Sales training and enablement professionals who effectively build an internal sales coaching capability help sales reps overcome complexity and sell more successfully. According to the sales enablement professionals we interviewed, building an internal sales coaching capability has two major components: strategic architecture and effective enablement.
The strategic architecture is built from thoughtful design, implementation, and reinforcement of sales coaching initiatives. Effective enablement comes from using sales coaching conversations as the design point while making sure coaches have the right content, skills, and tools to do tailor those conversations.
Unfortunately, most of the sales coaching programs we see lack the tools and methods to do just that.
So what is an enterprising sales training or sales enablement professional to do?
Join me for a Forrester workshop on sales coaching
To understand the state of sales coaching today, Forrester interviewed sales enablement professionals at 35 technology vendors. They universally agreed that achieving the goals of the sales leadership team, including selling at higher levels, often requires a change in salesperson behavior. This workshop provides sales enablement professionals the strategies and tools needed to create effective sales coaching programs at their companies to more effectively support their sales initiatives in the field.
Many sales enablement professionals we talked to have looked to sales coaching as a key enabler to salesperson success. So we built the workshop to
Help you plan a more effective sales coaching program
Provide a methodology for prioritizing, facilitating, and continuously improving individual sales coaching conversations
For months, I’ve blogged about the reasons why battle cards are important, ways to evaluate battle cards, and most recently, the need for standards to tighten their value and give battle card creators and users common ground. In an upcoming webinar, that is open to the public and free of charge. I will tie this theme together with a focus on business impact.
Join me on September 7 for a public webinar by Forrester – Register here.
On the webinar, I’ll tackle a straightforward question:
“How do sales enablement professionals work cross-functionally to optimize sales content about competitors for reps so they can improve the win rate in competitive deals?”
I’ll outline the path forward for sales enablement professionals to collaborate with their peers in marketing, product management, and competitive intelligence to build better battle cards by:
Focusing on the problems that buyers are trying to solve
Prioritizing the criteria that drive buyer choices in purchase scenarios
Shaping your content based on how buyers perceive your company and competitors
Communicating the benefits and results that buyers care about
Why does sales coaching continue to be an important sales enablement trend? Perhaps it's because salespeople learn new skills through mutually beneficial relationships with individual coaches. If you think about it, sales coaches can come from many parts of the organization and include sales managers, sales trainers, sales engineers, and in some cases from product marketers. When sales enablement professionals effectively support tailored sales coaching conversations between coaches and reps, salespeople learn faster, converse more confidently with their customers, and achieve specific sales objectives, like gaining access to the right buyers or building a winning business case.
If you think about it, the role of a sales coach is challenging. Sales coaches must process many different content inputs from across the organization, package those inputs (in their head), and then deliver content through an effective sales coaching conversation to one salesperson at a time. And, sales coaches must make sure they treat everyone uniquely, so they maximize their sales coaching impact. Sales Enablement professionals need a strategy, a methodology, and tools to effectively enable their sales coaches to implement and sustain high-quality coaching conversations that help salespeople achieve sales objectives.
In order to make sales coaching successful, Sales Enablement pros need a clear definition. The definition should drive specific sales coaching behavior while at the same time clearly defining the business reason why sales coaching is important. The definition should serve as a clear design point for sales coaching success.
This month, I (Peter O’Neill) have been planning for the Tech Marketing track at the Forrester Marketing & Strategy Forum to be held on November 16 and 17 near London. The forum has now been configured so that each of the eight role-focused tracks is presented as a series of three consecutive presentations, which means that each attendee can plan to attend one whole role-track in one session. However, I know that many tech marketers come to this event because many of the other track presentations are equally compelling, so I won’t be too disappointed if people walk in and out a little.
I am responsible for the content of the TM track, which is on the afternoon of the 17th, and will moderate the session, introducing each of the speakers, linking the topics to each other, and summarizing what was discussed. We have the following topics planned:
Outcome-Oriented Marketing. Peter Burris will discuss how tech marketing is moving away from a product focus to arguments more related to what business outcomes result from the promoted business technology investment. I know that he will also introduce a methodology of creating and managing marketing content that will enable this objective to be met.
The Rise Of The E-Channels.My colleague Tim Harmon is renowned for creating provocative titles and also for his out-of-the-box presentations. We work together often on channel marketing projects for clients and he will put forward some radical insights into where he see new sales (and marketing) channels arising and others expiring.
Over the past several months, I’ve had conversations with a lot of technology vendors about "overcoming sales training challenges." While all of the people I talked to fall into the Sales Enablement function, (meaning they come from product groups, marketing groups, and sales groups and are working to support the conversations that salespeople have) only 2 of those people were actually from within the sales training function at their company. In other words, there seems to be a lot of concern about sales training and a lot of work going on in the name of sales training but the discussion is happening outside the sales training group!
This finding led me to ask, "Is sales training strategic or tactical?" over on LinkedIn [check out some of the answers]. Taking a step back and looking through those answers in light of the conversations I've been having, I found an interesting pattern emerging.
Most of the people involved in sales training initiatives have a specific view on the role, scope, and value of sales training. This view biases the ways these people approach solving these sales training challenges or leverage training for solving the sales challenges their organizations face. At a macro level, these differing views, or paradigms, can be broken down into two camps which are often in direct conflict with one another. These competing mindsets can end up pulling in opposite directions, creating a sales training stalemate with noting really being solved and lots of money being wasted.
Here are a few examples of these different, often competing views:
This week, Forrester finally published my (Peter O'Neill here) reports based on its Q1 2011 US And European B2B Social Technographics® Online Survey For Business Technology Buyers, which marks the third year we've conducted this survey. These are the reports promised in my blog back on July 1st and they complement my colleague Kim Celestre’s insightful review of the worldwide numbers by examining the European data in more detail, as well as investigating that common adage cited by many tech marketers: “Most of the social media behavior is due to younger buyers, and they're not involved in BT decision-making.”
The European data is clear evidence that social is now routine for European tech buyers, and this is the headline that has been passed around the twittersphere all week now. As I write in the Recommendations section:
FIRST, VENDORS MUST LISTEN……AND BE SEEN……TO BE HEARD
During the first week in August, Forrester launched the Battle Card Standards Group to address head on the challenges and opportunities that they face in creating competitive battle cards for sales teams. This group is meeting weekly to outline industry standards to help sales enablement professionals bridge the gap between what a myriad of groups create and what sales reps actually need to win in competitive deals.
Some challenges mentioned by participants include:
“Sales reps often ask for negative information about competitors - FUD (fear, uncertainty, or doubt) – but, customers usually react negatively when reps say derogatory things about competitors.”
“We struggle to map our battle cards to (1) different selling situations or engagement models (transactional vs. consultative) and (2) the levels of stakeholders that we are addressing (influencers, decision-makers, or purchasing professionals).”
“We structure battle cards in a way that reps can use directly in their conversations with customers.”
As one of Forrester’s European-based analysts, Peter O'Neill here, I like to show a little continental patriotism every now and then. I work on a worldwide basis, but it is always great fun to discover a European startup, or even established vendor, and help it out into the big wide world. I actually did this in the early 1980s in a previous work-episode – any of you know of SAP? Now to put myself into perspective e, I also championed the cause of Intershop and Softlab in those years, which were not that successful, so I am not claiming any credit for SAP’s prominence.
So I am always watching out for news about the European IT industry, and I was initially tempted to tweet or retweet a recent report by the German VC firm Earlybird that argues that although the European venture industry is a quarter of the size of the US market, proportionally speaking, it is outperforming the US VC industry in returns. But I found that I didn’t understand it well enough to attach my name so I left it untouched. The report is actually quite controversial as it twists statistics around this way and that so that it remains ambiguous at best. TechCrunch has now had a real go at it, calling it “nothing more than wishful thinking” !
Forrester’s sales enablement team is launching a collaborative effort with our clients and other experts to establish standards for competitive battle cards and I invite you to participate – send me an email to join.
If you are on the receiving end of battle cards today, you know the big challenge intimately because I hear you daily in my inquiries saying things like, “how can we standardize battle cards that come from dozens of different teams?” and “How do we equip our sales reps to anticipate and respond to competitive obstacles more effectively?” For those of you on the supply side, I hear you too, saying, “every sales rep asks for different things” and “we don’t have a way to measure the impact of our work, so we keep doing what we think is best.”
Stuck in the middle are the folks battle cards are supposed to be helping in the first place – sales reps – who tell me, “it takes too much work to find and use our battle cards” and “I need competitive insights, but I tap other sources that are more reliable.”
Consider the size of this opportunity! When we get this right, we will be able to connect battle cards with real business outcomes – like faster sales cycles and win rates against key competitors – and isn’t that why we build battle cards in the first place? Opportunities will advance through the pipeline more quickly when sales reps have tools to anticipate and effectively respond to obstacles created by competitors.