Every sales force has top performers, and managers often point to them for their lower performers to follow as an example. However, leadership is often unable to identify the specific behaviors that place high performers at the top. It’s not enough to say, “Be more like so-and-so.”
In addition to struggling to pinpoint specific behaviors that close sales, sales enablement teams are up against a variety of other obstacles. Andre Black, vice president of product at Allego, a sales learning and readiness platform, says, “Budgets are contracting, sales enablement teams are shrinking, there’s a fragmentation among your tools, and there’s still a desire to have better and better tools.” How can teams access the resources and data they need to close deals and drive performance at every step of the sales cycle?
Fortunately, technological advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and across the tech space are presenting new solutions. Let’s take a look a few strategies and practices organizations can implement to drive performance and sales success.
Each client and organization has unique needs and goals. If salespeople are too focused on sharing their product knowledge or explaining why their company beats out competitors, they may miss a critical moment to connect with the customer and meet his or her needs.
“Pain points vary from industry to industry. A tech company might have different priorities and challenges than a manufacturing company,” says Brendan Cournoyer, vice president of marketing at sales readiness software company Brainshark. These differences are why personalizing communication to clients is critical.
A large portion of the sales process now takes place via written communications such as email and text messages. These interactions have significant impact on the sale, and, while email templates are convenient, salespeople need to personalize messages to their clients and their needs. To that end, Brainshark recently announced an enhancement to its sales coaching and readiness offerings: text-based coaching dedicated to improving sales teams’ written communications. Cournoyer believes that “the stronger written communication skills a salesperson has, the more effective[ly] they’ll be able to capture the attention of the prospects they’re reaching out to.”
Cournoyer adds that this type of enablement and coaching should go beyond email and text messaging: “Improving those written communications also extends to other [tasks] that a salesperson needs to do.” For example, he says, while they’re creating a slide deck for a follow-up presentation, the fact that they’re accustomed to personalizing their messages will translate to more engaging and custom content.
Personalization extends to verbal communication as well. Kevin Chew, vice president of business and corporate development at Seismic, a sales enablement software solution, says, “All buyers want to interact with a salesperson who is informed, because they help them in the buyer’s journey [and give them] more of a consultative, problem-based solution.” Good sales enablement means equipping and preparing your sales team with the skills and knowledge to advocate for your company while meeting the customer at his or her points of need.
AI is playing a major role in sales enablement and coaching strategies. For example, Natalie Serverino, vice president of Chorus.ai, says the company’s conversation intelligence platform identifies and curates “the best talk tracks,” provides content such as meeting summaries, identifies how successful salespeople win deals and when they are at risk of losing them, and tracks “how reps pitch slides or product screens.”
Serverino adds, “With AI, actionable data points are more accessible than ever. For example, conversation intelligence can show sales managers something like, ‘Top reps bring up discounts in the last 15 minutes of meetings.’ Without an AI layer on calls, this understanding would have to be discovered through manual review of each call.”
Conversation intelligence has the potential to transform sales enablement. At Corporate Visions, a business-to-business (B2B) messaging, content and sales skills training organization, chief strategy officer Tim Riesterer says, “What I’m excited about … is being able to record calls, look at the adoption of these new skills and new messages, and see if people are adopting these things and using them and then correlating that to performance so that you can see direct impact in real situations.”
Learning at the Point of Need
Sales managers are tasked with coaching and training a team that can rarely afford to be taken away from work for training. Black shares that Allego “started by putting the sales rep at the center and saying, ‘These are people who learn by talking. These are people who want to learn from seeing what other top performers on their team are doing.’”
Salespeople also need training that’s tailored to them. If a salesperson is struggling with prospecting, for example, mandatory negotiation training may not be helpful. “Give them the training that their performance indicates they need, not what their role or their tenure says they need,” says Riesterer. Chew similarly recommends “contextual training [and] training for tactical opportunities.”
It’s no longer enough for salespeople to have extensive knowledge of the products and services they sell. Rather, they must collaborate with and meet the individual needs of the buyer while advocating for the organization as his or her best option.
“Salespeople are being challenged to add value in their customer conversations, and they can’t do it any longer by being the product expert, because they can’t be as comprehensive or as up-to-date as a website can,” says Riesterer. For this reason, salespeople need personalized just-in-time coaching and training to adapt to and connect with their prospects.
While new intuitive, intelligent technology uncovers strategic insights that salespeople can use to inform interactions with buyers throughout the sales process, it’s important to remember that your clients are human, and your reps must make a genuine connection with them. Simply following a formula and checking off boxes as they move through the cycle won’t cut it. As Chew says, “It’s not empirical; it’s not scientific. We try to make it that; we try to hone the edge with empirical data, but at the end of the day, it’s [all about] people.”