Imagine a tailored sales training tool that knows you want to hear mock customer calls. Or a program that asks you to role-play in a simulation. These types of training tools aren’t too far away. Sales enablement solutions, fueled by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, promise to improve sales team efficiency and scalability in unimaginable ways.
“To date, sales leaders have focused on improving internal processes to support sales enablement through better in-person training, coaching and optimized content distribution,” says Melissa Hilbert, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “But the future of sales training and coaching technology will upend the experience as we know it.”
There has been an increase in the use of complex machine learning algorithms and AI included in sales training and coaching technologies
Technology alone is not the answer. Success will depend on a holistic approach to sales enablement that considers content, training and coaching requirements, as well as careful selection, implementation and delivery. “Unfortunately, many organizations do not take a holistic approach. This can increase spend on more pieces of technology than needed and winds up decreasing engagement and ROI,” says Hilbert.
Sales leaders should consider these methods to improve and justify new technology and tools to approach sales enablement.
Progressive content management strategies
In general, sellers use content to persuade, expecting it will lead to action — and they can’t close deals without satisfying the knowledge and education needs of their prospects.
Sales leaders must evaluate tools and the way reps use them. Digital content management solutions (DCMS) can help sellers to:
- Deploy better content recommendations. These applications can give sellers guided process steps based on usage patterns and deal attributions, reducing uncertainty.
- Improve the reach of sellers with content microsites. Bundle content in packs that are specific to a client or persona, measure the interaction at recipient and content levels, and aggregate account metrics.
- Measure sales efficacy with content analytics. Track the performance of content by rep or deal, revenue attribution and usage. Reuse the most successful content and replace the rest.
- Measure sales impact with engagement analytics. Metrics like total page views, dwell time, number of downloads and frequency of usage give sales a better picture of what content is more relevant to customers and prospects.
- Build better engagement with conversation analytics. Measure and track content usage as part of the customer journey to understand what content provokes most reaction.
Adopt new sales readiness capabilities
Training and coaching aren’t a novel concept in any organization. Training typically takes the form of a long, all-day “after the sales kickoff” event that introduces a new product or provides time for coaching from front-line managers. Both focus on speeding the ramp-up to selling.
“Over the past two years, there has been an increase in the use of complex machine learning algorithms and AI included in sales training and coaching technologies,” says Hilbert. “This will give sales leaders an automated ability to support individual learning, such as tailored teachings based on learning style, in the next few years.”
Acquiring and implementing new technology and systems for sales has turned out to be the easier part of the equation
Technology, supported by the rise of AI, provides a scalable yet personalized approach to coaching that develops sales capabilities rather than just supporting individual deals, allows for progress tracking and helps to cascade the best practices of top reps to others.
The key to building sales skills within the organization is to offer a blended approach that includes both formal and informal learning activities in multiple delivery methods and formats. Technology enables sellers to identify and access learning in the style that best suits them.
“Acquiring and implementing new technology and systems for sales has turned out to be the easier part of the equation, but delivery can be the key to improving performance,” says Hilbert.
Read more: The Evolution of Sales Training and Coaching
Ensure technology deployment is successful
“Seventy-one percent of executives surveyed by Gartner said they had plans to deploy sales enablement tools to support sales training, coaching and onboarding in the next two years,” says Hilbert. “Seventy-seven percent indicate they were in the process of, or are going to, deploy sales digital content management or guided selling tools in the next two years.”
Sales leaders must benchmark their development plans to properly reflect the extent of change. Adoption rates, seller productivity and pipeline conversion rates top the list for justifying sales enablement funding. Use and adoption metrics are most common, as they are most directly attributable to enablement initiatives. However, more than one-third of organizations don’t track productivity metrics, and only one-half track performance metrics.
To better analyze the impact of enablement investments, organizations should track the outcomes they are ultimately trying to influence. Accordingly:
- Develop a holistic vision for sales enablement that includes content, training and coaching.
- Focus on technology that will improve efficiency, adoption and effectiveness.
- Benchmark, implement and track incremental improvements.
This article has been updated from the original, published on October 11, 2018, to reflect new events, conditions or research.