5 Steps to Sales Readiness – Built In

Want to know why your sellers are underperforming? Here’s a hint: It often has less to do with their ability than it does with your enablement program. 

Indeed, it’s never been more difficult for sellers to adapt to the fast-changing business environment they face daily because traditional sales training and enablement programs are failing to keep up, too. The proof is in the results — or lack of results, to be more specific. According to a recent survey, only 14.7 percent of sales teams hit their goals. And a recent Forrester blog reported that, from 2011 to 2019, quota attainment per rep fell from 63 percent to 43 percent.

The intent behind these programs is right. At the outset, they provide a surge of training and education, but without consistent reinforcement, all that learning erodes fairly quickly. As a result, CSO Insights found that only 27.5 percent of stakeholders feel that sales enablement initiatives meet or exceed their expectations, and another report found that 90 percent of sales training programs fail after 120 days.

With these data points in mind, sales leaders are looking to transform traditional sales training and enablement by embracing the concept of sales readiness — a continuous state of excellence that uses tools and processes to increase seller knowledge, enhance performance and adapt to change. While the tools and processes used may vary, the framework organizations should follow to achieve sales readiness remains the same. The sales readiness framework has five steps: defining excellence, building knowledge, aligning content, analyzing performance and optimizing behavior.

5 Steps to Sales Readiness

  1. Define excellence.
  2. Build knowledge.
  3. Align content.
  4. Analyze performance.
  5. Optimize behavior.

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Step One: Define Excellence

When hiring new reps, many companies look for some intangible quality that will hopefully translate to the ability to consistently close deals. But just because reps look the part doesn’t mean they’ll deliver consistent productivity. The ideal rep profile, or IRP, comes into play here. The IRP is a comprehensive, data-driven approach to defining seller excellence. It’s based on the idea that sales leaders can help each seller reach their objectives by indexing their abilities in four areas: 

  • Preparation — Baseline knowledge, competitive intelligence and messaging and positioning. 
  • Skills — Known skills, such as negotiation.
  • Interactions — How reps use available tools (virtual meetings, digital communications) to engage with customers.
  • Results — Number of deals won and lost, as well as forecast accuracy, win rate and pipeline.

The IRP may be different for every company, with the importance of different competencies weighted and prioritized according to needs. But once defined, the IRP becomes the baseline for the knowledge, skills and capabilities each rep should possess. When new hires and existing reps are measured against the IRP, sales leaders can identify where skills and knowledge gaps exist for individuals. Then, the rest of the program, including coaching and training, can be personalized to fit the needs of each rep.

Step Two: Build Knowledge

Learning must be an ongoing process that goes beyond once-a-year-kickoff meetings. If it’s not, chances are high that reps will forget much, if not all, of what they learned. The best enablement programs include three components to keep the learning going and everyone engaged:

  • Spaced reinforcement of learning, where learning programs revisit key themes and topics, focusing on areas where a reps proficiency is weaker.
  • Micro-learning, where the rep can fit knowledge-building into quick-hitting notifications and questions.
  • Engaging mechanics, where timed quizzes, missions, leaderboards and achievements spark the inner competitor, making everyone want to participate and win. 

Step Three: Align Content

Although content can play an important role in driving deals forward, the majority of it actually goes unused by sales — 90 percent of it, in fact, according to the AMA. The key to ensuring reps use it is by making sure it’s updated, easily accessible and relevant. For example, a new case study would be more readily used if it’s available in a single, known location like a specific drive or folder. Moreover, reps should be given a quick training on what everything is, who it’s relevant to, when to use each asset and how other reps have used these materials to move deals forward.

Step Four: Analyze Performance

Conversation intelligence (CI) has emerged as a critical tool that allows sales leaders to “sit in” on real-world customer interactions. The information gleaned from these interactions provides a better understanding of how messaging, themes and topics resonate with customers. It also highlights the habits of great reps and helps course-correct for those that need more guidance. 

Because of this, CI that incorporates AI and machine learning is an important element in any sales readiness strategy, helping provide insight into what’s happening in the field so that it can be tied back to competencies that may or may not have been achieved in terms of enablement.

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Step Five: Optimize Behavior

Based on the insights gained from analyzing reps’ field performance through CI, the last step is to close the sales readiness loop with effective coaching, which will help the rep move closer to matching the pre-defined IRP. While practice and score cards are important foundational elements in coaching, it can be made even more effective when you use AI to generate recommendations for coaching based on identified gaps from real-world selling interactions.

The “ready rep” is a product of a program that increases seller knowledge, clearly defines and quantifies ideal behaviors, and provides the tools for consistent and engaging learning. Following a sales readiness framework like this sets organizations on a path toward ongoing sales excellence that translates to continuous revenue growth and competitive advantage.

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