can be particularly effective, as it gives members of the sales team the recognition and motivation to complete learning, prospecting, and forecasting activities, which do not usually have financial incentives attached.
Stakenas has seen an uptick in emphasis on coaching, noting that at this year's Dreamforce conference, the term was a hot topic. In his view, it's been a long time coming. Before joining Gartner, Stakenas, a longtime salesperson, founded the sales analytics and coaching company ForceLogix, which was acquired by Callidus in 2011. He sees coaching as a real way for a company to increase its bottom line by moving middle performers up. "Traditionally, you take a sales group, and two or three people are killing it in a group of ten sales reps. The middle sixty percent is always kind of getting there, and the bottom is new hires and chronic underperformers." Coaching targets that middle group. If the top salesperson leaves, "the sales manager is doomed," Stakenas says. Having a strong middle prevents an overreliance on a few strong outliers.
Sales training that used to take place in the classroom is now moving online with software-based coaching tools. Stakenas calls out The TAS Group, which was "a classroom setting training company, and they've taken it three steps further and incorporated selling methodology inside of the [Salesforce.com] platform." Another company, Axiom Sales Force Development, is also built on the Salesforce.com platform, and marries an online learning library with coaching that can be completed during gaps in a day, instead of through week-long trainings that take large chunks of time and are quickly forgotten.
While ICM can be a great tool to entice salespeople to meet their numbers, gamification may be the key to motivating salespeople to expand their knowledge base. Salespeople are influenced by money, but experts advise that recognition can be a powerful motivator as well. Since coaching isn't revenue-generating, there might be opportunities for organizations to reward learning with badges and expert status rather than bonuses.
Today, business buyers are sharing information about companies with each other, creating a well-informed buyer who has already heard from friends, social networks, and online reviews about a company's product. Sales teams, in contrast, often struggle even to share information internally.
"What is different today is the empowered buyer," notes Joe Galvin, the chief research officer for Miller Heiman. The question is "How do sales reps today achieve a knowledge advantage based on a customer who has a broader, deeper information base? From a management standpoint, that means you have to be able to leverage technology tools available to you to drive collaboration among sales reps so you can maintain the focus on the customer," he advises. Products from companies such as Savo and Qvidian provide collaborative capabilities, such as insights for sales managers, sales playbooks, and solutions for team selling. For smaller companies that want to share presentation assets and monitor their use, there are a host of smaller presentation tools, such as Clearslide and Brainshark, to help sales reps communicate with prospects.
The content analytics in collaboration tools enable reps and managers alike to monitor who views a presentation, how often, and what parts are holding their attention. Brainshark, which allows reps to create slideshows with audio narration, captures the screening behavior of prospective clients, which can help managers analyze the engagement of leads with the content as they travel down the sales pipeline. As a deal nears closing, those details can be particularly valuable. Knowing that a prospect scheduled to close next week still hasn't viewed the terms and conditions is a red flag that the sales manager can go and investigate.
The reporting on sales enablement tools is really only a bonus to their main purpose, to "drive consistency and repeatability," Eidle emphasizes. By ensuring everyone is working using the same messaging, these tools can reinforce principles that sales managers want their reps to focus on.
Traditionally, sales managers track performance by spending time riding alongside sales representatives during their calls. From sitting in on meetings, managers monitor effectiveness, coach a rep, or maybe help out with a particularly challenging client. Today, implementing mobile solutions for field sales reps enables managers to keep closer tabs on reports and encourages them to adopt best practices, augmenting the insight that comes from in-person integrations.
These tools can also help sales managers who may have more responsibilities and people to manage. "More than ever, sales managers are stretched to the limit. No longer do they have time to babysit," Eidle