Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers states that it takes approximately 10 years of deliberate practice to become an expert in something. Let that sink in; It takes us 10,000 hours or 3,650 days of learning, practice, feedback, and coaching to become masters in our crafts.
And, if you’re trying to become an expert in an industry that’s constantly changing, like sales, it takes a lot of dedication and focus to be the best seller possible. There are plenty of skills, best practices, and cutting-edge strategies that sales pros have to stay on top of. And, that’s quite a challenge.
So, how can organizations create a sales ready workforce? And, how can leaders ensure that sales reps are performing at “expert status,” as often as possible? In short, the answer can be boiled down to two words: Sales readiness.
But first, a quick refresher on sales readiness
Not to be confused with sales enablement, sales readiness ensures that sales reps have the skills and knowledge they need to be an effective (or expert) seller throughout the entire sales cycle. It includes continuous sales training programs, intentional practice, and purposeful coaching for every sales team member. Here at Lessonly, we like to say that sales readiness helps sales reps close bigger and better deals.
When it comes to sales readiness, there are four critical phases, or pillars, that prepare sales reps for their jobs. Let’s take a closer look at each pillar to see how they help organizations create expert sellers.
1. Deliver essential knowledge with foundational readiness
As Malcom Gladwell mentioned, experts don’t become experts overnight. First, they learn basic information and skills, and then build off of those over time. This is why the first pillar of sales readiness, known as foundational readiness, is extremely important.
Foundational readiness focuses on creating an effective onboarding plan for every role within a sales team. The goal is to accelerate a new rep’s time to productivity and improve knowledge retention. Foundational readiness is key to creating more informed reps and developing critical skills that are tied to specific sales activities.
Pragmatic Institute shares a great example to fully understand the importance of foundational readiness. If new reps need to start making calls to prospects within two weeks of joining the company, their onboarding plan should focus on essential skills and knowledge they need to carry out that specific task. So, they’d receive sales resources around product and service knowledge, effective communication, listening skills, and mastering an elevator pitch. Then, sales leaders and trainers can use a sales readiness assessment to ensure that reps have mastered those onboarding skills before moving to the next phase of skills and activities.
2. Prepare reps for every situation with continuous readiness
Experts know how to adjust and respond to unexpected and unique situations. That’s why the goal of the second pillar, continuous readiness, is to make sure reps are ready for each and every interaction they have with prospects and buyers during the sales process.
Continuous, or ongoing readiness, includes proactive learning to reps at regular intervals. And, the best sales organizations use online sales training platforms and other sales readiness tools to deliver bite-size training lessons that highlight topics like new products and services. The goal of this phase is to ensure that reps don’t only complete a training lesson, but that they also show an understanding of the new information or skill. In fact, true sales experts know how to apply newly learned information to their daily tasks and responsibilities time and time again.
3. Empower reps during change with transformational readiness
Experts also know how to manage and respond to large (and sometimes unexpected) changes, which is why the third pillar of sales readiness, transformational readiness, reboards an entire workforce when change takes place. Transformation readiness is also known as change management because it empowers reps to understand and navigate changes so they can update their skills or knowledge accordingly.
This comes into play when sales teams need to fundamentally change the way they communicate with a buyer or customer because reps no longer feel confident during conversations. Don’t forget that even expert-level reps need transformational readiness. That’s because everyone needs to build upon their knowledge and get updates on process changes, messaging, product updates, and more to stay successful in an ever-changing industry. Transformational readiness can also take a lot of time and effort to get reps sales ready, so consider using a sales readiness checklist to ensure that everyone receives the enablement, coaching, and education they need.
4. Keep reps in the know with reactive readiness
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Sales is ever-changing. Reps need to be ready to pivot in a matter of minutes if something big happens. This includes things like a merger, competitor or marketplace change, or world-wide pandemic that could change the state of the sales organization.
That’s why the final stage of sales readiness is reactive readiness. Speed is critical in this stage, and reactive readiness creates and delivers reps consistent messaging quickly so they can provide correct and on-brand information to customers and buyers. This also when sales readiness software proves to be extremely beneficial, as it makes it easy to create and deliver updated communication at scale.
Sales readiness prepares and empowers reps to address whatever comes their way and do Better Work. So, while Malcom Gladwell said it takes 10 years to become an expert, we believe any organization will be well on their way to helping sales reps become tried and true experts with these four pillars of sales readiness in way less time. At the end of the day, sales readiness prepares and empowers reps to tackle whatever comes their way—and to close deals while they do it.