Understanding the true capabilities of your sales force is critical, whether you're a startup company scaling a new product, or a Fortune 100 firm driving incremental gains. However, most organizations incorrectly assess the abilities of their salespeople by reviewing past performance or examining the health of their current pipeline. This approach is the equivalent of looking through the rearview mirror and great for learning about past experience, but not particularly insightful when it comes to performance and potential of your best sales people.
When it comes to building the right sales enablement program, the traditional model outlined above falls short because it provides incomplete information. You aren’t able to tell which combination of salesperson, audience, message, and product/service is most effective for each selling circumstance your salespeople encounter. Ultimately this forces sales leaders to make decisions (read: gambles) based on gut feelings…
Do we have the right sales talent?
Do we have the right message?
Is the product/service meeting the needs of the market?
Powerful insight into the performance of your sales reps doesn’t come from rear-window reports, which are mostly just pretty packaging for lagging indicators. Instead, they come from the real-time field intelligence that only be gathered by your front-line sales managers. Direct observation of sales rep performance is the only conclusive evidence of their current and potential capabilities. However, companies are continuing to grow larger and more decentralized. With this growth, it becomes increasingly difficult for managers to get observation time with each of their sales reps.
Aligning Strategy with Execution
Optimizing sales management and coaching processes has become one of the most prominent sales enablement trends in recent years. Organizations are finally acknowledging that their sales effectiveness hinges on the front-line sales manager’s ability to develop talent and drive behavior change.
Unfortunately, most companies have tried to make managers better coaches by inundating them with dozens of tools to manage sales processes, analyze sales data, and generate more accurate sales forecasts. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a company that provides one tool dedicated to helping sales managers get better at coaching their sales reps. Instead, managers must combat information overload to try to filter out the insights they need to have meaningful coaching conversations with their team.
As we said before, the best performance management process is founded on face-to-face interaction between managers and sales reps. This “in the moment” coaching model is increasingly difficult to implement as companies grow to a national and/or global scale. Even the most well-intentioned managers can’t be with their reps all the time and in every sales situation that comes up.
Thankfully, video-based sales practice software is emerging as an effective and convenient tool. Video-based sales practice enables sales managers to exponentially increase the level of 1:1 coaching attention they give their reps.
By allowing sales managers to have more frequent face-to-face interaction with the members of their team, this new approach provides a more complete assessment of each sales person’s capabilities. Even the most distributed sales team can use video practice technology to improve communication between sales reps and their manager. With the help of video practice, managers can now have definitive answers to questions like…
Can they deliver the message the way it was intended to be communicated?
Do they present the benefit the customer will get from the product or do they default to “feature dumping”?
Can they handle customer objections the same way a CSO or CEO would?
This insight, gleaned from direct observation of sales reps in action, gives managers greater confidence in their team’s true capabilities. This level of awareness can’t be derived from retrospective reports – numbers won’t help you tweak a salesperson’s delivery or help with handling tough objections.
Learning from direct observation is also the best way to identify skill or process gaps and direct sales enablement efforts at improving in areas such as:
- Effectively onboarding new sales hires and minimizing time to productivity in the field
- Tailoring training support to the specific needs of each individual salesperson to maximize performance improvements
- Certifying competence in delivering specific messaging based on product, industry, or target audience
- Assessing and documenting individual mastery to improve risk management, especially in highly regulated markets
Companies that use video-based sales practice software are able to develop their best salespeople and sales enablement programs based on direct and real-time observation of salesperson performance. Without it, sales leaders are doing the operational equivalent of driving a car forward, but only looking in the rear-view mirror.
Delivering more strategic insights to leadership
The benefits of video-based sales practice software extends beyond the front-line manager to the CSO, CMO, or even the CEO. What senior leader wouldn’t love to be able to sit in on every sales conversation to make sure that the product or service is positioned in the right way to maximize value for the company? Obviously, doing so would be impossible. But it doesn’t change the fact that leadership is always interested in what the sales force is communicating in the market place.
In most organizations, the success of the strategic objectives set at corporate headquarters depends on the buy-in of sales managers and the executional ability of the lone salesperson.
Are reps correctly positioning the solution, given the selling situation they are in?
Do they know when to pivot or adapt into a different value proposition?
Do they represent the brand in the best possible way?
For years, members of corporate leadership have taken a “trust, but verify” approach. They trust that the leaders at every level of the organization have hired talented people and are providing the right level of oversight to achieve to the goals that they have set. Sure, they could drop in to sales meetings or take part in ride-alongs to get a firsthand view, but that approach only gives them a snapshot of that rep’s experience and cannot be implemented at scale.
Video practice solutions provide senior executives with all of the same benefits that sales managers get from direct observation of rep performance. The asynchronous nature of video practice and review allows senior leaders to check in as their schedule allows and simultaneously interact with more reps than ever before – no flights, no road trips.
As an example, a large company in the healthcare vertical is also using video practice technology to manage near-real time changes in product messaging. We all know that just because a concept sounds good in a marketing meeting doesn’t mean that the message will resonate with customers or that sales reps can deliver that message as well as the marketing team that developed it. By issuing weekly assignments to reps and asking them to practice delivering several iterations of product messaging, this company collected vast amounts of feedback that enabled them to rapidly improve talking points and marketing collateral. This process generated significantly more insight at a faster pace and a much lower cost than the traditional model of focus groups and market research.
At the manager level, video practice and coaching provides a window into the complete capabilities of the sales team. In the C-suite, this same insight can lead to real changes in product management, marketing strategy, performance management, and talent development.
Insight to run a more effective sales organization
Video-based sales practice software and coaching can have a positive impact on all levels of a sales organization. Reps get faster and more frequent feedback on their performance. Managers have a better understanding of their best salespeople and the competencies of their team. Senior leaders have more information to make important strategic decisions.
In the past, decision-makers have relied on subjective measures that were reflections of past performance. Now richer intelligence is available thanks to video practice technology. Real-time observation of sales rep performance is the best way to surface the insights you need identify your best salespeople and run a better sales organization.
About The Author
Ralph is a partner with The Brevet Group, and for 20 years he has led sales performance teams in the United States and Asia. Recently he also served as a sales leader in both the media and technology industries. Ralph’s work has focused on a unique blend of management consulting and sales enablement to help companies execute their sales strategies. Prior to this role, Ralph was the APAC sales effectiveness leader at Mercer.