The COVID-19 pandemic caused a wide variety of disruptions for businesses, many of which are still being felt. One area that has been significantly impacted is sales. In Brandon Hall Group’s study, COVID-19: Impact on Workplace Practices, 83% of companies say the pandemic negatively impacted sales effectiveness at least to some degree. At the same time, generating sales and revenue was ranked the most critical business transition as companies emerged from the pandemic.
Since the world in which sales teams operate has changed so, too, must the tools companies use to improve sales effectiveness. Sales-enablement managers have their hands full, operating in an unprecedented and volatile environment. Products are constantly improved, new ones continue to roll out, the competitive landscape continues to shift dramatically, customer needs are adapting, and sales best practices are evolving. Sales professionals were already considered flight risks, as the skill set is highly transferrable. As such, sales teams have also been hit hard by the “great resignation.” Organizations struggle to retain top talent.
In addition to the challenges presented by the pandemic environment, companies face many perennial sales enablement challenges.
- Salespeople are too busy for training; they have too many other priorities.
- Salespeople think they already know the material so they don’t want to participate.
- Sales training has a bad reputation so employees avoid it.
- Training systems are hard to use.
- Fewer opportunities for real-time practice to reduce gap between learning and performance.
- Lesser options to connect with and learn from experts.
- None of the content seems relevant.
Several areas make up a robust sales enablement strategy. It starts with onboarding; getting new salespeople up and running and reinforcing that training. Brandon Hall Group’s Strategic Onboarding Study found that product training is the most important onboarding element, seen as highly important or critical by 74% of companies.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the practice of virtual selling has become increasingly critical. Over the last two years or so, many sales professionals had to relearn how to get and stay in contact with customers. The tools used to develop and support sales professionals must reflect this new dynamic environment. A more agile approach to sales training is required to overcome the challenges of time and distance and drive better engagement and performance.
What Brandon Hall Group has to Say About EI’s Solution
Brandon Hall Group Smartchoice® Platinum Preferred Provider EI has vast expertise in creating the kind of custom sales training that supports the modern sales professional in today’s business environment. Recognizing that off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all content is not enough, EI works with clients to create targeted, personalized training that delivers results. Their approach focuses on seven key strategies:
- Onboarding. At the heart of a successful sales team is a successful onboarding training program. This time period is critical to immersing new sales professionals into the company culture. Custom content makes sure they are starting off understanding the company’s specific sales needs.
- Learning journeys: Over time, the roles and responsibilities of the sales team will evolve. Custom training material ensures that each professional is getting the resources that match their progress. Learning journeys should consist of core as well as extended learning journeys for constant reinforcement through spaced repetition, challenging salespeople to push their limits to bridge the gap between learning and performance.
- A mobile-first approach: Salespeople are always on the move and training for them should be bite-sized and delivered through a mobile-first content design approach to keep them tuned in through the learning journey.
- Performance-based content. Busy salespeople need resources to be available when and where they need them. This means building programs that include:
- Learning in the flow of work
- Job aids
- Immersive learning: Sales professionals are often remote and teams are geographically dispersed. Microlearning that is accessible anytime and at any place is an ideal training tool to drive hybrid learner engagement and improve sales readiness.
- Ongoing contact and communication: The sales training strategy must include mechanisms and opportunities for salespeople to communicate and collaborate. Because these teams are typically dispersed, communication should be part of everything they do, including training.
- A flexible and adaptive approach. No two salespeople are identical, so the learning journeys should be flexible and adaptable enough to meet each learner’s needs. A one-size-fits-all approach never benefits everyone. Provide multiple modalities and include opportunities for self-pacing.
- Social learning: Online peer groups and virtual cohorts help keep sales teams connected while still allowing for self-directed learning. These elements of a sales training program offer hybrid workers unrestricted (virtual) access to informal learning opportunities in the moment of need.
David Wentworth, Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group
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