The terms sales confidence, sales readiness and sales enablement at first glance might appear to be obtuse synonyms, interchangeable sales jargon employed to keep the secrets of the business out of the eyes of the uninitiated.
The reality isn’t quite so sinister. There are distinctions between the three terms, though they are interconnected; assisting one another and playing where the other leaves off. Sales confidence plays off sales readiness and it’s the job of sales enablement to put a structure in place to instill both of these successfully. But let’s go into more detail.
What is sales readiness?
Sales readiness is probably the easiest to define: ascertaining if sellers are properly equipped to close sales.
This all starts with the onboarding and training processes: embedding knowledge about new products; how to communicate value and understand buyer motivation; and identify and address deficiencies in their sales strategy. Sales training is often seen as an exercise in cramming knowledge into the rep’s head and hoping some of it sticks. A set program, reading, talks and testing. Sounds similar to that monster of adolescence; school.
Now. How much do you remember from school? Not as much as you’d like to admit, huh?
Research, such as a study by Gartner, shows that the overwhelming percentage of sales training is forgotten soon after being taught. 70% within a week and 87% within a month. It is also true that though theoretical knowledge is useful, live practice and sustained learning is what is ultimately going to leave a trainee with understanding and confidence in what exactly it is they’re doing.
This is where sales readiness comes in: as an extensive and continuous process that is in effect training after training: providing resources such as useful product, customer and competition information; utilizing strategies like microlearning, individual coaching (including the all-important field coaching), role play, quizzing, attending sales meetings and peer to peer learning. Desired results include better retention of training material, reduced ramp time, faster attainment of sales quotas and increased close rates. All of which, unsurprisingly, are vital for success.
You should be asking yourself, when a new hire is about to stand in front of their first prospect: Do they have sales readiness?
What is sales confidence?
Sales confidence then, is the natural outcome of sales readiness. You can think of sales confidence as achieving the zen state for conducting sales, wherein the seller understands, and has the skills to implement, best practice for conducting a sale, while also promoting their infectious confidence within the prospect.
Sellers with sales confidence are going to have a thorough understanding of the product, the industry, and appropriate conversational skills. This will affect their behavior when interacting with a customer: their way of speech, body language and ability to instil trust, wrapped up in a 'no fear of failure' mentality.
If your hypothetical first time sales rep comes back having hit quota within optimal ramp time; it’s fair to say they demonstrated sales confidence.
How does this all fit into sales enablement?
Sales enablement on represents a level above sales readiness and confidence. The enablement team is concerned with increasing sellers’ overall competence, productivity, efficiency, and engagement. This includes training and coaching; content to be used with customers such as whitepapers, webinars, and internal content, and streamlining access to useful content through a CMS (content management system).
The enablement team also provides measurements: sales metrics, quota achievement, sale sizes, and the length of the sales cycles. Sales enablement is collaborative, promoting interconnectivity between sales and marketing. They’re pretty much the quartermasters, provisioning the sellers.
In summary, readiness is the process of continually reinforcing sales training practices, while confidence is the state of mind and desired outcome of training and readiness.
Sales enablement’s purpose is to ensure the immediate and long-term success of a company’s revenue function. This means priming sellers for closing, providing the appropriate content and for the seller to use, and increasing alignment with other business functions, such as marketing and customer success.