The Silicon Review
Sales Readiness is a topic that gains in importance when major shifts in the economy start to appear. But even in normal times, when an organization’s sales start to plateau or shrink, it’s one of the first places senior sales executives and CEOs look to make sure that they can survive and thrive in the months ahead. Sales Readiness is a continuous state of excellence to grow revenue by using a suite of tools and processes to increase knowledge, enhance performance, and adapt to change. It is also a measure of a sales team’s ability to ‘pivot’ quickly to take advantage of a major shift in the marketplace or to react to other outside forces.
Sometimes a disruption occurs from unexpected competition, but the most foreboding is when a major shift in the economy is being predicted. In a recent PwC survey of 722 U.S. executives in early August, 50% of employers expect job cuts, while 52% expect to institute a hiring freeze, and 44% are expecting to rescind job offers.
With that as a backdrop, The Silicon Review searched the market for new sales enablement solutions that might help teams minimize the recession’s impact on their organization. One that stood out right away was a sales readiness product that was a joint effort between two top-tier technology and sales performance companies: Mindtickle and Baker Communications (BCI).
This sales readiness product, referred to as Fuel™ internally, is unique because it trades opinion for data to help teams navigate these changing waters. “Two of the key problems faced by all sales teams are high turnover and less than half the team making their quotas,” commented Joe DiDonato, BCI’s Chief of Staff. “Most sales executives are having to replace one-third or more of their staff each year and as a result they have to rely on a handful of sellers to make up the difference when it comes to quota achievement,” DiDonato went on to say.
Before the onset of the pending recession, the jointly developed product was designed to use seller assessments of strengths and weaknesses to attack the dual problems of low quota attainment and high turnover. The number of sellers making quota before the recession was estimated at 43% by industry experts, while the average turnover in sales topped 34%, with some companies experiencing turnover rates as high at 50-55%. In a competition that has no second-place winners; low win rates can be devastating for a company. Having to train and re-introduce over one-third of your sales team into your customer base each year only adds to the problem – including the lost opportunity that occurs during the average 6.2 months’ time it takes to replace a $1 million performer.
“The bigger issue that these problems create is the team’s overall sales readiness; enabling every customer-facing moment to be one that is adding value or driving revenue even in an uncertain environment,” Gopkiran Rao, the Chief Strategy Officer at Mindtickle went on to say. “When 34% of your team is brand new and 53% of your team isn’t making quota, you’re left with 13% of the team to carry the bulk of the quota load. Add a looming recession that will require a quick pivot for a company, and you can see our joint concern over a sales team’s overall readiness to respond to this kind of shift in the marketplace.”
How the Product Works
Conceptually, the product finds skill gaps from assessing all the team members – as well as new hires – and then matches those skill gaps to training or coaching solutions. In the process, the product helps create personalized training and coaching paths for every seller and sales manager on the team. And by personalizing these learning and coaching paths, the system trades days of training time for only the few hours necessary to close an individual’s specific skill gaps.
Between sellers, sales managers, and sales leaders, the system looks at 52 core competencies, with each containing multiple attributes that make up that competency. From there the system looks at the skill gaps for every individual on the team and lays out individual learning and coaching paths for every team member.
Once those gaps are stored, Sales Executives and Sales Enablement can begin to visualize the overall readiness of the team. They can also see if progress is being made.
Once these teams have these plans laid out, the next task is to conduct the training. If there’s enough people with the same skill gap to create a training event virtually or in-person, then they can easily set that up. But when that’s not an option because of time zones and locations, Fuel™ can deliver the content individually, any time and any where it’s needed.
Q. What about Economy Changes?
That’s where we think the system can offer additional value. There are 3 key competencies that a company usually must “beef up” going into a recession because of hiring freezes, spending freezes, and cutbacks in spending.
One of the most important is “the ability to get to decision-makers.” If the reason for that isn’t obvious, then consider that when there is a spending freeze in place, there are only a handful of executives that can make an exception to that freeze. And those are the key decision-makers in the customer’s organization. Finding a way to that individual needs to top the list of training and coaching venues.
Second in importance is “consultative selling.” This is the ability to ask more and more questions to get at the real problems that your customer is trying to solve. They may think they want a long-handled shovel when they come into your store, but unless your sellers find out that what the customer was really trying to do was to fence in a garden to protect it from pests and rabbits, your sale is going to be more transactional in value.
You could just sell that customer a shovel, or better yet, by listening, you could also sell that customer fencing material, a post-hole digger to save time, and lumber to build an elevated garden box. Turning a simple transaction into a valuable solution that will save a customer time and money will produce a lot more revenue in a time when revenue is challenged.
Next on the list is “selling value.” And we’re not talking about the company’s value proposition. What we’re saying is the ability to put together a solution once you know the customer’s true needs, and then being able to show them the value in terms of better outcomes or significant time savings.
Using the shovel versus garden example, the salesperson needs to show that using a similarly priced post-hole digger would save a lot of time by getting to the proper depth without having to dig out a larger diameter hole. Perhaps the customer was going to put up a stockade fence to battle the garden pests but at the same time, it would block their view of the garden. Showing that customer how to configure a split rail fence with rabbit fencing attached would be a much better solution.
But beyond these 3 key competencies, there are going to be other coachable skill gaps, such as the seller having a “supportive buying cycle.” As an example, if a seller requires a lot of research before making a large purchase, like a car, then that seller is going to be ‘okay’ with a customer saying that they needed to do more research. On the other hand, a seller that se es that as a ‘stall’ will push back on that and keep the deal moving along. During a recession, they are going to hear similar reasons for not moving forward and may even look internally and see that what the customer is talking about is true at their own company. That will not help either company.
Our Choice for Best Sales Readiness Tool of 2022
For all the above reasons, The Silicon Review chooses Fuel™ as the best new product to help sales teams weather the upcoming recession, as well as more effectively train and coach existing sales staffs. With a 91% predictive validity, the switching of opinion to data-based decision making just makes sense. Congratulations to Mindtickle and Baker Communications on this great new addition to the portfolio of sales teams around the world.