In the not-too-distant past, B2B sales professionals were considered unlikely to participate in teamwork or to engage in virtually any collaborative behavior. The inherent nature of the dog-eat-dog, quota-oriented job, the typical competitive persona drawn to it, and the highly leveraged compensation structure usually supporting it all add up to the classic 20th-century stereotype: Trusting no one, guarding one’s territory aggressively and never sticking one’s neck out to help a colleague who could be considered a competitor.
Modern sellers are far more amenable to learning and sharing via peers
Collaboration platforms, video solutions and gamification can be effectively deployed to support long-term learning goals
Rich media solutions are well-suited to nano-learning and real-time, self-paced sales rep education
It’s little wonder that Glengarry Glen Ross and other caricatures of salespeople are so ingrained in popular and business culture. All the current talk about the buyer’s journey is informed by claims that consumers want to delay, at all costs, interacting with an actual, human salesperson.
Modern sellers, particularly those classified as millennials, are changing this work style dramatically. They’ve come of age in a time when gathering knowledge has moved away from “whatever the boss says” and toward a global network of peers and strangers whose content has democratized information access for anyone with a broadband connection and an interest in self-improvement. This trend doesn’t mean that younger, digital sellers are less competitive. They’re merely products of a foundational shift that empowered them to more effectively leverage best practices from their colleagues and industry peers to gain accolades and awards.
As enablement leaders, once we recognize that knowledge acquisition is no longer a purely downstream process within the sales organization, we gain the opportunity to leverage collaborative learning to yield win-win-win results for sellers, buyers, and our companies at the same time. In the spirit of “there’s an app for that,” here are some technology families you can use to enhance the benefits for all these stakeholders:
1) Enterprise social collaboration (ESC)
Many sales enablement organizations benchmarked by SiriusDecisions deploy either a standalone solution or one integrated with their sales force automation (SFA) platform to foster communications, ideation, teamwork, and community-building within their companies. Platforms such as Chatter, Jive, or Yammer allow institutions to flatten out bureaucracy, cut through red tape and politics and allow the sellers’ “hive” to stand up and adopt the best ideas and practices within any defined group of team members and near the most frequented watering holes.
Just as consumers have learned to place more trust in buyer reviews than in corporate marketing, millennial sellers are likely to weigh peer input as heavily as what they’ve learned from managers and in-house trainers. Collaboration initiatives can also be strongly legitimized by organizational leaders willing to let employees self-identify their peer groups (such as a new-hire class of sales reps) as long as it is maturely executed.
This resolves the inevitable onboarding questions of where to find information and understand policy, and builds a sense of community and healthy competition among quota-carriers. Still, many ESC initiatives fail to build sustained support, so garnering early executive sponsorship and tracking business-centric KPIs is crucial for long-term success. Encouraging collaboration around sales deals and opportunity management will pay more long-term dividends than happy hours or fantasy sports leagues.
2) Video learning and coaching
Another attribute associated with younger sellers is rooted in their deep experience with rich media offerings. Video is far more engaging to multiple senses and helps individuals (especially visual learners) absorb content more holistically -- and it serves as a hedge against attention issues.
Commonly used solutions such as Allego, Brainshark, and CommercialTribe are often deployed by sales enablement to record and refine everything from sales pitches to negotiation tactics and practice real-time, pre-meeting call scripting. After all, people buy from people, and video is well-suited to refining the human element of B2B selling. Don’t assume that all first-line sales managers will miraculously produce better results with video -- it extends good coaching but can’t fix the bad.
While most sales leaders think about deploying game mechanics and contests to modify short-term behaviors around activities that immediately impact revenue -- such as selling a hot new product or rescuing a stalled pipeline -- there is equal value in using platforms such as Badgeville, Bunchball, or Hoopla to support sales rep or channel partner learning.
One of the most difficult sales enablement challenges -- how to continuously train reps once onboarding is over and they’re laser-focused on hitting quota in their assigned territories -- can be addressed by tapping into reps’ competitive nature. Gamification, which translates activities and results into points, badges, and leaderboards, leverages this instinct to drive behavioral outcomes.
For example, an organization entering a new industry vertical may prefer that sales enablement certify reps on the new sector rather than take quota-carriers out of the field for formal training. With an SFA-embedded competition -- points, recognition, or cash awarded to the first individuals (or teams) who complete asynchronous nano-learning on the new subject matter – sales enablement can leverage gamification for collaborative learning results. Take pains not to over-gamify reps lest they permanently back-burner your good intentions, and avoid over-rewarding only quantity-based activity vs. business-oriented results.
Today, there is more awareness of the value of growing and supporting employees throughout the course of their tenure. Most sales enablement leaders will overlap with human resources or corporate training when creating a companywide culture of continuous learning. Whether the solutions above are deployed as standalone tools or embedded in a larger-scale learning management system, leveraging the most common attributes of modern sellers to make learning a natural, enjoyable, social, and competitive is a highly effective best practice.
Editor's note: This post originally appeared on the SiriusDecisions blog and has been republished here with permission.
SiriusDecisions empowers the world's leading marketing, product and sales leaders to make better decisions, execute with precision and accelerate growth. We enable B2B portfolio marketing teams to drive their organizations’ go-to-market success for an offering or a portfolio, whether it consists of products, solutions or services. Learn more about how we help sales enablement leaders.
Originally published Aug 5, 2016 12:00:00 PM, updated February 01 2017