June 29, 2021

Sales Readiness: Engaging and Empowering Your Sales Force to Thrive in a Remote-First World

**This post is part of a series based on Showpad’s 2021 Modern Selling Study. To dig into all the data, visit the study homepage.

Sales readiness is the enablement domain that connects the dots to engage and empower your sales force. This domain covers impactful knowledge transfer and effective skill development, and is supported by targeted coaching across the entire sales cycle.

In other words, all the sales training initiatives including your onboarding program are covered in this enablement domain. In case your enablement initiative also develops coaching skills in managers or even provides the actual coaching services for sales professionals, all these efforts are managed here in the sales readiness domain.

Sales readiness should always be closely connected to the sales content management domain, as all your internal training content has to be managed and communicated as well. This domain should also be closely connected to sales effectiveness. It requires a close collaboration with sales leadership and sales management to be on the same page regarding the required knowledge transfer, the adequate skill development and their onboarding goals.

Selling challenges directly linked to sales readiness

Before we go deeper into a few challenges that are directly related to sales readiness, let’s keep in mind that almost all selling challenges can and should be addressed with your sales readiness approach. However, some challenges are more content based only, others are primarily technology focused and others have to be addressed in the sales effectiveness domain with the involvement of your sales managers.

Not enough training/coaching to succeed with remote selling

These two challenges, especially the training challenge, show that enablement teams haven’t paid enough attention to preparing their customer-facing employees to be effective in virtual meetings. As these types of conversations were only one of many prior to the pandemic, existing selling challenges regarding effective virtual selling couldn’t be identified as a limiting factor.

This is why one of the core messages of this study is that the pandemic has amplified existing selling challenges rather than created new selling challenges. However, most organizations are not really aware of this, as 83% of organizations still believe that their teams have access to the required training they need to succeed.

Selling behaviors have to be adjusted to the new normal, a digital first world. As buyers change their behaviors, sellers have to be adaptive with their own approaches. Ideally at the same time. However, as in previous crises, buyers were faster than sellers in doing so, creating additional frictions along the customer journey as more modern buyers met fewer modern sellers.

Excellent communication skills and fluency in remote selling scenarios, based on excellent foundational selling skills are the key to success. These skills have to be developed early from onboarding to ongoing training and regular coaching to drive reinforcement and adoption.

In addition to the communication skills, it’s also important to teach sellers how to differently plan and conduct virtual meetings. As an example, instead of a three hour workshop put into Zoom, it probably makes a lot more sense to split up the workshop topics into smaller chunks and invite the specific buyer roles to the different shorter meeting formats. The proven practices in your organization and your industry should be captured, analyzed and integrated into your onboarding and training program.

Increasing inability to access the economic buyer and to diagnose the buyers’ challenges

These challenges have a lot to do with adequate value messages in these early phases of the customer journey. Value messaging is the most important connector between sales content management and sales readiness.

A prerequisite is to be consistent with your value messaging approach along the entire customer journey. That’s often not the case as messaging driven by marketing ends after the demand gen phase or after the early sales stages. Enablement is in an ideal position to orchestrate this value messaging process along the entire customer journey. Only then can you make sure that the messaging in the relevant content assets is also used for the messaging training and practicing sessions in the sales readiness domain. And ideally, for the additional coaching as well.

Therefore, a content strategy along the entire customer journey is as important as a consistent value messaging approach with the same scope. Ideally, your enablement initiative connects the dots and orchestrates.

The key enablement challenge in sales readiness: onboarding struggles

Onboarding new hires is traditionally a key enablement area. While most organizations work with a remote and on-site combination, the pandemic forced enablement teams to run their onboarding completely virtual from basically one day to another.

Engaging new hires during these onboarding days has become the second most important challenge for sales enablement leaders and practitioners. The challenge increased from 28% prior to the pandemic up to 38%, which is an increase of 10 percentage points or 36%.

How sales readiness can address these challenges

Sales readiness is a core area of any mature enablement initiative. Here are a few recommendations that can get you started.

  • Capture all the different areas you currently provide training for and the areas you are required to provide training services for. Think about training areas such as, for instance, foundational selling skills, sales methodology, sales process, product training, negotiation training, messaging training, customer journey training, industry and vertical training, business acumen training, etc.
  • Collaborate with your sales leadership team to better understand their goals, desired outcomes and the KPIs they use to measure success.
  • Determine the desired skill profiles per sales role with the sales leadership team.
  • Assess the current skill level across the sales force and determine the skill gaps.
  • Prioritize the skill gaps with the sales leadership team.
  • Define the desired ramp up time for new hires with the sales force.
  • Define, design and optimize the sales training program and the onboarding program.
  • Map out the sales roles you should provide training for and what areas of the customer journey will be covered (as an example, some methodologies only cover the actual buying phase or only the discovery phase).

*Survey demographics

Showpad conducted the 2021 Modern Selling Study, a global survey at the end of 2020. More than 400 organizations were involved in the survey that covered the US (56%), the UK (23%) and the DACH regions (21%). Organizations came from various industries such as technology, manufacturing and finance. We interviewed sales (45%), marketing (38%) and enablement roles (17%). And also at a hierarchical level, our study participants covered practitioners (20%), manager and director level roles (63%) and executives (18%).

Visit our 2021 Modern Selling Study hub and discover how the pandemic has impacted every area of enablement.