As a sales leader, you may find yourself a little worried these days. Well, a little more worried. Herding a bunch of gregarious ‘people people’ into inputting CRM data and completing online trainings doesn’t come without a few gray hairs.
But when you’re trying to prepare your salesforce to take on the new B2B buying journey while battling eye-popping attrition, those grays may be growing in a little faster. (And just to really drive this misery home: Harvard Business Review recently pointed out that attrition begets attrition, because your top sellers see others jumping ship and they’re networked with the people who quit. So sleep well!).
Molding your existing sales team in such a climate requires a real mind shift—but we know it can be done because we’ve done it. We rolled out a new buyer-focused, counterintuitive selling model, got our staff to adopt it, and have seen substantial productivity gains.
We even achieved the long-unattainable dream of predictable quota forecasting. (Really). We’ve been lucky to partner with many clients on their sales transformation journeys and benefited from a lot of real-world insight—which we used in our own transformation and are happy to share with you.
The key sales competencies needed today
While specific skill needs vary across organizations (read to the end for some tips on identifying yours), every B2B salesforce needs these two to succeed today:
1. Continuous improvement mindset
You probably already hire junior sellers for coachability, but embracing coaching and ongoing feedback is also essential for your rockstars.
And some of them aren’t going to like it.
But with buyers taking more control of their buying journeys, fewer chances for interactions, and tech-driven change acceleration, sellers must embrace ongoing feedback to deploy new tactics and sales messaging strategies quickly and effectively. We help them do this by recording customer calls and meetings so managers can provide feedback. This is worlds better than having sellers self-report strengths and weaknesses because everyone has blind spots (except you, of course, never you).
“Some sellers feel like having meetings recorded is a little Big Brother, but it’s really about a continuous improvement mindset,” says Bert Vanhaecke, our Global Revenue Enablement Program Manager. “They need to get used to receiving ongoing feedback from many directions.”
This system really allows managers to home in on the behaviors they see, instead of trying to coach for results—a fool’s errand. Coaching for results is like telling your kid just to go out and get straight A’s without helping them understand that listening, doing their homework every day and sucking up to Mrs. Hemsley once in a while is how they get there.
Being open to continuous feedback and improvement is easier to instill in newer sellers who don’t have the same expectations as senior sellers, but it’s truly important for everyone. “We had rock stars we left alone because they reached their targets, but they were using old messaging and materials. The second we change how we talk about the company, they’ll get left behind,” says Vanhaecke.
2. Data orientation
In a sea of challenges, getting more access to data is the rare positive for sales leaders. But first, you have to know what to do with the data.
Successful sellers today embrace data to make decisions. (No problem! Your sellers will love new data-driven processes! Just like they love adding data to your CRM!)
But actually, you might be surprised at how much your sellers love data once they’re used to using it. “Visualizing data makes a big difference when you’re trying to convince sellers to try something new,” says Vanhaecke. “Once we show them how something impacts revenue for other sellers, they want to try it.”
If you’re using an enablement platform, you can track things like:
- Which content impacts sales
- Which stage of the sales-cycle specific content helps with
- The effectiveness of new sales techniques you’re trying
- New messaging (at Showpad, we used keywords to see which buyers were exposed to a new marketing narrative we were testing—and realized it wasn’t helping sales, which gave us the opportunity to refine it until it did, and now it kicks!)
Your sales leaders should also learn to partner with marketing teams on data, too. “We had a sales leader asking marketing to drop everything to update what they saw as a key sales tool, but we were able to show data that the sheet had been shared a ton but had only impacted one sale,” says Vanhaecke. “It was the same story for our video case studies: we found few buyers were watching them, so they’re no longer a priority, which lets us focus on other things that do help.”
Identify the competencies that generate revenue
While a continuous improvement mindset and data orientation are universal needs for B2B sales teams, some competency needs will be specific to your organization. So how do you find which skills matter most to your salesforce?
It all comes back to data. Suppose you’re using a unified enablement platform where you can tie sales outcomes to your learning and management system. In that case, you can figure out which competencies most impact revenue and focus on building those.
At Showpad, we had sellers and their managers rate their competencies, and then we compared which ones correlated with quota achievement. This let us focus on building skills in critical areas, which for us were value differentiation and negotiation. While for some organizations, we see objection-handling and giving demonstrations as key revenue drivers. What will yours be?
Upskilling: the neverending story
The new equation for sales competitiveness has changed—but luckily, so have the tools. Using a unified enablement platform makes it possible to track the effects of specific competencies on revenue, create continuous learning opportunities and provide data to drive effective decisions.
Opportunity, meet moment.