To Skill and Detect
New technology should do one of two things:
Support your sales process (lead routing, sales engagement, etc.)
Support your salespeople (coaching tool, LMS, etc.)
Technology can become disruptive if too much of it is implemented too soon. In the book Sales Engagement (Wiley, 2019) I wrote about the Passive/Active approach about the order in which you buy/implement new tools and the impact that can have on your sales team. You need both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson for this approach because you have to find the clues to improving your process AND diagnose opportunities for developing your people.
Science is systematized knowledge and friction is resistance, so when there is friction in the system there is an opportunity for improvement. In the complicated world of selling today, you could hire a full-time detective to find friction in the sales process. Friction can happen from the point of lead creation and attribution to assignment all the way through to exit criteria for stages and even beyond the deal to commission clawbacks. There are some amazing tools out there to automate, predict, or circumnavigate a lot of these challenges but first, the challenges must be found. So what is your process for testing your process? #META.
Three tips for process investigation:
Salespeople are known for being vocal. They do not have to be process wonks to have an opinion about what their biggest pain point as they are working through the deal cycle day to day.
Where are you missing the mark in terms of lost deals or over-discounting? Spend your dollars and cents on tools that help you win more and help raise your ACV (average contract value).
- Where can you add automation
Time is money and having full-time rev ops people doing things that can be easily automated is a waste of money. One example is reporting. How many great tools are available right now to automate reports and highlight insights into the sales funnel? How much of your business are you running manually through Excel?
There is an opportunity to optimize process (and the ability to scale) when you have a focused approach on continuous improvement.
The Up-skill Battle
Measuring and improving skill feels more like art than science, but is it? There are some great tools for upskilling your salespeople, but like most things, a tool is what you use to fix a thing you already know needs fixing. Before you buy a shiny new LMS (learning management system) or a coaching tool you need a plan. What should people know and how can we measure if/how much they know about that thing? In my world, we call this the “core competencies”. I look at these like college courses, and you need the right tools to build this out successfully. In each core competency, there is 101: the foundational knowledge, 201: advanced curriculum, and 301: expert-level training. Testing for retention and application is critical to measure growth and stack-rank skill. When you have the foundational basics, advanced, and expert level curriculum built out, you can always add new competencies or iterate on the training you have in place. Keeping everyone somewhere in this learning cycle creates a learning culture.
Three ideas for core competencies for sales pros:
Empathy, active listening, and discovery are areas that can be trained on and improved over time and measured in customer experience, product fit, and renewed deals. This core competency creates thoughtful sales pros who understand their customer’s needs.
Objection handling, negotiation, and closing skills are necessary traits to being successful in sales and can be measured by conversation quality, deal velocity, and win rates.
- Required knowledge
Product and industry knowledge can be measured in the most standardized way: by direct testing. You either know this stuff or you don’t, but to be the best at what you do you have to understand the industries you are selling into and how to position your product as the best solution.
Decide where the gaps are that can be filled with technology in both process and skill.
Then ask yourself how can you tell if/when the gaps have been closed.
The answer to that question is the Pass/Fail of your crash course in tech stack design.
Author, Chad Dyar is Director of Enablement and Strategy at Hearsay Systems
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