Lasting performance results that meet both short- and long-term business goals don’t happen by accident. To achieve them, you need an effective sales enablement plan that’s designed for sustainment. When it comes to a sales training initiative, sustainment is the combination of strategy, structures and systems that ensure your investment remains effective and grows in value over time.
Too often, sales organizations send reps to training that is disconnected from their daily workflow. If the organization then fails to connect the training with the rep’s daily activities and to reinforce and update it, the training loses its value and fails to substantially improve performance over time. Likewise, if the sales organization is not constantly improving and aligning sales training and enablement with the reality of the market environment and what the organization needs to grow, performance and ROI will suffer.
A sustainment strategy can help your organization drive lasting sales performance results. Achieving long-term sales enablement success should start at the top of the organization, and the process must be aligned and reinforced throughout every level of operation. Here’s how to go about it.
1. Involve Stakeholders at Every Level
In a survey by Demand Metric, 75% of companies reported that having a sales enablement strategy makes a moderate or significant contribution to the achievement of their revenue goals. Sales enablement means giving your sales reps the skills, tools and processes to drive sales productivity and revenue. It also requires involving all of the other departments within the organization that contribute in some way to sales.
The sales enablement strategy lies at the heart of sales sustainment. It’s critical to invest in the process of planning your sales enablement strategy and to involve stakeholders at every level of the organization, including, but not limited, to:
- Inside sales/business development
- Outside sales
- Account management
- Customer service
2. Identify Your Unique Challenges and Pain Points
Work to evaluate the challenges your sales team currently faces. You can start this process by conducting meetings with groups of stakeholders and asking the following questions:
- Are there specific market changes that are forcing our salespeople to adapt?
- What is creating friction inside of the sales process?
- How is the buyer’s journey changing, and how well are our sellers adjusting to those changes?
- What information do prospects and customers already have by the time they engage with our sellers?
- Are our sellers capable of having strategic business conversations with the right people?
You can also gather this data by conducting anonymous polls, shadowing sales reps on sales calls, interviewing key stakeholders and reviewing sales team analysis reports. Working with a training provider who is skilled at collecting this important information can be helpful. The answers to these questions will give you the starting point on where to direct your focus in terms of sales enablement.
3. Evaluate the Characteristics of Your Top Performers
Identify your top performers, and take the time to evaluate what makes them successful. Understand that you’re not trying to clone your A-players; you’re simply trying to define the characteristics that make a salesperson most successful in the role. For instance:
- Which hard and soft skills does someone need to perform at high levels in the role?
- Does the role require a “farmer” or “hunter” style?
- What specific training and capabilities are required for this role?
- Are there particular activities or steps that top performers take that set them apart from the rest of the sales force?
- What technology, training and other resources would help these high performers be even more effective?
You can use this information to develop a hiring profile, as well as to establish the training and resources that are necessary to help more performers reach the higher tiers.
4. Make Your Training and Support Immediately Applicable
Training and tools that salespeople can put into practice immediately and that yield fast results are more likely to stick than those that don’t have any obvious applicability in the reps’ “real world.” Align your training with the issues identified earlier, and give salespeople tools to help them accomplish their goals. Have sales managers check that reps are using the tools in their daily work, and follow up to ensure they’re experiencing success with their new habits and tools.
Keep in mind that salespeople are more likely to keep using training and tools that they feel contribute to their success. Look for easy wins, and help each rep achieve early successes with new behaviors and tools to ensure they have the motivation to stick with them.
5. Align the Entire Organization with a Sales Focus
Your salespeople are not the only people who impact the customer’s experience, and customers are already keenly aware of this fact. When you align the entire organization – especially your marketing, sales and service departments – with a sales focus, you increase the overall capacity of your organization to achieve its revenue goals, and you more fully support your sales team.
An aligned organization can support sustainment by providing materials, tools and reinforcement to the sales team. Alignment also reduces friction and helps ensure long-term success.
6. Reinforce and Optimize Best Practices
A good sustainment strategy isn’t just about maintaining the status quo, so don’t think about enablement as a box you can check and then be done with. To succeed, sustainment must be about growing, improving and optimizing.
When it comes to training your sales force, start with the fundamentals, and then layer on skills as learners progress and grow more capable:
- Follow up with a well-planned and executed training and reinforcement program.
- Deploy evaluation tools to gauge progress and ROI.
- Train managers to reinforce new skills and to coach and develop salespeople.
7. Make Sustainment Part of the Sales Culture
Many organizations focus their culture around achieving short-term wins. While winning is important, it’s better seen as a byproduct of an effective enablement and sustainment culture rather than the focus of the culture itself. You should communicate to your salespeople, your managers and your organizational leaders that sustainment and enablement are a key focus of your organization. Reinforce that every member of your team should maintain a growth mindset and keep his or her eye on continuous improvement.
Partner with a training provider who takes into consideration where you are today and where you need to be in the future. Find one that will help you lay a solid foundation of selling skills to help you achieve quick lifts in performance and create a plan to layer on advanced techniques and achieve sustainable sales excellence in the long term. Set your team up for success today, tomorrow, and into the future with a sales enablement plan designed to grow with your business.