Real Time Sales Enablement
Everyone who has been a part of a sales organization knows the importance of enabling your sales team. Whether it is someone in operations looking at process infrastructure, a manager evaluating what materials their team needs or a full time enablement manager looking at the organization as a whole, the end goal of Sales Enablement is always the same. To continuously reevaluate systems, processes and resources that make their teams more effective.
While it is important for every department (and employee) to be continuously looking for ways to improve, I would argue that Sales Enablement should always be the most iterative. Sales Enablement is a moving target and while one should take solace in progress, the job is never done. There are always resources to be updated, playbooks to be rewritten and systems to optimize and evaluate. With so many things to focus on, where do you start? Personally, whenever I ask myself “where do I start?”, I have one North Star question that helps me prioritize my time. What is going to help bring in more revenue?
While creating infrastructure for scalability and analyzing areas for improved efficiency are important, there is one piece of the puzzle that many organizations miss that is the shortest path to drive more revenue. Real time enablement.
The purpose of this article is to help you think critically about how you are helping your team where it matters most, live-customer calls. After evaluating (and reevaluating) my real time enablement strategy, I found that there are three key areas to focus on:
- Deal preparation
- “Conversation lubricant” (Not talking about serving beer at the office)
- Accessible insights
Every manager meets with their reps individually or as a group to do pipeline reviews, it’s literally part of the job description. But, just because you are doing something, doesn’t mean you are doing it well or creating any value. Newsflash, pipeline reviews aren’t about managers getting updates, they’re about workshopping a deal and creating a plan to remove identified gaps. A good manager should always know what is going on with their team.
A productive pipeline review should be strategic, not monotonous. If you find yourself asking “what’s happening with this?”, “why hasn’t this closed?” and “what happened to that?”, I’ll give you a hard truth, you’re not doing it right. Earlier in my career, as a new manager, I fell into this trap and it wasn’t a beneficial use of my time (or my reps). It created a lack of accountability and ownership, my forecasting was qualitative and inconsistent and at the end of the day, it wasn’t helping my reps close more deals.
After many failed meetings and wasted hours, I wanted to make a change but I didn’t know where to start. So, I went back to my North Star. What is going to help bring in more revenue? While it seems like a simple question, my perspective on its value is ever expanding.
In this case, I thought about lost deals and how/why we lost them. For each opportunity lost, the post mortem revealed that something in our process was missed. In order to help my team close more deals and ultimately bring in more revenue, we needed to button up our process. Moving forward, I asked my reps to come prepared to each pipeline review with what deals they were focused on closing. Using our sales framework (MEDDPICC) we would talk about each deal and highlight parts in their sales process that needed to be buttoned up. Next, we would game plan for their upcoming calls. For each call we would strategize on how to reduce our risks and leverage our strengths to keep their deals moving forward.
During pipeline reviews it is important to keep asking your reps questions about their deals until you find the edge of what they know. From there, identify knowledge gaps and help strategize the best path forward.
As a manager, your job is about cultivating your team’s skill set, not your own. If you need to be involved in a deal to get it across the finish line, you’re not managing right. Your job is to hire, train and create the most productive team that you can. While stepping in on deals to be a second voice has its place, if it’s your primary strategy, your success will be limited. If you hire the right people, your primary job is to be a catalyst of strategic thought. Use your pipeline reviews to help your reps think about their deals from another perspective. Help them make correlations between previously lost deals and threats on their existing deals. Help them understand the importance of each stage in the deal cycle and reinforce the importance of each.
Most importantly, help them come prepared to their next call.
First of all, let me apologize for my inability to come up with a better term here. But, to be fair, writing “Provide your reps a way to reestablish momentum when conversations stall out” doesn’t really fit into a bullet. Thus, I landed on Conversation Lubricant.
We have all been there. You’re prepped for a call, you know what topics you want to review, you’ve reviewed the multitude of paths the conversation might take and you know what you want to walk away with. Then BOOM, 2 minutes into the conversation everything is on fire. No one on the call is engaged, your conversation has detoured and you don’t know which way is up. By the time the call wraps up, you didn’t cover the topics you planned to, you walked away with no tangible deal progress and the momentum is lost.
So…give your reps some conversation lubricant to use incase of an emergency. Equip them with questions that they can have queued up to redirect the conversation. Before you think to yourself, really…“Give your reps questions to ask” is your big insight, let me explain. While lots of managers review what information is missing in an opportunity and what questions could be asked to uncover that information, not many managers talk about what to do in case the conversation goes to hell.
Since we have all been there, why don’t we give our reps something in case that happens? So instead of only reviewing questions to uncover their expected growth for this year or how much money they are losing from X, Y & Z, give them a question that they could use to redirect a conversation that is going to hell in a handbasket.
Give them a question to get their prospect reengaged, give them a question that makes them think and make sure it’s a question that will reestablish momentum. When you start looking at how to structure these questions, you’ll want to come up with a framework that you find effective. Here is a very simple framework that I like using:
What do prospects care about?
What do they like to talk about?
What do you want from them?
Most of the time the answers to those questions are consistent.
Money. Themselves. Information.
In order to make your questions effective and ultimately reestablish conversational momentum, you’ll have to individualize your approach. Don’t be lazy and fall back on things that have worked in the past because trust me, they won’t work again.
So let’s break it down. What do your prospects care about? Look back at previous conversations and find the moments where your prospect lit up. What topic was being discussed? What initiatives are they focused on? What do they personally care about? What tangible value can you bring to them personally?
For instance, let’s say that you find a deal where a timeline hasn’t been properly established. Then, when reviewing previous calls, you hear your prospect get annoyed that this project took so long to see the light of day. Instead of asking a basic question like “When would you like to go live?” (which is close ended and doesn’t elicit emotion), say “We have talked a lot about your current initiative, but we haven’t really talked about why now. Did something happen to create urgency behind this project?”.
The strategic approach behind constructing a great question is almost as important as the question itself. Make sure that you are equipping your team with properly structured questions to effectively….lubricate their conversation.
To this point, we have talked a lot about how to create momentum in a conversation, but there is another risk that we have yet to discuss. What happens when your rep gets hit with a question or topic that they aren’t comfortable discussing? While “I’m not sure, but I will find out and get back to you.” is a fine and respectful answer, but too many of those and your conversation is going to lose momentum and your prospective client will lose confidence.
Which brings me to our next topic of conversation, Accessible Insights. How do you enable your team, in real-time, to find the information they need to handle conversations that are out of their wheelhouse? To be clear, I’m not saying that your SDR team should be able to discuss Solution Engineer level questions. What I am saying is that they should be equipped with enough information to overcome hurdles on their call. They should be able to field the questions, shed some light on the topic and move on.
When we are looking at what insights should be available to your team, I like to use three different categories - Product, Process & Competition.
Product insights should always be at the top of the list, especially for greener Account Executives. Whether you have a complex platform with multiple product lines or something more simple, there are bound to be questions that aren’t common knowledge. Making sure your team is comfortable discussing the nuances is important.
When tackling product documentation, it’s important to create an outline for yourself. It’s a big task, but creating a plan of attack can make it more digestible. Break your solution down into sections, highlight what features are in each and then try to go as deep as you can with documenting each piece. If a feature has different applications, highlight those. If a feature has settings, explain them. If a feature has technical documentation, make it digestible.
Questions that prospects ask will test the edge of your team’s knowledge. Accessible product insights will help your team carry more confidence through their conversations.
Process. Important for new hires, scalability and consistency. If there is a gap in process knowledge, there will be variations on how a task is done. Variations with how tasks are done creates disparate data. Disparate data is the enemy of reportability. How do you create operational consistency, good data and relatable reports? Document your process.
When you look at your process documentation, start with your desired sales strategy and go from there. Too many companies look at this problem backwards and start by asking themselves “What do we need to be able to measure?”. That isn’t the right question. The right question is “What key data points should our reps be collecting at each part of the sales process?”.
If there is an SDR to AE handoff, what information should be passed along? If you are struggling with close rate, take a look at your qualification and discovery process. What information was collected with deals that were won and what information was missed on deals that were lost. Everyone wants great reporting for easy forecasting but they fail to recognize that consistent reports don’t come from more CRM fields, it comes from a consistent process that is easy to follow.
Start simple, you can always make things more complex down the line once your team masters the basics.
Competition, the thorn in everyone’s side that doesn’t get enough spotlight. The reason why? It’s not easy. Your competitive landscape will always be changing. What you have over your competitors, what they have over you and most importantly HOW to talk about your company compared to theirs.
While a comparison of product differentiators is important, that isn’t where deals are won. A huge piece of real time enablement is equipping your team with the right string of words to say when competition is brought into the mix. These statements should highlight your company’s strengths, set traps for your competition’s weaknesses and create doubt about your company’s weaknesses being weaknesses. These comments should enable your team to dismantle your competition's shot at the deal, while simultaneously coming off as net neutral in your opinion of their product.
Are you a smaller company with less functionality, less funding and less headcount? No you’re not. Our product direction is more focused on core drivers instead of bells and whistles. We are hyper focused on making an impact while remaining small enough to listen to customer feedback. And best of all? We want clients, not customers, so you get your own success manager to handle your relationship with us!
To effectively enable your reps against competitors in your space, the first step is to open up a line of communication with them. Sales Leaders, managers and sales enablement don't spend nearly as much time being customer facing as sales reps do. If you want up to date, definitive ammo for your reps to use as a team, your primary directive should be to collecting and consolidating data from them and making is accessible to them during calls.
It doesn't take much to give your reps what they need to collect data for you. Simply give them a path of communication and equip with them with some conversation lube! If your team is looking to steal a customer from a competitor and a prospect asks “What makes you different from XYZ?”. Simply give your reps an overarching statement about your company level differentiator, then have them turn it around on the prospect.
“While XYZ company aims to solve the same problem as us, our company is different because (Insert company value here). That being said, I've heard some mixed feedback from my clients that used to use them, what has your experience been so far?” This establishing confidence in the prospect that people have made the jump before and let's be serious, if they are on the call with you, then there is something about you competitors system that isn't filling all of their buckets. Make sure your reps aren't assumptive in what that reasoning is, push them to ask, collect data and become more knowledgeable as a team.
The name of the game is Sales Enablement and by definition it is an iterative process. If you want to be successful, you will need some help from your team. Your job is to highlight what needs changing, show your team the value and work together to make things better!