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ATD Blog

What to Do When Launching a Sales Advisory Council

Friday, January 22, 2021
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In the previous post I discussed what you should not do when forming a sales advisory council. Now that you know the landmines, let’s take a look at some best practices on what you should do.

The goal of any sales advisory council is to gather information from the people who are consuming what you are creating. It is similar to a customer user group in that getting to the bottom of the true needs (not wants) is critical to your success. Plus, you can gain immense respect from the sales teams by showing interest, empathy, and true curiosity into their opinions while giving them a seat at the table and gaining their buy-in.

Sales Advisory Council DOS

1. Stay Neutral and Impartial
Your impartiality is key in making a sales advisory council successful. It creates an atmosphere of open dialogue and honesty. If you don’t have that, then you are going to get mostly platitudes or attacks depending on the culture, players, and situation. You have to be the person they trust with potentially sensitive opinions, so make every effort to allow for anonymity, open dialogue, and trust-building.

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  • TIP: Create a way to submit private feedback or ask anonymous questions. (This could be as simple as an email alias or “suggestion box” format.) This is particularly important in some global cultures where speaking up is not the norm.

2. Invite a Diverse Set of Sales Representations
Your choices when it comes to members can have a huge influence on how effective your outcomes are. It is important to include people from all regions, segments, tenures, and skill levels. This diversity will give you the full picture of what the true field situation is and how your projects play a role in that success.

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  • TIP: As often as you can, bring these diverse groups together, even across regions. While that can be challenging, it is amazing the insights you will gain when distant groups hear each other’s input directly from their peers. Many times you will find that groups really aren’t that different. They are often dealing with the same struggles in diverse ways, which means an ultimate win for you.

3. Ensure Everyone has a Voice
If you plan your attendees correctly, you should have a variety of members. Because you have so many voices represented, you may find some voices are much louder than others and that there are people that are not being heard at all. It is your job to structure the discussion sessions so that no one can take over and no one gets shut out. It is the job of a good facilitator to build this positive experience.

  • TIP: Employ exercises that take the pressure off speaking up, such as voting, writing down questions or comments, breakout groups, and even one-on-one sessions.

4. Make Membership a Big Deal
It is best when you can highlight the importance of the feedback you are getting from the attendees of the sales advisory council meetings and follow up with action. Having managers volun-tell members and have it look like another chore is not a good light. Make a big deal out of membership—for example, publish their names, send them a welcome packet, and highlight their contributions at QBRs and Kickoff functions.

  • TIP: Treat your team to amenities that aren’t common to their peers. For example, take them out for dinner (or a virtual “Dinner on Me”), acknowledge the influence they have had in company-wide communications, give awards, or provide tokens of membership such as a special jacket or certificate.

Being in sales enablement, you have a unique opportunity to connect and align resources to most benefit your sales teams—and by extension, your customers. Remember, no single group interfaces with your customer base more than the sales teams. They are a treasure trove of customer insights. Take advantage of this resource by forming your own sales advisory council then let me know how on LinkedIn or Twitter how it goes.

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About the Author

With a degree in marketing management, certifications in sales methodology coaching, consulting, and message creating, as well as learning and levelopment program management; Jennifer Robinson has spent the last 20+ years up-leveling her skills and following her vision. She found her niche over the last 12 years “out of the ivory tower and into the weeds” – focused on how sales enablement can be a lynchpin; aligning sales across marketing, product, operations, and other business functions to move deals forward and shorten sales cycles. You can reach Jennifer through LinkedIn, her blog, and Twitter.

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