Evolution and Creation: the Professional-ization of Sales
They say great sportspeople make it look easy – they perform superhuman feats that look almost effortless and natural. Successful sales professionals make their success look effortless and natural, too. They appear to make cold calls into the C-level without raising a sweat, have credible conversations on the first chemistry call, lead and challenge educated buyers, gain commitments on timing and actions, get repeat business and referrals and somehow hit their numbers, quarter after quarter, year after year. There are the special ones who need no coaching, no training, no marketing support and can hit the ground running. Then there is the 99 percent. For the 99 percent, the creation of sales champions from sales chimps requires continuous thoughtful evolution and nurturing. A recent study by Accenture, found that 94 percent of people stop communications with a seller after receiving bad messages. Continuous internal nurturing is required to evolve our sellers into agile professionals capable of participating in conversations with buyers, gaining credibility and trust, to turn leads into opportunities. This internal nurturing comes from sales enablement, or the alignment of training, coaching and marketing support. Training and coaching probably resonate with you, but I can feel many virtual eyebrows being raised at marketing support. Let's start with some broad definitions. Training is a very factual process – tools, process, features, compliance. Coaching is a mentoring process ideally performed by a front-line sales manager guiding sales professionals on where to effectively improve by having a focused conversation for each individual on an aspect of his or her competencies, skills or use of tools that can have the meaningful impact. Marketing provide the messaging, the differentiation, the battlecards, the playbooks. Without marketing support and coaching, salespeople who are just trained are automatons and will be lucky to survive their first conversation with an educated buyer. How do sales enablement professionals determine the ROI of such a transformation? A recent study by CSO Insights found that companies with an effective sales enablement program demonstrated an 8 percent uplift in revenue attainment. That is undeniably significant. A world-class sales enablement program is no overnight transformation but instead requires long-term focus and iterative improvement. And achieving that iterative improvement requires actionable data and analytics. Two critical business metrics related to the ROI of sales enablement transformation are churn and time to productivity. Companies with poor sales enablement will suffer churn like an episode of the Hunger Games. The strong and clever will survive but the herd will drop off quickly, and that is expensive in terms of pure cost and lost sales productivity. Time to productivity (TTP) will move the needle for the sales leader and CFO. TTP is not a one-off need just for new-hire situations. TTP is a factor for many strategic events. Any time your organization launches a new product or service, acquires a new company with people and products and services, identifies a new competitor, or faces changing regulatory conditions, TTP becomes a consideration. The world is constantly evolving. This impacts our customers and therefore impacts us as sales professionals. You can multiply these impacts if you have a distribution or reseller channel side to your business. The time to evolve from sales chimp to sales champion – the time to productivity – is critical for any sales organization to stay ahead of its competitors and directly relevant to your customer base. How are you enabling your sales force to be the best they can be?
Peter Cridland | November 11th, 2015