Today’s article is focused on transitioning from sales training to sales enablement.
The goal is to drive revenue per sales head up and time to productivity for new sales hires down. The sales enablement function exists to onboard new sales hires and to drive revenue per sales head up. Neglect sales enablement and forgo adding head count in the future.
Sales enablement as a function is relatively new when compared to sales training. The emerging best practice is to transition sales training as a silo focus to a comprehensive program of sales enablement. Transitioning into sales enablement translates to enabling sellers to do more with less effort.
If you need more help, consider downloading our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the Sales Strategy section and review the questions in the Sales Enablement step starting on page 319 of the PDF.
Why should you care?
SBI studied the 100 largest sales forces in the United States. One-third of these companies have put an executive leader in charge of a dedicated sales enablement team. At these companies, sales enablement is the sole priority of an entire organization—not one part of the overall sales or marketing department. That seemingly small decision makes a big impact. Our findings indicate SBI 100 companies that have invested in a dedicated sales enablement team have made the following gains:
- Margins: Obtain 3 percent higher margins for products and services (13.7 percent versus 13.3 percent)
- Margin trend line: Demonstrate a 122 percent higher margin trend line over the past three fiscal years (+0.2 percent versus –0.9 percent)
- Revenue trend line: Achieve an 85 percent higher revenue trend line over the past three fiscal years (12.4 percent versus 6.7 percent)
Companies that establish a dedicated sales enablement function sharpen their competitive edge. Sales representatives should become a source of business advantage to customers. That means that they should be experts in their field to the point that they add value. They must be experts with product knowledge and the various solutions including competitor products.
Overall, the reps understand the business environment they are selling. The selling roles require knowledge and skills that go way beyond what traditionally would have been covered in sales training.
Most companies have gone away from formal onboarding programs with deep training before the rep is in front of customers. It’s commonplace for onboarding programs to place the rep into the field after minimal training. The training is then supplemented with a LMS and self-paced learning. That results in very poor ramp time to productivity and poor revenue per sales head.
Building great sales organizations requires a formal onboarding program. The emerging best practices is in some ways a throwback to the past. Great companies like IBM and Xerox, had sales training programs that invested in onboarding programs. These great sales organizations made the United States a great country.
The following is a description of a top-tier onboarding programs with a sales enablement VP whose company is producing revenue per head significantly higher than the average:
New reps spend the first three months fully immersed in training. Those three months’ leverage blended learning that is a couple of weeks of self-led distance learning. Then that prepares them for about a month of intense technical in-person training. It’s during that technical training that they learn everything about the technology and how to manage the technology. We then send the reps back home and they spend about a month learning the core procedures that we would be working with our customers at any given time.
We then have the reps spend time in the field observing the operation of our clients. The begin to appreciate the clear advantages and how to compare against other solutions.
At the end of that month, they come back to headquarters for three weeks. This part of the training is entirely focused on sales execution. That is where we will introduce them to our CRM. We will take them through all the various sales activities and most of the three-week period is application. We just drill them, drill them, drill them, drill them, where they are role playing traditional sales calls, delivering demos, or delivering various presentations that they’ll be using as primary sales content. We view that final two or three weeks as almost a pure simulation.
Great companies like IBM and Xerox had sales training programs like this onboarding approach. These outstanding sales organizations made the United States a great country. Determine the level of training your reps need to add real value to the sales process. Once determined, integrate that level of training into your onboarding program.
If you want to go deeper, download the How to Make Your Number in 2017 workbook. It’s the guide sales enablement leaders leverage to help their reps do more with less.