How to Build a Sales Readiness System to Fuel Growth

Mike Kunkle, senior director of sales readiness consulting, Brainshark, Inc.

As a sales or sales enablement leader, you know quite well that it’s not easy to properly select, prepare, manage, lead or change a sales force. Research illustrates this inertia: 61 percent of new salespeople take at least seven months to ramp up, nearly half of sales reps miss quota and more than one-quarter of forecast opportunities end in “no decision.” Newton’s laws of motion seem to apply: “A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion – unless acted on by an external force.”

To disrupt the status quo and solve difficult and complex sales problems, you can’t look for a silver bullet or place your hopes in a single solution. The real answer comes from fostering organizational change through people, systems, process, methodology and technology.

Sales Readiness Is the Answer
Enter: sales readiness. This discipline ensures sales reps and managers are prepared with the competencies and resources they need to engage potential buyers and current customers, create or uncover opportunities, and manage those opportunities to successful conclusions. Achieving those outcomes involves training, knowledge sustainment, skills transfer, coaching to mastery, the strategic use of content and sound sales management practices.

I couldn’t agree more with Geary Rummler, founding partner of Performance Design Lab, who said: “Pit a good performer against a bad system, and the system wins almost every time.” We need to set our sales teams up for success, and as such, sales readiness cannot operate in a vacuum. I’ve had the greatest success driving sales readiness by implementing an “Effective Selling System” that’s supported by an “Effective Learning System.”

Elements of an Effective Selling System
To create and foster an Effective Selling System, sales enablement needs to:

Start withmarket and buyer persona knowledge. Be fully versed in who your organization sells to, and what problems, risks and opportunities they face.

Understand the buyer’s journey, and align your sales process to their buying process, with their decision and exit criteria documented. Exit criteria are the items each persona needs to know, see, hear, feel and believe to be comfortable moving forward to the next stage of their buying process.

Create buyer engagement content that aligns with their exit criteria, to satisfy what your prospects need.

Then, use sales enablement tools to manage, share and track sales content, and improve your reps’ efficiency and effectiveness. Job aids, playbooks, insights and other sales rep or manager support – served up at the right time in the sales process – can likewise support reps and managers in having better conversations with buyers.

It’s important to do all this within the framework of a buyer-oriented, consultative, solution-focused, outcome-driven sales methodology. To succeed, we must train reps to engage in valuable business conversations and create real value and differentiation through their customer, business, financial and solution acumen. And of course, it’s key to measure success – so use analytics to track training, buyer content usage and effectiveness, sales behaviors and performance outcomes.

Support Your Effective Selling System with an Effective Learning System
An effective learning system is the framework needed to onboard and certify new reps, keep incumbents up to speed and train managers. Here are seven must-dos for those leading sales training, sales enablement or sales readiness programs to lay the foundation for the system:

1. Use content and teach sales methodologies that are proven to be effective to get results in the real world.

2. Employ sound instructional design principles to build courses that will help people learn. I highly recommend creating blended curricula – using eLearning to teach knowledge and prep reps, and then devoting classroom learning time to give reps as much skill practice possible.

3. Engage managers in multiple ways, so they buy in. Solicit their content suggestions and feedback, and train them on how to diagnose and coach to the skills and behaviors you’re teaching. Taking these steps will prepare managers and ensure they can help you execute the rest of the system.

4. Create a training transfer plan that includes both knowledge sustainment – since no one can use what they don’t remember – and a purposeful plan to get the skills used on the job.

5. Prepare managers to coach their reps to mastery over time. Again, it’s critically important to engage, train and prepare managers, who are a foundational part of sales success.

6. Measure learning and sales performance progress with leading indicators (such as course completion for learning or pipeline activity for sales), and know you’re getting the results you want with lagging indicators (such as curriculum completion or certification for learning, and appointments set for sales development reps or deals won for field reps).

7. Wrap rep and manager performance expectations and behaviors into your organization’s performance management practices. We all know that what gets measured gets done.

Lastly, while many people don’t acknowledge this, teaching and shaping sales behaviors is a change management project. Without integration and alignment across the organization, you’re unlikely to drive the change you want.

Execute with Focus and Discipline
When you hire the right talent, support them with an Effective Learning System, place them into an Effective Selling System, and execute with focus and discipline, over time, you will have used the principles of sales readiness to their fullest. Then, with those elements in place, you can radically improve the performance of your sales organization .

Mike Kunkle is senior director of sales readiness consulting at Brainshark, Inc., which provides sales enablement solutions for faster training, better coaching and more successful sales conversations. Mike is hosting a free webinar on this topic that is scheduled for Jan. 18. Learn more and register to attend here.