• The volume of information and the pace of change make it impossible for sellers to retain everything
  • Sellers must learn to anticipate the buyer’s context and the types of information buyers will need
  • Sellers must be taught how to apply information in selling situations to move buyers along the path to purchasing

I was a bit disappointed to discover that a recent fortune cookie didn’t actually foretell my fortune (nor contain the winning Mega Millions lottery number). Instead, the little slip of white paper said, “Education is the ability to meet life’s situations.” As a parent, an interviewer for new hires and as a sales enabler, this one struck a chord with me. As a parent, I want my children to learn things they can apply to their lives, they can draw on for guidance or they can use to solve a problem. As a hiring manager, I want to find employees who can apply their past experiences to drive outcomes in our current environment. As a sales enablement professional, I want sellers to be able to apply the information we share with them in their conversations with buyers to move those buyers closer to purchase.

Fortune cookies lined up in a row

Too often we see enablement as sharing information (e.g. about new offers, pricing, processes, competitors) as soon as it becomes available, perhaps through an internal knowledge transfer webinar, a newsletter or a sales portal. It is then incumbent upon the sellers to recall it from the recesses of their brain, search their email folders or peruse a portal to find the information they needed. We assume sellers know when and how to use information. This is no longer a working model, because the pace of change and the volume of information (e.g. competitors, products, services, buyers, regulations) means there is just too much for sellers to remember. 

Instead, sales enablement professionals need to develop real-time critical thinking and knowledge application skills for sellers so that they can anticipate the context and subtleties involved in selling situations. Enablers need to teach sellers how to find and apply the messaging and information that is most useful in the current selling situation. Emphasize how to leverage information to create thoughtful and probing conversation with buyers. To do this, sales enablers should be well versed in the types of conversations sellers will have with buyers and understand the information that buyers seek through those conversations. Sales enablers should leverage a defined sales process and sales methodology to guide sellers through the process of buyer engagement and teach them when and how to use information and assets to enhance those buyer conversations.

Developing sellers’ skills and teaching them how to find and use messaging and information in the selling process is one aspect of this transformation to real-time learning. Two other components are critical. First, portfolio marketers, demand marketing, learning and development, and all other organizations responsible for creating messaging, assets and training need to start identifying and packing information so it is consumable by reps within their work activity. Second, enablers must identify automated, proactive methods for delivering information at the time of need, as well as making material easily findable by sellers.   

Identifying, packaging and delivering information to sellers in their moment of need is a completely different way to think about rep development. It assumes that reps will no longer memorize or try to retain all the information that is available. Instead, they’ll develop a baseline of knowledge, develop the ability to anticipate the buyer’s need and then seek out the information they’ll need.

My colleague Peter Zink and I will be discussing all of this during our “Sales Learning and Earning: Achieving the Right Balance” presentation at the SiriusDecisions Summit 2019 in Austin. Join us to learn about a new model for seller development based on helping sellers learn as they go about their day-to-day selling activities. We hope to see you there!