The 2017 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons earlier this month taught us a lesson. The Falcons came out strong and followed through, but somewhere along the way they lost steam, and the game got away from them. It wasn’t what they did at kickoff but at the very end of the game that made the difference between winning and losing.
Sales enablement professionals cannot look at the annual sales kickoff as a one-and-done event. The objectives of kickoff are to motivate reps, recognize top performers, drive specific behaviors and develop reps’ knowledge and skills. These objectives don’t change once kickoff is over; therefore, effective programs should continue throughout the year. Let’s look at two key areas – recognition and rep development – where sales enablement should continue post-kickoff:
First, sales motivation is an important driver of success. Capitalizing on the performance recognition shared at kickoff, sales enablement should create an ongoing recognition program that links activity with outcomes and highlights efforts that drive results.
For example, recognize reps who go above and beyond to win a deal, help a peer, convert a competitive account, or forecast accurately. Any behavior or activity that is considered critical to success is a candidate for recognition. Recognition should be communicated publicly and include the problem or opportunity, the specific behaviors demonstrated by the rep, and the result achieved. Include obstacles that were overcome and out-of-box thinking.
Rewards need not be monetary. Performers could be featured in best practice videos, be offered special treatment, or given access to top executives. Good recognition programs not only provide satisfaction, but they also motivate others to strive harder to achieve. SiriusDecisions research indicates that high performers find meaningful work slightly more important than compensation.
Ongoing sales rep development is the other critical “always on” program that sales enablement should execute post-sales kickoff. Sales requires consistent execution of specific skills. As with all activities we engage in over time, it is easy to develop bad habits. Sales enablement should use a combination of learning paths, ongoing coaching, micro-learning and experiential learning to develop reps post-kickoff.Ongoing sales rep development programs should be based on competency maps designed for specific sales roles. Random acts of learning and a lack of perceived value undermine ongoing training efforts. Therefore, rep-specific learning paths are preferred.
Sales enablement should provide coaching guides for managers that help them identify issues and teach or correct the right behavior, along with providing tools to support the effort. For example, videos of best practices can help demonstrate the behavior that is expected; checklists help ensure that steps are followed; tips for better execution provide perpetual improvement. Coaching specifically to desired behaviors keeps skills sharp and prevents bad habits.
Mini-learning modules also support ongoing rep development. These should be linked to opportunities based on sales stage, buyer, industry, product or competitor. Integrating learning directly into sales activity allows reps to use knowledge and skills immediately.
For more formal training courses, high performers, per SiriusDecisions research, prefer experiential learning. (Tweet this stat!) This includes live training with role play but can also include shadowing, observation and teach-back sessions. Sales’ ongoing development programs should include both teach-and-test and elements of field activity that allow reps to observe, practice and certify specific skills.
Specific days and times within the month and quarter should be set aside for development purposes. Initiatives and events may require one-time training, such as the rollout of a new sales tool or the launch of a new product. Ideally, these are mapped into learning paths and scheduled in accordance with regular development time.
Winning takes practice, motivation, determination and consistent execution. Organizations that reinforce key messages and continually develop and coach their reps throughout the fiscal year will outperform those that allow their momentum to fizzle out.
Nancy Maluso is a Research Director of Sales Enablement Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Nancy is a seasoned practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in sales leadership, sales enablement and product management, along with marketing roles at organizations of all sizes. Follow Nancy on Twitter @nmaluso1.