As the name our profession implies, sales enablement is about delivering the right support and resources to the salesforce at the right time to enable individual and collective success. Sales training and its many forms is one lever that gets a lot of attention as we focus in on the relevancy of content, the immediacy of delivery, and most importantly, the salesperson’s ability to apply the learning to winning deals.
To maximize both the investment and effectiveness of our sales training, we demand more of our LMSs and CRMs to both house our plethora of content while creating user engagement and interactivity. Add to that, we often layer on coaching, processes, and tools. As the volume of material expands and our variety of delivery methods increase, it all starts feeling like a stacked, compounded approach to which we keep adding.
Instead, salespeople prefer an integrated approach. Although integration has the propensity to turn into a complex endeavor, with some thoughtful planning, it doesn’t have to. A good place to start is with some honest discovery—or, perhaps, rediscovery.
Set aside some time to pull out the organization’s sales process chart. At each interval, consider the following three questions:
1. What do people need or want to learn at this stage?
2. When do they want to obtain this information?
3. Which delivery method is most convenient for them?
Processing through these questions immediately takes us out of our stymied learning boxes and transports us into the shoes of our stakeholders.
Invite Salespeople to Vet ContentNext, as we reexamine the existing content we have, it’s a good practice to invite salespeople to the conversation. Having a practical, real-world perspective uniquely positions a salesperson to vet the quality and practicality of the content in a way that their peers would appreciate. This effort may be time consuming at first, but having salespeople give their stamp of approval gives your content a great deal of street credibility.
Based on the pointed feedback you receive, the learning team now has the opportunity to make smart adjustments that will help more people be receptive to consuming it. This approach also allows for crowdsourcing and harvesting of new information that will likely freshen up existing content and drive more adoption. Sharing authorship credit with the salespeople who have invested their time to help you review and enhance content further boosts goodwill and the peer-driven element of the updated material.
Once we see the content and curriculum through the lens of what salespeople need and when they need it, we can go about slotting information into the right places—platforms, systems, tools, meetings—where we know salespeople will be more likely to consume it on their terms. This is the first step of replacing a layered sales training strategy with a more integrated approach.
Facilitate Social LearningAt the next level, shift beyond content creation and take an active role in facilitating and capturing social learning experiences. This involves deeper engagement between the learning team and the salesforce.
When you communicate your desire to stay close to what is happening in the field and establish feedback loops with sales managers and core contributors, you are now positioned to serve as a match maker of sorts. You do this by seeking real experiences from one person that you know will be relevant to others. When you’ve spotted one of those opportunities, be sure to schedule time to ask questions in an effort to extract color and context. Once you have more details, you can then frame the experience by documenting a strong synopsis and then bring people together to talk about it.
Some example experiences you that you might explore and use to facilitate social learning may include:
- handling a tough objection in the middle of a deal
- working with a challenging decision-maker
- maintaining momentum during longer deal cycles.
Other ways that you might bring people together around a topic are:
- host a guided, brown bag lunch discussion
- offer a webinar, frame the topic and open it up for thoughts and commentary
- start a thread or conversation via your LMS or CRM and tag people to participate.
The key in each of these examples is to give credit to the originator of the topic, set up the discussion and then let the participants run with the dialogue.
Create Fusion Between Coaching and LearningA more advanced integration approach might also include working alongside sales managers who are spending time having genuine, developmental coaching conversations with their people and offering ways to enhance these efforts. One such example is to encourage managers to expand beyond deal-by-deal coaching and have broader, monthly conversations around long-term development goals with their people. For example:
- Do they want to work on more complex deals?
- What is their interest level in moving into sales leadership?
- How about learning more about the relationship between marketing and sales?
Once a sales manager is able to identify the broader career interests of their people, as a learning professional you can help them navigate the various learning options that your organization. This will provide the elements of a customized, learning journey that will help the salesperson in their current role and inspire them along the way in reaching future goals.
In each case, we have an opportunity to invite our stakeholders into our conversations around relevant content and then work to adjust our execution approach. When we do this, the experience changes. What we offer begins to look less like a ladder and more like a lattice. As a result, we are better able to deliver just-in-time, integrated learning that fully equips our sales professionals with the skills and agility to be successful in their role.
For more insight, check out the infographic on the SELL website.