Stop Poking the Bear
Salespeople are not dumb. They just don’t see the value in what you want them to do.
I have been in Sales Enablement for four different organizations–each very different in size and ambition. However, the one connecting thing that I have heard in each is their salespeople are dumb. I have heard numerous times from sales leaders, marketing, and product managers, “Robby, this is too hard for them. They aren’t going to be able to do this.” That’s a fallacy. Yes, you know what that means. It’s not that salespeople can’t do what you’re asking them to do… they just don’t see any value in what you’re asking them to do.
Sales Enablement Fail
A common mistake that Sales Enablement professionals make from the beginning is that they don’t know their customer–the sales organization. From my experience, many Sales Enablement professionals have stumbled into the role either by accident or are part of a greater Learning and Development organization and struggle developing enablement for salespeople. Here’s a couple of tips I would suggest that you consider:
- Walk in their shoes. I was a top performing sales representative in my sales day. I understand the stress a salesperson goes through every day. However, I have never sold technology–which is what my industry is now. I have to understand their world in order to provide any value to them. Sales Enablement sometimes gets stuck in a nasty cycle of onboarding, putting out fires, and squeezing SMEs for content. Get out in the field as much as you can in the form of ride alongs, trade shows, or just “walk the floor” to talk to your salespeople. It’s amazing how you can get the pulse of what is truly working in the field by talking to your salespeople. It’s a novel concept, I know. We just forget that is an important part of the job.
- Salespeople aren’t going to do something just because you tell them they have to do it. The sales department normally drives a traditional Learning and Development organization nuts. Why? Salespeople aren’t going to do an elearning course just because you have assigned it to them. You have to provide value to them on how this is going to either make their job easier or make more money. We all know some learning is just required. However, if you’re using the term “required” to force people to do the enablement, you are failing as an enablement leader to provide value.
- Showing you care about their success makes all the difference. I was a middle school teacher when I came out of college. Although I am not working with middle school students any longer, my strategies are about the same. Salespeople and middle school students are much alike in terms they are incredibly loyal to those who show they care about their success. They can smell BS from a mile away so you better know your stuff. Finally, they will push your boundaries to the limit. You must be clear on your expectations and directions or be ready for someone to find a loophole.
Sales Enablement Success
These steps aren’t done in a fully baked program. They are done in small doses spread throughout your organization. For example, we have recently implement Docurated in our organization. The sales team has mainly viewed it as a content repository and adoption has been good for that. Yet, there is so much more it can do. As I have been working with our Account Executives, I have suggested that they start sending their proposals through Docurated? The tracking feature within Docurated allows Account Executive to see a few critical pieces of information that eats at any Account Executive after his or she submits a proposal:
- Is the customer reading the proposal?
- Is the customer sharing the proposal with anyone else?
Arming our Account Executives with this little trick can help them have a better understanding of the nature of the accounts. Docurated and I are providing value to our Account Executives that matters to their everyday job. Doing what I suggested is going to be more work than just firing off an email. However, the value behind the work is worth it so there is no question on whether or not to do it.
Closing out my point is pretty simple. Give your salespeople credit to do their jobs. Stop treating them like their mentally incapable of doing complex tasks. They are very much capable and by not holding them to that expectation is a disservice to them and your Sales Enablement program. However, as you build out your program be sure to figure out what is the value behind each and every intervention you provide them. If you don’t, you will find yourself chasing around salespeople and seeing much of your quality content wasting away in your organization.
About the Writer
Robby is the Field Enablement Manager at Appirio based in Indianapolis, Indiana. A former teacher and top performing salesperson, he is passionate about building relevant, competency-based enablement for salespeople. He has worked with both Enterprise and SMB organizations in his career. He is currently working on his Ed.D in Information System Technology at Indiana University, Bloomington.
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