To be effective in today's enterprise sales environment, reps need to have about 15 different skill sets firing at peak performance to make a difference. Why is it so hard for individuals, or entire teams, to grasp the complexity of what needs to happen?

Old School Thinking, Old School Training

Again and again we see the same skills training happening, which doesn't always map to what is really happening with prospects.

Some very interesting points are highlighted in the 2013 Accenture "Perspectives on Training" study (click here) which states 72% of executives identified training as one of the top ways for employees to develop new skills, only 52% of workers employed by the companies surveyed currently receive company-provided, formal training. This is a really interesting report I encourage all to read.

But what does lack of training mean for sales teams?

In the world of enterprise B2B sales, it means at best a little more than half of sales teams get any training at all. Many times training is done by internal product teams on new products, features, and functions. Or the team is brought offsite for a series of sessions from executives, sales, and marketing management on what is happening with the company.

What is often missing is the training on "it's 2014, what do we need to do to engage prospects and stakeholders...what does it take? How can we retain prospects in the pipeline?"

This is the depth of skills training that's often missing, the secret sauce that addresses:

  • How do I (or my team) reach prospects?
  • How do I get them to engage in a lengthy discussion with us?
  • How to write emails that get results?
  • How can social media factor into success?
  • What are the most effective trends in enterprise sales?
  • How is Marketing aligned with current engagement practices and how to best leverage that?
  • What is the best time to engage a prospect to get in front of the decision?
  • How to maintain full steam when there is rep turnover?
  • How to make the CRM a tool to increase success instead of a burden with adoption challenges?
  • How did companies end up with the infrastructure they have today?

To some it might sound simple, but a huge percentage of reps lack these very skills. A quick fix to get started is here where InsideView has published a guide to Social Selling.

Another important thing to remember is YOU need to invest in yourself. What does that mean? Companies spend $20 Billion a year in sales training, but the above numbers of it only happening in a segment of the companies is true. So reps need to have their own development plan and managers need to tap into resources to share with their teams. The key is not to wait for training to be delivered up, but find the right resources and bring them to yourself and your team.

A good way to design a personal plan is:

  • Set up Google Alerts for your industry or competitors, know what the industry is talking about outside of your company.
  • Set aside 30 minutes 2x a week to read industry publications. If you are in tech, staying up on what is happening that affects your customers is key--technical and situational fluency makes a difference in how much prospects trust you and will rely on your for answers.
  • Create a reading list. If you're having trouble deciding what to list, Amazon has a list of the Top 25 Sales Books you can pull some titles from
  • If you haven't read "The World is Flat" by T Friedman, you should. Many reps can benefit from knowing some of the history of how we got here from a vantage point of transformation.
  • Books like "Colossus-How the Corporation Changed America" by Jack Beatty is another good read for background on how enterprise companies developed into what we have today.

Many companies have an infrastructure that represents layers of technology from years of management eras. This will definitely impact how companies make decisions about new solutions. Reps need situational background to be the most effective, so getting that context is huge.

Bottom line is sales IS Rocket Science when you don't have the tools and skills to be effective. It is like looking at the most complex equation and having no idea what the solution is. The great thing is everything is at your fingertips to put into practice with some effort.

Happy selling!