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Great white shark
October 16, 2020

Rapid Sales Enablement: How to Move Like There’s a Shark Hunting You

Great white shark

“In the fast-changing world we’re in right now, everybody in business has to think like there’s a shark hunting them. Everything has to pick up pace,” said Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer, Corporate Visions. “The new premium for companies is speed. Valuations are being done based on a company’s ability to run at pace. This is the foundational business principle right now.”

When the pandemic hit, the world shifted instantly. It forced us all—personally and professionally—into a 90-degree learning curve. For those responsible for training and L&D, the question on everyone’s mind was, “How do we deal with this and still come out on top?”

One answer to the training challenges posed by a rapidly changing world is situational sales enablement. In our recent webinar, “The Power of Rapid Response Situational Enablement,” expert speakers explored this approach and why it’s critical for sales and other teams who must stay sharp despite limited opportunities for traditional training or in-person development.

I joined Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer of Corporate Visions, and Mark Magnacca, President and Co-Founder of Allego, as we took a holistic look at recent events and dove into how companies today are increasing the business impact of their sales enablement programs.

“It’s a chaotic environment. Yet arguably in today’s business world, this is an opportune moment. This is when your learners know they need to learn. They want to learn, so they will learn.” — Tim Riesterer.

Ramping Up in a Chaotic Environment

Today, when we can’t predict market changes caused by the pandemic, organizations can not design training catalogs, curricula, or calendars for the long term. With rapid change, organizations have to be prepared to ramp teams for unexpected challenges in a matter of weeks, not months.

Instead of a rolling twelve- or eighteen-month plan, organizations must launch new products, implement pricing changes, or introduce new messaging in weeks and get thousands of people up to speed to capitalize on that window and avoid churn or dissatisfaction.

Companies Must Embrace Deficit Learning

Learners in the current tumultuous environment find themselves in a learning deficit. Being in a deficit is the number one impetus for learning. Sellers are motivated to learn because their quota depends on it or they need to respond against competitors in a particular situation in a specific market.

“Organizations need to embrace the idea that people will learn best when they’re in a deficit. Let’s meet them in that moment of deficit with the thing that fills it,” noted Riesterer.

The model for how people should learn at work is based upon academia; on a 500-year-old university model that suggests that it takes twelve years to get a basic education. But today, learning happens at the moment of need.

“When are you most interested in watching a YouTube video on how to fix a flat tire? When you’re on the side of the road and you realize you’ve never done this before,” observed Magnacca.

YouTube has reinforced the idea of just-in-time learning and revealed how valuable it is to give people what they need to know when they need to know it. This aligns with the way human beings actually work—what motivates and incentivizes us—rather than trying to force feed learners as we did in the past.

“The simple reality is all the work, all the time, all the energy [for in-person training] became moot, effective around March 15, 2020,” said Magnacca. “While there is absolutely a need in most companies to have some level of foundational learning, 90% should be on a just-in-time basis. Very few companies are doing five year plans today.”

The Future of Training in a Post-Pandemic World

Now more than ever, the capacity to execute quickly is a differentiator no matter what industry you’re in. Situational enablement programs are designed to prepare teams at speed—and are the future of training in a post-pandemic world.

Situational sales enablement incorporates three elements: messaging, content, and skills. The right message for that moment, the right content asset based on how that interaction is going to occur (email, virtual presentation, etc.), and specific skills components to execute that story with that content.

“Instead of giving the seller ten competencies over the course of two days, you provide three micro-learning lessons on how to set a high offer, negotiate under pressure, and proceed according to a plan as well as a relevant email and presentation,” said Riesterer.

Magnacca shared the example of someone learning to play golf who thinks that to learn you can practice it in a laboratory or talk about it before you ever actually hit a ball.

“Then you realize there’s a variance between what you think you’re supposed to do and your body actually doing it. That dynamic is very relevant here,” said Magnacca. “That’s the reason so many golfers have recognized that they need to see themselves on video to be able to diagnose what they’re doing. Because sometimes you just can’t tell. You’ve got to have a swing coach and some technology to go along with your knowledge of how to play the game.”

Technology Solutions for Situational Enablement

Even after the pandemic ends, Magnacca and Riesterer noted that business as usual will not resume. “Training will not require finding a room, securing that room, and having learners wait until their number is called six months later. By that time the urgency has passed, and I’ve missed my window of opportunity, six months after I needed to create pipeline,” said Riesterer.

“I’m hard pressed to think that calendars and catalogs and curricula are going to exist at all in the way that they ever did. There are different ways to identify deficiencies and be situational about enablement,” he added.

Executing situational programs at pace and at scale requires the technology to do it. Effective enablement must leverage mobile, peer-to-peer networking, and live and recorded video. Live video conferencing tools can only take training teams so far. Virtual sales teams also need the ability to access key information while they’re on the go, share best practices, and learn as they go from subject matter experts.

The right technology solution enables sellers to do personalized outreach, record videos, manage content, and share collateral and videos with prospects. Sales managers must use this tech stack to support sellers with tools to coach, review calls and presentations, and give feedback. Outdated training and enablement approaches won’t empower teams with the tools and information they need to move quickly.

“90% of training should be on a just-in-time basis. Very few companies are doing five year plans today.” — Mark Magnacca

Situational Enablement In Action: Aligning with Strategic Objectives

Riesterer outlined three situations in which clients built and deployed learning packages containing targeted messaging, content, and micro skills in a matter of weeks.

Situation 1: Preparing for Competitive Threat
In the first situation, senior level executives from a client’s competitor started parachuting into their customers at the highest levels: C-level to C-level. The client wasn’t ready to respond to that because its relationships were with decision makers below the top tier.

Solution: Create a learning package that includes messaging designed for the executive level to retain business, talk tracks to gain access to the C-suite, a quick presentation to leverage at that appointment, and micro-training videos about how to have an executive conversation. This included role play rehearsal and quick virtual training sessions to get 1,000 sellers trained in a matter of weeks and ready to respond.

Situation 2: Preparing for Price Increase
In this situation, a company projected that 7% of its growth for the coming year would be from a successful price increase. It had to get thousands of people up to speed and proficient on a price increase that didn’t churn customers or destroy its Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

Solution: Build a price increase learning package that included messaging, a “Why Pay More” call guide to structure the conversation, emails, voicemails, and talk tracks that anticipated questions and objections. It included micro-training videos on the most important concepts of negotiations related to price increases and one-minute knowledge refreshers to get people up to speed. In four weeks, 6,000 sellers were ready to execute a successful price increase at the beginning of the year.

Situation 3: Preparing for Product Launch
A company had a 90-day window for a competitive edge before its archrival could start copying its new product. It wanted to launch and close deals and take share in that 90 days, although it normally took six to twelve months to roll out a new product. In the current environment, it couldn’t do a traditional roadshow and had 10,000 sellers to get ready and certify on that new product message.

Solution: Create a learning package with a disruptive and differentiated product message, content to be used to gain access to competitive accounts, teaser videos, a sales presentation deck, call tracks to generate demand, and skills training for highly disruptive break-the-status-quo conversations. Sellers were trained in six weeks when the launch went to market.

Is Your Company Ready for Situational Sales Enablement?

Companies must assess their current sales enablement and training and determine if their learning culture has the right elements in place to execute quickly. The delivery of messaging, content, and skills must be complemented with practice, coaching, and a level of demonstrated proficiency.

“Too much training, learning, development, and enablement has been pushed out there without deep practice, coaching, and no expectation of a demonstrated level of proficiency,” said Riesterer. “With the situational programs, learners get detailed coaching, feedback, and scoring against the rubric and you can do it at scale without having to travel the globe to accomplish it, and it could be done better than when we were face to face.”

Remember, the shark is hunting you.

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