What is sales readiness?
Sales readiness involves providing sales reps with the skills and knowledge needed for sales conversations at every stage of the buyer’s journey and assessing whether reps are able to apply such knowledge and skills effectively. While sales training provides information on topics such as product features, sales strategy, or selling skills and assesses whether sales reps have consumed such information, sales readiness goes a step further by regularly evaluating and fine-tuning how sales reps integrate such information within actual sales conversations. Simply put, sales readiness involves the entire process of making sure that sales reps are ready to go out and start selling.
Sales readiness in the new normal
In 2020, hundreds of sales organizations rapidly and abruptly shifted to virtual sales training methods primarily due to the force of circumstances. In 2021, however, remote work is no longer an unwelcome interruption to business but now has become the new normal.
According to Gartner, for instance, CSOs expect 58% of the sales force to remain operating virtually by the end of 2021 as against 24% pre-pandemic. Further, over a third of CSOs are permanently transitioning some or all of field reps to virtual sales, and another third is considering doing so.1 Unfortunately, Gartner Research also shows that 57% of CSOs feel their sales teams are underprepared or only partially prepared to deliver the same level of value in virtual versus in-person engagements.2 This implies that organizations need a major shift in how they structure their sales readiness initiatives in 2021.
5 principles for restructuring your sales readiness program
Here are five principles for restructuring your sales readiness program to ensure that your reps are ready to go out and start selling in this changed environment:
Update strategy and playbooks for omnichannel selling:
As McKinsey research shows, omnichannel buyer journeys are here to stay with buyers preferring a combination of in-person, remote, and digital self-serve interactions with sellers in equal measure.3 The report notes that omnichannel is not simply a trend, nor a pandemic workaround, but a critically important fixture for B2B sales globally.
Sales organizations cannot respond to this decisive shift by simply implementing existing strategies via digital channels. Instead, companies must fundamentally rethink questions such as how to avoid channel conflict, provide the human touch in remote interactions, and offer customers a tangible product experience in the absence of physical demos and walkthroughs. Only when these new sales playbooks are written can reps be adequately trained and readied to sell in the new normal.
Make learning more contextual:
One of the key advantages of virtual sales training processes is the ability to integrate training with the sales workflow. Such contextual sales guidance ensures that sales reps are motivated to consume sales training content that is highly relevant to the most immediate sales tasks. Information is provided as short, interactive, and easily digestible pieces of content focused on specific learning outcomes that the learner can easily consume. Such a process of microlearning also helps organizations deliver the necessary domain and skills knowledge to sales teams remotely at a time when sales kick-offs and product launches are unavailable as in-person sales training events.
Use gamification and collaboration channels to replace the office environment:
Lacking the immersive office environment, remote sales teams are likely to face challenges with regard to motivation and innovation. Gamifying sales readiness, with techniques such as badges, challenges, and leaderboards encourages the innately competitive nature of sales reps and pushes them to engage more enthusiastically with sales training and other activities. At the same time, it’s also important to provide forums or virtual channels in which reps can engage actively with other team members. This allows them to learn collaboratively from each other, drawing on the collective experience of the sales team.
Support experiential learning:
Reps can’t learn everything they need simply by reading or watching demo videos. Some of the most crucial skills can only be gathered through experiential learning, which is learning through actual practice. This is because not all forms of learning are equal. For example, research tells us that we retain a bare 5% of the information when we listen to a lecture. Even with audio-visual methods and live demonstrations, retention never rises beyond 30%. However, an impressive 75% of knowledge is retained when we learn by doing.4 This vast difference is because active participation increases the level of reflection and cognitive processing undertaken by the learner.
Use AI and analytics to provide evidence-driven training and coaching:
AI-enabled sales readiness platforms can track sales training progress beyond mere consumption metrics. In particular, such platforms can analyze at scale the quality of practice pitches based on factors such as topic coverage, delivery, mood, and keyword usage, and, thereby, identify which sales reps are ready to pitch to prospects and which reps require more coaching and training. This overcomes the most common factors faced by managers that lead to coaching failures, namely, lack of time, manager bias, and poor identification of areas of improvement. Furthermore, these platforms can be integrated with CRM software to monitor real-world sales performance, identify pipeline leaks, and optimize sales training and coaching processes.
In a digital-first world, sales organizations can’t wait for sporadic in-person sales training events to update reps’ knowledge and optimize sales skills. Sales readiness can’t wait for the next quarter or the following year. It must begin now and become a core capability of every sales organization. For rolling out an effective sales readiness program, organizations need to update their sales playbook for omnichannel selling, customize sales training for different sales personas, make learning more contextual, support experiential learning, and use AI to provide analytics at scale.
A modern sales readiness platform like Nytro makes recording and distributing demos and role-plays on video easier than ever. Sales organizations can start by creating short, highly context-specific examples of the crucial skills required in cold calling, elevator pitches, objection-handling, and so on; then, get reps to record and share their own practice pitches to get coaching on how to enhance those skills before speaking to customers. As an AI-enabled platform, Nytro can help analyze practice pitches on various factors and provide immediate and unbiased feedback on skill gaps and areas for improvement that reps can act on immediately. The best pitches can also serve as content assets for training new cohorts of sales reps. Pitch analysis is one of the cornerstones of an effective sales readiness program, and ongoing pitch analyses by managers using the Nytro platform ensure that sales reps are sales-ready at all times in an ever-changing market environment.