Imagine you’re teaching a ninth-grade math class.
You’ve got interactive smart boards, mobile apps, a huge library of content, and a ton of online study tools at your fingertips, all there to enable your teaching.
But if your students know more about algebra than you do, you won’t be very effective at your job.
Sales enablement in the era of well-educated prospects works the same way.
Providing the tools and content sales reps need to succeed is just one half of the battle. To really drive their performance home, reps need to really know their stuff – to become learners and teachers themselves – through self-enablement.
Sales enablement or self-enablement
There are now over 830 sales enablement vendors across 38 different categories spanning sales intelligence and AI to training and content, according to a 2018 map of the sales technology landscape.
Many of those tools help our reps get in front of prospects. But once prospects notice, what do reps have to say?
Too often the approach is “spray and pray, and they don’t have anything to say,” say Larry Levine and Darrell Amy on their podcast, Selling from the Heart.
“If salespeople can’t articulate not only their value, their story, their value proposition… if they can’t clearly hold a business conversation about that content, then they’re dead in the water.”
Self-enablement is all about the skills and resources reps develop for themselves to make sure they rock those business conversations.
Learning is the core of self-enablement. Every time a rep dedicates time to increase their knowledge about a client or an industry, develop a skill, try new sales tricks, or develop the tactics they already use, they’re upping their chances of success.
Their goal, like that 9th grade math teacher, is to know more about your product and the landscape you and your clients operate in than the prospects do. Reps who practice self-enablement aren’t just sellers, but teachers as well, who can provide the most value possible.
Enable your sales team to self-enable
How does self-enablement work? Though there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there are some tried-and-true habits that can help your sales team reach the next level.
Here are five effective strategies the most successful salespeople make time for.
Read, watch, listen (and share)
Think books, blogs, videos, podcasts, or whitepapers. Consistently consuming information about your industry, your competitors, your prospects’ industries, sales tips, and consumer behaviour can give your reps an edge in providing real value. If reps find a resource particularly helpful, sharing with the team can help spread success even further.
Take a class
From sales tactics to improv comedy, in-class or online courses help develop skills sales reps can use in their sales calls through a combination of theory and practice in a low-stakes environment. The better your reps are at a skill, the more confident and capable they appear to prospects and clients, too.
How did that last sales call go? Reps who schedule a regular review of their past calls and communications can learn from what went well – and what’ didn’t. It helps them figure out which skills they’re missing and set development goals to achieve in the future.
Drill company knowledge
Being mildly acquainted with the content your company shares isn’t enough. Reps today need to have a strong knowledge of the material you’re putting out there (and then some) to provide additional value to the prospects who are consuming it. Taking the time to review all of your content outside of those mandatory product or service training sessions is a great first step.
Study your customers
It can be as simple as taking a top customer to lunch on a regular basis to pick their brain about their successes and challenges, or spending time observing them in their day-to-day environment. Reps who truly learn from their existing customers – not just sell to them – are better equipped to understand and empathize with their next prospect.
Find – or become – a mentor
Mentorship isn’t just for new or inexperienced reps; it’s a lifelong method of personal and professional development. Learning directly from someone who’s mastered a skill is a great way to boost skills and knowledge with one-on-one accountability and feedback. Becoming a mentor is valuable too, as it opens up the opportunity for fresh perspectives and new ideas.
The best way to spread self-enablement through your sales team? Encourage your reps to spend an hour a week – or whatever it takes – on self-enablement, and share the knowledge they’ve gathered along the way.