Only 6% of chief sales officers are extremely confident that their teams will hit the number. For the other 94%, and the sales leaders who report to them, each time the target changes, it’s like the fire drill scene in The Office. But we have good news; it doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s possible for your reps to hit the number in a way that’s repeatable so that, the next time the goal increases (and it will), you can be confident that your teams and strategies will be ready.
Sales execution and sales enablement are powerful tactics which, when combined, offer the solution many sales leaders are looking for: a winning combination of the right tools and training.
Regardless of where you are in your sales execution journey, whether implementing a new tool or making tweaks, you should frequently evaluate both your sales execution and sales enablement strategies to be sure they align and promote the predictable revenue you need to succeed.
Sales enablement and sales execution: So what’s the difference?
As we explain in another piece, sales execution is the ongoing set of strategic interactions or engagements your sales team has with their prospects. When you introduce technology to do this at scale, through a sales execution platform, you open up nearly unlimited possibilities for testing, iterating, and repeating sales plays and content.
This means you can align your reps around the workflows and salesplays which are booking the most meetings, scaling that success teamwide. And the best news is that consistency introduces predictability.
Predictable revenue is not a fairy tale, but it’s only attainable for teams who don’t stop at having a great sales execution strategy in place, including tested sequences or cadences, which are the actual workflows and related copy which are stored in your sales execution platform.
Great sales leaders who crack the predictability code also have robust sales enablement strategies, which empower reps to apply those winning sales plays. Sales enablement is the tool kit your reps need to execute; it includes training, information and documentation, tools, and even the encouragement and involvement they need to feel motivated to adopt the strategies you’re handing them.
To put it simply, sales execution aligns and refines scaleable sales workflows. Sales enablement empowers your reps to use them.
How do you identify the winning strategies, which are worth scaling?
With the help of a sales execution platform, you can monitor a few key performance indicators, which indicate which sales strategies are winning:
- Content performance
- Overall sequences or cadence performance and attribution
- Rep activity and performance
When evaluating good sales content, here are a few things to watch out for:
- Results of ongoing A/B testing
- Email engagement
- Reply rates, considering not only the specific email copy but also the point in the sequence or sales play
A/B testing is the practice of repetitively pitting content against each other, watching what performs best, to learn about not only messaging in specific email templates but also overall strategy and best practices. The latter is called “global A/B testing,” which involves taking results from a sequence-specific A/B test and applying it to additional sequences to determine whether that lesson learned is a universal best practice for your team, message, and audience.
You should regularly test the following, in specific sequences and across your content library:
- Subject lines
- Calls to action
- Assets (links, graphics, etc.)
- Value propositions
- Sign offs
Sales execution platforms offer functionality to build A/B testing into each sequence and cadence you create. Once a critical mass of sends has been reached, it will share the results of that test–determining a clear winner–so you can learn what worked best.
We recommend taking advantage of these features and allowing your sales execution platform to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Just make sure, as you’re setting it up, that you write a clear hypothesis, isolate your variables, and send enough prospects through it to be confident in your lessons learned.
If you’re not sure how to set up scientific A/B testing, which will help you to draw credible conclusions, we’re happy to help.
Sales execution platforms automatically track email opens and, if you enable this feature, clicks. This data can be compared between reps on the same team to see whose custom emails are resonating most, shared templates to see which messages are working best, and sequences to see which overall sales plays have the highest aggregate open and click rates.
This data is invaluable for a number of purposes:
- Evaluating which content is soliciting the most engagement.
- Pinpointing which prospects are interested in your content, even if they aren’t replying. (Hint: Call these people!)
- Determining which content assets (case studies, landing pages, videos, etc.) your audiences are most interested in.
With these lessons learned, you can pinpoint the sequences, templates, and content assets which are leading to the most engagement and booked meetings. When you move your teams to those winning plays, you scale what would have once been isolated success to everyone on your team.
As you continue to refine and iterate on those best practices, you begin to build the predictability you need to know that, if your sales goal is X, then you need to send Y prospects through the winning sequences to see the target number of booked meetings and, ultimately, closed/won opportunities.
Visibility into rep activity and performance
We’ve covered the ways built-in tracking and reporting can help to refine your most effective sales plays. However, there is also a human element, which you must factor into your overall sales execution strategy.
Even with shared sales plays or sequences, and identical quotas, reps will work and perform differently. At Greaser, we are advocates, within the boundaries of “what works,” for rep creativity and individualization. Determining those boundaries can be difficult, but it’s essential not only to your team’s success but also to rep satisfaction and quality of life.
That’s why we are passionate about making sure sales leaders know how to use the reporting tools which are available in sales execution platforms. These tools offer an unprecedented amount of visibility into the activity levels and performance of each rep. Once reps have learned how to do the job, and what “good” looks like, you can start to give them more freedom.
Where to set the bar
Beyond the countless coaching and management benefits of this data, there is another less obvious application: the law of averages.
You have reps on your team who are superstars, but their pace and tenacity is just not replicable. They send emails at 3:00 AM, work Saturdays, and book demos on vacation. Maybe this is how they choose to work, but you can’t expect that from everyone on your team; if you tried, they would quit.
You also have reps on your team who are consistent under-performers, dialing less, sending fewer emails, and booking fewer meetings. It’s important to note these trends and consider these folks outliers who likely need coaching to get where you need them to be. If you don’t, you might toss out a perfectly good sequence that, in the hands of a more tenacious or experienced rep, could be more successful.
So our recommendation is to watch the average reps on your team, or the middle of your bell curve, to see what sales plays and workflows are likely going to be adopted by most of your reps. If you push them to keep pace with your “curve breaker,” you may have a revolt on your hands. On the other hand, if you pace sequences or cadences for the reps who need more coaching, you will slow everyone down.
You will know you have found your groove when, over time, the number of calls placed, emails sent, and other activity indicators start to match across your team. As with the strategic alignment discussed above, consistent rep activity will contribute to greater levels of predictability.
Enablement drives the adoption you need to scale
To achieve the predictability you’re looking for, you need to take it one step further, aligning your sales execution strategy with a complementary enablement motion. You can have the best sales plays in the world, but they are only valuable if they’re consistently utilized.
We work with a lot of teams which come to us because they get stuck here, with reps who are either too competitive, independent, or skeptical to adopt technology and/or tactics into which their leaders have made significant investments.
These teams, and all other sales teams out there, need a strong enablement strategy to encourage the adoption it takes to scale the best sales plays and technology and, by consequence, their successful outcomes.
Without a strong enablement function, sales reps will not understand new tools and tactics or feel comfortable using them. The key is to not only educate them about the resources you want them to use, but also to configure your tools and tactics to suit their needs. If their peers or managers haven’t been involved in the formulation stages, then good training alone is likely to be unsuccessful.
Because sales enablement is multi-faceted, and can take many forms, we’ve broken it down into three stages: preparation, rollout, and continuous enablement. All three stages must be present in order to unlock predictable engagement and, consequently, revenue.
Stage 1: Preparation
You probably wouldn’t order carpeting without measuring the room. Regardless, many sales teams try to launch sales execution platforms, new content, and new salesplays without “preparing the room” with their sales reps and managers. The end result is usually an expensive investment that just doesn’t “fit.”
That’s why we will always recommend involving sales reps (and their managers) in any process, whether buying a tool or writing content, as early as possible. Learn what their pain points are, how they would like to address them, and how they’re currently doing their jobs without that solution. Good content, solutions, and salesplays don’t come from thin air; they come from the people who know most about how those assets would be used.
Practically, this often looks like putting together a diverse working group of reps (remember, it’s often best to choose average performers) and managers who you’ll consult for input on tools purchases, content creation and revision, sequence or cadence building, and any other major decisions, pivots, or rollouts. You’ll not only create organic champions, but you’ll also make sure the solution you want to implement will work.
Here are a few things you’ll want to learn from them:
- What information they need to know about each prospect. This data will need to flow seamlessly from one tool to another.
- Their current workflows, including how they use existing tools, what they do manually, how they spend their time, and what they wish they could change.
- How they write or obtain their sales content, what “voice” and tone they are comfortable with, what they do and don’t like about the content they currently use, and how much input they would like to have.
- What hesitations they have about whatever solutions you’re about to implement. You will want to address these concerns before you launch.
- And, from managers only, you will want to learn what visibility gaps prevent them from coaching their teams and predicting their results.
You can then apply these insights to inform what you prioritize in your rollout.
Stage 2: Rollout
Rollouts are important not only for launching new tools but also for any other significant changes, updates, or offerings. A good rollout will look different for each team, but we recommend the following components:
- A series of hands-on trainings, which build off of one another, and offer participants the opportunity to get in and use the tool, try what you’re teaching, read content themselves, and ask a lot of questions.
- A combination of eLearning and live sessions to account for different learning styles and for ease of scheduling.
- Quick and easy homework assignments which need to be completed between each training session.
- Thorough and accessible documentation in the form of a playbook, handbook, or guide that offers step by step instructions.
- Clear expectations and deadlines, which are understood and enforced by management and leadership.
To elaborate, if you don’t set the expectation that everyone will be using new tools, content, or strategies by a certain date–and leaders are not reinforcing the necessity of that change–then it likely won’t happen. Additionally, sales professionals are typically motivated by performance evaluations and rewards. Tying adoption to these performance goals, showing how the new solution or content will help them achieve all of their other goals, is often successful.
Stage 3: Continuous enablement
Too many teams stop after a rollout, expecting that teams will magically take an initial training or two and hit the ground running. However, the reality of adult learning is that, in order for concepts to stick, you have to frequently refresh and revisit.
Continuous enablement strategies may include components like:
- A regular email update, newsletter, or other written form of communication that explains updates, changes, and highlights.
- A calendar of trainings, Q&A sessions, and working groups for people to jump in and solve problems or learn new solutions.
- A series of new content launches, which showcase and explain how to best utilize newly-written content.
- A system to recognize and reward the sales professionals on your team who are adopting new tools and strategies, and are seeing positive results.
- A learning management system with training recordings, how-to documents, Q&As, content glossaries, and other self-service resources reps can use, as needed.
In order to refine your long-term enablement strategy, you will likely need to experiment with a number of the above strategies until you find the right formula for your team. However, it’s true for all teams that enablement is a continuous process. Don’t give up on your reps, and they will be a lot less likely to give up on you.
Putting it together
To sum it up, your team will be the most successful when you provide both the right tools and training resources to prepare everyone with the best possible foundation. Leveraging a sales execution platform is the best way, to date, to learn what is working and how to scale it across your team. A strong accompanying enablement strategy makes it possible for your team to act on those best practices and unlock the full potential of a predictable revenue strategy.
Our team of sales execution and enablement experts is on hand to help with any aspect of this process; reach out with any questions or challenges, and we’ll be glad to help.
Or, if you’d like to learn more and apply it as you go, then you can sign up for our email list for more tips and insights.