What is the average lifespan of relevant sales knowledge? Given the acceleration of product lifecycles, expansion of competitors, constant churn of industry trends, and global events, the rate of information creation (and obsolescence of old knowledge) has hit what seems to be an unsustainable pace.
Consider this in light of the typical sales performance distribution curve. The key to success is moving the “C” players into the larger, median “B” area, moving the mid-range “B” players into the rare “A” end of the spectrum, and keeping the star players exactlywhere they are.
Assuming a static world, this is still tough in and of itself! The best salespeople can be some of the most difficult to manage, and lower performers can be a drain on a manager’s time and energy, taking away from the coaching they could be offering to the mid-range team members—which is where the greatest opportunity for growth lies.
The traditional approach to address this is to assess each sales person, and put a development plan in place including targeted training, coaching and regular feedback. And while this has been proven to work, it can take 12-24 months to see significant growth, at which point a sales leader basically must start over again just to keep up with the pace of change, much less make headway.
However, here are several approaches that have been proven to accelerate development:
- Playbooks: Deploying sales playbooks that clearly define the behaviors and desired outcomes for various selling scenarios, including supporting tools and available resources. By providing effective enablement, the skill adoption and behavior change is more rapid, broadly adopted, and longer term.
- Change Leadership: Engaging sales managers as catalysts and drivers of change can accelerate sales rep learning. Likewise – managers that do not actively reinforce new behaviors often deter change. Managers are having an impact whether they realize it or not, so effective training programs must define and emphasize the sales manager’s role.
- Real-time Performance Support: With the recent adoption of tablets (primarily iPads) it is now possible to deploy interactive selling apps that not only present compelling sales content, but also include discovery questions, needs assessments, and executive selling best practices. Tablets enable sales reps to both “carry knowledge” on the tablet as well as collaborate with customers using the tablet. This makes a huge difference in the interaction between a sales rep and a client – while increasing the abilities of A, B and C players
Successful sales teams and leaders will find ways to not only pace, but lead the change curve. Leveraging playbooks, change leadership, and tablet apps are proven ways to improve the capabilities of your sales team.