Critical First Step: Leadership Communication Plan

When sales enablement, marketing or sales leadership decide to roll out a skills and competency-based training program, they often overlook a critical first step. They will typically reverse-engineer time periods where sellers are best suited for learning, such as the summer months, down times between quarters, or in preparation for Q4. They execute training programs in August, September, and October to prepare for the heavy sell season of November and December.

However, what is often neglected is how to get the leaders – sales, marketing, sales enablement, and operation leaders, and the sales community all together to understand their roles and responsibilities are, the expected outcomes of programs, and how well they coach to drive accountability programs.

Communication is critical to success – that’s why these companies focus on town halls, business reviews, and annual sales kickoffs. It doesn’t naturally trickle down from a couple of emails, or because you have a Slack channel. You need to realize that everyone is at a different stage in their knowledge base of how and why they should do this, and what are next steps? So you need to develop a strategy of how you are going to communicate this training program to everyone.

Here are a couple of screenshots below that are examples of what best-in-class customers have done to make sure that communication plan is effective.

Organizations like those above recognize that most great communicative companies have a central nervous system – a central repository for all things learning in their business. That doesn’t have to be an internal management system. It could be an internal microsite where people come together as a hive for communication.  Companies like Microsoft have created a hub that had videos, coaching guides, point systems, and leader boards for success.

One of our customers in Germany is doing interviews with leaders to communicate the importance of this around the world. Others have had messages from the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO).

It’s critical that you think through and reverse-engineer the pitfalls, challenges and objections you’ll get in launching this program – and you want to devise a communication plan that tackles these objections and questions, and ultimately debunks myths.

Use this as an opportunity to deflate people’s negativity about the program in advance, by sharing facts and empirical evidence that this can work.


Mission 100%: Learning Is The Ultimate Leading Indicator To Success

It’s interesting that as you grow and evolve in business, you see in hindsight mistakes in the way you communicated the value proposition of your product or service. And I confess that I made a giant mistake in the way I boasted about our certification process. Let me first explain the process, then the mistake I made.

To become certified in Social Selling Mastery (now Digital Sales Mastery) every sales pro needs to create an opportunity. They then need to document that opportunity in a PowerPoint template, and serve up a 5-to-7-minute story recorded on video that they will present to their leadership as a credible opportunity. The benefit of this approach is you’re hyper-scaling pipeline creation because you’re forcing adoption through action – that’s fantastic!

However, my mistake was when I was asked by senior sales and marketing leaders about the certification process, I would often boast that because it’s so outcome driven, very few customers around the world would have 100% certification. And that’s true – some sellers quit, some just can’t execute, and ultimately that leads to most companies having only 70-80% of their sellers become certified.

In the past, I used this as a boating metric to tell people “this isn’t a walk in the park, this is real prospecting.” But while I agree that the accountability measures are still fantastic, it was the wrong way to look at the problem. Since our ultimate goal is forced pipeline creation through accountability to action, we’ve started to reframe the problem, and have started calling it Mission 100%. Those willing to learn and apply those skills in market will create more sales pipeline than their previous selves, their peers, and eventually their competition.

One of our customers, CA Technologies (see the screenshot below), proved that sellers who became certified created 38% more revenue and 55% more pipeline than their peers that didn’t become certified.

It behooves us as partners to do whatever we can to work with the smallest sellers in the organization, the sellers that are struggling, those that are weak. Those are often C and D players, but if we can get them to create sales pipeline, look at the impact that has – as naturally as the B+ and A players, they will get there.

Learning is the ultimate leading indicator of success. One of the things we’re really focusing on is to ensure that learning is translated properly to the learner in the way they want to learn – whether asynchronous (meaning learning on their own with e- learning or with virtual coaching), or if they want synchronous learning in a virtual classroom, with people all together in a workshop – we need to give them the tools and concepts that will be effective for them.

I write this blog because as you grow a business, you evolve and reframe your thinking – not just here at Sales For Life, but you as leaders need to take responsibility to either make sure everyone on your team gets and applies concepts, or you have to cut them off your team. Don’t let them dangle because you need a warm body in a territory – you need people who can apply new skills immediately after deployment.


Leadership Training Has Gone From: Nice To Have, To Absolutely Critical

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a podcast. It was talking to sales leaders, discussing how leadership development has moved into a critical state. In most companies, too many sales leaders are new to their role – and fresh to management. The company has spent a lot of time, money, and energy on sales plans, processes, and methodologies, but they’ve never taken the same rigor to develop coaching methodologies, processes, and sales plays that sales leaders are responsible for driving accountability towards.

Sales leaders typically have an ad hoc process to running their one-on-one’s; they aren’t keeping the same data points and KPIs, and measuring against it at the same rigor. So to use a sports analogy, you’ve spent all this time telling the players on the field what to do, but the coaches don’t understand what good looks like – the players are running plays, but if you’re not scoring touchdowns, you can’t figure out where in the coaching process the playbook’s falling apart.

There’s no question that in the last year companies have been asking us about leadership development. In fact, I was just on a call with a customer who has now engaged us for three years to design, build, implement, reinforce, and enable a global, digital sales coaching program, that will be built right into the very fabric of how the leaders will drive accountability, run their one-on-one’s, ask questions, and how they’re going to measure.

This stems primarily from a fundamental question or problem we’ve been hearing on our coaching calls, which is that the coaches, the sales leaders, don’t understand two things:

1) What is an effective prospecting sales play that the sales person doesn’t already know?
How can the coach and leader add value to the seller’s life? Instead of being an administrator who simply captures data and puts it into the CRM – basically being “big brother” – they can ask questions like a mentor, to get the seller to think boldly and differently. They can get the seller to think and question their own process, and ultimately the coach will provide ideas on a prospecting sales play that the seller doesn’t already know, which the seller will greatly appreciate.

2) Most sellers are weak at prospecting, and lack the confidence to address the C-level buyer.
Sellers are going into accounts too low on the organizational charts, too afraid to engage the C-suite. The coach isn’t providing unique and valuable insights on how to do this, because the coach came from a world of sales plays that was “pick up the phone and call them.” But that’s how the playbook was run in the 1990s, not in 2020. They don’t know how to socially surround the buyer looking for key insights, how to engage the buyer using video or LinkedIn emails effectively, and the average coach hasn’t prospected in the modern, digital buying era.

My prediction: you’re going to see more and more companies spend a lot of time, money, and energy developing frontline sales managers. I predict in the 2020s, there’s going to be a surge in developing those leaders because companies will no longer allow those leaders to run old, tired playbooks.