In the pre-pandemic environment, selling and sales leadership were comfortable and relatively predictable. As the new reality took over, the quick scramble was on to embrace the virtual necessity. The result of moving into a virtual environment has been “Zoom fatigue,” disengagement, and reduced skill mastery and results for many.
As sales leaders quickly adapted their selling approach to virtual, they worked to leverage the technology, but missed several strategic points. The focus quickly became a tactical and short-sighted approach to adapting a new sales model. It reinforced potentially outdated competency skill sets. In other words, sales leaders simply embraced a technology fix and married it to skills that may not be appropriate or effective in the new reality.
The present reality is that we are never going back to a purely pre-pandemic sales and sales leadership practice, but rather, we will embark on a hybrid model that embraces both in-person and virtual skills. Because this model involves new and existing skills, strategic modifications will need to be made. Sales leaders and their teams are the end users and beneficiaries of sales training and approaches to competency development. They will need to become far more active in embracing new developments in curriculum and seeking to partner with their Learning and Development organizations.
Those developing and delivering sales training should pause and reflect on how they are going to design and measure the critical outcomes for their audience as well. While most of the emphasis will be placed on developing competencies within the sales teams, sales leaders will also need to embrace new skills and leadership competencies. You cannot effectively lead your teams from the front into new territory by just adapting old techniques and ignoring the development of new skills that are more effective.
When evaluating the new skills and competencies that will be required to win in the new reality, it is critical that the new model considers Go-to-Market Strategies (GTMS), sales culture, willingness, and lastly, competencies. It is much more involved with scientific methodology that ultimately requires more front-end due diligence.
The organizational danger is professionals who train salespeople will blend their existing in-person curriculum with a virtual approach. Much of this modification will be driven by outdated assessments that only focus on competencies. The world has changed and so has the need for a more insightful assessment strategy.
Competencies are expressed differently according to the GTMS sales leaders must embrace. The term “solution selling” is not representative of what must happen in the field. It has become a catch-all phrase that simply differentiates from transactional selling. If new training does not recognize this difference, funds will be wasted, and skill development will be fragmented and ineffective.
Then there is culture. Creating a training experience that runs counter to culture quickly results in disaster and rejection.
When measuring sales teams, consideration must be given to willingness. Just because someone can learn and deploy a skill does not mean they actually want to. Sales leaders must become very aware of this. One cannot assume training means automatic improvement.
Embracing this new hybrid reality means embracing new approaches. It starts with a strategic assessment of your sales teams. Take that further by assessing the team’s GTMS, culture, and willingness to change. Adopting these approaches will result in a superior curriculum, better engagement and adoption, and improved revenue, margin, win-rate, and pipeline.
Identify what you believe the critical differences are between your top performers and those that may be falling behind. Pinpoint what key skills / competencies are missing or need improvement. Select the top three that could be improved and collaborate with your people on a development plan.