I was about to leave the car dealership after a recent car service when the customer service guy checks-in, ‘Did you have a good experience today? You’ll receive a brief email survey, we hope you give us five stars.’ Valeted car; helpful staff; prompt service; check, check, check. Five stars all-round.
A couple of weeks later my car isn’t driving like it should. As far as the dealership is aware, I’m still a happy customer. Rather than focusing on my long-term behaviors, the garage is only interested in my short-term responses. Not using the correct metrics to determine the success of the dealership means they’ve lost a valued customer.
The same is true for sales enablement. It’s great to get positive feedback from the ‘happy sheets’ that get distributed at the end of a workshop. Was the session useful? Would you recommend the session to others? But this is the sales enablement equivalent of ‘did you like our coffee?’ If your sales enablement programs are going to truly enable sustained, long-term changes in sales behaviors, a better metric is required.
Long term profit v short term gain
For this, companies need to start with the end in mind. The value delivered by any sales enablement program needs to be measured by how far it gets the company towards its end goal. Invariably this involves a measurement of an improved top-line. Along the way there will be smaller, more achievable metrics that show the team is tracking in the right direction. Has the sales team been able to sell solutions with a higher margin? Have they been able to increase the number of opportunities at the top of their pipeline? Are they reducing the sales cycle? And most importantly, are they sustaining this behavior?
Spotting a dip in performance one month after the initial success spike following a training workshop, for example, isn’t bad news. Rather, by tracking performance data against desired outcomes we can influence that outcome. Going back to the car dealership, if these guys had called me a couple of weeks after my service their five-star rating would have dropped but, the measurement of customer satisfaction would have been more accurate. With this insight they could have perhaps changed my mind about moving to another dealership. In both customer service and sales enablement scenarios, long term measurement is a far more valuable metric than demonstrating a short-term spike in performance.
By tracking performance data against desired outcomes we can influence that outcome.
Are you even measuring the right thing?
So, if you accept my argument that a more strategic approach to measuring sales enablement is valuable, it’s time to also acknowledge that we need to get smarter about exactly what we measure.
The internet is littered with data on how poor busy humans are at retaining information just weeks after we think we’ve taken it onboard. Training is a valuable component of sales enablement but, used as a standalone tool it will only ever be that, a one-time event that delivers a short spike in performance before old habits creep back. Quickly the information we found so useful slips from our short-term memory. Getting your sales team in front of a sales expert to ‘train’ them for a day is the car dealership equivalent of blackening the tyres, shining the bonnet and adding some bunting to the car on the forecourt that just won’t sell. It may improve things superficially, but the real issues that need to be addressed are all still there.
Sales-enablement, on the other hand, is the car dealership equivalent of selling the best vehicle available to fit the customer’s needs, at a price plan they can afford and then regularly maintaining and servicing it for optimal performance over its lifetime. It requires multiple components to work together of a sustained period. The effort involved is greater but the reward has a longer and more satisfying outcome for all.
When the rubber hits the road
So, just like you’ve invested far too much in your high-end vehicle to watch it slowly degrade by missing its servicing or maintenance, why would you treat your sales team any differently? Like anything that you expect to perform to its optimum, be it car, athlete or sales person, regular check-ins/ups, servicing and maintenance need to be standard, if performance is to be optimized and the investment you’ve made is to be realized. What this looks like in practice can, and should, take different forms, since every well-structured sales-enablement program will be trying to overcome different hurdles to get to the end-goal.
At Strategy to Revenue, when we get down to the brass-tacks of delivering a sales enablement program we recommend that the sales team complete an online self-assessment. It’s a road-worthy check. It identifies where each member of the team is competent and where there are areas they need to improve, but always measured against a pre-defined criteria and with the end goal in mind.
And since, just like in car dealerships, the days of any ‘color as long as its black’ are long-gone, we build customized, individual learning paths for each sales person. It means time and budget isn’t squandered teaching people what they already know. Instead, focus is put on helping them to improve their metrics in areas where they need extra work. Learning paths should be customizable too, mixing self-paced learning with coaching, just-in-time ‘top-up’ tips, and face-to-face events or training, where required.
Accurate data to influence outcomes
So, in short before you invest in the Ferrari of all training events, consider the outcomes you’re ultimately trying achieve and how you’re going to measure whether you’re on track to deliver them. With accurate data comes an opportunity to influence outcomes. Put the ‘happy forms’ away and start measuring the true enablers to helping your sales teams to achieve the sustained commercial improvement that you’re ultimately being tasked to deliver.
Robert Fox is VP Sales, America at Strategy to Revenue, the award-winning sales enablement consultancy.