This post is by Mark Cheever from Openview Labs
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Effective sales enablement in the Digital Age blends the traditional practice of aligning business needs to training with the (far trickier) task of finding new and innovative ways to make training as targeted as possible to the needs of the learner. Achieving this “recipe for success” poses quite a challenge—especially for those in the highly competitive IT industry, where a rapidly changing industry and strategic change further complicate the ability for sales executives to meet customer needs while also making their quota. While there is no easy path to creating world-class training aligned to business needs, you can put Big Data to work for learners in ways that help uncover an individual’s skill gaps and make it easy to address them using prescribed enablement. Here’s a four-step process on how the marriage of Big Data and prescribed learning can drive sales success in the Digital Age.
Step 1: Get to
Your Learning Audience
Even the best training in the world will not effect change if no one takes it, which underscores the need to survey and interview sales executives whenever possible to understand their learning needs. Very often you will find that—despite increasingly hectic schedules—sales executives want to learn, but only have time for easily-consumable training targeted to their specific learning needs.
This feedback, coupled with direction from sales management on the business needs and KPIs that matter most (e.g. Accounts Won, Deal Close time, Opportunities Created, etc.) will help to form a holistic view on the overall needs your Big Data-Driven, prescriptive learning approach will seek to resolve.
Step 2: Define Success at Every LevelWith your needs defined, the next step is to compile a globally standardized list of skills crucial to sales executive success in the field—universal skills that span all roles such as prospecting, territory planning, account planning, business and financial acumen (to name a few). You may also identify the skills specific to success in specific Lines of Business to provide deeper, role-specific insight. With your universal and role-specific skills defined, work with sales and LoB enablement leadership to assign a target proficiency level for each skill on a scale from 0 to 4 (e.g., New (0), Basic (1), Intermediate (2), Advanced (3) or Expert (4)).
Step 3: Gather Your DataNext, create a survey that gives your sales executives the chance to self-assess their own, perceived proficiency level across the skills you’ve compiled in Step 2 and using the 0-4 scale. At the same time, each participating sales executive should be assessed across the same skills by their manager to gain a knowledgeable, third-party perspective. By comparing the results—that is, the difference (if there is one) between the sales executive and or manager rating vs. the target proficiency level described in Step 2—you will be able to identify a list of skill gaps for each sales executive.
Step 4: Putting Big Data WorkOnce learning gaps are identified and analyzed, highly personalized, targeted learning plans can be created for each participating sales executive. In each report, sales executives receive an overview of their identified gaps along with direct links to training designed specifically to help close them. Data collected from the sales executive/manager assessments will also provide your sales leaders with invaluable insight into top skill gaps across regions and Market Units along with an overview of the skills that correlate most highly with quota attainment—itself, invaluable insight for short and long-term enablement planning.
- When completing steps 2 and 3, resist the urge to measure too many skills (which leads to diluted data) and or overcomplicate sales executive/manager surveys. Focus on the most critical skills and the business challenges you’re trying to solve. Keep survey questions simple and to the point.
- Targeted learning plans are only useful if sales executive follow-through and complete recommended learning. To ensure AEs are accessing their plans, encourage managers and sales executives to reference their plans during 1-on-1’s and career development sessions.