You can buy or build the best sales process on the planet, but if people don't use it consistently, the perception will be that sales training failed. In response, one might ask, "Where does training end and operations begin?" But that perspective is misguided. Training and operations must work hand-in-hand on an ongoing basis to yield consistent behavior change and improve metrics. To that end, we're currently using several pieces of technology to build and verify sales competencies.
The first tool we implemented was a way to address knowledge decay following instructor-led training events. Over a number of weeks post training, emails with quiz questions are automatically generated and pushed to learners at a specific sequence. Questions are retired if answered correctly and repeated if answers are erroneous. Analytics reveal who knows what, and when.
The second tool was a video role-play instrument, which we also use post training. Learners receive an email inviting them to participate, and after logging in, they watch a short video with an expert demonstration of a skill they worked on previously in class (for example, an elevator pitch). In addition, learners receive a supporting job aid, typically diagramming a process flow. Their assignment is to duplicate the demonstration video following the process prescribed. It can be used individually, or with a pair of salespeople engaged in role play, depending on the specific learning activity.
Here is the magic part: We know that the average participant records seven video takes prior to uploading their submission. Seven! Are you kidding me? Before this tool, the only way I could get a salesperson to practice something seven times was if they were standing in my classroom. In my opinion, this is one of the most dramatically effective sales coaching tools to come along.
But implementing a video role-play system can easily fail if a) leadership does not hold salespeople accountable to submit videos, b) leadership does not hold sales managers accountable for reviewing the video submissions and providing timely feedback, or c) the sales managers cannot provide competent feedback because they don't know the skills themselves. If you question whether you can fulfill those three commitments, don't try this practice. (I know of another division in our company that tried and failed for these very reasons.)
Traditionally, sales training didn't reach very far into sales operations, but in this case, it does. Granted, some managers will resent having to be certified on certain sales skills. Meanwhile, some salespeople will resist having to perform on cue, and their managers may dislike having to view videos and provide feedback. What’s more, you might encounter an executive who thinks this strategy is invasive—even akin to a Big Brother tactic. All of these issues must be resolved, either before implementation or as you work through it.
Face it: working in sales enablement requires the ability to sell ideas at all levels within the organization. People won't come just because you build it; they must see what is in it for them.
This is another place where I acknowledge our heroes: the sales leaders. Early in the sales enablement journey, organizational leadership required all sales managers to be certified by videotaping role plays of two key customer scenarios. Per usual, everyone sweated bullets, but then celebrated their success—gaining credibility in the eyes of their team members and one another. (And now that we’ve had some turnover in those ranks, it is time to do it again.)
Another tool we are just now implementing is a field coaching instrument for recording and analyzing performance feedback on sales calls by managers. For this functionality, we evaluated some promising vendors, but chose to build it internally with the assistance of our internal salesforce.com development team.
In the field, managers use this tool on their iPads to note the relevant customer scenario, and to score each part of the consultative conversation according to our competency definitions. The data gathered enables senior leaders to see what skill gaps are visible across a team, region, or the whole sales team, as well which managers are delivering the optimal quality and quantity of coaching interactions. This tool also reveals how well-calibrated managers are with one another, in terms of providing consistent performance feedback. Keep in mind, though, that this is another place where you might encounter resistance from managers who may not want to expose low performance or disfunction.
To be sure, many sales enablement activities are subversive because they cross siloed boundaries, introduce standards, and shine a light on areas that previously may have been opaque. Make sure your stakeholders know what you want to do, how it is going to benefit them, and what commitments they need to make to be successful.
Want to learn more? Be sure to join me October 8-9 in Las Vegas for ATD SELL.
Next up is chapter three on sales onboarding reimagined.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on LinkedIn.