Training is one of the key pillars of Sales Enablement. We’ve been reaching out to industry insiders to get a feel for how sales training is developing for them. This guest blog from Chris Bennett of Chris Bennett Sales Training & Management Consulting looks at the responsibility of Sales Enablement leaders to get training right – and what qualifies them to know what ‘right’ looks like.
Sales Enablement is a great concept. Most businesses are driven by sales. It makes sense for this to be an area that we would strategically, regularly invest in to make sure the skills of the people that drive our revenues are growing. Having a new title called Sales Enablement to coordinate the content, the coaching, the follow-up, the tracking, the tools - all the things that would support that skills growth - that’s a great idea. However, in my opinion, there are a few major problems with Sales Enablement as it’s currently developing.
Who do you hire to be a Sales Enablement leader?
First off, who is qualified to be a Sales Enablement leader? Very few people. And yet I’ve seen a few companies hiring new graduates to be Sales Enablement leaders. To me, that’s crazy. What are their qualifications? How do they know the difference between a good presentation tool like iPresent and a bad one? How do they know the difference between good sales training and bad sales training? How are they qualified to make those judgements? They’re not.
In my mind, you want a VP of Sales with decades of experience in the field, who has lived and died by commission - someone who the salespeople will find credible because he or she has made cold calls, like they have, gone on meetings, like they have, and dealt with objections and tough negotiations, just like they have. To me, that’s a more logical approach to Sales Enablement.
How can someone who is unqualified assess what a sales team needs?
The second big problem with Sales Enablement is related to the first: unqualified Sales Enablement leaders are not best placed to judge what a sales team needs – and that can lead to million-dollar mistakes. Take sales training, for example. There are a number of sales training methodologies on the market, but how would an inexperienced Sales Enablement leader know which one was appropriate for your team? Those are expensive mistakes to make.
And is any one-size-fits-all methodology right for a team? Personally, I’m not convinced. First of all, your top performers aren’t using any kind of methodology at all. They pick and choose whatever is appropriate for each deal they’re working, so they don’t want a methodology. Second, every sales methodology out there is missing something. Paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for one methodology is not going to solve all your problems.
Real Sales Enablement means acknowledging you have a skills problem
In my 26 years of experience I’ve worked with probably 75 - 80 corporations and across the board I hear the same problems. We can’t book enough meetings. We can’t build enough funnel. We can’t make enough sales.
You can’t write that off as just a content problem or a pricing problem. These are the core tasks a salesperson has to complete, so if they’re struggling to book meetings, find leads or make sales, I’d say that’s a skills problem. What a Sales Enablement leader should be doing is making a skills assessment of the sales team.
Most sales teams are made up of new people, middle of the pack people who are doing well, middle of the pack people who are struggling, and superstars that go to the President’s Club every year. What training really needs to do is speak to every member of the sales organization according to their level of competency and experience. That way the beginners learn how to make calls, while the most experienced salespeople learn how to negotiate and the people in the middle can learn how to fill funnel and shorten sales cycles. That kind of training programme touches every single element of an organization’s capability base with the skills they need instead of trying to make one thing fit everybody.
How can sales training address weak selling skills?
The first thing sales training can do is teach salespeople how to ask the right types of questions. This starts at the prospecting stage and goes right through to close. Your goal as a salesperson is to help your customers, and in order to do that you need to take the time to understand their problems. That doesn’t mean slowing the sales cycle down – far from it. It means focusing on their goals rather than your own, to win loyalty as well as deals.
An important point to make, in terms of sales training, is to make sure that sales managers are involved. Ultimately, they are the ones who have to coach and reinforce whatever training you choose. If you don’t involve them, you’re wasting your money.
If salespeople can learn how to ask questions and sales managers can learn how to coach and do follow up, you’re going to solve most of your skills problems.
Thanks to Chris for his insights on sales training!