Digital Sales Enablement

Learning behaviours change but the need for knowledge in sales is greater than ever

Robin Griffiths

In this series of posts I’m going to explore some of the key developments in Sales, which currently exercise the minds of sales leaders, CMOs, product managers and business leaders – and discuss possible solutions. I’ll start in this post with ‘Changed learning behaviours’ and in subsequent blogs we’ll look at:

  • Information overload and digital sales playbooks
  • Selling is a team sport
  • The much vaunted demise of PowerPoint to support customer conversations
  • Spiralling budgets for digital sales resources

The way people learn is changing

Sales people won’t take classroom training or do eLearning any more. What’s happened?

It appears in an age where we can ‘google’ to find out how to do something or watch a video on YouTube, many of us have lost the habit of reading through materials to accumulate and store knowledge.

The preference now is to search for bite sized pieces of knowledge when we need it, consume that information there and then, and perform the task.

Sales people are no different. In fact, many of them are at the extreme end of the ‘spend less time learning and more time doing’ spectrum!

Customers expect more from their conversations with sales people

But here’s the problem. These days, as everyone knows, before you get your first conversation with a buyer, he or she has done loads of research using the Web. Start searching for a solution to a business problem and very soon your inbox will be awash with white papers and free ‘how to guides’ from vendors.

As a result, when a buyer is finally ready to talk to a sales person, they now expect much more from the conversation. They expect sales people to know about companies like theirs and the markets they operate in. Buyers want to learn something useful from the sales person about their situation, options for addressing the challenges they face, how other companies like theirs have adopted new approaches or technology, etc.

Need for knowledge has never been greater – but how?

So the need for sales people to have deep knowledge of customers and how to solve their problems has never been greater.

But how do we get that knowledge into the heads of sales people as they prepare for their next call or meeting with a customer, if they won’t read materials and store knowledge?

Just-in-time learning and sales playbooks

What if we could give salespeople access to relevant learning, on-demand when it’s needed? Some people are calling this ‘just-in-time learning’.

One form of just-in-time learning that’s been around for a number of years is ‘guided selling’, usually delivered in the form of a ’sales playbook’.

Sales playbooks are designed to equip sales people with the critical chunks of knowledge they need to successfully interact with customers at different points along the sale. They are typically organised by stage in the sales process, making it easy for sales people to access just-in-time learning for the call, meeting or communication they are focused on now.

There’s a critical distinction to be made here. Some playbooks just articulate a way of selling (sales methodology). What I’m talking about here is a sales playbook that combines guidance on what you’re meant to be doing at a particular point in the sales process with what you should know about the typical customer, their challenges, questions to ask, how to position your company and products etc.

If you want to see what one of these just-in-time learning, sales playbooks looks like and how you build one, I’m going to be running a series of Webinars on this later in the summer – ping me on LinkedIn or via the BPM website if you’re interested in joining one of these.

What about digital?

Traditionally, sales playbooks have been delivered as PDF documents but the arrival of HTML5 has spawned a new generation of ‘digital sales playbook’ that delivers a far more engaging experience including on screen filtering of content, video, interactive tools to help you prepare for meetings and calls, etc.

Next week: Solving information overload with digital sales playbooks…

Robin Griffiths

Specialist in proposition development and creator of the Proposition Mapping™ methodology. Robin's career includes Founder and CEO of Force12 Software, and Director of Cambridge Consulting Engineers.