So, Your New Star Sales Rep is Ready to Kill Their Number. Now What?
Too often, the hiring and training of B2B sales reps is a plug-and-play exercise designed to fill a staffing gap, and treated by management as a death-and-taxes necessity rather than an opportunity to optimize a given territory. This is because sales leaders legitimately understand that every week that goes by with an account uncalled, gives the competition easy opportunities to swoop in and steal business. As a result, plugging the sales staffing dam with a new rep or channel partner, and onboarding them as quickly as possible, becomes an understandably rushed set of activities.
The outcomes of such a “time is money” approach can include serious repercussions for the modern B2B sales force. For example, only two-thirds (69%) of companies in Aberdeen Group’s recent Sales Effectiveness research indicate strong or very strong proficiency in “demonstrating product knowledge in the sales process,” leading us to wonder why the leaders of the other 31% are even still employed. The numbers grow dramatically more alarming when we see that only 26% of companies tell Aberdeen they are proficient at “onboarding, training, and retaining salespeople.” If this data is accurate, and a quarter-century of methodology confirms that it is, fully 74% of today’s sales organizations are essentially handicapping their sellers rather than truly enabling them. Considering that the average cost of replacing and onboarding a rep is $29k and 7.2 months, you’d think more enterprise sales leaders would seek to avoid such turnover at all costs by focusing attention on enabling outstanding performance of their current staff.
Letting Your Competition School You
Fortunately, Aberdeen’s research crowd-sources best practices in Sales Effectiveness to allow the wisdom of widespread Sales Operations teams to guide their contemporaries toward stronger business outcomes, and my new research published in Best-in-Class Sales Enablement Via Video-Based Learning highlights a number of specific competencies you can copy. Here, we learn how top-performing companies (defined by the strongest averages in percent of reps achieving quota, total team attainment of quota, and annualized reduction in average sales cycle) deploy video learning platforms to optimize how they teach, coach, and share their way toward better selling techniques. These processes, in turn, help reduce costly turnover, and keep more territories fully covered by quota-killing reps and channel partners.
In Figure 1, we compare the extent to which Best-in-Class companies and All Others (a combination of middling Industry Average firms and truly awful Laggard organizations) provide various elements of sales training to their team members, all during the onboarding phase of their tenure. On average, top performers are 48% more likely than the rest to invest resources in a wide variety of skills development approaches, all of which are well-empowered by the inclusion of video-oriented learning tools:
• Articulating our value proposition: “Why should they buy my product?” is essentially Sales Training 101, but surprisingly, not every sales organization takes the time to focus initial training around what should be a no-brainer. Convincing a prospect to even speak with a rep, let alone end up purchasing their B2B offering, is no easy task, and this is where video solutions help reps rehearse, course-correct, and eventually perfect their pitch.
• Personalizing the sales message to the buyer’s needs: Best-in-Class firms are 17% more effective at “personalizing sales conversations to the needs of individual buyers,” because they more intuitively understand how dramatically the buyer-seller power play has changed in the Internet Age. Simply put, buyers of our goods and services are far more informed than ever before, and quickly reject any sales conversation that hints of generic messaging. Because people still buy from people, though, using video to develop a genuine, customized talk-track for a rep’s next big presentation adds significant value to their ability to connect with their buyers.
• We know from Sheldon Cooper, Sales Whisperer: Applying the Science of Data to the Art of Selling that real-time coaching for live sales deals add tremendous value to enterprises capable of deploying data-driven sales management techniques. The technology platforms that best enable this 21st century style of sales manager “ride-along” also include video solutions, whose users are 42% more likely to tell us that “collaboration among various sales team members is encouraged and formally enabled with defined processes/technologies.” In an era when learning just about anything can be accomplished on YouTube, video emerges as the most natural and effective platform for anywhere/anytime/any device coaching between individual sales contributors and their managers.
• Objection handling is a talent not easily learned in B2B sales, which is why the Best-in-Class are 46% more focused on aggressively teaching it, compared with under-performers. Anyone who has ever negotiated a deal understands that emotional factors can weigh as heavily as financial and technology details, because making a buyer feel good about their purchase is key to developing long-term customer satisfaction. Video-based training is a natural fit for practicing, coaching, and perfecting how strong sellers convey honesty, earnestness, and compromise in how they overcome the inevitable hurdles thrown at them by their buyers.
• Finally, top-performing sales teams are 41% more focused than stragglers on presentation and demo skills, which are intuitively a natural fit for video-based learning platforms. Despite various industry predictions about how human salespeople are a dying breed, the likelihood that non-consumer purchases, especially of complex and technology-rich solutions, won’t require a personal touch, is slim to none for the foreseeable future. All the data we’ve presented here speaks to the continuing need for personal engagement between B2B buyer and seller. This in turn requires, in the age of the hyper-informed consumer, more training and guidance for interacting with customers than ever before. Thus, building a legitimate connection between parties in a budding business transaction means that sales presentations are alive and well, and require a continuing emphasis on training and development to render them effective. Since practice makes perfect, video serves the purpose.
There are many reasons why video-enabled sales teams achieve 9.1% stronger customer retention rates and see 8.0% more individual contributors achieving quota. The next blog in this series, Rep: “Do You Want Me to Spend Time Selling or Learning?” Manager: “Yes.”, will build upon the onboarding competencies presented here, and dive into how such organizations more effectively reinforce the lessons learned by their sellers over the long term.
Peter Ostrow is the VP/Group Director, Customer Management and Principal Analyst, Sales Effectiveness at the Aberdeen Group, a leading provider of fact-based research focused on the global technology-driven value chain.