When change creates the need to adjust business strategy, companies must also change their approach to sales. Such changes must be understood and applied by the entire sales team if the organization is to adapt and succeed.
Fortunately, through assessment and talent analytics, leaders can quickly and accurately identify knowledge or behavioral gaps that need to be addressed in order to align sales talent – at both individual and organizational levels – with the changes in company strategy. Further, training can now be optimized for each sales professional based on his or her learning preferences and at the time and place that he or she most needs it.
Automated enablement tools can help sellers execute desired behaviors more confidently and consistently, thereby accelerating attainment of desired results.
The Evolution of Learn-Ablement
The emergence of advanced assessment, learning and enablement capabilities helps sales leaders adapt to changes in strategy. However, such capabilities can increase the complexity of executing their initiatives. To ensure successful results, we bring these capabilities together under a cohesive and rational learning architecture, which we call Learn-Ablement.
The Learn-Ablement architecture aligns learning, development and enablement around three key questions:
- What does a good approach to selling look like for our organization?
- What does “good” look like for personal development in specific roles?
- What does “good” look like for improving skills and abilities in specific sales situations?
For each of these questions, there is an ideal developmental approach: MacroLearning, MicroLearning or NanoLearning. Each approach is optimally supported by different enablement technologies.
MacroLearning: What “good” looks like for the organization
Sales organizations have traditionally implemented new sales methods, skills and tools through live, instructor-led training, and then deployed enablement technology, such as automated sales process playbooks. In this process, learning is not immediately and directly reinforced, and most of the desired sales behaviors don’t happen consistently – or at all.
Learning new methodologies and skills is most effective with the use of the actual tools a learner will use on the job. For example, when learners are introduced to best practices for preparing for and executing a sales conversation with a prospect, they can not only learn about and role play the approach, but they can do so in the context of executing that activity in a selling process as reflected in an automated playbook. In this example, the learning goal is supported by an activity: preparing for a conversation with a questioning prompter tool accessed within the online playbook.
MacroLearning combines traditional training with the embedded use of enablement tools, thus providing a more realistic scenario for applying learning concepts. This process provides more utility to the training experience and more practical applications to real-world situations, thus enhancing adoption and application of sales best practices.
MicroLearning: What “good” looks like for the individual
Often, a sales organization will construct a competency model with different areas of focus and levels of proficiency for a given sales role. For example, an individual could have a learning plan that reflects his or her specific areas of need, which are identified with knowledge and behavioral assessments.
Today, it’s much easier to create highly tailored, bite-sized portions of learning content that can easily be consumed from smart phones. Furthermore, it also much easier to reinforce learning using adaptive and spaced repetition principles – making it much more likely that learners will retain and apply whatever they are attempting to master.
NanoLearning: What “good” looks like for the situation
Once learners reach desired levels of proficiency, they should consistently be applying what they learned. One of the most impactful ways to improve learning application is to provide sales professionals with contextual, just-in-time content that can help them execute specific activities in their everyday sales situations.
For example, consider a situation in which a sales professional has 15 minutes right before a sales conversation with a prospect. She wants to refresh her memory about what a good, consultative sales conversation looks like. She could simply access her on-demand library or sales playbook and launch that specific content, whether it’s a short video, soundbite or text tutorial.
Again, the ability to create useful content quickly, even on a mobile device, and then make that learning available to colleagues, is just one of many avenues for providing contextual learning in an accessible and highly digestible fashion.
Improved Sales Management with Learn-Ablement
While the objective of the Learn-Ablement architecture is to fully support what “good” looks like for your sellers at the organizational, individual and situational levels, the use of optimized technology at each of these levels also provides more valuable data points for sales managers. With these data, a manager can see correlations between opportunity win-loss ratios and the tools sellers use.
With these kinds of data analytics, sales leaders can ascertain if desired behavior change is occurring and predict earlier and with greater certainty whether or not they will achieve business results.
Getting Started with Learn-Ablement
Applying an integrated Learn-Ablement architecture might seem overwhelming: Where do you begin? There are steps that a sales organization can take to make the approach manageable. We often help clients execute these actions and develop a tailored Learn-Ablement structure.
- Define your selling framework for each go-to-market model.
- Create common Learn-Ablement plans for these groups.
- Infuse core enablement playbooks in training.
- Use analytics to assess areas of individual focus.
- Determine the most strategic competencies for your key sales and management roles to develop.
- Configure Learn-Ablement plans for individuals based on required proficiency levels.
- Reinforce desired behavior changes (management function).
- Identify your key selling situations.
- Create NanoLearning assets (e.g., just-in-time how to videos, text entries, etc.).
- Embed the assets in sharing portals, playbooks and/or enablement platforms (e.g., CRM).
No longer must sales and learning functions debate where to focus learning and enablement efforts. They can be integrated at the organizational, individual and situational level, all working in concert to enable the sales organization to adapt quickly to any changes in company strategy.