Virtual Sales Enablement. How to provide real-time access to the right sales tools at the right time

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1 Virtual Sales Enablement How to provide real-time access to the right sales tools at the right time

2 You want to make sure that you listen to the messages online and recalibrate to handle the public s need to be completely informed. Sales Messaging: An Overview There are four major events in sales that trigger the need for consistent messaging. They include 1. new product launches and rollouts, 2. pressure from the competition (or when the competition changes to a new selling strategy), 3. the need to move into new target markets and develop new prospect audiences, 4. on-boarding new employees. Customized messaging has always been important to a value-driven sales force. In today s competitive and complex buying environment, however, many buyers are not likely to make a decision based solely on information disseminated by a sales force. Customers, prospects, and the competition are also broadcasting messages about your company and solutions, and this makes maintaining control over the consistency and quality of your sales messaging paramount. Pushing out a coherent message about your brand increases the likelihood that the best and most favorable message will get picked up and broadcast by external sources. Sometimes, however, consistency and coherence is missing. According to Selling Power founder and publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner, a sales team s message should 1. reflect the unique nature of the product or service you offer, 2. explain why and how the customer benefits from your solution, 3. reflect the business strategy of the company. A company s message should fit in with the company s vision and value system, so people perceive a sales force that has been trained thoroughly on a well-thought-out communications system, Gschwandtner says.

3 ON24 s in-person sales kickoff in Las Vegas was taped and captured in a separate VBC (Virtual Briefing Center). The virtual SKO was used throughout the year for on boarding new members to the sales team and further the understanding of the content presented Messaging in a Social World In the past, sales teams adapted to messaging systems that pushed one-way communications out to the public at large. Customers today have different needs. They want to hear from peers, and they want to respond to and join in the conversation. You don t want your position in the marketplace to be hijacked by the voices that are not objective, says Gschwandtner. There are a lot of people with an axe to grind. When they share their opinions online, all of a sudden your company is seen as not innovative or not responsive. So you want to make sure that you listen to the messages online and recalibrate to handle the public s need to be completely informed. When you manage the message online, you want to do this authentically and with authority. And you want to do this in real time so there s no delay in this response. You should be as collaborative as possible and avoid any confrontation. Online there are no secrets, and everyone has access to the same information. Good message management online requires that we adhere to these principles as members of this community and want to contribute to the vibrancy and health of the community with honest messages.

4 Consistent Messaging: 4 Main Challenges Sales leaders must balance several challenges and concerns when it comes to establishing coherent and consistent messaging for a dispersed sales team. 1. Reps are working in isolation and lack naturally occurring opportunities to collaborate. 2. Reps cannot or will not take initiative to properly retain data points and messaging. 3. Reps find training sessions on new products overwhelming and overly complex. 4. Reps are being asked to sell in an increasingly complex business environment. When new products are rolled out quickly to a dispersed sales force, it s typically not cost effective to gather the entire team in one physical location to train and coach on messaging. But a larger obstacle to properly preparing a sales force to win with a consistent message is a failure of sales leadership: many sales leaders simply fail to create a sales culture that supports new and existing reps with the information and training they need to succeed. Learning Styles: How to Adapt to Fit Reps Needs Part of creating a supportive sales culture is adapting learning sessions to accommodate how salespeople learn best. In general, salespeople will be more inclined to learn and retain information at the exact moment they need it (in other words, just before a sales call).therefore, it s less than ideal to invest in expensive training and coaching sessions that are far removed from actual sales opportunities. According to Michael Nelson, vice president of sales at ON24, sales leaders can solve common messaging challenges by changing the way they present information and make it available to the team. Sales-resource centers where information exists online and is available on demand can alleviate pressures related to training and coaching. Does it make sense to cram a week s worth of learning into one day? asks Nelson. Most people don t learn well that way, and salespeople are no exception. It doesn t mean they don t understand it or can t get it. But if it s presented in a boring way or if it s not useful in the moment, it s more difficult for them to be interested in learning it and absorbing it the way they really need it. Rather than trying to change the way salespeople learn best, Nelson advises taking an approach that complements the way they gather and process information. You don t have to let them off the hook, he emphasizes. Just meet them halfway so you can give them the messaging they need to make the biggest impact with prospects and customers. Many sales leaders assume that reps will simply learn the way they did: through trial by fire or sink-or-swim tactics. As a result, new reps who are on-boarded after new-product training and messaging have few resources to get up-to-speed; the same is true for worldwide sales teams and channel partners. Meanwhile, the collective knowledge of the sales team remains both its greatest asset and its least-utilized resource. Leveraging Tribal Knowledge to Create Top Performers When sales leaders find ways to help reps acquire the right knowledge to engage successfully with today s prospects and customers, the effects can be dramatic. Research from SEC Solutions has shown that, across all markets and industries, pre-call planning with sales managers has been and will continue to be a proven marker of high performance for sales reps. Top-performing sales teams are more likely to spend time strategizing with their managers, finding innovative ways to overcome customer objections, and tackling obstacles that may be preventing a deal from closing. Top sales reps reported spending 15 percent more time than peers did on developing call strategies with their sales managers and vetting potential opportunities. Clearly, the connection between coaching and sales success is too strong to ignore. While in-person, on-site opportunities for coaching, training, and learning continue to be valuable, online sales-resource centers have opened up a new world of opportunity for sales leaders who want to find cost-effective ways to create competitive teams that practice consistent messaging.

5 It s so easy to do the knowledge transfer, says Nelson, who adds that ON24 keeps between 40 and 50 sales-training videos on file for just about every new product rollout or topic a sales rep would find useful, all recorded by its best and most talented salespeople. We run a certification program, so we can track and see if sales reps watched the videos, and we require completion of automated quizzes so we can see how much information they re actually retaining and absorbing, Nelson explains. This has been one of the most effective and cheap ways to get our reps up-to-speed on new product knowledge. Not only does this give both existing and recently on-boarded reps an easily accessible way to access information right when they need it, but sales leaders are thus spared the chore of having to ask top-performing reps to set aside valuable selling time in order to help get new or lagging reps up-to-speed. When 80 percent of the collective intelligence of your organization is available on demand, you don t have to ask your best reps to continually carry that burden of sharing tribal knowledge, Nelson says. It s easy for me to ask my superstar salespeople to do a presentation one time, but if you have to do that every time you have a new hire, they get burned out. And after awhile, the quality of the presentation will actually decline. With the tools that are out there, you 5 Benefits of Creating an On-Demand Sales Resource Center According to ON24 VP of sales Michael Nelson, live events are still a highly valuable way for sales teams to share tribal knowledge and get up-to-speed on new solutions. A great example is the physical sales kickoff. Why do I believe in them? They re a chance for salespeople to network and get motivated, he says. It s not always cost effective, however, to gather a large and geographically dispersed sales team together on a routine basis for coaching and training. To maximize the impact of those times when the team is able to come together (for a sales kickoff, for example), Nelson advises blending in virtual tools. As a sales leader, I record every session of our sales kickoff and put it online. At the end of the show, attendees know that they don t have to worry about whether or not they took notes. They can relax and take advantage of all the unique value of meeting people in person without having to worry about absorbing everything in the moment. Because it s all being captured and recorded. Here are five measurable benefits sales leaders can realize from leveraging a virtual solution to enable their sales teams to win: 1. Basic information about products can be shared and disseminated among a dispersed sales team (including channel partners) in order to create consistent messaging around a product. 2. Online, on-demand resources (supplemented by a certification program that incorporates quizzes, etc., to test understanding) can be used to gain insight into what field reps are actually doing with their time. 3. Tribal knowledge exists in one virtual place, making it easier for sales teams to build a pipeline and effectively expand into new markets. 4. Knowledge that exists on demand makes it easier and more efficient to successfully on-board new employees and eliminates the need to ask top salespeople to continually act as trainers/coaches to help get new employees up-to-speed. 5. Sales leaders can avoid presenter fatigue by recording their best presentations about new product launches, company culture, or best practices to share with the team at large.

6 Aligning strategies and sharing best practices can be a challenge for any large organization. To achieve these goals and reach an internal audience that spans across 1,500 separate locations, Sodexo implemented a virtual training program. can capture their best presentations and disseminate them in an extremely cost-effective way. Summary Companies invest a lot of time, money, and effort in creating sales messages that are relevant and engaging. What sales leaders must ask is how to deploy messaging best practices (complete with consistent and clear value propositions) without creating a team that sounds overly scripted. They must also find ways to train a large, widely dispersed sales force in the most effective and efficient ways possible. Tribal knowledge about products, company culture, target markets, and common sales challenges is also one of the greatest assets a sales organization possesses. More often than not, however, this information is being underutilized or ignored altogether. Establishing an online sales-resource center to capture valuable information that helps the sale is the first step sales leaders can take to start leveraging the power of consistent messaging and capturing tribal knowledge. With a resource center in place, they can then reinforce those messages and create a system for on-boarding and training new reps that tests them on this knowledge. In this way, sales leaders can create more competitive teams that make the most powerful impact possible when they interact with customers and prospects.

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