compensate for poor UX design and process flows. For new sellers, prospecting within a new platform is daunting. There are so many options and numerous filters. And if salespeople don't use them all correctly, they wind up with the wrong types of prospects.

If the data reveals that new sellers aren't completing the prospecting tasks that contribute to successful outcomes due to the complicated process of filtering within the database, a digital adoption platform can pick up the slack of the complicated system. Instead of having salespeople follow a job aid or rewatch a video on prospecting, create automated walk-throughs to auto-click the correct filters, auto-select the correct data, and get them through the complicated prospecting forest to their perfect prospect. Literally put your sales enablement strategy on the screen for your sellers to use exactly where they need it.

A new way of selling

The ability to leverage user data, support users at the time of need, and account for poor UX design and complicated process flows truly put Cisco's talent development and enablement teams in greater control of their teams' success. The in-flow enablement strategies provide much more effective means of driving the desired behavior of our sales teams as they successfully adopt the software on their screen and reach the individual, team, and organizational outcomes.

We are saying no to taking sellers out of the field to upskill them to this new way of selling and saying yes to analyzing their current behavior; driving early high performers' strategies; and placing enablement playbooks, competitor battlecards, and most importantly, what's next right within the flow of their work, on the screen.

That means we can more quickly and effectively onboard and upskill the sales teams as well as onboard and upskill ourselves to the new digital adoption solutions and inflow enablement solutions, which creates more well-rounded and more innovative enablement and talent development teams.

A 2021 Gartner report projected that by 2025, 70 percent of organizations will use digital adoption solutions across their entire technology stack. That means 70 percent of organizations will not only need digital adoption builders and solutions engineers but also digital adoption project managers, program managers, analysts, and coordinators.

During the 2021 Black is Tech Conference, Terri Crymes, principal instructor at the Digital Adoption Institute, shared an inspiring message on the new and exciting opportunity for talent development professionals in this new world of digital adoption:

"Technology is changing. People are changing. They aren't necessarily changing together, and where they don't, that leaves a gap. In this gap is an increasing need and rapidly developing career field. This is one of the rare times when the opportunity is present to enter a hypergrowth career field in one of its early stages."

As more organizations look outside the LMS and turn to in-flow enablement opportunities, they will discover that digital adoption is an exciting new path for talent development teams that increases user adoption and fuels efficiency across the entire enterprise tech stack. A digital adoption platform can power everything from conversation intelligence to content management, readiness, and in-flow knowledge to drive success and outcomes—and get that porridge at just the right temperature.

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July 2022 - TD Magazine

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