As the B2B buying process evolves, sales reps are getting fewer and fewer “moments of truth” in front of prospects.
In fact, Gartner found that B2B buyers spend just 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers – a number that includes not only your company, but also the competition.
That’s why it's critical that salespeople make the most of every single buyer interaction they have, says Brainshark Chief Readiness Officer Jim Ninivaggi, because an unprepared rep won’t get a second chance to impress.
“Ensure reps have the right knowledge, skills, and assets so that when they leave a buyer interaction, the buyers think, ‘that salesperson didn’t suck,’” he says.
During a recent Brainshark webinar, Ninivaggi and Brainshark CEO Greg Flynn shared their thoughts on where sales enablement leaders should focus their efforts in 2019, to ensure their reps can provide more value to buyers. Here are 3 areas they see as vital to the function.
1. Building A Culture of “Practicing with Purpose”
The lack of effective sales coaching is far from a new issue. While companies acknowledge that managers should coach, it’s often not emphasized or prioritized by sales managers. That’s why Ninivaggi says sales organizations need to place a new focus on meaningful practice.
“You may feel that managers don’t have time to coach, but it would be hard to argue that reps shouldn’t find time to practice,” he says.
But what does purposeful practice mean within the context of sales? Consider the example of Francesco Molinari, the first Italian golfer to win a major championship. An article in The Wall Street Journal details Molinari’s decision to hire a new performance coach, Dave Alred, who challenged his client with “unusual routines designed to make practice a better simulation of competition.”
The point was to devise uncomfortable training exercises so that, come tournament time, Molinari had practiced to the point where his consistency was almost automatic.
The same approach applies to sales coaching. In order to be truly ready, salespeople must practice handling tough objections, delivering pitches and sharing insights before they ever get in front of a buyer. And they can do that in a few different ways, including:
- Performing a live role-play with a manager, who offers feedback
- Using a video coaching tool to record their pitch delivery, and having it reviewed by a peer
- Leveraging AI capabilities, such as Brainshark’s Machine Analysis engine, for additional feedback
“You can’t afford to have new hires or experienced reps practicing on buyers, because they’re not going to get a second chance. You’ve got to walk in ready,” Ninivaggi says. “It’s corny, but it’s true: you can’t get ready if you don’t practice. There needs to be that expectation… Practice until you can’t get it wrong.”
2. Targeting the Sales Activities that Lead to Revenue
Improving sales onboarding remains a top priority for sales enablement leaders – and for good reason.
More than 60% of companies consider themselves ineffective at sales onboarding, according to the Sales Management Association. In another study, SiriusDecisions found that 37% of companies have no sales onboarding programs at all. Yet 82% of millennial sellers said that having a formal, structured onboarding program was critical in their decision to take a job.
So how can organizations establish a sales onboarding process that meets the needs of today’s sellers and accelerates time to rep productivity? Ninivaggi advocates for an “agile” onboarding methodology that prioritizes the key selling activities that lead to productivity.
“Me teaching a rep how to use our CRM system is important, but it’s not going to lead to productivity. Getting a rep ready to make his or her first prospecting call will lead to productivity,” Ninivaggi says.
Here at Brainshark, we worked with sales leadership to decide when new reps should be assessed and certified in activities such as prospecting calls, demo calls and negotiations calls. From that, our sales enablement team built a series of “sprints” that feature online learning, classroom learning, video practice and coaching, live practice and feedback, and assessment to determine whether new reps are competent in these key selling activities.
“We don’t let you on the phone doing that prospecting call until you pass the assessment,” Ninivaggi says.
For more about Brainshark’s Agile Sales Onboarding Methodology, including the 4 stages of executing it, click here to download our eBook.
3. Harvesting and Sharing the Best Thinking
Sales enablement leaders should assess what their organizations can do to better retain Year 2 and Year 3 sales reps, considering how much time it takes for sellers to become productive.
CSO Insights found that it takes 9.2 months on average until a rep becomes productive. On top of the time and money spent paying reps as they ramp up, there are also opportunity costs tied to uncovered territories and the potential productivity of the salesperson you just lost.
“When you lose a rep in month 18, not only are you starting over, but you’ve lost the future earnings of that salesperson,” Ninivaggi says. “What could they have produced if you retained them?”
Solving the retention problem begins with a continuous learning strategy powered by peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.
More than 90% of sales reps say that peer learning helps them succeed, according to ATD. However, high-performing reps don’t always have an easy way to share their insights and best practices with the rest of the sales force.
Sales readiness tools like Brainshark allow reps to easily create and share micro-learning video content with their peers.
As a sales enablement leader, you could assign a short, informal video coaching activity asking each rep to discuss how they prepared for their most recent sales call. Reps would record their responses and upload them to the content library. The best submissions can then be turned into formal training content, with enablement leaders enhancing and refining them as needed.
“Let reps know you’re not looking for perfection,” Ninivaggi says. “It’s still learning content. You can add text to it [saying] here are the key points to listen to while [the rep] talks about handling this objection. You want reps to be able to find it, and you want to manage it – [ensuring] everything on your peer-to-peer portal is compliant, not redundant, and up to date.”
For an in-depth rundown of how our platform supports sales reps, check out "12 Ways Brainshark to Use Brainshark for Sales Readiness."