3 Ways to Improve Your Sales Employee Experience
The past year was like no other, with many organizations forced to move their entire workforce online. As the year winds down, companies in all industries are reviewing the impact of this dramatic shift on their businesses.
One surprising finding is that many of the ways we work together actually improved in an online-only environment.
That was one insight among many in a new research report from The Josh Bersin Company: The Sales Employee Experience. Bersin, a globally known industry analyst, educator, and thought leader in HR leadership and technology, says that learning and development practices were improved by moving online.
The research found that companies that use technology to create online employee experience (EX) strategies are more successful in meeting financial targets and satisfying customers than those that don’t.
But what makes a good employee experience?
A positive employee experience, as defined by Bersin, is one in which employees are prepared with information, supported in growing their capabilities through feedback and coaching, and are strongly motivated to accomplish outcomes.
Bersin’s research shows that an EX strategy is critical for creating sales success. That’s because salespeople work and learn differently from other employees. They constantly need up-to-the-minute information, coaching, and motivation in a community environment while also being geographically dispersed.
“By adopting a top-notch sales enablement platform, companies can deliver the optimal combination of knowledge, capabilities, and a sense of purpose in a way that enhances the sales employee experience—which in turn drives revenue,” says Bersin.
Three Elements of Positive Sales Employee Experience
Bersin’s research shows that there are three essential elements every sales enablement program needs to create a positive employee experience:
1. Just-in-Time Information
In today’s long and complex sales environments, salespeople need vast amounts of information to be successful. Not only must salespeople know the product, the market, and sales methodology, but they must also know when and how to use that knowledge to nurture leads, engage buyers, and close deals.
Salespeople must know where to locate the right marketing collateral for the right moment in the sales conversation—and be able to find it quickly. But learning how to use this information can’t require a lengthy training session.
“Any time salespeople spend on learning needs to correlate with optimizing their performance,” says Bersin. “Whether it’s receiving information that could position the company better against the competition or receiving coaching that helps strengthen conversational weak spots.”
This type of just-in-time learning requires organizations to go beyond simply retrofitting existing learning tools for sales. Instead, Bersin recommends a sales enablement system designed to meet the unique needs of the selling process.
Sales employees feel supported when they have access to a clear set of processes to follow using systems designed for how the specific work of sales gets done.
Pro Tip: Support sellers with the most up-to-date information that’s accessible where and when they need it.
2. Personalized Coaching and Feedback
Salespeople are on the frontlines, interacting with prospects and customers, handling objections, and trying to close deals. Achieving success at each step requires them to develop capabilities through training and coaching that are useful, timely, and immediately applicable.
Bersin says the best sales enablement platforms are the ones that provide the detailed feedback and input salespeople need to feel supported. By using a range of features and functionality, these solutions enhance an individual’s experience and improve the results of the overall team.
For example, using the sales enablement platform, a seller can record their sales pitch on video and get immediate feedback from the manager or from artificial intelligence (AI). Sales enablement technology can also correlate specific sales behaviors with sales results. A seller can test one pitch over another, then share the results widely to reinforce excellence among team members.
Capturing and sharing these insights leverages strengths and mitigates weaknesses. Sellers are better able to refine selling techniques, build stronger relationships, and ultimately close more deals.
Pro Tip: Support sellers with personalized coaching and feedback that addresses their specific strengths and weaknesses.
3. Strong Community and Purpose
A good sales team works well together across all of its functions. Individuals feed off each other’s wins and get inspired by their leaders’ acknowledgment. When teams work together in person, it’s easy to facilitate this type of positive, collaborative culture.
“Group challenges are a hallmark of the sales function, and sales staff are motivated by the achievements of others and encouragement from leaders,” says Bersin. “When salespeople are continually exposed to peer successes and inspirational messages from team leaders, they derive a sense of purpose beyond just meeting the numbers.”
But in these times of remote and hybrid work, sales teams are increasingly using technology to deliver information, coaching, and inspiration. Bersin says that a sales enablement platform can provide feedback that creates motivation and a sense of purpose in sales employees.
Sales enablement practices such as cohort-based learning, contests, and challenges build community, and tools that leverage video and chat help facilitate a sense of belonging. Employees hear and see each other asynchronously across geographically dispersed environments and across time zones, allowing them to learn from each other and create connections.
A sales enablement platform extends the sales community to other departments such as marketing. A salesperson can share feedback on materials with the marketing department—both what’s working and what needs to be improved. This type of dialog allows marketing to add the “voice of the seller” into the materials they create.
Many different sales enablement platforms solve for specific aspects of the sales experience. Before investigating vendors, Bersin recommends taking necessary steps early as you work toward identifying and implementing a platform that will work best for your team.
Pro Tip: Support sellers by fostering community and collaboration that encourages them to build and maintain connections within and across teams.
Getting Started with Sales Enablement
Without a sales enablement platform, creating an employee experience program that produces the kind of engagement, coaching, and sharing that drives productivity and revenue for organizations is challenging.
Bersin has some advice for organizations that want to bolster their sales enablement capabilities.
Start with a needs assessment to determine the most significant experience gaps in your sales teams, considering the three elements mentioned earlier in this post. It’s helpful to develop a “day in the life” scenario for each sales role and document the processes and systems used for each role’s significant tasks.
Sales leaders are an integral part of making a sales enablement solution a success, so get these leaders on board early in the process. Start in the evaluation stage and keep them involved throughout the launch, potentially incentivizing them to use the tool and stay engaged.
In addition to looking inside your organization, Bersin recommends looking externally, too. Ask for customer references with similarly sized companies in your industry that faced similar challenges. Speak directly with users to learn how they use the solution.
Finally, determine how you will measure success. What sort of analytics does the solution offer? Do the analytics offer benchmarks for engagement? How will you be able to collect feedback on content? Also, consider adding satisfaction surveys to understand what’s working and what can be improved.
“The pandemic proved that with the right technology, sales teams could succeed without traditional in-person training and coaching,” says Bersin. “Companies that continuously invest in salespeople with best-of-breed sales enablement tools and the processes that support their use will continue to lead in revenue in 2021 and beyond.”
Download your copy of The Sales Employee Experience: Driving Collaboration, Community, and Outcomes from The Josh Bersin Company to learn the proven EX practices that lead to better results.