Driving change adoption through sales enablement

BY:  Rebecca Herson
June 9, 2022
8 MIN. READING

If you thought the AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action) model is just for targeting your customers, think again. It can also be a useful way to drive adoption of change through sales enablement, as discussed in our recent webinar with the Sales Enablement Society, where our CEO Ariel Hitron and Twilio’s Director of Content Development and Delivery Tara Torkelson presented insights from their experiences in rolling out change across large sales teams.

Why do sales teams have to change?

Ariel joked from personal experience that whenever the CEO comes in with a great new idea, it means weeks of planning for sales enablement to make that idea happen in the field.

But CEO’s don’t spin out new ideas just for fun and games. Change in sales strategies is driven by deeper reasons, like launching a new product, adding a new strategy for a particular market, adapting to the company’s new sales methodology, or even just the desire to transform the entire sales team into A players (it’s good to have realistic goals, right? 😉

Sometimes the changes are due to external requirements. For example, Twilio as a telecommunications company often has to respond to regulatory changes which leave them with as little as a couple of months to adopt the new information and approaches.

Why is change such a challenge?

Rolling out change is tough, even when your timeframe is longer than 2 months. Like most people, salespeople prefer to stick to the pitches, products, and processes that they’re comfortable with.

Even once they have the new knowledge, sales employees can feel like they’re taking a massive risk if they introduce a new sales methodology or suggest a new add-on product to one of their clients. Who knows, if they mess up, it could jeopardize their entire position as a trusted advisor!

Your salespeople are (naturally) risk averse, and it’s safer and easier for them to stick to familiar products and pitches.

That puts sales enablement into something like a sales position themselves – you need to sell the new approach/product/pricing to the sales teams, before they can sell it to the customer.

How to enact change across the whole sales team

Often the first thought is to offer spiffs, which are great as the A in AIDA – they grab salespeople’s attention and raise awareness of the change you’re driving. But there’s only so far you can get with spiffs alone.

Spiffs tend to work best with your top sellers, but not for the ones who most need lifting up. There’s also only so many spiffs you can offer – at some point you reach the margin of diminishing returns and you can’t raise the stakes any higher.

That’s why you need to give sales teams the tools and knowledge to carry change forward alongside spiffs, helping them become confident and competent at your new messaging. Twilio discovered this when it found itself needing to roll out many new initiatives to its sales teams, all at the same time.

The company used spiffs as part of the Attention sequence, as well as telling success stories and using new technology.

It went on to capture salesperson Interest by gamifying the entire learning process with the help of Second Nature’s artificial intelligence (AI)-powered role play simulations, demonstrating how improving their knowledge and skills impacts on their ability to hit their quota.

The Decision level used microlearning to give salespeople the confidence that they could deliver, offering an ongoing program of practice and review through the AI simulation.

And Action saw them roll out the program at scale across 2,000+ sales people worldwide, with fixed KPIs that enabled objective scoring on a personal level.

Virtual change adoption has its benefits

There’s nothing like the interaction and feedback that you get from face-to-face sales training, but the shift to remote work brought its own advantages.

Virtual sales coaching using AI simulations offers instant feedback, so sellers can plug that advice straight back in and run another practice session. The platform measures performance on an ongoing basis, with consistent, objective scoring.

Running changes remotely offers sellers a safe environment in which to learn and improve. Nobody likes being pulled out to practice in front of the rest of the team, even if you’re in a small group, and the pressure to perform often causes salespeople to change their speech patterns and even use more filler words. Remote training is private and safe.

One thing about working remotely is that you have to make everything ten times more engaging and interactive if you want to keep the audience’s attention. SAP, another Second Nature client, discovered this when the pandemic hit and it couldn’t run its usual weeks-long in-person training experiences. Virtual role plays make the process a lot more interesting.

Sales enablement needs to be a cocktail

Of course, no one’s suggesting that anyone abandon face to face role play and training! The key is to find the right mix of different modalities of learning, so you can speed up onboarding and ongoing sales training, and make the best possible use of manager and rep time.

There’ll never be enough sales enablement personnel, so we need to leverage tech to fill in those gaps. Successful companies are fielding a mix of mentoring, e-learning, on-demand knowledge bases, AI simulations, and other approaches to offer personalized programs that help salespeople learn more effectively.

How to measure change with KPIs

It’s never enough just to throw together change adoption programs and hope for the best. Some leading indicators to track progress include the number of times a given product is mentioned in sales conversations, the number of opportunities opening up, pipeline size, and eventually, number of deals closed.

Another important indicator is the percentage of sales team members who are engaged with the products you want to sell. When more sellers are engaging with the right items and/or angles, that’s going to have a knock-on effect on sales bottom lines.

The only thing that stays the same is change

Whatever your industry, there are going to be times when you have to drive change adoption among your salesforce. There’s no single “right” approach, but a well-planned cocktail of tech, mentoring, e-learning, consistent feedback, and regular practice can help you sell the changes to your sales teams and give them the confidence and competence they need to sell your solution onwards.

Watch the full webinar here

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About the author

Rebecca Herson

Rebecca is head of marketing at Second Nature.

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