Current State

No part of the business has been immune to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Sales has been especially impacted. The world in which Sales teams must operate has changed dramatically and the tools companies use to drive their performance must change, too. As companies plan for a post-pandemic future, generating sales and revenue were ranked as the most critical business transitions in Brandon Hall Group’s recent study, COVID-19: Impact on Workplace Practices. Products are constantly improved, new products continue to roll out, the competitive landscape has been completely altered, customer needs are adapting and Sales best practices are evolving. Sales teams have also been hit hard by “The Great Resignation.” Organizations are striving to hold onto top talent, which is difficult with highly mobile and transferrable roles such as Sales. 

Complexities

Companies seek many things when it comes to sales enablement. But essentially, they need the tools and training that will help Sales teams perform better and more consistently, as well as create loyalty-building customer experiences. In addition to the challenges presented by the pandemic environment, there are many perennial sales enablement challenges facing companies. 

  • Salespeople are too busy for training; they have too many other priorities. 
  • Salespeople think they already know the material, so they don’t want to participate. 
  • Sales training has a bad reputation, so employees avoid it. 
  • Training systems are hard to use. 
  • None of the content seems relevant.

Consequences

When Sales teams are not supported with the right tools and training, there are multiple implications. First and foremost, key sales performance indicators such as deal size, pipeline, time to close, etc., begin to fall off. Next, top talent begins to look for better opportunities elsewhere. It is also difficult to recover from the attrition because it takes too long to get new hires up to speed. The entire sales enablement process starts with onboarding. Brandon Hall Group’s Strategic Onboarding Study found that product training is the most important onboarding element, viewed as highly important or critical by 74% of companies. Then, there are new product launches where companies need to teach new and existing salespeople about the products, ensuring everyone is fluent on the messaging. Another big part of sales enablement is the management of the content and tools available to the salespeople. 

Critical Questions

CRITICAL QUESTIONS 

  • Do we have a strategy for meeting new sales training requirements? 
  • Are we leveraging tools and technologies that fit training within the workflow of our sales professionals? 
  • Is our current sales training approach keeping pace with changes among products, customers and competitors? 
  • Do we have a solid Sales onboarding program that gets new hires up and selling quickly? 

Brandon Hall Group POV

The pandemic forced many companies to manage learning in a hybrid environment where some learners are on-site and others are remote. This caused numerous challenges logistically, as in-person learning was put on hold and people are often not working with synchronous schedules. 

Key strategies for onboarding and training Sales teams: 

Set expectations and build excitement. Onboarding is all about acculturation, so it’s important to put your best foot forward. Make sure the program is well organized and learners know what to expect. 

Bite-sized, consumable pieces. In this environment, retention is key. Leverage things such as two- or three-minute explainers from subject matter experts or clips of successful moments from actual recorded sales calls. 

Leverage asynchronous content. It can be difficult to get hybrid teams together at the same time in the same place. Asynchronous, on-demand learning keeps people up to speed, giving them what they need when they need it. 

Equity, inclusion and connection. Things such as user-generated video capture help new team members become introduced and included in the team. Ensuring everyone has the same information keeps the team aligned. 

Diversify training elements. Mixing it up is the best approach. Too much of the same thing will make engagement drop off. Alternate new elements to keep the experience fresh.

Strategies for fostering and sustaining knowledge sharing among Sales teams: 

Ask the Experts. When team members are on the job and need answers, allow them to ask the experts rather than search through training materials. 

Get Answers. Allow for rating and reviewing expert answers so the best ones can be leveraged as training assets. 

Create New Knowledge Assets. Exchanges between learners and coaches can be used as enablement assets that enrich formal learning modules (courses) and knowledge library items. 

Track and Reward. As learners and experts work together to create best practices, recognize top performers and learning experts with a tracking and reward system. 

Capture and Upload. Use video capture (mobile recording device, smartphone, etc.) to create Sales learning content, then update content to a shared knowledge library. 

Validate through Peer-Review. Validate Sales content created by teammates through an informal peer-review process, then edit, curate and publish content to the knowledge library.

Key Takeaways

  • Sales teams require agile, accessible training. They are too busy to focus on scheduling training and making time for it. 
  • It’s in the best interest of salespeople and the business to limit the amount of time they are away from the job for training. Salespeople aren’t earning when they are in training and neither is the organization. 
  • Sales teams learn best from one another so connect them. Few groups appreciate shared best practices as much as Sales teams. 
  • Artificial intelligence is critical for scaling Sales coaching and enablement. At an enterprise scale, it can be impossible to manually review every sales interaction to identify success and challenges. AI can pinpoint coachable moments and good examples quickly. 
  • Sales professionals respond to incentives. In most cases, their employment structure is centered around performance. Injecting incentives into training fits the natural way they work. 
  • Sales performance is one of the easiest things to measure. For other forms of training, it can be difficult to gauge the impact. But when it comes to sales, the company is already tracking and measuring performance and the data is usually readily available. It makes it much easier to see the impact of training. 
David Wentworth

David Wentworth has been a senior research analyst in the human capital field since 2005 and joined the Brandon Hall Group in 2013. He has authored reports and articles on various human capital subjects with an emphasis on workforce technology. He has contributed to several reports published by ASTD, including authoring Mobile Learning: Learning in the Palm of Your Hand, The Rise of Social Media: Enhancing Collaboration and Productivity Across Generations, and Instructional Systems Design Today and in the Future. His work has also appeared in Compensation & Benefits Review and T+D Magazine.