The Missing P(iece) In the Sales Enablement Puzzle

Rich Lanchantin, CEO, Qstream

With unemployment rates at a 10-year low, it simply isn’t practical to buy your way to sales performance by cherry-picking top reps from the market. Instead, the most resilient and successful sales organizations are building programs that draw maximum value from more of their existing reps. This requires going beyond one-size-fits-all training and development programs that are measured by simple pass/fail certifications or completion rates. But even many progressive sales leaders are still measuring success exclusively in terms of performance (the resulting output of their team’s efforts) or productivity (the volume of activities their reps perform every day.)

To succeed with today’s modern buyers, developing a top-performing team requires that sales leaders and training professionals alike invest in and measure their success in a new way: Sales Proficiency.

The Missing Metric

More and more companies are developing a sales enablement practice. However, success rates and satisfaction with enablement programs remain low. In fact, just one-third (34 percent) of organizations surveyed for CSO Insights’ 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study reported achieving the majority or all of their objectives.

The same survey revealed that the most common business goal for sales enablement is increasing revenue. Yet most experts agree that sales enablement has not demonstrated that they are capable of drawing a straight line between their programs and revenue achievement. What sales enablement can influence however, is the knowledge, skills, and behaviors — the proficiency of their reps — and when Proficiency is aligned to the customer journey, as well as your unique sales process, your reps are placed in the best possible position to win.

On the surface it seems simple, right? The reps that exhibit the highest level of knowledge and skill – the ones that are most “proficient” in their jobs – will, in turn, return the strongest performance. Yet, look a little deeper, and you’ll find that this third “P,” proficiency, is for many, the most powerful metric of all. Why?

1. It allows for more personalized learning and coaching. Unlike traditional, one-size-fits-all approaches to rep development, visibility to proficiency data is allowing sales leaders and enablement professionals to design and execute highly individualized approaches to learning, supported by targeted coaching from managers. Once you know that Suzanne needs additional support to position your product against a key competitor, or that Mark needs help presenting the new pricing plan, a corresponding training regimen, customized for each rep’s unique requirements can be executed. This approach not only respects the time and resources of both parties, but reps are more likely to be engaged in training when they see it as directly relevant to their jobs and their long-term development.

2. It allows enablement teams to develop even seasoned sales reps in a manner that uniquely supports your specific product or service, and your business goals. Many sales leaders hire long-tenured reps with the misguided assumption that they don’t have to invest in training. The truth is that every sales team operates within an exclusive ecosystem -- one that’s comprised of their own unique products and services, competitors, and market dynamics. As a result, sales reps’ previous experience selling for another company isn’t always transferrable when it comes to selling for you. By establishing the key competencies your reps must possess to win with your target buyer personas and competitive set, and then tracking the proficiency of your reps aligned with those competencies, you can be assured that all reps are on the path to achieve their goals, regardless of their individual job history or experience level.

3. It allows HR teams to understand the specific skills and proficiency levels of your high performers, and then develop a sales hiring profile to support future growth. Most sales leaders have, at one point or another, written a job description that describes what they’re looking for in a new sales hire. But what if you could review the detailed proficiency data of the top performers on your team today – the ones that consistently hit quota and serve as a model for the rest of the team – and then translate those skills into a customized hiring profile that guides your HR and enablement teams on everything from screening prospective candidates, to recruiting, to onboarding? The organizations’ utilizing proficiency insights to guide their talent management process are doing all this today and more, with significant impact to their new hires’ time to productivity and overall performance.

4. Proficiency data, correlated with other key business KPIs, offers the shortest path to linking sales enablement investments to business outcomes. At each stage of your sales process, there are specific knowledge and skills that each rep must master to progress a deal to closure. For example, at the earliest stages, reps must be able to ask good discovery questions, and deliver a compelling value proposition that maps to the prospective customer’s pain points. At later stages, they must be able to handle common objections, and negotiate the best possible price. When reps fail to master these skills, deals fail to progress, and ultimately you lose the business. However, with detailed proficiency data and scoring, sales enablement practitioners can quickly identify the greatest areas of risk in their sales cycle, and execute additional training or coaching before revenue and customer relationships are compromised. By addressing the identified knowledge and skills gaps, more deals progress to successful closure and enablement can, in turn, point to the associated pipeline and revenue acquisition as a direct result of their efforts, all while building a successful business case for additional resources.

Introducing proficiency as a foundational metric alongside performance and productivity ensures that sales teams are knowledgeable not only about what they’re selling, but about how to sell. And the benefits are clear: by employing a continuous and progressive enablement program, supported by proficiency data, companies are realizing an impressive 30 percent improvement in product and sales message fluency, a 2x increase in “first meeting” prospects that take a second meeting, and 200 percent growth in new opportunities created and 12 percent market share gain.  

Rich Lanchantin is the CEO of Qstream, a company focused on making salespeople great at what they do by combining performance insights, coaching support, and knowledge and skills reinforcement in one convenient mobile app. The Qstream platform is used by hundreds of leading brands in life sciences, technology, financial services and healthcare, and supported by a network of more than 50 global partners.