Marc Benioff’s Secret for Every One of Your Sales Reps

Marc_BenioffMarc Benioff pioneered an industry, built Salesforce.com into a $50B company, and plays host to Dreamforce – the biggest Mardi Gras style party for cloud computing in the world.

So when the world descends on San Francisco for one week each September, Marc gets on stage to deliver a three-hour keynote…and always does it flawlessly. Now that’s impressive.

But Marc has an advantage. In a tip recently shared by Business Insider, the secret weapon was revealed: he practices every presentation he gives 7 times.

7 times. That number seems awfully familiar.

As it turns out, reps in CommercialTribe are practicing just about as often as Marc. While we can’t all have the discipline of Benioff, CommercialTribe brings Benioff-like accountability to the craft of stellar presentation delivery.

What happens when people practice 7 times? We call it learning the sheet music, so you can go play improvisational jazz. And whether it’s a 3-hour keynote or an hour-long sales meeting, we all have to be ready to go on stage.

It is not news that practicing as many times as possible aligns closely with one’s ability to effectively master content. What may be surprising is that the technique works with any content and at any scale. While sales reps are finding success in practicing 2-minute messages 7 times, public speakers are achieving the same results with 2-3 hour sessions.

Want your reps to be like Marc? Build a process for disciplined practice.

Oh, and Marc – if you’re out there: next time you want to rehearse your presentation, just give us a call – we’ll keep a login open for you.

Efficiency vs Efficacy in Sales Training

Among the many casualties of the financial crisis of 2008, the economy suffered a loss of jobs. “Do more with less” became the unfortunate mandate from senior management. And you know what? We did.

Across the next few years, we experienced what many call the “jobless recovery,” where most of the jobs lost were never backfilled. Reason being, we drove automation across core business processes – simply put, we “SaaSified” many of the processes already existing across business functions.

Sales teams saw the SaaSification of business processes become mainstream, enabling the “do more with less” mandate across the organization. For the first time, we saw the robust sales technology stack as a way to improve overall rep efficiency. A full suite of productivity-oriented tools began to dominate the marketplace, including CRM (Salesforce.com), Marketing Automation (HubSpot), Sales Compensation (Xactly), Email Management (ToutApp), and many others.

As with all productivity tools, over time, return erodes as features become more ingrained. A great example is the original Blackberry – now that everybody has a cell phone, the “improvement” to productivity is lost. Early productivity gains give way to ubiquitous adoption, which becomes the new reality. The result is diminishing returns on the original improvement to performance, and a lack of improvement to overall efficacy.

sales efficiency_productivity

Leading economists have suggested that the productivity boost trend lines seen in this tool stack will fall over time. Tools that would once deliver a 15 to 20% improvement in productivity are now forecasted to offer only an 8-10% increase. Paradoxically, we goal sales organizations out at a 10-20% improvement on quota year over year. Said differently, our productivity investments will not necessarily enable us to achieve – and overachieve – our assigned quota expectations. This leaves us with only one or two feasible options:

  1. Hire more reps
  2. Make existing reps better…or drive their efficacy

In either case, you will inevitably find yourself having to train and enable your team, and you will do this over three key events: Onboarding, Upskilling, and Product/Service Introduction.

If you look at any of those events – we’ll take onboarding as an example – you should ask yourself a question: if you had to grade your onboarding process today, what grade would you give it? An A? Perhaps a C or D? Maybe an F?

We find that most of our portfolio companies self-assess their onboarding as a C. When we actually peel it back, the Cs look more like Fs.

Why?

According to the research firm CEB, reps are forgetting 70% of all content that they are exposed to in one week, and 90% in one month. Training is lost, and reps revert back to old habits and messaging.

So how do we make training stick? We believe that the core of sales training processes lack structure, a framework that allows training to have frequency and continually serve an organization.

The issue becomes clear when we look closer at the greater sales tool marketplace. Modern technology has allowed innovative, forward-thinking companies to completely rethink different aspects of the sales world, from incentive compensation and payroll to document management, lead generation, and marketing automation. Why? Because they create structure in the function.

sales efficacy

If we look to our friends at Salesforce.com, a truly market-leading CRM platform and the foundational tool of the modern sales team, we can see much of the kind of structure missing in today’s sales training. Before Salesforce, the sales forecast was best captured in Excel and subject to the varied approaches of individual sales managers. Arguably the process lacked uniformity and adherence to a structure.

Salesforce.com took this random, disjointed approach and created a framework for frequency and structure. With a toolset capable of tracking the sales funnel from lead to closed deal – and ingraining in reps compliance habits of logging data, Salesforce.com created structure within pipeline management. Today, a rep can’t advance an opportunity from stage to stage without the opportunity meeting specific criteria.

It’s no wonder that sales managers still say, “if it’s not in Salesforce, then it doesn’t exist.”

The same story can be found in any other category, except for one: sales training. The way we teach and learn has not meaningfully changed since the days of Dale Carnegie and Henry Ford. We often treat onboarding and upskilling like myopic single events and ignore the larger framework that ties rep learning from day one to year one, year two, etc. We still invite reps to webinars, audio conferences, and sales meetings – and lecture at them, often expecting them to simply absorb and apply this content in their selling situations, all without chances to practice and learn.

You can see where this leads, and we have a perspective on how to apply the much-needed structure and frequency to the long-forgotten sales training process.

Join us in Part 2 to profile the “learning cycle” as a framework to support every phase of your sales training.

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Sales Enablement Lab: Consistent Rep Stories

CommercialTribe Co-Founder and VP Sales, Jonathan Palay, was featured on the Sales Enablement Lab podcast, a regular review of new ideas in the space that has included guests like Tim Riesterer (Corporate Visions), Scott Santucci (Alexander Group), Jill Rowley (#SocialSelling), and Peter O’Neil (Forrester Research).

Sales_Enablement_Lab

The host of the Sales Enablement Lab podcast is Thierry van Herwijnen, Director Sales Enablement, Global Head Sales Knowledge Management at Wipro. Thierry is a seasoned sales enablement expert, leading coaching and training efforts for a global team with modern, progressive demands.

Both Thierry and Jonathan covered what can be called the “hardest problem in sales” – how to get reps to adopt and perform the right skills and messages in the marketplace. Even with investments in tools, message programs, and training methods, unless reps are actually articulating value in the marketplace, the investment is lost.

The missing link is practice, a way for reps and leaders to continually engage with content and messaging before taking it in front of prospects. Today, reps are generally practicing on prospects, often adapting only a few parts of the message and forgetting others. The result is more deals lost or ending in “no decision.”

Jonathan shared three practical tips that you can use today to break this cycle and get reps practicing:

  1. Find a champion to lead a practice-based initiative
  2. Get buy-in from Sales Enablement, Sales Leadership, and Marketing
  3. Find out how important messaging is for your company

Check out the podcast and read our interview with Thierry van Herwijnen to learn more about progressive sales enablement at a global, technological scale.

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