You’ve made the decision to invest in a new sales approach, secured the budget and selected your training provider. You’re all set! You can now sit back and watch the sales come in, right? Wrong! Without a robust engagement strategy, it could all be over before it’s even begun!

The case for investing in the development of your salespeople is stronger than ever. According to Korn Ferry, organizations that invest between $500 and $2,500 per seller annually, achieved a win rate of 46.4%, whereas organizations that invested more than $2,500 per seller had win rates of 50.2%.  Sales Enablement is clearly one of the most valuable investments you can make in your business.

It’s no revelation that companies are under significant pressure to attract and retain great talent. According to the LinkedIn Learning Skills Advantage Report 2022, learning is one of your company’s most valuable assets in driving employee engagement and retention. Investing in sales enablement could therefore go some way to help increase your people’s engagement – after all 76% of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training.

With employee engagement currently a top challenge for leaders, your new all-singing all-dancing sales training program could be at risk if your people are not fully on board. Here are 5 keys to maximizing its success:

1. Community

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

The most successful leaders see sales training as a change initiative that seeks to embed a common language and practice among its wider sales community, not just enterprise sellers. By this, I mean anyone who comes into contact with customers or partners whether customer services, telesales or enterprise, and anyone providing support to sales e.g. Marketing, Sales Support, Technical Sales, Solution Architects, Pricing etc. Make it part of everyone’s everyday language and align all sales-related activities towards a common goal and purpose.

Don’t forget to bring it back to ‘why?’. Take the time to explain the rationale for the program, including what it might mean for them personally or for their team. Typically, this may be explained at the launch of a new program but never mentioned again. Explain what it means for the individual learner every step of the way. For example if you are introducing effective questioning and listening skills explain why this will help the individual in achieving their own goals.

Let’s remember – most salespeople are rewarded in terms of their individual performance. As such, selling can be a lonely place. The sense of team in a sales team can be a strange and highly competitive dynamic. If your organization is large, you may also have members of the same team participate in the new program at different times. This is especially true if your program involves any self-paced elements. It is imperative that you look for ways to bring your sales team together, not only to equip them with that common language and/or process but also to provide a sense of belonging. There are many ways you can help keep your teams engaged and motivated to progress through the program and apply the learning: Tie certification to team completion (rather than just at the individual level), design a leaderboard to track program completion by team (or even channel), set up a Buddy scheme to encourage co-workers to help each other through the program – just some options to help promote teaming and belonging.

Your new sales approach also needs to be featured in your internal communications on an ongoing basis, and not just at program launch. Put it on the agenda at every Town Hall or regular leadership call and mention it in internal newsletters well beyond the initial rollout of the program. Track and publicize learner progress, whether on a team or individual basis, and spotlight strong performers. Showcase real life case studies where the new approach has successfully been adopted and give specific examples of how it helped to win work with a existing or prospective customer. Filter it through everything you are saying and doing and watch how not only will your people feel more engaged but soon it will become part of everyday life.

2. Application

In many sales organizations, what typically happens after training is completed is…not so much! Everyone goes back to their day jobs with some fond memories of that fun off-site training day without quite remembering what it was they learned. Or their tried and tested ways of selling are just too inherent in their DNA, their old habits creeping back in.

A good training partner will equip participants with a robust toolkit that allows them to apply the learning to real life customer scenarios. Invite attendees to sessions outside the program to practice how to use the tools in real customer scenarios. Embed these tools into your CRM, explain how the new way of thinking and doing maps into your existing sales process and make discussion of the tools mandatory in your deal approval/authorization discussions. These are all examples of how you can make the learning become a reality.

Also make sure that the learning methods being adopted are inclusive for everyone attending and truly support embedding.  One-and-done training often doesn’t deliver the required results. This can be due to the learning method. A traditional classroom-style workshop may be an excellent means to deliver information, but may not be the best way to educate and/or drive adoption and application. Furthermore, too often the learning stays in the classroom – studies suggest that as much as 90% of information is forgotten within 30 days, with 70% forgotten within one day.

In our experience, incorporating a blend of learning methods drives far more substantive and longer-term results. Vary the learning methods, and provide learners with an opportunity to practice and apply to their real-life customers and roles. This might include some pre-reading, watching self-paced video content, attending a live session (whether virtual or in-person), completing an assignment to apply the learning, providing an opportunity to self-reflect…You get the picture.

3. Coaching & Accountability

Often times, we see sales leaders send their people onto a program they themselves don’t attend or participate in. Or we might be asked to provide a leadership masterclass to sales managers after their teams have attended a program. As you might expect, leaders are then playing catchup and are unable to provide the appropriate coaching to their direct reports during or immediately after the program, missing a critical window of opportunity when it comes to embedding new ways of thinking or doing.

Ideally, all leaders (including Execs) need to attend the program to give them a head start. According to the LinkedIn Learning Skills Advantage Report 2022, 91% of employees say it’s important for managers to inspire learning and experimentation. Lead the way and show your sales community how important the new sales methodology is.

But it’s not just a case of “Go so you know”. Provide leaders with a tailored learning track that includes all the program content and how they can better guide their teams through the process. This should equip your leaders with invaluable sales coaching skills and techniques to help their teams succeed long after the program has been completed.

Even better, build manager accountability within the program, ensuring sales managers are regularly checking in with their direct reports to discuss application of key components to their specific roles and customers, and resolve any challenges head on.

4. Digitization

Regardless of the number of learners and leaders participating the program, technology should sit at the core of the learning. Digitizing your sales program is a total gamechanger, enabling self-paced content to be distributed and disseminated to participants across multiple formats. Remove accessibility barriers and your employees will thank you. By providing them with a flexible digital learning solution (preferably including mobile), learners are empowered to access content at a time and place that suits them best. It also supports delivery of the program across a blend of learning methods and preferences and provides a structured approach to completing program activities.

Your digital platform should monitor participant progress at an individual and even team level, and feed into reporting – imagine dashboards, leaderboards and/or other reports all at the touch of a button. Ideally, use a platform that can also host other L&D programs so as to maximize your ROI.

But it doesn’t stop there. The right technology will also integrate collaboration tools that takes the learning to the next level. The best digital learning platforms engage managers and leaders from program launch all the way through the learning experience, providing them not just with the visibility of tasks completed, but also facilitates coaching discussions and enables certification.

5. Gamification

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that you are more likely to engage your people if your sales program is fun and interactive – especially important if your program has any self-paced elements to it.  Be creative – add in challenges, games and quizzes, together with the option to win prizes (whether virtual or real).

Program branding presents a further opportunity to increase engagement. If designed well, your theme can be weaved through the program.  If you can, invest a little in merchandise that relates to your program branding and theme – this often goes down very well with participants.  

Simply demonstrating your willingness to invest in your people is still not sufficient to fully embed your new sales approach into your organization. Work with your training provider to define and execute a robust engagement strategy that wraps around your sales program. In doing so you will win the hearts and minds of your people, creating a true community that lives and breathes a new common way of talking, thinking and doing.  Succeed, and your customers will experience a more seamless, harmonious experience.

If you’re thinking about introducing about introducing a new sales approach or would like to further discuss how you can avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned here, get in touch.

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