Showtime18 kicked off Wednesday at the Ghelamco Arena in Ghent with an impressive data point: 350 people from all over the world were in attendance, a number expected to increase to 500 people Thursday.
“We decided to think bigger and to go bigger,” Showpad CEO and co-founder Pieterjan Bouten told the audience. Wednesday’s agenda focused on thought leadership, inspirational content, and a broader perspective on selling.
Peter Ostrow embodied all three qualities. As the senior research director of sales enablement strategies of SiriusDecisions, a U.S. research firm, he told the audience his passion was “driving the B2B sales experience.” His talk, titled “How B2B Buyers Are Redefining Sales Enablement,” used primary research to show inherent challenges for sales reps regarding how they spend their time. For example, he showed that reps are spending far too much time solving customer issues with content — six times more than should be necessary. It’s a problem that could lead to difficulties keeping high-performing reps.
“Who is going to address gaps that represent the difficulties retaining great sellers?” he asked.
Companies that spend time and resources focused on the buyer journey are well served by using the same dynamic toward recruiting talented sales reps and getting them to thrive. One way was to focus on what he called the “sales talent life cycle” — a holistic way to think about optimizing talent that will directly lead to positive sales results.
“The most important thing you can be doing is connecting the dots between hiring, the ramping up, and the long-time support of reps is thinking about competencies – the skill knowledge that reps need to have in hand in order to do their jobs at peak capacity,” he said.
It first starts with defining those competencies. Direct managers should be part of the recruitment and interview processes. Onboarding needs to transform into an active learning experience about both the market and product or service. “Look at onboarding through the lens of the buyer,” he said. “The internal customer is your seller.”
It starts with understanding how reps learn. Younger reps from the Millennial generation learn differently than their older peers, he noted. While older generations are conditioned to absorb information in a traditional lecture format, Millennials are much more focused on collaborative learning where breakout teams are standard.
The key for companies is ABC – “Always Be Listening.” As organizations increase the energy they put into gaining insights from buyers, they need to do the same with their sellers. Here, sales enablement technology can help serve as a conduit for internal insights, too.
“Make sure there’s a written charter for your sales organization that your senior executives have bought into,” Ostrow said. Also make sure, he added, that everyone is on board agreeing “how can we get it done.”
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