Russell Zack, Head of Revenue at Second Nature, gave this presentation at the Sales Enablement Summit New York in March 2022. You can catch the replay with your SEC membership via the membership dashboard!

In this article, I'm going to be talking about something very specific in the realm of sales enablement personnel: how do you track the confidence around your sellers?

Second Nature is a sales simulation application that enables salespeople to role play in two way conversations with a virtual persona that you define, and that’s fit to your company's buyer personas and different sales cycles.

What we allow these sellers to do is practice in a safe space.

  • The importance of measuring seller confidence
  • Seller confidence and buyer trust go hand-in-hand
  • Key ways to improve seller confidence
  • Key takeaways

The importance of measuring seller confidence

Sales enablement’s responsibilities are everpresent

We all know that we're dealing with uncertain times, and that uncertainty is going to continue.

But all of us in sales enablement know that uncertainty doesn't matter.

You have your sales goals and you're all faced with a whole variety of different programs that you need to implement, support and showcase to the heads of sales.

Then you need to talk to the sales managers about new ways in which you're going to help build the sales pipeline and grow the business.

You may have a new product, a new message, new pricing to compete against the latest competitor market and increase your revenue at the company level, or maybe a new methodology.

And of course, we see people leave the organization, and have people join the organization - we inevitably hear a lot about the need to hire and onboard people as fast and efficiently as possible.

There’s also a need, based on your expectations and your responsibility in sales enablement, to showcase that the sales team members who are ingesting their courses and taking your training are improving:

“Hey, look at what we've done with all our initiatives to make these people more productive, more efficient, and more effective in their selling.”

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Where does sales confidence come in?

But that's only part of what you need to do as a sales enabler.

What do you do about confidence? How do you measure confidence within your sellers?

We know that having confident conversations with buyers will drive them to have a relationship with your sellers that drives proficiency and productivity.

I'm saying: “Oh, confident conversations? Great, easy!”. But one thing that we’ve seen is that it's not simple.

If you're going to measure proficiency and competence, you also have to be able to measure confidence, in addition to tracking the quantitative side of the effects of sales enablement initiatives.

Seller confidence and buyer trust go hand in hand

So let's take a step back and talk about what confidence is. Very simply, the definition of confidence is the measure of certainty that you can accomplish a task and be able to complete it.

But one thing that we hear a lot is that competency and confidence are very different from self-esteem.

You can have an individual with very high self-esteem who isn't confident in what they're doing on a certain task - and we're not just talking about new sellers or individuals who are in the early stages of their careers, we're also talking about established sellers.

Tony Robbins has this statement around confidence, which is:

“If you don't know how to sell with confidence, customers won't trust you.”

And that's the foundation of the relationship. We know that confidence and trust come hand in hand.

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The difference between confidence and experience

Going back to why this is applicable to any level of seller or experienced seller, let's talk about Jim.

Jim is a real-life person who’s been brought into an organization at a senior level.

He was showcased to the board as an experienced seller with 20 years in software sales. He’d done large deals, was very technical, and had a very high level of proficiency.

The board said: “Let's put this individual in. He’s going to handle some large deals and run a sales team. It's going to be in a new market, but he's done two other markets before.

But what happened was that after nine months, there were no large deals, and very little progress in the pipeline - and the very experienced, multi-million dollar seller had lost his confidence.

He felt that he didn't have the trust of the buyer, and he didn’t have experience in the industry.

But the senior executives at the organization didn't know. There was no program in place for Jim. They thought: “Hey, he's been around for 20 years. He should be able to handle this”.

But he didn't have the confidence.

And that's one thing that we look at very closely in what we do at Second Nature. How do you help the confidence level of these sellers?

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Key ways to improve seller confidence

There are some major areas that enablement team leaders can look at to help sellers increase their level of confidence - and then with that confidence will come the successful deals.

Specialized coaching

The first area is specialized coaching. You need to have a program in place to look for, interview, and ask about specific areas where team members may lack confidence.

They may be proficient, they may pass the tests, but there may still be areas in which they lack confidence.

At Second Nature, we talk about practicing in a safe space. Individuals love the virtual AI assistant because it doesn't judge.

“Hey Russ, you did okay. Here's your score. Maybe you want to improve next time. Want to go again?”

The thought is: “This is like interacting with a real person”, and a suspension of disbelief.

It’s like in a movie. Why does Vin Diesel fly his car through a building? Your brain is saying: “Wow, that's pretty cool. He flew his car through a building.”

It's not dissimilar to what we do at Second Nature in terms of creating a safe space environment.

Understand levels of enthusiasm

Once you look at that first area of coaching, you then need to look at enthusiasm for the job.

Say I give a seller, Will, a new task: “Will, I'm going to give you a new assignment. I want you to take on this new market.”

What’s Will's reaction?

Oh, I don't know. I'm quite happy with what I'm doing.”

Well, that's showcasing that he's challenged with his confidence. He's not looking at the job as continuous new opportunities. There may be an issue there.

What kind of questions is he asking? If Will asks me:

Am I going to get quota relief for the first eight months before I take on this role? Am I going to be able to work with the right people?”, is he looking for reassurance?

Maybe he's not so confident in what he's doing in this specific market or new opportunity.

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Willingness to take risks

And finally, you have to look at their willingness to take risks.

Is Will saying: “I think we should give this discount. I can’t get the deal done,” or “I want to lay back and I'm not ready to take any risks in the role”?

Those are automatic examples of sellers who need help with their confidence and you need to look at ways in which to approach this..

Safe spaces to practice

The second one is around practicing in a safe space, and this is where Second Nature comes in.

We look at it as an end to end process. The first thing is that when a seller comes in to practice with the virtual persona, they always get positive reinforcement - it provides that boost of adrenaline.

What happens with the positive reinforcement is that their face changes and the serotonin goes up, they get excited.

And then finally, we always close the five to eight minute simulation with a question about confidence.

  • ‘Do you feel more confident?
  • Is this making you comfortable?
  • Is it making you uncomfortable?’

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Measurement and tracking

The survey at the end of the simulation, that’s very important and an example of the type of data we track with our programs.

We look to measure proficiency. So for example, between session one all the way to session three, how much have they improved their score in terms of their knowledge?

But the key part is the confidence score.

What the simulation is driving is an increase in confidence and a way to measure it from the sales enablement team.

Enablement can say: “Look, we've rolled this out, we can showcase proficiency and information that the seller is now able to present to prospects. Once they've done the simulation they feel more confident in the information that they have.”

That’s critical in terms of making sure that your confidence and your proficiency will turn into more deals from your sellers.

While you may do interviews, you also want to pay special attention to the written feedback. You might have a seller, and you can tell she's pretty excited. But what comes through is the confidence that she's ready to go.

And this is all because of the experience that she's had with the simulation itself.

Key takeaways

Confidence and proficiency measurement need to go hand in hand. You have to look at that because it's a harder thing to measure, but it's very important as a KPI for your sellers.

Anybody can lack confidence in a test. It doesn't matter how high their self-esteem is.

And the three areas of being able to cut the time-to-confidence. How do you get your sellers to be more confident?

  • It’s about providing specialized coaching
  • Providing an environment for safe practice
  • Measurement with surveys and feedback immediately after they do the simulation.

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So let’s go back to Jim, who I talked about earlier. Great seller, wasn't good at a job, and had to leave the company. For 12 months, he didn't go back into the work environment.

Then, Jim received a call to interview as a new CRO at a company, and the recruiter said to him: “Why don't you try Second Nature? You're going to review the deck and go through the information.”

So Jim took notes, looked at the presentation, and thought: “Okay, this simulation sounds interesting.

He tried the simulation for the first time, did it for seven minutes, and said: “Oh, this is interesting. It's telling me about areas for improvement. I can watch how the pitch works.”

He did it a second time and a third time, and within 35 minutes he got a good score. But it wasn't the score that sat with Jim.

It was the fact that after an hour and a half of prep with the document he was sent as materials, and the simulations, he felt that he was ready to go into a first conversation with a prospect with confidence.

And I know that because I'm Jim.

So that’s the kind of thing you could look at for your own sellers and the effect that it has on the individuals. Confidence is a huge, huge influencer.

Thanks for reading - we hope you found Russell's insights valuable!