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  • The Collaborative Sale: Solution Selling in a Buyer Driven World
    The Collaborative Sale: Solution Selling in a Buyer Driven World
    by Keith M. Eades, Timothy T. Sullivan
  • The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the Way People Sell
    The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the Way People Sell
    by Keith M. Eades, Keith Eades
  • The Solution Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Application Exercises, Templates and Scripts for Effective Sales Execution
    The Solution Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Application Exercises, Templates and Scripts for Effective Sales Execution
    by Keith M. Eades, James N. Touchstone, Timothy T. Sullivan
  • The Solution-Centric Organization
    The Solution-Centric Organization
    by Keith M. Eades, Robert Kear
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Tuesday
May052015

Bridging the Sales Training to Execution Gap

by Ken Cross, Director, Sales Enablement

I can remember sitting in a math class, long ago, thinking, and “how is this going to help me? – am I really going to use this”? – Quick side bar: I use math more than I have ever expected (maybe this is top of mind since we just completed a round of business planning, but anyway…)

In most classroom environments, there is little intention to show students how they would apply their learning in real world situations – nor do the training materials (text books) show how it is applied to day to day life. Not surprisingly, your sellers often feel the same way, after exiting training. If sellers find it difficult to apply learning to real-world scenarios, the value of the learning retention is diminished. We call this the gap between learning (training) and execution (real-life application).

Instead, sellers need the following to bridge this gap between learning and execution:

  1. Automated, Seller Journeys
  2. Contextual Learning

Automated, Seller Journeys

An automated seller journey is essentially a toolkit. Including everything needed to win an opportunity, develop and execute an account plan, find opportunities within your territory, or to manage your channel partners. This can include, but is not limited to: the process (sales, account, etc. processes), activities, verifiable outcome’s, job aids, contextual learning, and various other company specific assets and information. When automated correctly, the automated seller journey becomes the hub, which launches users to what they need, in the context what they are doing, ‘right now’ and in real-time.

You may recall from our prior blog, “Aligning Sales Talent to Drive Your Business Goals,” that there is huge value in aligning sales talent by leveraging sales talent analytics. Guided sales journeys can provide the vehicle to support the usage of these Critical Sales Competencies™ every day. For example, let’s assume that analytics prove that having Effective Sales Conversations is a Key Driver of Quota Attainment. The everyday ability of a seller to 1. Learn how to have effective sales conversation, and 2. Apply that learning with real clients become mission critical.

Overall, the power of this approach is driven exponentially higher, when users are served up the appropriate automated seller journey, based on the situation they are engaged in and aligned with those competencies that are statistically proven to drive results within your specific organization – one size doesn’t fit all.

Contextual Learning

Showing a seller what to do next, via a guided sales journey, is only half of what they typically need. The other half is to provide the learning, in small digestible servings, to show them how to complete something based on what they are doing at that moment in time. In short, a long list of reinforcement assets can have value, but unless they are presented within the journey and within the context of what the seller is doing, then they are likely to remain unused.

This approach has such great value, that we are currently engaged with multiple clients to build short, learning moments that sellers can use on the go; for example, prior to walking into a meeting with a prospect, they might need to watch a short, 3 minute video, on their smartphone, which shows to best utilize the 9-Block Vision Creation Model.

At its core, this approach works to bridge the gap between learning and application. Simply put, closing the learning gap is defined as providing your sellers / managers with the automated process, tools, and access to learning, to experience the learning every day – with this approach, they learn through application, usage, and contextual learning and content.

This approach attempts to bring together concepts that in the mind of the sellers, can appear to be disconnected. The application of the learning concepts moves students smoothly from a classroom setting to problem solving with actual opportunities and situations.

By providing information in the context of the process, sellers are also able to find what they need, when it is needed. Most sales operations managers can relate to the constant battle of ensuring that their sellers have access to the latest version of contracts proposals and other various templates. By linking this information within the context of the process, sellers not only know what to use, but they also begin to understand when to use these internal tools. This step moves the needle on both efficiency and effectiveness. We engage with many clients, whereby their sellers send proposals to their clients before fully understanding their critical business issues. One small step is to place the link to access the proposal templates further into the process map. Within this approach, the sales process (and hence the CRM) becomes the hub, where users can gain access to critical information, exactly when needed.

Optimal sale enablement therefore blurs the lines between learning and execution. Learning becomes ongoing, in real-time, and in the context of each client engagement.

Thursday
Mar262015

Is Sales Training Really Impacting (Business Outcomes) Behavior Change?

The Missing Link to Attaining Business Objectives

There is a simple concept in corporate learning that tends to get overlooked… and it might be the biggest reason sales training fails to have an impact on business outcomes!

If we think about why businesses train their individuals in a sales organization, it’s simple – they want to equip them with knowledge and skills that help them do their job in such a way as to lead to desired, business results.

But here’s where things appear to break down…

Sales Leaders want the business results - so they will monitor and measure the pipeline of deals to ensure sales activities are contributing to the intended results. Good learning initiatives provide sales professionals with the required knowledge. Knowledge acquisition is tested and reinforced. That knowledge is also put to application during the learning process through case work, exercises, role plays, etc. And more importantly, application happens back in the real world where key learning and supporting tools help the seller perform in their every day job.

However, these “training initiatives” often fail to ensure that critical behavior change around the required knowledge and skills has occurred.

ES Research indicated that while most organizations measure knowledge and business results, however they found that less than 10% of organizations measured behavior change.

While the concept of “behavior change” can sound rather “learning academicish” (my made up word) those in sales leadership roles should care… because it clearly is the lynchpin on the path from learning to business results.

Why does this “behavior change” gap occur and what can organizations do about it?

One of the reasons this gap occurs, is that it isn’t generally appreciated as being a key step in the learning-results spectrum. Ironically enough, to further answer “why it happens?” you need to look at “what” organizations can do about it.

If we exclude the topics of compensation and other motivating factors, let’s answer the “what” in a logical manner…

Once learning objectives have been defined (and this may often happen as part of activities found within the “knowledge” and “application” circles) related observable behaviors need to be defined. Then learning plans (curriculum, activities, timeline, frequency, etc.) need to be created that will drive observable behavior change. These activities are usually the role of L&D… HOWEVER… the next set of activities are the role of sales managers and leadership (often activities that L&D cannot mandate). First line sales managers have new knowledge to acquire and apply as well. They need to be equipped if they are to inspect and observe whether or not their sellers are applying new learning and that it is resulting in desired behavior change.

If the change occurs, it should be reflected in how deals progress in the sales pipeline and ultimately business results… which are usually the role of Sales Leaders. 

The first challenge is to recognize that behavior change is important and secondly that both L&D and Sales play a joint role in ensuring behavior change can and will occur.

I would encourage anyone in a learning and development or sales leadership role to assess whether this situation is occurring in their organization and whether or not they are positioned to implement these behavior change initiatives in order to provide the missing link in the learning-results spectrum.

 

Author:
James Touchstone, Director of Learning & Development

www.linkedin.com/in/jimmytouchstone/en

 

 

Thursday
Mar122015

Aligning Sales Talent to Drive YOUR Business Goals

Aligning Sales Talent to Drive YOUR Business Goals

A confluence of new capabilities is creating an innovative, more precise approach to performance improvement. New approaches include advanced analytics, refined sales competency and behavioral models, adaptive learning, and multiple forms of technology enablement. In a prior post (The Myth of the Ideal Sales Profile) we explored an emerging new paradigm that is disrupting traditional thinking with respect to best practices: the world according to YOU.

However, with only 17% of sales organizations leveraging sales talent analytics (TDWI Research), it seems that most CSO’s and their HR business partners are gambling — using intuition as the basis for making substantial investments in sales development initiatives. If the gamble doesn’t pay off, then the investment is wasted.

Is your sales talent aligned to your company’s strategy of increasing revenue? According to the Conference Board, 73% of CEO’s say no. This lack of alignment is the main reason why 86% of CSO’s expect to miss their 2015 revenue targets (CSO Insights). The ability to properly align your sales talent to your company’s business goals is the difference between being in the 86% or the 14%.

What Happens When You Assume?

Historically, sales and Human Resource leaders based sales talent alignment decisions — both development of the existing team and acquisition of future talent — on assumptions and somewhat subjective data.

Common practices include:

  • Polling the field to determine the focus for sales training
  • Hiring sales talent based largely on the subjective opinion of interviewers
  • Defining your “ideal seller profile” based on the guidance of industry pundits
  • Making a hiring decision based on the fact that the candidate made Achiever’s Club 3 of the last 5 years at their previous company
  • Deploying a sales training program based on what a colleague did at their last company

Aligning sales talent based on any of the above is likely to land your company in the 86% because these approaches fail far more times than they succeed.  They fail to consider the many cause-and-effect elements that impact success in your company, in your markets, for your products, and for your customers. As proof of their low success rate, a groundbreaking study by ES Research found that 90% of sales training [development initiatives] had no lasting impact after 120 days. And the news isn’t any better when it comes to sales talent acquisition; Accenture reports that the average ramp-up time for new reps is 7-12 months. 

Defining YOUR Ideal Seller Profile(s)

So how does your organization begin to apply the “new way” (see illustration below) as an approach to optimize sales performance? It begins with zeroing in on the capabilities of your salespeople that align most closely to the specific goals of your business.  In essence, it means understanding what the YOUR ideal seller profiles are.

Applying the new way begins with specific business goals of your company. What if market share growth was the preeminent strategic goal for your organization? Would it not be extremely valuable to understand which sales competencies were most likely to impact that aspect of your corporate strategy? The obvious answer is yes; and the obvious question is how align and optimize sales to drive increased market share?

How does a CSO identify where to target development in order to have the biggest impact on business results?

By using facts as the basis for these substantial investments.  Obtaining facts requires several essential ingredients. The first is a rigorous, comprehensive model for sales competencies; that is, a well-defined model of “what good looks like” for a broad range of sales competencies. This model can be adapted for a specific selling organization, and provides the baseline sales-specific assessments (personality, knowledge, cognitive ability, behavior, etc.).

Then, by applying advanced analytics, including Structural Equations Modeling (SEM) – we can begin to identify cause-effect relationships between specific competencies and the metrics and goals of YOUR organization. With SEM, CSO’s can statistically identify the knowledge and behavior that set top-performers apart from the rest of their team. With this valuable insight, the organization can now align both talent development and acquisition to the company’s most important business goals.

Sales Talent Analytics Provide Proof

Times have changed. The days of aligning sales talent based on gut feel, assumptions or generally accepted best-practices are over. By leveraging sales talent analytics, today’s sales leader can apply a proven 3-step approach to stop gambling and get the facts to statistically pinpoint where to focus development of the sales team, quantifiably measure the business impact / ROI of that development, and improve the quality of new hires. But buyer beware; not all analytical approaches are equal. The vast majority leverage correlation-based analytics which can lead to erroneous conclusions.

By the way we’re not eschewing well designed research that provides insights into broader application of best practices. Aberdeen Group found that best-in-class sales teams that leverage data and analytics increased team quota attainment 12.3% YOY (vs. 1% for an average company) and increased average deal size 8% YOY (vs. 0.8%)

It’s time to define the ideal seller profile for YOUR company. In our next post in this series, we answer the question – how do we capitalize on that understanding to drive the highest impact on our business goals?

Dave Christofaro, Director of Sales Talent Optimization

To learn more, visit: global.spisales.com/TalentOptimization

Connect with Dave on LinkedIn >>>

Tuesday
Mar032015

Webcast: Why Leave Revenue Growth to Chance? 

Webcast: Why Leave Revenue Growth to Chance?
March 24, 2pm EST. Hosted by SPI and Sales Management Association

REGISTER >>>

Industry research illustrates emphatically that effective selling is being disrupted by more forces than ever before. Against this backdrop of increasing change, there are literally hundreds of ideas and solutions that potentially could improve the capabilities of your sales organization. And so, in today’s world of hyper-change, what does the rational sales leader invest in to drive improved performance?

Before surveying the daunting array of sales improvement alternatives and investing in one or more of them, it’s valuable to pose a simple question: What do YOUR sales people actually need to be good at?

Until you’re able to answer this question with a high level of validity, most of the investments in performance improvement are largely educated guess work. In this ground breaking session, we will challenge conventional “best practices” thinking as well as introduce a new paradigm for continual sales improvement.

This webinar will present a cutting-edge, data-driven approach that allows today’s Sales Leader to get focused on the highest payback areas for performance improvement. By aligning talent analytics, adaptive learning, and sales enablement, sales organizations can make intelligent, focused investments in human capital - that have highest probability of impacting specific sales and business goals.

Speakers include: Dave Christofaro, Director of Sales Talent Optimization

REGISTER >>>

Monday
Feb232015

The Myth of the Ideal Seller Profile

 In a prior post, we explored the daunting array of possible ideas and solutions that a sales leader could potentially apply to improve the abilities of sales people. Further, we suggested a relevant consideration. Wouldn’t it be extremely valuable to have an objective understanding of what sales people – your salespeople – actually need to be good at to be successful in YOUR company?

As we mentioned previously, broad based and vertical industry research and benchmarks have helped to dispel many common misconceptions about “ideal” traits and competencies of sales people (e.g., extroversion is a strong predictor of sales success). In addition, talent assessment, analytics, and benchmarking have led the movement to a more rational thought process about what it may take to succeed in various types of sales roles.

The premise of this type of research and benchmarking isn’t without value. If the success of your business relies on effectively managing probabilities (what business doesn’t), then understanding practices that have worked across time for similar companies is a significant move away from intuition and toward objectivity and clear thinking. Essentially, we at least have the beginnings of a framework for “guessing better.” We also considered a few limiting aspects of these approaches – weaker analytical methods, many potential extraneous factors, and the possibility that case studies are usually published when things work out in support of a position. So the probabilities of knowing what your sales people need to be best at may be enhanced – or maybe not.

Another interesting development regarding sales talent and methodology in the past several years is that some research has gone so far as to postulate a new and better, “ideal” profile for effective selling in today’s business climate. Across a broad sample size and global corporate audience, a study was conducted to determine “patterns” in the traits and behaviors of high performers. The synthesis of this research yielded a set of seller “profiles,” and their relationship to performance levels. The conclusion; in today’s world of informed buyers, one of the profiles clearly outpaced the others in terms of selling capability. Translation – the code has been cracked – and you should adopt the “new ideal” for your sales organization and probabilities of success will correspondingly go up.

While interesting, many of the findings and conclusions about the “new ideal” weren’t particularly novel or groundbreaking to established experts in the sales performance industry. Most aspects of effective selling (especially for complex offerings) have historically been quite challenging, and very few global companies have mastered high levels of consultative and solution-focused selling acumen on a widespread basis – regardless of what the methodology is called. If anything, the research validated what many companies in the sales performance space had encountered for years – companies saying “we get it,” but then largely practicing product, feature, benefit selling – or reactive needs-based selling.

That is because pre-emptively bringing brilliant new insights to the attention of customers – or effectively re-engineering a highly informed buyer’s pre-conceptions is, for the most part, really, really hard. Some approaches to selling are just flat out easier – and more accessible to the majority of sales professionals (and their companies). Secondly, in world where the shelf-life of new ideas is increasingly compressed, even if you can formulate an incredible new perspective for buyers, competitive advantage is fleeting.

The Demise of One-Size-Fits-Most

But there’s another, even bigger problem. Even if the statistical methodology and research approach of a broad study are flawless, you are inevitably dealing with aggregate data. And even if at this precise moment in time a certain set of characteristics or competencies for sales people correlates to the majority of high performers – that seller profile might not be most effective for your organization in its current situation. Because in probabilistic terms, many cause and effect elements of what impacts success in your company, in your markets, for your products, and for your customers might not have been taken into consideration. For some statistical fun, just read a few political and economics blogs about whose policies are most responsible for economic recovery (spoiler alert: everyone’s).

But even more importantly, what about the specific business goals of your company? What if market share growth was the preeminent strategic goal for your organization? Would it not be extremely valuable to understand which sales competencies were most likely to impact that aspect of your corporate strategy? It would, but heretofore we’ve typically had to live with “macro-level” information that provides “one-size-fits-most” guideposts for our choices. That level of intelligence is useful, but still somewhat of a blunt instrument for our critical decision-making.

The New World According to YOU

But there is an emerging new paradigm that is disrupting traditional thinking with respect to best practices – the world according to YOU. A confluence of new capabilities is creating this innovative, more precise approach to performance improvement, including advanced analytics, refined sales competency and behavioral models, adaptive learning, and multiple forms of technology enablement. When fully aligned, these capabilities create intriguing new possibilities for results-based transformation in highly compressed time frames.

So how does your organization begin to apply the “new way” as an approach to optimize sales performance? It begins with zeroing in on the capabilities of your salespeople that align most closely to the specific goals of your business. I begins by defining YOUR ideal sales profile(s) – taking into consideration the current state and situation of YOUR business. In the next several weeks, multiple expert contributors in the areas of talent analytics, learning and development, and sales enablement will help to “connect the dots” for the new way – the world according to YOU. Stay tuned.

 

Author: 

Trevor Byrd, PhD, is a Senior Data Scientist at Sales Performance International. He conducts predictive analytics to provide insight into the complex challenges facing sales leaders. Trained as an industrial-organizational psychologist, he creates psychometric-based assessments used for hiring and developing sales teams. He integrates this data with pipeline and financial metrics to help organizations align their human capital with business strategy.

www.linkedin.com/in/TrevorByrd-PhD