Back to the Basics of Selling
After a tumultuous two years, sales enablement practitioners and sellers have learned to adapt in ways they never had to before. Now that we have settled into some version of our new normal, many practitioners and sales organizations have returned to the basics of the “how” of selling. In the beginning of selling in a fully virtual environment, sellers had endless prospects and customers at their fingertips. While the quantity of outreaches significantly increased, the tendency to use generic outreaches instead of thoughtful, relevant ones increased as well.
Now, the focus is returning to quality. Sending communications, such as emails, presentations, and proposals, customized to the customer is common sense but not common practice. This is starting to change as customers demand insights and knowledge that help them stay ahead of their competitors. Customers are asking for guidance on navigating their own internal selling processes in which they would only trust someone to do so if they consistently produced high-quality assets. Sellers going back to the basics to think of the “how” of selling are forming trusted partnerships with their customers that differentiate them from other sellers.
Deeper Cross-Functional Alignment
As a sales enablement leader, work to strengthen your enablement charter, foster deeper alignment among the cross-functional leaders you work with, and plan how you will rally to support senior leaderships’ strategic objectives for 2022.
What do your senior leaders care most about for the upcoming year? What are the outcomes they want and the metrics that matter most? For example, is it:
- Improving digital selling practices and virtual opportunity management to lift win-rates?
- Strengthening new product launches or growing a specific product line?
- Enhancing upselling and cross-selling to maximize current account growth?
- Increasing profitability without sacrificing top-line revenue?
- Boosting C-Sat or NPS ratings?
- Implementing and adopting a buyer-centric sales methodology?
- Achieving raw revenue growth to secure the next “Series-X” round of funding?
Or do they want something else or some combination of the above outcomes?
That’s what to do. How you do it will also matter a great deal. And this is where the alignment around outcomes, initiatives, shared accountabilities, deliverables, and timeframes will allow you to prepare, enable, and support your sales force and other revenue team members to achieve the results you are aiming for.
Focus on the KPIs
Next year will be the one when enablement shifts its focus to the key performance indicators (KPIs) businesses care about: forecast accuracy, sales efficiency, and sales productivity. Each KPI underpins predictable, positive, and measurable revenue growth.
Most enablement programs have focused on leading indicators such as butts in seats or content consumed, and a few have started the shift toward secondary outcomes such as win rates, deal velocity, and deal size.
The board, investors, and senior leadership teams want predictability in their businesses. They want to know that an investment in sales and marketing will lead to a specific revenue output. Furthermore, they want to have confidence that they will hit the target when giving a revenue projection to the markets.
Enablement teams can work closely with operations, sales leadership, and other key leaders to build predictability into the model.
To achieve this outcome, enablement will need to take ownership of this challenge, tying its efforts to this predictability and working with the key leaders in their business to support these outcomes.
This focus will earn enablement the coveted seat at the executive table and shift it to the strategic role it has long desired.
Plan Your (Flexible) Sales Enablement Calendar
What enablement activities are you planning for August of next year? If you don’t know, it’s time to plan. Here’s one way to get started:
1. Start on paper.
2. Block end of month (EOM), end of quarter (EOQ), and holidays. No training then.
3. Block annual events: customer conferences, tradeshows your sales teams attend, and your own ATD International Conference & EXPO or SELL dates.
4. List training needs: role play, presentation skills, sales methodology, cold-calling practice, and so on.
5. Drop these into the calendar.
6. Mark not only the virtual and live training events but also any prework requirements and post-event reinforcement.
Transfer the document to a shared calendar or Excel spreadsheet and socialize it. Talk to sales leadership, marketing, and product leaders. Sell your vision for the benefits to the sales team and bottom-line revenue. Take feedback. Shift where needed and push back if needed too. If you know that sales methodology training will give greater ROI if spread out over time, then lobby for it rather than a single event.
Sales organizations move quickly, and you will too. Having a drafted annual calendar gives you a leg up to strategically grow the capabilities of your company’s sales team and, by extension, the bottom line.
Realign Your Customer Focus
For me, the kickoff to 2022 is a time to review and realign our customer focus. In a customer-first enablement organization, it is critical to ensure your reps are in lockstep with any changing market dynamics. First, do you understand what drivers are important to your prospects, what is making them buy, and why are they buying now?
One of my favorite ways to do that is to employ a deceptively simple tool: use-case mapping. This is the process of aligning the reasons why your customers are buying, the pains they are trying to solve for, and how you address those pains. This is then mapped to specific features or subfeatures in your product.
Once completed, your use-case mapping can be the cross-functional foundation to build a wide variety of tools and trainings (for example, discovery talk tracks, demo guides, product curriculum and launch trainings, ROI builders, even onboarding). The list is limited only by your imagination. As a bonus, when your entire organization is aligned to the use-case mapping, you have solid guidelines to keep all functions consistent, which makes your reps’ jobs just that much easier.
Sales Enablement and Readiness Training
The past two years were challenging for sales enablement practitioners. We adjusted to delivering programs in a virtual environment and keeping our sales teams engaged.
In 2022, we will focus on these four specific sales competencies:
- Selling skills
- Soft skills
- Core product knowledge
- Sales tools and process
Now more than ever sales professionals need to drive differentiation and insight with customers. Customers do not want to hear the same story. They want to hear what is new and why they should invest or use your product. Sales professionals need to articulate the story, the value proposition, and the “why” for their customers. Data from Gartner states 48 percent of sales reps don’t do a good job articulating the value of their product and 74 percent of sales professionals are too focused on themselves.
We need to enable our sales professionals to tell the story and deliver the message. This foundation is built over time during sales enablement training and readiness. Developing and focusing on core competencies will set you and your team up for success.