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The Sales Enablement-Demic: Driving Sales Enablement During COVID-19

Wednesday, December 9, 2020
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Back in February 2020, I started my new position at Abbott Structural Heart running the new sales enablement program. I attended the national sales meeting and met my new teammates and manager. Then, everything came to a screeching halt. It was the perfect storm—a new job, a pandemic, no travel, and I was to develop a new sales enablement program.

I was tasked with developing a sales enablement program for four sales teams and launching two sales training methodologies. Did I mention this all had to be done remotely and virtually? Sales trainers are used to delivering our training programs in a live classroom environment. Now, I had to pivot and start to build out plans and programs that can be delivered in a virtual environment.

The challenge was to figure out how to develop and launch this content. How do we make this content meaningful to the sales teams? How will we know if it worked? There was a significant investment made in launching this new program, and we couldn’t stop because there was a pandemic.

Building and launching a new sales enablement program during a pandemic was going to be a challenge, and I was up for it.

When building a sales enablement program, you must collaborate as soon as possible. Identify who will help you develop and drive this program. Working with your marketing and commercial teams will help make this program a success. Sharing the vision, strategy, and goals with the commercial leadership team will help support the overall program.

Coming into this new role, I knew that we had a team that had strong clinical acumen, but we needed a robust sales enablement program to address a shifting and competitive market. We needed to have programs in place to address objection handling, call planning, messaging, and competitive selling. And all of this needed to be done in a virtual environment.

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Virtual Overload

I started to work on what virtual platforms we could leverage to help drive these initiatives. Fortunately, we did have a sales enablement platform in place, but it was not being used to its potential. I built a plan for this platform and proposed to my manager that we increase our licenses and expand our current agreement so we could then use the video coaching and scorecard features. This would allow us to have our frontline sellers do video coaching challenges on messaging and scenarios that would be evaluated by their managers.

The scorecard feature would allow us to measure retention and application of all coaching challenges and modules we assigned to the sales team. I used examples of plans and metrics from my previous experience with this platform to help support this new initiative. Within a month we had more than 300 users on this platform. Our marketing team also leveraged this platform to create a product learning university to issue microlearning modules and knowledge checks to the sales team.

While we were launching the sales enablement platform, we were also launching our sales enablement methodologies via Zoom, Webex, and Microsoft Teams. Working with two vendors to coordinate the launches became a challenge. We were becoming overloaded from all the virtual meetings, and we prioritized what program to launch first. The feedback we were receiving was just too much for the sales teams. While we were in the middle of a pandemic, frontline sellers were still out supporting their customers in hospitals around the country.

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Be Ready to Pivot

There was no instruction book for how to handle the pandemic, and the environment was changing every day. We decided to focus on leveraging the vendors’ online portal in a sales enablement program that we could launch. This was a six-week program with all of the content created that allowed us to measure participation and completion on demand. We could then build the rest of this program with a smaller core team. We launched this program to our regional sales directors (RSDs) first then launched it to the rest of the sales team. This would allow our RSDs to support their teams with the content and learning.

The Pandemic Equaled Opportunity

Sales enablement professionals live for classroom training and face-to-face interactions. Steer the course, never give up, and do not let the challenge become the obstacle.

Amid this backdrop, here are some essential considerations for driving sales enablement and launching new programs.

  • Collaboration Is Key: Identify and work with key stakeholders.
  • Share Your Vision: Socialize the program’s vision, goals, and objectives. Make sure everyone has input.
  • Feedback: Make sure you build a feedback loop. Receiving feedback on your programs will help drive the success of the program.
  • Communication Is Key: Set up meetings frequently. Have weekly meetings with your teams to connect on the status of the program.
  • Project Management: This has been my savior. We have been using smartsheet and Monday.com to track and manage all projects. These tools are online and cloud-based, so you can share with anyone on your team and track all progress in real-time.
  • Best Practices: Reach out to your contacts. Leverage your vendor relationships and find out what other companies are doing during the pandemic to drive sales training.

“Without passion, you don’t have energy. Without energy, you have nothing.” —Warren Buffet

About the Author

Jason Gwilliam is manager of US sales training at Abbott Structural Heart. He is a sales enablement expert, thought leader, and consultant, helping companies build out world class sales enablement and customer engagement programs.

2 Comments
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Very insightful article Jason, especially relevant as you have been on the front line of sales enablement during such a challenging time. Your focus on collaboration, vision and feedback is very timely.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I appreciate your comments.
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