Ongoing sales training should be more than a tick-box exercise - and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. But what does that mean in practice for a sales enablement practitioner?
Shift Technology's Enablement Manager, Kevin Rich, gives us the lowdown on how to set your reps up for long-term success.
Amongst other things, we cover:
Equipping sales reps with the skills to build trust
Involving leaders & management in sales training
Sales enablement trends for the next 12 months
Whether in-person sales training will make a comeback
Q. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your sales background and your enablement career journey.
A. My journey into sales started back in 2013 when I joined the sales associate program at EMC. Since then, I progressed through sales from BDR, to account executive, to sales manager.
I pivoted to enablement from sales management as I realized the most rewarding part of managing people was helping them be successful in whatever fashion that meant. From role playing target customer accounts at 7 a.m. or joining sales calls for fallback support at 7 p.m. - seeing someone improve and build confidence provided a greater feeling than any deal I ever closed.
Since joining Shift, I’ve extended this approach by creating anything that helps make our team’s life easier - sales enablement content like pitch decks, sales process review, customer case studies, and more.
Q. What does a typical GTM sales training rollout look like at Shift Technology?
A. A typical training first starts with a project planning template (shoutout to my director Jen Leary for instilling this in me). This creates a who, what, where, why, how of the training to help guide how you’re going to get from conception to completion.
Once you have the project plan, you’ll work with the subject matter experts to start developing content (or reshaping existing content) to meet the purpose of the training. As the enablement person, you’re there to guide the shaping of the content and delivery to ensure that it is presented in a way to be engaging and actionable for the group attending.
As you work your way through the content, you’re also managing administrative tasks like scheduling, marketing the training(s), coordinating dry-runs, sending out pre-training surveys, and preparing post-training surveys.
Q. 71% of customers say they would rather buy from a sales professional they completely trusted than one who gave them a lower price (according to Dale Carnegie research). How do you equip reps with the skills to provide this level of knowledge?
A. I am a big believer that price is relative - it’s about the value derived from their investment vs. the raw price. Before you can do anything, you need to educate your sales team to reframe the discussion about value and ROI.
Reshaping this decision-making criteria about value and not price will not only prepare your team against low-cost providers, but also competitors who heavily discount the list price to win the deal. Helping prospects re-evaluate how they're making decisions shows a genuine interest in them making the best decisions for their business and in turn helps in gaining trust.
Q. Can you share some of the sales training tips or techniques that you use at Shift?
A. A cornerstone of every training or piece of collateral we create is “what’s in it for me?” Paired with having team members “on the floor”, validating the WIFM is what drives the highest levels of engagement.
Internal teams are the customer of the enablement team and we need to approach them just as we’d expect to have them approach prospects and customers. First we seek to understand - how are things being done, what’s working, what’s challenging, why are we doing it this way. We then collaborate with stakeholders to build an improved “to-be” state that can be actionable.
Q. Should sales leaders and managers be involved in training?
A. Yes. It is important to align with the leaders and managers to ensure their perspective and input is incorporated in the training. They’re working with these reps daily so they have invaluable input. By doing this, you also provide them a vested stake in the success of the solution they helped create. It is much easier to have them buy-in to a training they helped build vs. one they did not.
Q. How do you provide your reps with hands-on experience? Do you use real-life success stories to back-up theory?
A. Yes. I will leverage my own stories as a BDR, rep or manager in the absence of being able to use a story from one of the teams peers. This helps not only bring credibility but is also a different way for someone to absorb the information.
You need to thoughtful about providing training in various formats to allow of people with varying learning styles to absorb it.
Q. Looking to the future, what do you think will be the main sales enablement trend over the next 12 months?
A. The early signs I’m seeing is personalization via technology. Generally, there are company wide trainings or at best, groups of training by seniority or department. As technology becomes more engrained in sales, you’ll start to see more specialization of training and enablement based on several factors such as seniority, department, products, services, win rate, competitive win rate, and others to start tailoring trainings to the individual.
While I don’t think we’ll be there in a year, I think it’ll be further along and we’re ~5 years away from this becoming the expectation and experience of enablement.
Q. What emerging technology/platforms are going to be hot next year?
Those that do the above. LMS is still ripe for disruption as I think the application of these systems are behind the vision for what they could be.
Q. What will sales training programs look like in 12 months’ time?
A. With remote training becoming more of the standard, companies will need to do some A/B testing. It is not as simple as taking all the trainings you’d normally do in person and putting them online. One secondary benefit of in-person training is the community that is fostered with your new hires. Not only from a cultural standpoint, but also from a co-teaching standpoint. The conversations at water or lunch breaks where colleagues validate learnings with their peers will go away - how do you replace in an online experience?
Q. Do you think in-person sales training is likely to make a comeback any time soon?
A. Yes. I’m seeing companies plan for business workshops periodically throughout the year. So even as companies move to full or partial remote structures, they still will do in-person gatherings periodically at which training will be key in these truncated periods.
Enablement teams will need to be thoughtful about what should/needs to be in-person vs. what can be remote.