Who Owns Career Development?

Shared career developmentThe development of sales rep careers is shared with the sales rep, their immediate manager, and sales enablement. It can be confusing to know who takes the lead and owns the career development, but at a high-level, I think of 4 buckets:

On-Boarding: To introduce and train the rep on Tools, Mentoring with a buddy/peer, and Role-Specific activities. This should be owned by the sales manager, with sales enablement assisting as needed.

Boot Camp: To introduce and teach new sales reps about the Sales Process, Activities, Pipeline Management, Forecasting, and Product Messaging. This should be owned by sales enablement, with the sales managers assisting and pulling in subject matter experts as needed.

On-Going: To re-enforce the company’s Sales Activities, Pipeline Management, Forecasting, Product Updates, and Product Messaging. Sales enablement fully owns making this happen, pulling in subject matter experts as needed.

Coaching: To drive improvements in the rep’s Sales Skills, Deal Skills, and overall Career Development opportunities. The sales manager fully owns making this happen, since it requires the manager to observe the rep with customers and regular one-on-one meetings with the rep. As part of coaching, the manager may help promote the sales rep to a new position, in which case, a new sales boot camp might be needed.

The Foundation for Sales Enablement

Lego BlocksA primary function of sales enablement is to ensure that the sales organization succeeds. However, when I step back and think about what needs to exist at a company to really make a sales org succeed, I think about the foundation to build on, the interactions between other organizations and all of the details that need to come together. I refer to these details as “characteristics”, for lack of a better term.

Foundation for Sales Enablement

The bulk of the work for sales enablement is to make sure all of those characteristics are defined and have clear ownership. My brief explanations of these are:

  1. Incentives to drive the desired behaviors to hit the goals
  2. Processes to guide the behaviors and activities per role and account relationship stage, which is clearly defined and aids, not block, the goal.
  3. Guidelines for customer “ownership” and hand-off from one role or team to the next
  4. Activities with the customer at all stages, which support the processes
  5. Measures to know if the organization, and each team and person are on track and the related data to measure the activates and the process, to help identify areas of improvement and to forecast future results
  6. Tools that enable customer interactions, manage the process, collect and report the data. All integrate with the CRM so there remains “one source of truth” for customer data and interactions
  7. Content to pitch, present, demo and share
  8. Skills to competently accomplish the activities, work through each process, and keep the customer happy
  9. Rhythm of business reviews, training plans, and coaching or mentorship meetings
  10. Training of sales skills, competencies, content and tools, which includes sales coaching and the skills managers need to be good coaches
  11. Methodologies, such as the Challenger Sale
  12. Certifications on the corporate pitch deck, different modules of it, and industry-specific topics

These characteristics are built on the foundation of the company:

  1. Culture of trust of each other, healthy competition between teams, agile and willing to change, fun and open, celebration of success, learning from failure, continuously improving (not being complacent) and a shared focus on the customer
  2. Mission that everyone can be excited about with clear goals to work towards
  3. Strategy that outlines the segmentation and territory plan that makes the goals achievable, which aligns teams to accounts by location, industry, size, systems, partners, etc.


Defining Sales Enablement, part 2 (sales requests)

Stack of booksAs the manger of all sales enablement efforts, you need to be able to respond to requests from the sales team in addition to proactively train them on skills, products and topics while also leading the team’s activities in the right strategic direction. Requests usually are related to needing content of some sort, insights on something, or help accomplishing something.

But what are some of those things that a sales team will request? Here’s my list:

Product-related topics

  • Product feature details
  • Product roadmaps and strategic direction
  • Security and compliance details
  • Personas per product
  • Product and solution sales pitches, conversation openers
  • Demonstrations (instructions and scripts for live demos and recorded videos)

Industry-related topics

  • Industry trends
  • Industry-specific competencies
  • Target accounts per industry
  • Key partners per industry and how to sell with them

Company-related topics

  • Elevator pitch for the company (versus "regular" sales pitches)
  • Strategic direction for the company
  • Sales strategy (why we sell the way we do)
  • Compensation plans
  • Support information and plans
  • Consulting and implementation options
  • Case studies, customer quotes and references

Competition-related topics

  • How to compete in general and against specific competitors
  • Company and individual product differentiators
  • Win/Loss reports
  • How the competition sells
  • SWOT analysis

Prospecting-related topics

  • Cold-calling and cold-emailing tips and scripts
  • Social selling guidance
  • Navigating org structures in large organizations
  • Lead nurturing campaigns

Tools-related topics

  • Guidance and how-to help for the various sales tools
  • Review and purchase new sales tools

Process-related topics

  • How to decide when to nurture a prospect, and how to do it
  • Help knowing when to move an opportunity forward
  • Help knowing when an opportunity is dead
    Most of these items can, and should often, be focused on a specific industry and persona. For example, a "win report in the financial services industry when selling to a sales VP" versus a "win report in the healthcare industry when selling to a CFO".

And this list doesn’t even touch on the proactive efforts of training sales skills or sales coaching!

Much of the content for the list above needs to come from peers in marketing, customer success and others. However, I’ve often found that there are no clear owners for many items, so sales enablement either needs to create it or make sure someone creates it and owns it moving forward.

Leave a comment if you have other items that your sales team often requests.


Pre-Sales / Sales Development Best Practices

On the SalesLoft blog are a few good suggestions for pre-sales efforts. You can download the infographic from SalesLoft as a PDF, which I’ve included here as a JPEG:


Active Listening

Active ListeningAnother tip, based on a few years of experience, is regarding “Active Listening”. I’ve seen some people who are naturals (you’re probably not) and most people need a regular refresher (I’m one of them). These tips are in order of how you should listen with the other person, who has some problem to solve.

1. Provide an opener: “tell me about…<the problem/topic>”

2. Provide responses: Note that casual and frequent use of words and phrases, such as: ‘very good’, ‘yes’ or ‘indeed’ can become irritating to the speaker. It is usually better to elaborate and explain why you are agreeing with a certain point.

3. Restate what has been said: Rephrase it in your own words to show you comprehend what’s being said

4. Clarify what has been said: If you need to understand more, or want to double-check that you understand it

5. Show empathy: “That sounds like a dilemma” and similar phrases help show that you really do care (don’t fake it though)

6. Help explore their options: Not all options need a fix, work-around, or purchase decision right now, but maybe in the future

7. Summarize: Repeat the main points back in a clear and logical way, and ask if you’ve understood it correctly

More tips on active listening, reflecting and clarifying are at: http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html

Other tactics, uses and barriers to active listening are at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening

Using Role Play During Sales Training

RolePlayAn important part of sales enablement is training, and an important way for adults to learn is via role play situations. The following is my guidance and outline for others looking to incorporate role play in their training sessions.

Plan to have one person play the customer/prospect and the other play the sales rep. Write up notes based on real-world calls that have worked well AND on the flow of a conversation that works for your solution and selling method. These notes will be for a person playing the customer to refer to during the role play. These should include:

  1. Pains & Challenges: Have one main pain point that the customer is willing to share, but have a few more that they only give up if the rep draws them out. This can be done by giving examples of similar customers, expanding on the initial pain, or just asking "why". This is both an information gathering step, but also an opportunity for the rep to raise issues the customer should be thinking about.
  2. Ideal Situation: Have a main goal that the customer is willing to share, but a few more that they only give up if the rep draws them out.
  3. Decision Makers: List out a few other names, titles and how they will be part of the decision making process.
  4. Timing: List out an ideal date to have a solution, some compelling events (such as end of the fiscal year, an upcoming holiday, etc.), the completion of a related project, etc.
  5. Budget: Note an expected amount the customer is willing to pay, but then the budget they actually have available, and whatever purchasing process they have vendors go through before purchasing a solution.
  6. Industry/Solution Specific: If integration with other systems is important, prepare some notes on that. If reaching a target audience is going to be important, then prepare some notes on that. And so on.

Establish the situation, such as the customer has finally agreed to have a conversation with a sales rep – maybe this is after e-mails or cold calls from a sales development rep. So the customer knows a little bit about your company, but nothing in-depth.


  1. Give the person playing the customer a few minutes to read the notes without the person playing the sales rep seeing the notes.
  2. Have the person playing the sales rep take notes as they uncover details about the customer’s situation and the sales opportunity.
  3. The customer can give up a few points, (1 per topic), but can only give up more details if the rep draws them out. This can be done by giving examples of similar customers, expanding on the initial pains & goals, and by simply asking "why". This is both an information gathering exercise, but also an opportunity for the rep to raise issues the customer should be thinking about. Ideally, the decision makers, timing, and budget details are ONLY shared if the sales rep asks about them.

The goal is for the sales rep to keep asking for information and having a productive conversation to uncover more, so eventually their notes should match the details from the customer notes.


Giving Feedback

Over the years, I have compiled a handful of tips that I share and try to refer to for my own benefit. The topic I want to share today is about giving feedback. Remember that this is my US-centric point of view, however I’ve used this with employees and peers in many countries around the world, but they always knew it was an American (me) giving the feedback.

Giving Feedback: Be direct, don’t exaggerate, and don’t make it sound more pleasant than it is. And keep the following in mind:

  1. Facts: Base the feedback on factual events. Stick to what you have observed and know, not on rumors.
  2. The Right Detail: Focus on the right detail (the big ones that matter), not all the other noise, but the specific thing you’re giving feedback on.
  3. Empathy: Offer understanding and be epenthetic, encourage joint problem solving – ask questions.
  4. Big Picture: Explain the big picture and how their action impacts it. How does the behavior affect individual or group goals?
  5. Considerate: Be very positive and focus on what you want, not what you do not want. Keep in mind the recipient’s perspective.
  6. Immediate: Give feedback immediately after the event prompting the feedback, but privately, not in front of others.
  7. Behavior: Keep it specific to their behavior. Don’t let your own views distort the specifics.
  8. Set a Goal: Focus on what to do next time. Set a goal to improve the behavior.
  9. Confirmation: Confirm the issues & goals
  10. Verify: Verify that they can do what needs to get the goal done.

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