Start With Sales: Enable Through Activity Studies
- Sales enablement teams today often have broad mandates – but lack the resources and organizational support required to enact effective and lasting change
- SiriusDecisions provides activity studies that sales enablement can leverage to understand the sales team and gain additional support from key leaders
- Findings from the Sales Activity Study have led to increased support in asset overhauls, infrastructure changes and sales training
People can be stubborn – and I count myself at times among this bunch. But if you want to change my mind, confront me with a series of well-sourced facts and statistics to back up your point. Two books I read this year reminded me of that point: Factfulness by Hans Rosling and The Better Angels of Our Nature by Stephen Pinker. Although the two books are very different, they both led me to the same broad conclusion: today, the world is better than it’s ever been. Eighty percent of people worldwide have access to electricity. Nearly every statistic used to measure violence (war, murder, domestic abuse, robberies) shows a decline over the last 50 years. Reading the news today and hearing from older generations how great things “used to be,” I wouldn’t have guessed those facts on my own. The two books have made me more optimistic overnight.
When it comes to sales, leaders often possess their own set of assumptions as well: how many calls their reps should be making, how much time they should be spending in the field, achievable growth targets for each territory, and what an ideal sales call should look like. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to check those assumptions against what’s really happening in the field?
Before I joined SiriusDecisions as an analyst, I was a SiriusDecisions client who leveraged a tool that remains one of our most popular assets today – the Sales Activity Study. The SiriusDecisions diagnostics team queried our sales team on how they spent their day in a typical week. Were they in front of customers a lot (on the phone or conducting field visits)? Were they doing a lot of administrative work (logging their calls and into a sales force automation [SFA] system, internal e-mail)? Although I had my own assumptions on what the answers would be, the study results provided findings that challenged some beliefs while validating others. Either way, I had data in hand that I could share with the executive team to bolster support for enablement initiatives. The sales activity study revealed some key challenges:
- Sales content needed to be more robust. Sales was spending a lot of time making custom presentations, talk tracks, case studies and other content to help them close deals with clients. Although we had product training in place, we needed more tools that reps could leverage in the field.
- Ramp times were too long. This is one that we were aware of before we did the study, but we could use the results of the study and segment by new and experienced reps to see the difference in how sales reps were spending their time. Newer reps were just taking too long trying to find the training and help they needed to prepare for sales calls, and often ended up learning through a baptism by fire in the field. These findings helped build a business case for more onboarding and sales training.
- Technology was a time sink. Between entering opportunities and updating accounts in our SFA system and managing inbound business from a customer portal, administrative work was taking away from the time our reps should have been spending on the phone. This was an area that we had not initially recognized as a critical inhibitor to our sales team’s performance, but when we shared the findings from the survey with the leadership team, we were able to prioritize an initiative to reduce the number of clicks and open windows our reps would have to execute in the SFA system.
These were just three areas where I was achieve greater momentum thanks to the findings from a source that was outside our organization. Today, the Sales Activity study is even better – this year, we have had several clients leverage it for sales managers. The Sales Manager Activity Study includes activities that managers should be focusing on (e.g. coaching, forecasting) in addition to the ones that a standard sales role would. We’re already seeing some interesting findings from the clients who’ve managed to conduct that study. As organizations continue to focus more on enabling their sales leaders, the manager activity study will likely play a critical role in bolstering new initiatives. So don’t be stubborn – ask to take a sales activity study today and see what kinds of assumptions might need to be updated.