Sales Enablement and Training

Sales Enablement and Training

Sales enablement and training should be more than providing a playbook just before a product launch, or an hour long training session held quarterly. Enabling your sales reps to succeed requires training tailored to their individual or group learning styles and needs. With a little creativity in your organization’s sales enablement and training process, you can develop a more engaged and productive sales team. In this blog we explore:

  • The rise in sales enablement and training
  • Learning styles and training methods 
  • How to train and enable the “doers”
  • Sales enablement and training by gamification
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Sales enablement and training tools and platforms 

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Sales enablement and training

Sales enablement is a relatively emerging field; it was rare even five years ago to encounter the term. Now, top companies are creating positions whose sole purpose is to direct and facilitate sales enablement and training. In general, Sales Enablement Directors are tasked with providing sales reps with the training, tools, and support to excel in their job and make their quota. However, there seems to be a gap between Product Marketing teams that create relevant, easily consumable content and what the Enablement staff needs to deliver in order to play to the various learning modalities for sales professionals. SiriusDecisions reports in its Sales Enablement 2020 Planning Guide that sales enablement teams manage an average of 1,400 sales assets, yet only 45 percent are able to link selling content to moving leads down the funnel. That’s a large rift between the efforts of the content creators (i.e. the marketing team) and the needs of the sales team. Other times, companies may only create sales materials that cater to one type of learner, or focus training more on soft skills rather than on technologies or product knowledge. Thinking of sales enablement and training in a “one size fits all” sense like this can lead to lower performance and morale among sales reps.

What is the best method for sales enablement and training?

Like anyone, sales reps have different learning styles. They may be visual learners and require charts, graphs, or conceptual diagrams to absorb information. They may learn by reading or listening, and take well to being handed sales playbooks, competitive battlecards, or solution briefs. Sales reps also tend to see learning as a means to an end, and would rather be out engaging with prospects and customers rather than be stuck in a classroom. Given this and the nature of their work, most sales reps learn best by doing. “Doers” typically want to learn just enough to be effective and do not respond well to extended courses or sales training sessions. Simply put, they demand on-demand learning or just-in-time content right before a prospect meeting or event.

How to help train and enable “doers”

Since most sales reps learn by doing, throwing written material at them as if they were visual learners or readers is a mistake. Forcing them to sit through presentations or webinars is also a suboptimal way to train. Still, webinars and presentations are the easiest and most efficient way to train groups of sales reps. So how does one create an environment where “doers” can thrive in an environment not customized for their learning style? The key is by creating a dynamic, slightly competitive or gamified learning experience.

Sales enablement and training by gamification

An example of this would be the online learning company Khan Academy. Khan Academy has created hundreds of courses on subjects ranging from pre-algebra to test prep. What sales enablement trainers can learn from Khan Academy is how the lessons, or trainings, are structured. Each course is broken up into 3-5 minute lessons, after which a short multiple choice test pops up. The user must have a minimum passing grade to move on to the next lesson or training module. When these lessons or training modules are completed, users are awarded with a certification, badge or star to mark their progress. This “gamification” can also be used in live presentations or trainings. A live instructor led training (ILT) typically has a lower content retention rate, and usually will not hold the attention of sales reps who are “doers.” Gamifying these trainings is key, and instructors can use a platform such as Kahoot to help. Kahoot is a game based learning platform that captures instant responses from attendees during a live training. Instructors can incorporate questions every 3-4 minutes and reps can answer straight from their cell phones. As an extra motivator, instructors can offer recognition and prizes to reps with the most correct answers. Being competitive by nature, sales reps tend to respond well to training exercises delivered as games. Play into their desire for recognition by giving specific feedback and sharing their achievements. Moreover, you can use individual reps’ successful tactics as both motivators and sources of data for other reps being coached.

Coaching and mentoring

First line managers should offer coaching on a weekly basis in order to provide direct and immediate feedback. This could include listening in on phone calls or accompanying sales reps on customer visits. Over the shoulder calls are a particularly effective method of sales enablement and training, especially when paired with tools like Gong. Gong is an AI powered tool that records sales rep’s phone calls and parses words and performs sentiment analysis, which helps not only bring sales reps up to speed quicker but also helps marketers learn which messages are resonating.  Mentoring, on the other hand, takes a more holistic approach to sales enablement and training. A good mentor for a sales rep provides guidance on overall skills, knowledge, and capabilities and can help to expand the rep’s connections. Instead of the day to day feedback or tweaking that coaches would do, sales mentors would meet monthly or quarterly for a discussion on their performance and career advancement strategies.

Sales enablement and training tools

Of course, not all sales enablement and training is as hands-on and labor intensive as coaching or ILT. Having the right tools at your disposal can help facilitate communication, prevent mistakes (such as unauthorized discounts), and speed up quote creations.

  • Cheat sheets can:
    • help determine what a good or qualified prospect looks like
    • be a succinct list of key benefits or features of the product
    • provide information on competitors
  • Communication tools can help reps connect with top performers to give and receive tips and guidance. The most popular tools are:
    • Slack
    • Chatter by Salesforce
  • Training Platform: Seismic’s platform in particular is an invaluable resource. Their Content Management System (CMS) serves up training content and quotation tools on demand, and gives managers the added benefit of seeing exactly who is using the tools.

Conclusion: empowering your sales enablement

Sales enablement training really comes down to one question: How do you help learners learn? Treating all sales reps as one type of learner– visual, reading, listening, or doing — is an exercise in futility. Sales enablement and training should be a holistic learning environment that caters to sales reps unique learning methods and styles. 

Would you like a quick benchmark assessment of your B2B sales enablement and training methods? Contact us today and see how we can help your organization boost your sales organization’s effectiveness.

Download the Sales Enablement Scorecard Tool

Written By

Sridhar Ramanathan

Sridhar Ramanathan has 20+ years of experience in technology companies – from startups to blue chip firms. As the Marketing executive for Hewlett-Packard’s Managed Services business, he was responsible for marketing worldwide and managing the portfolio of HP services’ $1.1B unit. He also held profit & loss responsibility for electronic messaging outsourcing and e-service business units. Thanks to Sridhar’s efforts, HP became the #1 ERP Outsourcer and experienced growth in the data warehouse market, now well over a $1B revenue stream. Sridhar has played interim executive roles for a number of technology firms, leading their sales and marketing functions in the high growth phase. Sridhar holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and a BS in Engineering Physics from U.C. Berkeley. He is active in non-profit work as Vice Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, an organization that provides stability and hope to abused and neglected children.