CSO Insights https://www.csoinsights.com The Research Division of Miller Heiman Group Fri, 23 Aug 2019 19:56:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.csoinsights.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/08/cropped-favicon-32x32.png CSO Insights https://www.csoinsights.com 32 32 Does Your Sales Enablement Engine Drive Sales Results? https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/does-your-sales-enablement-engine-drive-sales-results/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/does-your-sales-enablement-engine-drive-sales-results/#comments Thu, 22 Aug 2019 14:43:35 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21434 What is the most effective sales enablement approach? How should it be set up to ensure success? What’s the right sales enablement engine? There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. The specific context of an organization, its particular challenges and goals, as well as the company culture...

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What is the most effective sales enablement approach? How should it be set up to ensure success? What’s the right sales enablement engine? There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. The specific context of an organization, its particular challenges and goals, as well as the company culture all play a role.

However, there is one foundation we always recommend to focus on so that you can achieve great results in a sustainable way. And that’s running sales enablement in a strategic and formal way that considers sales enablement as the primary engine to drive sustainable sales results.

A full 90% of world-class organizations take a strategic approach to sales enablement as an engine to drive sales results, but only 32% of all respondents apply this practice. (click to tweet)

The steps to follow to achieve success are covered in greater detail here: How to get the vision, mission, purpose part right based on structured interviews with your senior executives as well as all the remaining steps to follow to create a sales enablement charter. Additionally, here is how to address senior executives’ concerns.

Such a strategic approach matters because the results are much better. In 2018, organizations with such a strategic and formal approach improved their win rates by 19.2%. (click to tweet)

Today, let’s focus on the engine aspect of the approach and what we can learn from looking at sales enablement as an engine to drive results. According to Merriam-Webster, an engine is something that is used to effect a purpose, something that is used to achieve a particular and usually desirable result.

Looking at sales enablement as an engine to achieve desired sales results requires designing the discipline in a strategic and orchestrating way while ensuring that all existing initiatives impacting sales are well connected to complement and support each other in the context of the organization’s vision and culture.

What does that mean in practical terms? What are potential sales enablement engines in different scenarios?

Imagine how different the engine of an F1 race car is compared to the engine of an aircraft compared to the engine of a hybrid car.

Let’s get a better understanding of these examples. The context and purpose are very different in each example. The purpose of a Formula1 car is to win F1 races on every F1 racing course in the world. It’s highly competitive and serves one F1 driver and the related racing team. In the second example, the engine of the Boeing 747-800 is designed to fly a few hundred people over long, intercontinental distances in the most efficient way, operating in a very competitive market. The purpose of the third example is again different. The hybrid car moves driver and passengers from point A to point B in a way that’s ideally climate-neutral with the lowest possible emissions.

Likewise, the sales enablement engine designed for the fastest growing start-up in your industry is vastly different from the engine designed for an industry leader in a saturated market that’s focused on creating the best CX for their buyers.

Both sales enablement engines will be very different in both scenarios, but they are based on the same principles. Both scenarios will work on the required content and training and related coaching services, but the essence of these services will be slightly different in both cases just as the goals and the context are different.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

#1: Understand the “engine landscape” you are operating in. (click to tweet)

Assess all existing engines (existing strategic initiatives)—their vision, goal, and specific actions. Map out how they complement and support each other (or not) and what the missing parts are from a sales enablement perspective. Imagine the CX example. There might be a gap regarding specific CX-oriented selling skills. Maybe you need to add services around a buyer-related approach with tailored content services, combined with providing insights and perspectives skills. Additionally, there might be a cost of a sales optimization initiative that limits your budgets so that creative approaches are required to achieve the desired results.

#2: Design sales enablement as the primary engine to drive sales results. (click to tweet)

The specific orchestrating role of sales enablement is highly important. It allows us to be the orchestrator and to make sure that all the related engines are aligned and work in the same direction to achieve the desired sales results. Check out this blog post on how to dissolve senior executives’ concerns by leveraging the orchestrator role. Think about a Boeing 747-800 with its four engines. They are all designed to support each other to get the big bird from one continent to another. However, the pilots make sure that this is actually happening in the given context of a specific flight and its particular conditions. And that’s your role as a sales enablement leader—you must understand the specific engines, how they currently work together, what needs to be added (or removed), and how they have to be effectively aligned in your particular sales enablement context. Selling that internally requires a lot of work, analysis, assessment, and mappings to ensure that you get the holistic architecture right.

#3: Context matters no two sales enablement engines are the same. (click to tweet)

Back to the examples, the engine of an F1 race car is very different from the engine of an aircraft or the engine of a hybrid car, and so are your enablement engines. The sales enablement engine that has to be aligned to an overarching CX initiative driving all related efforts from a sales perspective is focused on other aspects compared to the sales enablement engine that has to ensure that its company will be the fastest growing company in its particular market. In one example, the overall CX will impact the enablement services. In the other case, the enablement engine might be more tailored to support an aggressive coverage model focused on acquiring new accounts in a new market.

#4: Culture is context and culture matters, too. (click to tweet)

Your organization’s culture matters a lot. If the words or terms of a certain concept don’t work in your organization, adjust them to make them work for you. Otherwise, they won’t create results. As an example, Andrew Quinn translated our sales enablement concepts into the Hubspot culture to make things work in his environment. Does it sound different? Yes, it does. Is his work based on the same underlying principles? Absolutely. Check it out here, if you are interested in the conversation we had about this topic.

#5: Even if the sales enablement engine looks different, the principles remain the same. (click to tweet)

Principles in this context are, for instance, formalizing the cross-functional collaboration or aligning your content services to a specific customer’s path phases and buyer roles. Whether you use the RACI model we usually suggest or any other approach, formalizing your cross-functional collaboration will be addressed. Maybe in different colors, but following the same principles. Now, in the CX-focused scenario, getting the content services right based on an integrated value messaging model might be intuitive and exactly what all engines need. In the aggressive market growth scenario, the sales enablement approach might be a bit different and take two or more steps to get to the full blown messaging approach. However, the messaging must address the different phases and different buyer roles. This will always be the underlying principles even if done differently or in more steps and phases.

Effective sales enablement leaders design their sales enablement discipline as the primary engine to drive sales results. Over time, senior executive leaders will recognize the benefits of the orchestrating role sales enablement should focus on and appreciate that their strategic initiatives are aligned to create better results.

It takes time, yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Is there an alternative, with less work? No. The numbers speak a clear language: Up to 19.2% win-rate improvements with a formal, strategic approach. At the other side of the spectrum, if sales enablement was just another one-off project, win rates decreased by 8.7% and ended way below the study average.

Questions for you:

  • What’s the engine to drive sales results in your organization? Is it sales enablement? If not, why not?
  • How would you approach sales enablement now to ensure that it’s the primary engine to drive sales results?

 
Related blog posts:

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Building a Higher Level of Confidence in Your CRM Data https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/building-a-higher-level-of-confidence-in-your-crm-data/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/building-a-higher-level-of-confidence-in-your-crm-data/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 14:12:26 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21443 What is your sales organization’s level of confidence in your CRM data? Less than one-quarter (24%) of all respondents in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study indicated that their sales organization is “highly confident” in their CRM data. (Click to tweet) This has not changed...

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What is your sales organization’s level of confidence in your CRM data? Less than one-quarter (24%) of all respondents in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study indicated that their sales organization is “highly confident” in their CRM data. (Click to tweet) This has not changed significantly from 24.9% two years ago when we last conducted the study in 2017. Even among the segment we identified as “World Class” in this year’s study (i.e., organizations that excelled at all of the Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices that we have been writing about over the past few weeks), only slightly more than half (59%) agreed that their sales organization was “highly confident” in their CRM data.

This might not seem surprising but, if CRM is a core technology for many sales organizations, it should be a red flag.

While it is not the focus of today’s blog, there can be many reasons why this problem exists – sub-optimal seller experience, technology implementation without sales process alignment and minimal efforts in place around data management, to name a few. Whatever the reasons, when your sales organization is not confident in your CRM data, it not only impacts adoption level and diminish your ROI, but it also can impact what you are doing with the information (i.e., making business decisions). (Click to tweet)

Today’s focus is a proactive approach to increasing your sales organization’s confidence in your CRM data. Here are three steps to do just that:

#1. Periodically spot-check your CRM data. (Click to tweet) When was the last time you as a sales operations leader spot-checked the quality of your sales data in your CRM? If you don’t remember, it’s probably a good time to do one. If you already do it periodically, you are on the right track – but how often do you have your sales managers spot-check your CRM data?

As a sales operations leader, you can help support your sales managers by reminding them to do periodic spot-checks. It can be as simple as a weekly spot-check on opportunity data prior to their forecast review meetings, or it can be a more structured quarterly review with your sales operations team to determine which CRM fields are still used and relevant. Partnering with your sales managers so that they also are doing periodic spot-checks will be even more effective in improving the sellers’ level of confidence in your CRM data.

It’s also important for sales operations to help keep this data both current and relevant by setting up a structured approach to data management – cleansing, deduplication and augmentation. The combination of sales keeping it updated themselves PLUS sales operations keeping it clean, accurate and relevant is necessary if you want to re-gain your sales organization’s confidence in level in your CRM data.

#2. Ask your sales teams not only how they are currently using CRM, but also how they want to use it. (Click to tweet) You know how sales managers and your sales operations teams are using CRM, but do you know how your sellers are using it? Make it a point to ask them, instead of presuming how they are using it. If your sellers are primarily using CRM to enter information on their contacts, accounts and opportunities, no wonder their confidence is low.

You can provide them with valuable data by investing in additional sales technology that proactively compiles, analyzes and delivers contact and account intelligence as well as opportunity risk levels. Periodically ask for feedback from sales managers and sellers, and partner with IT to find out what else is possible with CRM so that you can continue to ensure it is delivering value. In order to improve their confidence level in CRM data, data quality should not only be about accuracy but also about how valuable the data is for the seller. (Click to tweet)

#3. Find out how others are using data in CRM. (Click to tweet)  If your CRM is indeed your sales organization’s “source of truth,” then other functional teams such as marketing, customer service/success and finance also will find value in the data it houses. Find out how they are using this data, as this information might uncover new insights that also might be useful for your sales team.

For example, if marketing is using data from CRM to compile an analysis around buyer persona and won deals to determine which solution or service each persona is most likely to purchase, you might partner with marketing and IT to figure out a way to use this analysis and proactively recommend a solution or service based on the buyer persona information sales enters in CRM. By providing sales teams with insights based on other functional teams’ analysis, you are helping to ensure CRM is delivering value to the sales teams.

 

When sellers are able to get something of value from the data in CRM, their level of confidence in CRM data will start to improve. (Click to tweet) And sales operations leaders can be the catalyst for this transformation through a continual focus on delivering “data quality” – data that is both accurate and valuable to the sales teams.

 

On a related but separate topic, we just launched the survey for our Annual Sales Operations & Technology Study and we’d love to have you participate! Your participation will help us continue our research on sales operations and sales technology, so that we can continue to share our findings and best practices through our blogs. Click here to get started.

As a thank you for your participation, you will be among the first to receive the full report before it’s made available open market. You will also be able to download an asset immediately after completing the survey, and be invited to become a member of our research community!  Thank you!

 

Questions for you:

  • How confident is your sales organization in your CRM data?
  • How is your sales team using CRM today? How else do they want to use it?
  • In what ways can you partner with IT to help make CRM more valuable for your sales team?

 

Related blog posts:

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Effectively Enabling SDRs Without Hurting Your Brand https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/effectively-enabling-sdrs-without-hurting-your-brand/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/effectively-enabling-sdrs-without-hurting-your-brand/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2019 13:46:53 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21425 A question I get asked more and more is: How do we effectively enable SDRs (sales development reps), and is the enablement of SDRs even our job as sales enablement leaders? Effectively enabling SDRs is a specific challenge, slightly different than engaging, equipping and empowering...

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A question I get asked more and more is: How do we effectively enable SDRs (sales development reps), and is the enablement of SDRs even our job as sales enablement leaders?

Effectively enabling SDRs is a specific challenge, slightly different than engaging, equipping and empowering other customer-facing audiences. And yes, it should always be a sales enablement leader’s responsibility as, ideally, they serve all customer-facing roles and their managers along the entire customer’s path.

However, the challenge begins way earlier. In many organizations, the responsibility for SDRs is moved from marketing to sales and back to marketing and back to sales again. That happens more often than you might think – and not because there’s an outcome-based thought process behind it. It happens because headcounts are moved around from one leader to another and because the role is, apparently, not perceived as mission critical regarding sales results.

This assumption is wrong and should be cleared right away because, in reality, your SDRs are often the first impression your potential new clients get of your organization. And if that first impression is not a positive one, they will remember your organization for all the wrong reasons and probably never buy from you.

Even World-Class Organizations have challenges with effectively enabling their SDRs, as only 51% got this right, compared to 22% of all respondents. (click to tweet)

Figure this: These numbers mean that half of the World-Class Organizations have a serious challenge and are not able to effectively enable their SDRs to be effective at what they’re responsible for: building the pipeline with qualified leads. Looking at the entire study population, it is even worse, as only a bit more than one-fifth (22%) get this right.

In other words, 78% of all organizations apparently are not effectively enabling their SDRs. (click to tweet)

Again, as the SDR role stands at the very beginning of creating new customers (this is where a huge part of your future revenue should come from!), it doesn’t make any sense not to focus on making that role as effective as possible. Hurting your brand with bad email and messaging practices is a serious danger you won’t be able to fix later along the customer’s path, no matter what you invest in enabling your “real sales roles.”

So how do you effectively engage, equip and empower SDRs? Here are a few ideas:

#1: Make sure that the newly hired SDRs understand their role and its impact.

Most SDRs are young and at the beginning of their professional (sales) careers. It’s important to show them how important their role is beyond the KPIs they are measured on. It’s mission critical for them to understand that how they interact and communicate is not at all a “numbers game.” In fact, they have to understand that how they interact with prospects can literally make or break any future business with the organization.

It’s important for them to learn from Day 1 that their role is actually a revenue-contributing role that can only be effective if they can show prospects that they bring value to the table – insights and perspectives designed to help buyers solve their problems – as only that problem-solving capability will actually lead to a first call or meeting (their primary focus) and to revenue later on. So onboarding SDRs should start with providing 100% role clarity and insights into the modern buyer and their preferences. You may want to familiarize them with the 2018 Buyer Preferences Study.

#2: Develop their communication, messaging and foundational selling skills.

Sure, you hire for good communication skills and sales potential. However, effective communication is not a given; you should develop their communication and messaging excellence step by step in the context of your organization and the problems you solve for your buyers. There are two areas to focus on first: writing emails or LinkedIn messages and phone skills.

When it comes to emails, sales enablement should always make sure (in collaboration with marketing) that SDRs have a set of email templates they are required to use in order to ensure consistent value messaging and a top-quality prospecting approach that will give your buyers a positive first experience.

Email templates should always be specific and focus on the potential buyer problem, including some insights into why this is important and an idea of how to solve it. You want to teach them early on that only if there is enough value in that message will buyers make time for a call or meeting with them or another sales role. Show them bad email habits and how they hurt themselves and your brand.

#3: Collaborate with the managers to ensure a structured process, including preparation.

Another often-overlooked aspect is the need to focus on proper research before calling a prospect or sending an email. Have a look here and here to see what happens if activities are done without proper research. To get there, it’s important to collaborate with their managers first to better understand what they are asked to deliver. If you discover potential conflicts such as a pure focus on quantitative KPIs no matter what, you have a topic for your sales enablement advisory board. It’s not the managers’ fault, it’s a sales leadership issue.

The role of SDRs and the potential damage they can create if instructed and led the wrong way is way too important to the entire organization to be ignored. Let’s assume that the problem is not that big. Even so, ensure that they are required to at least check the potential buyer’s LinkedIn profile, even better if followed by a Google, Twitter or YouTube search. However, that’s only one part of the research.

The other part should be to check their own CRM before doing anything. If your organization is already doing business with the potential buyer’s organization, don’t treat them as a prospect. It’s absolutely annoying and proves to the buyer that your organization doesn’t have its act together and apparently is not able to make use of all of the available data. You don’t want to create that impression.

#4: Provide training and content services, and ensure that they are regularly coached.

If you have onboarded them effectively, provided role clarity and developed their communication and foundational selling skills, you’re headed in the right direction. Now, on an ongoing basis, make sure they know where to find the right email templates for different roles and industries and content they can use and share. Make sure they have enough practice, especially for phone communication, and learn how to excel at that. Also make sure that managers are required to coach them along those lines to improve behaviors and outcomes.

Effective sales enablement leaders know the huge impact SDRs have on their organizations’ future business. Following a strategic enablement approach, they know that the best they can do is engage, equip and empower them in the best way possible to ensure optimal future sales results and develop much-needed sales talent.

Questions for you:

  • Is enabling SDRs currently part of your sales enablement scope?
  • If enabling SDRs is currently part of your sales enablement scope, how do you do it?
  • If enabling SDRs is not currently part of your sales enablement scope, what are the reasons why, and who does it instead?
  • What would you like to change regarding the current process for enabling SDRs in your organization?

 
Related blog posts:

 

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Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Align Sales Management, Operations and Enablement https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-align-sales-management-operations-and-enablement/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-align-sales-management-operations-and-enablement/#respond Tue, 13 Aug 2019 13:00:49 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21274 Sales management, sales operations and sales enablement functions may organizationally report into a CSO or CRO, but do you know how aligned they are? Each of these functions represents critical leverage points in helping sales teams effectively and efficiently engage with customers to create the...

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Sales management, sales operations and sales enablement functions may organizationally report into a CSO or CRO, but do you know how aligned they are? Each of these functions represents critical leverage points in helping sales teams effectively and efficiently engage with customers to create the desired customer experience. But with all three functions operating at full speed, it’s not unusual to see them get out of sync.

What sets World-Class organizations apart is the proactive approach they take to align the three functions to drive results. (Click to tweet)

The majority (96%) of World-Class organizations reported alignment among sales management, operations and enablement to be a strength, compared to 35% of all survey respondents (2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study).

First, let’s take a look at each of the three functions to better understand why alignment is key.

Sales management is responsible for sales execution, and sales operations and sales enablement are critical supporting functions that improve sales efficiency and effectiveness. Each function has a distinct role in helping the sales organization meet and exceed its sales goals.

Sales management is responsible for executing the sales strategy – from hiring, developing, leading and retaining sales professionals to coaching sales teams to their full potential.

Sales operations is responsible for setting up the inner workings of the sales go-to-market plan (e.g., territory modeling, sales compensation) in support of the sales strategy and execution plan; they also are responsible for building, monitoring and refining the selling system foundation across process and technology.

Sales enablement builds on this foundation and focuses on engaging, equipping and empowering sales professionals and their managers to be relevant and valuable in every customer interaction.

World-Class organizations create synergies to improve efficiencies, effectiveness and sales execution through collaboration and ongoing communication among sales management, operations and enablement. (Click to tweet)

Let’s take a look at three ways organizations can work toward such alignment:

#1: Recognize opportunities for collaboration. (Click to tweet) If you see misalignment, see it as an opportunity to collaborate toward alignment. If you are a sales manager and notice the new field updates in CRM do not align with the opportunity planning methodology you and your teams are using, reach out to sales operations, provide feedback, and follow up until it’s addressed. If you are in sales operations and realize that the new prospecting tool with buyer intent data introduces a slightly different buyer persona, partner with sales enablement to add the new buyer persona and develop value messaging tailored to this persona. It’s easier to stay in your own lane, but take the initiative and reach out instead. It’s important to make a conscious effort to recognize opportunities for collaboration and take action.

#2: Challenge each other. (Click to tweet) Collaborating to drive alignment does not mean you always have to agree with each other. In fact, it should be part of the process that you discuss your points of view – share impact considerations that others may not be aware of, ask questions to clarify instead of making unconfirmed assumptions, and challenge each other to think outside the box. As three distinct functions, sales management, operations and enablement each bring their own perspectives. So don’t hesitate to challenge each other – doing so will not only help drive alignment further, but it also will provide opportunities for innovation.

#3: Formalize your collaboration efforts. (Click to tweet) It’s important to collaborate continually, not just as needed or on a project-by-project basis. Sales managers need to continually provide feedback to the sales operations and enablement teams on potentially needed adjustments to processes, updates to tools and skills gaps that may need to be bridged. Similarly, sales operations and sales enablement should partner with sales managers and keep them informed of any future changes being made so that they can provide clear guidance, direction and support for their sales teams. Ongoing collaboration facilitates communication and alignment. To account for future organizational and business needs, communicate frequently to stay aligned with changes that might need to happen.

What differentiates World-Class organizations is their ability to proactively align sales management, operations and enablement to provide a consistent sales experience for their frontline teams. (Click to tweet)

They align not only on a common goal, but also on how they execute against their plan. They are open to adjusting each function’s roles and responsibilities as needed to meet organizational needs. They encourage collaboration on a regular basis, not just as a one-time event. And they have deliberate discussions that challenge each other’s point of view to deliver a continuous sales experience through innovative and productive approaches.

Questions for you:

  • How aligned are your sales management, operations and enablement teams?
  • When was the last time your sales management, operations and enablement teams reviewed their roles and responsibilities? Do they need to be adjusted?
  • How often do your sales management, operations and enablement teams meet? How often do they collaborate?

 

Related blog posts:

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Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Sales, Marketing and Customer Service Alignment https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-sales-marketing-and-customer-service-alignment/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-sales-marketing-and-customer-service-alignment/#respond Thu, 08 Aug 2019 16:52:58 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21391 Of all practices in the “top twelve” enterprise-level alignment, the sales, marketing, and service alignment is by far the broadest and the hardest to get right. So it is not surprising that only 35 percent of the nearly 1,000 respondents in our 2019 World-Class Sales...

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Of all practices in the “top twelve” enterprise-level alignment, the sales, marketing, and service alignment is by far the broadest and the hardest to get right. So it is not surprising that only 35 percent of the nearly 1,000 respondents in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study were able to achieve it.

Only one third of sales organizations align sales, marketing, and service around customer needs. (click to tweet)

At the same time, 95 percent of world-class organizations agreed that this alignment positively correlated to better revenue plan attainment, quota attainment, win rates, attrition, and more. So, while it may not be possible to revamp your entire customer-facing organization overnight, it is certainly worth initiating a journey in a more customer-oriented direction.

One of the problems we see is that often alignment is considered philosophical in nature. Yes, we are all focused on our customers, but here we mean something more tangible that starts at the strategic level. To begin with, organizations need enterprise-wide agreement on:

  • Definition of “Customer.” It’s impossible to align around the customer if you are on not on the same page about what you mean by “customer.” Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, (and Customer Success by the way) need to work from a common set of definitions. (1) What customer segments do you want to do business with and which are a “best fit” for you? (2) What are the key personas within those segments? What defines them and how do they make decisions? (3) What is the ideal customer profile for creating the deepest and most impactful relationships (all things considered equal, which prospects would you pursue first; which relationships merit increased investment)?
  • Brand promise. With definitions about what you mean by “customer,” the next element of alignment is brand promise. When messaging to the market as a whole or to individuals in a sales cycle, what is the promise being made about the experience customers will have with you and the unique value that you bring them?
  • Customer experience mapping. The final anchoring piece is customer experience mapping. Specifically, what is the path that customers take from Awareness to Buying and ultimately to Implementation? A detailed experience map covers the phases of the journey and the actions taken by all parties (NOTE: not all are necessarily interpersonal interactions). For each phase and process, organizations should determine how important the interaction is to the customer. Identifying relative weight helps to clarify where to invest experience and what data to collect around customer impressions.

Aligning around the customer is more than philosophical, it requires tangible infrastructure. (Click to tweet)

With customer alignment as a foundation, the organization needs to put the infrastructure in place to maintain the alignment. After all, buyers change regularly; markets move by quarter; and internal change is just as accelerated. Marketing, sales, and customer service are fast-moving functions that easily shift out of synch. To act on the common definitions above, organizations need:

  • Data collection methods and tools for collecting very detailed customer feedback on their experiences across the full relationship. This extends beyond a Net Promoter Score to more granular information about each phase of the experience from first impression to current position (not just post-sales impressions). Keep in mind that the average complex deal involves 6.4 decision-makers for imbuing VOC into the organization.
  • Technology for housing the data collected and combining it with internally-generated data (buying and billing history) for analysis. It is easier for large, dispersed organizations to be aligned when they are working from a common view of the customer and a mechanism for sharing information about customers. In addition, analysis tools are required in order to develop predictive insights that drive process changes.
  • Processes for collaboration and handoffs. In the customer’s mind, it is all one relationship. They don’t care how you are organized. From a customer’s point of view, adding more resources to the relationship (be it content, or people) should add to the relationship not disrupt it. Disconnections in messaging are harmful (marketing value messaging promises one thing, the seller talks about something different, and then customer success comes along and says what was promised is not possible). Organizations need to create formal processes for how they will collaborate on handoffs and how they will work together on key activities such as account planning.

 

As the sales ecosystem continues to grow and blend into marketing and customer service/success, it will be increasingly important to align these functions in a more formalized way. In some organizations, this is happening structurally under the umbrella of “Revenue.” Regardless of whether you choose to organize as distinct or integrated functions, starting with definitions and infrastructure will be key.

Questions to ask

  • How well aligned are marketing, sales, and customer service on what customers want and need?
  • What barriers are keeping those functions from closer collaboration?
  • What data exists in other departments that could be pulled together to help sales? What data does sales have that could provide insights for other departments?
  • Who owns the customer experience within the organization? Who should?
  • Which critical few customer experiences should be mapped and refined to drive greater results?

 
Related Blog Posts

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Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Data Strategy for Sales https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-data-strategy-for-sales/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-data-strategy-for-sales/#respond Tue, 06 Aug 2019 12:30:07 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21363 With an ever-growing sales technology landscape, making sense of available sales data can be challenging for sales organizations without a well-thought-out data strategy for sales. As highlighted in our 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study, on average, organizations use 10 different sales technologies, with four more...

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With an ever-growing sales technology landscape, making sense of available sales data can be challenging for sales organizations without a well-thought-out data strategy for sales. As highlighted in our 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study, on average, organizations use 10 different sales technologies, with four more planned within the next 12 months. With each system housing its own data, process and system integration as well as data flow considerations need to be taken into account if organizations want to use data more strategically as an asset.

Only 30% of participants in our recent 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study said they have a clear strategy for leveraging data as an asset for their organizations. However, for those we identified as World-Class in the study (organizations that excelled at all of the Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices), this was a much more common practice (88%). To read more about the Top 12 practices, click here.

Before we explain what we mean by sales data strategy, we first need to take a look at how we define data. According to BusinessDictionary.com, data is defined as “Information in raw or unorganized form.” The keywords here are raw and unorganized. Data without context for what you want to use it for is raw. And it’s unorganized if you don’t know what analysis to compile because you aren’t clear on what you want to use it for.

So what does it mean to have a data strategy? If you answered this question with, “We pull reports and compile analyses and use them to review sales performance, go-to-market, etc.” or “We already have sales operations and IT manage data quality and system integrations,” then you are missing the mark.

A sales data strategy is a documented plan that provides a structured framework for sales organizations to effectively manage and use data so that they can compile insights to make data-driven business decisions. And it starts with executive sales leadership owning it end to end.

World-Class Organizations have executive sales leaders take ownership of data strategy for sales, instead of managing it as a problem for IT or sales operations to solve. (Click to tweet)

With the complexity that comes with a growing sales tech environment, executive sales leaders need to take a more proactive role in defining a clear strategy around how their sales organizations will use the available data.

Here are four things to keep in mind as you look to define a clear strategy for leveraging data as an asset for your sales organization:

#1. Before you start building reports, know what business problem you are trying to solve. (Click to tweet) Having a report without a valid context in which to use it is like having a list of ingredients without knowing what it’s for. Executive sales leaders should first identify the business problem they are trying to solve with data. This, in turn, will determine what data is needed, what analysis needs to be compiled, how to use the new insights, and what technology and resource investments might be required to pull it all together. It starts with executive sales leaders determining how to use available data so that the organization can make proactive decisions to help solve its business problems.

#2. CRM may not be the only data source that you need. (Click to tweet) Depending on the business problem you are trying to solve, the analysis you need to compile will vary and, as a result, so will the data you need. While CRM is most commonly the “source of truth” for sales data, there may be data you need that also resides in other systems. Sales operations can help determine what systems the data is stored on, including – but not limited to – CRM. For example, if you need to compile analysis on a “customer,” depending on how you define “customer,” marketing, customer success teams and even finance may have pieces of what you need. So don’t presume all of the data you need is in CRM alone; look beyond sales.

#3. Clarify roles and responsibilities around data management. (Click to tweet) Data management is an important part of using data as an asset. It focuses on the day-to-day management of available data (i.e., data entry, updates, cleansing and augmentation), and having clarity on who is responsible for data management is critical, as there may be multiple functions involved depending on what data you need and where it is stored. Looking at where the data is stored is a good starting point to find out who owns it and distinguish it from who needs it and uses it.

For example, customer contact information resides in CRM, so the primary owner and user is sales. But if the CRM is connected to a MAP, then marketing also is a user of the data and owner of the customer data captured in MAP. And if CRM is used as a support system or connected to a client success system, then support and client success teams also are part of the user and owner groups. Differentiating who owns, needs and uses the data you need will help clarify data management roles and responsibilities – who captures it, who updates it and who maintains it.

#4. Identify technology and resource gaps that need to be addressed. (Click to tweet) As you start your journey toward defining a clear data strategy for sales, make sure you identify technology and resource gaps you might have. Too often, organizations either hesitate or delay getting started because of limitations in technology or resources, or they start their change journey without accounting for how to address those limitations. Being clear on the gaps or limitations across technology and resources and developing a change plan to address them will not only ensure you can uphold your data strategy for the long term, but it also will determine how long it might take and set appropriate expectations with your organization. Without taking gaps and limitations into account, organizations will be challenged to continue the momentum and sustain it on an ongoing basis.

 

While it’s tempting to assume that data strategy is within the purview of the IT department, World-Class Organizations view it as the responsibility of executive sales leadership. (Click to tweet) They are clear on what business problems they want to solve and have a structured approach to managing and leveraging data so that it is an asset – not just raw and unorganized information – for their sales organization.

 

Questions for you:

  • Do you have a clearly documented plan for how you want to use available data as an asset for your sales organization?
  • Who is responsible for defining a sales data strategy at your organization? Is it IT, sales operations or executive sales leadership?
  • When was the last time you looked at what reports are available, who is using them and for what? Are you clear on the business problem you want to solve with the help of the reports?

 

Related blog posts:

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Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Effective Sales Coaching https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-effective-sales-coaching/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-effective-sales-coaching/#comments Thu, 01 Aug 2019 13:27:30 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21338 Sales coaching drives results. Great results, no doubt. We see it year after year in our global data. Our 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study shows that, implemented properly, sales coaching can lead to a 16.6% increase in win rates for forecasted deals. Stay tuned for...

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Sales coaching drives results. Great results, no doubt. We see it year after year in our global data. Our 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study shows that, implemented properly, sales coaching can lead to a 16.6% increase in win rates for forecasted deals. Stay tuned for our 5th Annual Sales Enablement Study, which will be available in a couple of weeks. The good news I can already share with you here: The impact of a formal or dynamic sales coaching approach again leads to double-digit improvements in win rates.

A full 90% of the World-Class segment in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study reported that their sales managers effectively coach their sellers to higher levels of performance, compared to 33% of all study participants. (click to tweet)

If you check out the whole study, you may notice that the World-Class segment is small. It’s 9% of the study population. The problem is, regardless which study we use as a reference, that not more organizations follow an effective sales coaching approach that delivers significantly better results. Let me show you the details:

Even our sales enablement studies show that only 40% of organizations follow a formal approach (coaching process is implemented, and sales managers are developed and required to coach their sellers) or even a dynamic approach (in addition to the formal approach, there also are specific sales coaching services for sales managers in place that mirror the enablement services for salespeople to drive adoption and reinforcement) that creates those results.

Instead, the majority of organizations (60%) leave sales coaching up to their managers or follow an informal approach that’s usually not more than lip service that coaching should be done combined with a lack of formal skill development for managers and a lack of proper implementation.

Why aren’t more organizations focused on getting sales coaching right? Most reasons are based on a lack of clarity and understanding. (click to tweet)

The reasons are multifaceted, as usual. One reason is that there often is still no clarity between the terms sales training and sales coaching. While sales training stands at the beginning of a change process, sales coaching is the ongoing engine that drives adoption and reinforcement. So both need each other but have different roles and purposes. I explain both terms in great detail here.

Another reason I hear is, “We do it, but it doesn’t work.” In most cases, the problem is that they confuse activity management with sales coaching. And managing activities (asking the seller for numbers and data that should be in the CRM anyway) does not drive performance per se. Only doing these activities (assuming they are the right activities and derived from your sales strategy) in the best way possible drives sales performance. And to get there, sales coaching plays a crucial role.

Sales leaders who currently lead sales forces often were never coached themselves; therefore, they don’t see the “need” to coach. Here, it’s crucial to understand that professional selling has changed and continues to change by the day. Both buyers and sellers are in a very different position now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. And new situations call for new approaches. Sales coaching is one critical element necessary to drive sales force transformation. (click to tweet)

And the most common reason I hear is the classic, “We don’t have time.” It’s stunning to see some sales leaders passionately fight for every single deal on the last mile but basically be blind when it comes to implementing a system that allows them to make a focused investment to implement a performance growth engine that works along the entire customer’s path. That’s what sales coaching actually is: a performance growth engine.

Wherever you currently are, here are a few ideas to improve your current sales coaching approach: (click to tweet)

#1: Provide clarity on coaching.

Start by establishing a definition of coaching. It is more than just strategizing on an account and should cover a range of different areas such as deals, accounts, territories, pipelines and, of course, skills and behaviors. Sales coaching is a leadership skill that develops each salesperson’s full potential. Sales managers use their domain expertise along with social, communication and questioning skills to facilitate conversations that allow sellers to discover areas for improvement and opportunities to break through to new levels of success.

#2: Get senior executive buy-in.

Build a business case. Our research provides highly valuable insights on the business impact of sales coaching. Put the data into your context, and create a specific and realistic business case. For some, it will take more than numbers. Senior executives who were never coached themselves will see it as a “nice to have,” as mentioned above. The lack of coaching is a longtime problem, and they are used to it. Use role-play activities, real seller quotes, a recorded failed call, feedback from customers and snippets from seller exit interviews to supplement your business case. Sell it with data, but don’t forget to make the emotional connection.

#3: Run a coaching pilot.

You can usually find a few sales managers within your organization who are natural coaching talents or learned coaching elsewhere. Design a small pilot together, track the results, and let these sales managers present their coaching story. Tangible experiences from within the organization, especially if presented by sales managers and backed up by a business case, make the ingredients for an approved initiative. Sales enablement leaders are often more successful if they leave it to sellers or sales managers to share a success. It’s definitely the case for sales coaching.

#4: Implement a coaching process.

Now, as the case has been made, you can get started developing your coaching process, connect it to the selling process and make sure sales managers have coaching guidelines available to them at each stage. Then make sure that they are all well developed and required to coach their teams. If their managers don’t inspect that, it won’t happen. Make sure an adequate coaching approach has been implemented for all of the major programs you have out there for sellers. For example, if you have a new sales methodology, make sure your managers are trained on how to coach along those lines. If you have a new value messaging approach, ensure your managers know how to coach their teams on that. You will see that involving sales managers begins early on, can then pause a bit while you work with the sellers, and then has to be practiced regularly.

If you haven’t already, take a look at our new book, Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. Chapter 7 contains lots of “how-to” information to address the sales coaching challenges mentioned here.

Questions for you:

  • Do your sales managers coach their salespeople regularly and effectively?
  • If your sales managers don’t coach their salespeople regularly and effectively, why not?
  • What do you need to drive sales coaching in your organization?

Related blog posts:

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Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Talent Strategy Supports Goal Achievement https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-talent-strategy-supports-goal-achievement/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-talent-strategy-supports-goal-achievement/#respond Tue, 30 Jul 2019 13:57:29 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21288 Little in the world of sales is static. Customer requirements are ever-evolving and, in response, most sales organizations are in the midst of change, be it a new CRM, a new methodology, a new product launch, a new coverage model, etc. Too often, however, these...

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Little in the world of sales is static. Customer requirements are ever-evolving and, in response, most sales organizations are in the midst of change, be it a new CRM, a new methodology, a new product launch, a new coverage model, etc. Too often, however, these major changes result in minor impact because they fall down at the point of individual execution and behavior change.

Talent is the missing element that commonly derails sales transformation. (click to tweet)

It’s not surprising, then, that talent is on the minds of most sales executives. According to our 2018 Sales Talent Study, the vast majority (84%) agree that they lack the talent they need to succeed in the future. Yet, while broadly acknowledged as a challenge, fewer than 1/3 of sales organizations that participated in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study agreed that they have a talent strategy that would close such a talent gap and support achieving their business goals.

If asked, most sales executives could describe the key tenets of their go-to-market strategy without batting an eye. But there is often little definition regarding a talent strategy needed to underpin the approach. This results in key inefficiencies and ineffectiveness.

  • Talent practices are disconnected. Hiring, onboarding, training, coaching and development all occur in some form or another. But they are disconnected practices and do not align around a talent data set, success metrics or talent profiles.
  • Accountability gets diluted across departments. By their nature, talent processes will need to be executed by a range of departments. But unless the talent strategy is owned and defined by sales, it will be too generic for optimal success. Specifically, it’s the CSO who needs to own the strategy in order to ensure that it fuels the goals of the sales organization.
  • There is a lack of talent-oriented data. Without a clear set of talent data that is tracked from hiring to off-boarding, there is no closed loop to improve the talent approach. Hiring profiles don’t get better. Onboarding is off target. Coaching is one size fits all. And success is measured only in terms of lagging and historical metrics such as quota achievement.

In World-Class sales organizations, however, a formal talent strategy is put in place. Such a strategy is owned by sales, is data-science driven and aligns major talent processes in the context of an integrated seller lifecycle.

85% of World-Class sales organizations have a formal talent strategy. (click to tweet)

Those looking to take a more strategic approach to talent should start by closing the three common gaps noted above.

  • Define the scope of the talent strategy. Talent strategies start with the coverage model and a sales operations exercise for determining what volume of sellers is needed and within which roles. From there, hiring, onboarding, coaching, ongoing enablement, engagement, succession planning and transition all need to align. Defining a talent strategy starts with understanding what each of those processes looks like today and how well each one is working.
  • Agree on cross-functional roles and responsibilities under the direction of sales. Assign roles and responsibilities for each of the major processes you identify within the scope of the talent strategy. For example, you may need sales operations to define the exact staffing required, sales enablement to guide hiring profile creation, and HR to manage applicant tracking and legal defensibility of hiring decisions. In addition to assigning responsibilities, ensure formal collaboration. Sales management may see a change in the field that is an early indicator that hiring profiles need to change, but this information may not get shared without a formal avenue for doing so. Given the nature of collaboration required across the enterprise, the CSO will have to play a large role in driving the strategy and making the case for sales ownership.
  • Define a set of key performance indicators. Sales organizations have tons of data, yet they rarely measure talent with anything beyond quota achievement. Instead, organizations can mine behavioral indicators (i.e., competency demonstration), productivity measures (e.g., conversion rates, win rates, time to productivity) and lagging indicators outside of revenues (e.g., customer satisfaction) as well as data on attributes and traits collected during the hiring process. By nature, some of these will change over time, and some will not (your tendencies and traits vary little over time). Therefore, you need a range of data to use for a range of purposes: refining hiring profiles, designing onboarding approaches, coaching individuals, determining training needs, etc.

This is just the beginning. Starting up a sales talent strategy isn’t a project. It is like any other part of the annual (or semiannual) planning process. It needs to be constantly refined and evolved. As noted in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study, organizations that do this well report much higher revenue plan attainment, higher quota attainment, higher win rates and lower attrition than their peers.

Questions for you:

  • How confident are you that you have the talent you need to succeed in the future?
  • What are the major elements of your sales talent approach?
  • How well aligned and integrated are the major elements of your sales talent approach?
  • Who owns your sales talent strategy? Who else is involved?
  • How is collaboration handled?
  • What metrics are used to judge progress and refine the approach over time?

 
Related Blog Posts

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Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Call Planning Tools https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-call-planning-tools/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-call-planning-tools/#respond Thu, 25 Jul 2019 14:20:48 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21174 Having call planning tools in place isn’t anything new, but using them effectively was a topic of interest in our recent 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study. Specifically, “We effectively use call planning tools to prepare for customer interactions” was highlighted as one of the Top...

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Having call planning tools in place isn’t anything new, but using them effectively was a topic of interest in our recent 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study. Specifically, “We effectively use call planning tools to prepare for customer interactions” was highlighted as one of the Top 12 practices.

74% of the World-Class segment reported consistently and collectively applying this practice, compared to only 26% of all study participants.

Sales professionals are expected to prepare for calls or meetings with prospective buyers or existing customers. According to our 2018-2019 Sales Performance Study, they spend almost 20% of their time prospecting and preparing for calls. So having tools to support them in this activity is not new, but how effective they are at using the tools provided is worth a closer look – especially considering even the World-Class segment found room for improvement, with one-quarter indicating they are not effectively using their call planning tools.

Figuring out how to use call planning tools effectively requires deliberate and conscious effort. And World-Class Organizations do just that. (Click to tweet)

Once a call planning tool is made available to sales professionals, additional planning and thought is required to help them use it effectively. If you don’t put as much effort into this step as you did when selecting the tool, you are more likely to have poor adoption of the new tool you just rolled out.

Here are three checkpoints to help sales use call planning tools to produce the intended outcomes from customer calls and meetings. 

1.Are you clear on what you want to accomplish? (Click to tweet) Similar to choosing an exercise device, being clear on what you want to accomplish is the first step. This will help determine which tools you need to achieve the desired results. For example, if you want to increase flexibility and stretch, you need a yoga mat and stretch band; on the other hand, if you want to work on endurance, you might need a treadmill and a good pair of running shoes.

A call planning tool can be as simple as a checklist or as advanced as the latest sales technologies with AI capabilities. Don’t be afraid to be selective and choose what works for you and your team. If you haven’t yet defined standard steps for call preparation, start with a simple checklist. Introducing the latest sales technology without a clearly defined call preparation process that your sales team uses consistently will only result in poor adoption. On the other hand, if you have a well-defined process and are looking to automate and scale in support of your growing sales organization, it makes sense to look at the available sales technologies.

When selecting a call planning tool, don’t forget to look at the sales user experience holistically – how it will fit into their current workflow, whether it’s available on a mobile app and integrated with CRM, whether it provides anything new that is of value to your salespeople and whether it improves the customer experience when engaging with your team. Being clear on what you want to achieve will help you select the tool that fits your needs. (Click to tweet)

2.Have you decided when to use it? (Click to tweet) Buyers expect salespeople to be prepared for any interaction. And with an average sales cycle of more than five months, and an average of 6.4 decision-makers per opportunity, your sales teams could be engaging in dozens of calls to close one opportunity. So acknowledge up front that not all sales calls require the same level of planning. Some might be quick meetings with an existing internal champion, while others might involve multiple stakeholders, each with their own desired outcomes that your salespeople need to address.

Be thoughtful in determining which sales calls require documented planning, whether in a template or using sales tech that integrates with your CRM. If salespeople are spending 20% of their time on call planning, being selective on when to use the call planning tool will help ensure they are using their time wisely instead of completing a form for every single call. (Click to tweet)

3.How will you use it? (Click to tweet) What you get from using the call planning tool depends on how you use it. Are you being mindful of the results you want to get and purposeful in the steps you take to achieve those results with the help of the tool? Going back to the exercise scenario, how you use the stretch bands makes a difference in whether you achieve your goal of being more flexible. If you stretch the bands halfheartedly and not all the way, there is a limit to the level of flexibility you can achieve.

Let’s see how this might apply to a call planning tool. You have a complex deal with multiple stakeholders and, as an outcome of your next sales call, you want to drive alignment and agreement on the main business issues they are trying to resolve. To date, you have met with each of the stakeholders and are aware of the business issues each has identified – many of which are not the same. You already have notes on your key contacts in CRM and may even have an opportunity or account plan started.

You can decide to use the call planning tool to consolidate available information and identify additional gaps or you can grumble and complain as you cut and paste text from CRM or the plan you started elsewhere into the call planning template. If you choose the former approach, you can use the call planning tool to help aggregate and clarify what the real business issues are, understand stakeholder dynamics (to invite the right people to the meeting) and pull together content to drive the right discussions. If you choose the latter approach, you may miss the opportunity to identify gaps you didn’t see before and go into the meeting unprepared.

World-Class Organizations pay close attention to the what, when and howkey components to ensuring salespeople use the call planning tool to produce the desired outcomes from their sales calls! (Click to tweet)

They are clear on what they want to use it for, as they know what they want to achieve by using the tool and choose one that fits their needs. They are selective about when they use it and also make a conscious effort around how to use it so they can get the outcome both they and the customer want from the sales call.

 

Questions for you:

  • What will a call planning tool help you and your sales teams with?
  • Do you have a list of criteria for which calls or meetings require use of a call planning tool?
  • What other things might you need to consider to make a call planning tool part of the sales workflow?

 

Related blog posts:

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Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Use Formal Assessments for Top Performers https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-use-formal-assessments-for-top-performers/ https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/top-12-world-class-sales-practices-use-formal-assessments-for-top-performers/#respond Tue, 23 Jul 2019 13:00:56 +0000 https://www.csoinsights.com/?p=21235 As highlighted in our 2018 Sales Talent Study, sales organizations have a talent problem – several of them, in fact. For one, the market is changing so rapidly that fewer than 20% of sales leaders believe they have the talent to succeed in the future....

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As highlighted in our 2018 Sales Talent Study, sales organizations have a talent problem – several of them, in fact. For one, the market is changing so rapidly that fewer than 20% of sales leaders believe they have the talent to succeed in the future. Second, positive economic conditions are driving high voluntary attrition, leaving sales organizations with costly gaps to fill.  And finally, sales organizations are over-dependent on a small portion of their sellers.

A full 54% of a sales organization’s revenues are generated by the top 20% of sellers. (Click to tweet)

Despite these issues, few sales organizations (24%) assess their top performers to find out what makes them so successful. This is, however, a much more common practice (86%) among those identified in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study as being “World Class.”

World-Class Organizations run in a systematic fashion and take advantage of data and predictive analytics to make key decisions and drive effectiveness. The talent arena is no different. World-Class Organizations use data collected from predictive and observed/behavioral talent assessments for a range of applications:

  • Hiring. Using data science, predictive assessments can identify the inherent attributes than differentiate your best sellers. With an ideal seller profile identified, organizations can hire sellers who have the propensity to be successful in a specific selling environment.
  • Onboarding. Once the inbound hiring profile is identified, it is easier to create an onboarding approach that optimizes the talent input and allows for individual tailoring. The most effective onboarding programs get sellers up to speed two months faster than less-successful programs. With an average $2MM USD quota for complex sales, a full two months can be highly impactful.
  • Ongoing Development & Coaching. As noted in one of the other World-Class practices, ongoing development is necessary to feed the learning agility and career growth demands of modern sellers. Behavioral assessments can be used to assess what sellers actually say and do effectively. With 180-degree (or more) feedback, this can help enablement drive tailored development and help managers focus their coaching efforts. Given an average span of control of 8-10 sellers in a large organization, this can provide important leverage for leaders to scale their efforts.
  • Career Progression In/Out. Finally, talent data can be used to help sellers evolve along their careers. Some will want to move into management, and predictive data can help identify those who may be a better fit. Most, however, will not desire a management career and choose to stay in frontline sales roles. It is important to keep those sellers engaged by providing them with ancillary opportunities (e.g., mentoring others, serving on advisory boards, representing new products). Of course, no matter the talent approach, attrition at some level remains a fact of selling. Be sure to take advantage of that data, too, in order to calibrate your hiring assessments and ideal candidate profiles.

 
Select sales talent assessments based on how you will use the data. Not all of them serve the same purpose. (Click to tweet)

When utilizing formal assessments, consider what kind of data you want to collect and what instruments are best suited for the desired application. Predictive assessments can be used to identify the inherent talents and attributes of an individual or how they are wired to work. Such assessments can be useful in situations where you want to assess individuals not currently in role. For example  job applicants or those serving in one sales role (small business inside sales) who may be considered for a different role (outside enterprise sales). If you want to make any part of a hiring or transition decision based on such a tool, make sure that it is legally defensible according to the labor laws in your geography.

Observed/behavioral assessments can be effective in determining what sellers are actually saying and doing on the job. Of course, there may be a natural bias toward over-rating in a self-assessment. Such tools work best when conducted as a multi-rater and take into account the points of view of the manager or even peers and customers. Where a predictive assessment does not change over time, the results of a behavioral assessment may change because of enablement efforts. Therefore, you can use behavioral or observed assessments to establish baselines and measure progress against key skills or competencies.

The key is to collect and treat such data as you would any other sales data. Collect it with intention, protect it, keep it maintained, and use it in combination with other data sources.

 

Questions for you:

  • What kind of talent data do you have access to?
  • What assessment instruments could you use to supplement your talent data?
  • How do you leverage talent data in order to drive decisions?
  • How have your approaches to hiring, development, etc. changed over the past two years?

 
Related Blog Posts

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