Sales leaders consistently tell us that knowledge gaps among their reps are preventing individual reps from making the number. With sales enablement initiatives ranging from nonexistent to ad hoc content delivery to one-size-fits-all training, it’s no wonder so many reps struggle to meet quota. These approaches all lead to mixed results and a failure to close sales knowledge gaps or move the sales organization closer to success. The goal should always be to help reps master knowledge about markets, buyers, provider company value, offerings and the competition so that they can apply that knowledge in interactions with buyers throughout the buying decision process.
To help our clients in portfolio marketingand sales enablement, we analyzed data from the 2018 Sales Talent Study. We learned that there are four ways to design more effective sales enablement programs that close those sales knowledge gaps. I’ll cover this topic in more detail in the upcoming webcast “Closing Sales Knowledge Gaps.” For now, here’s a sneak peek into the four characteristics of effective sales knowledge transfer:
It’s informed by selling motion. Our research tells us that the demand type (i.e. new concept, new paradigm or established market) or market situation reps are selling into affects their enablement needs significantly. We found that the job aids that reps need and the order in which they’re needed during the buying cycle depends entirely on the demand type. Reps selling into new paradigm demand types need competitive product comparisons much earlier in the buying decision process than reps selling into established markets.
It aligns to the sales talent lifecycle. The study results also tell us that the enablement needs of new sales hiresdiffer from those of tenured reps. Sales knowledge transfer programs should shift to meet sales reps within the context of their workflow – on the basis of tenure, performance and deal specifics – so that they’re adopting the knowledge components in the order and environment that enables their success in front of buyers. For example, new sales reps need to prioritize buyer knowledge over other types of knowledge.
It’s modular. It’s easy to assume that current enablement approaches aren’t working because sales reps aren’t paying attention, but that’s not the reason. It’s because reps’ brains – like all adult brains – only have so much capacity in a given timeframe. We have to break sales knowledge transfer down into smaller chunks that reps can consume and retain more easily. This requires portfolio marketers to stop delivering sales enablement in the form of “megadecks” and start providing smaller components aligned to each stage of the buying process.
It’s integrated with learning strategy. Most sales content and training that’s created ad hoc tells reps what they need to know, but not how to use or deliver it. Just telling reps isn’t enough to ensure they will learn, apply and own the knowledge. Sales knowledge transfer programs should go beyond telling to showing reps what good looks like and reinforcing their learning. Mastering this approach requires organizations to free up first-line sales managers to coach instead of spend most of their time on sales enablement that isn’t available or doesn’t meet reps’ needs.
Soucre: Christina McKeon