As new-age technologies dominate the business landscape across industries, maintaining competitive agility is becoming an indispensable business need. The ‘digital age’ is triggering a disruption of traditional business operations and instituting new growth strategies and organizational processes. More companies are transforming the way they sell and are realizing the evolving consumption patterns for both B2C and B2B market segments. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing, machine learning, virtual reality, and automation solutions such as chatbots are increasingly finding applications in sales.
However, as sales practices undergo this tech-upgrade, finding industry-ready talent is becoming more challenging, with a wide gap between the available and the required skill set. If teams cannot effectively use or interpret the new-age sales platforms, any investment in these technologies will be a waste. An estimate on the loss of productivity due to the absence of required attention to training and other learning initiatives globally amounts to nearly $7 trillion annually. Therefore, upskilling the workforce for efficient sales enablement is a necessity for organizations, and through regular training initiatives, they can ensure that their sales squad remains relevant. This will ensure that they are equipped to adapt to market upheavals and technological advancements.
Enabling the salesperson of tomorrow
Salespeople play a crucial role in driving the economy globally. In the evolving digital scenario, where tech-powered sales enablement strategies are redefining the seller’s journey, they require familiarity with the latest tools for remaining relevant. With the ongoing adoption of leading-edge tools by almost every market player companies need to continuously update their salespeople about the advancements at each step of the journey, or they will be left behind.
Sellers are using intelligent database systems powered by AI for identifying new customers and deepening their market penetration. Advanced data analytics and predictive modeling are becoming the critical sources for prioritizing probable buyers. Similarly, businesses are migrating towards smart CRM tools and marketing process automation for quicker prospect outreach and better-qualified leads. Contrary to the widespread assumption of automation taking away jobs, data-driven, automated processes are making quicker sales; thereby, enabling the salesperson to optimize time as well as prioritize work effectively. Therefore, familiarizing employees with digital tools and coaching them with the right knowledge is necessary for an organization’s sales units to make themselves future-ready.
Inculcating the right training approach
While training holds the key to future-ready sales employees, it is crucial to choose the right training design and program. IDEA (Induct, Develop, Enable, and Assess) is an approach that encompasses the entire training process. It begins with the ‘induct’ phase that involves an overview analysis of business functions to be trained and identification of skill gaps and other factors such as location, medium, duration, and accessibility. The information so obtained can go into the next phase, i.e., ‘develop’ to establish the appropriate training structure and aligning it with critical organizational objectives.
The ‘enable’ phase facilitates activities as per the design of training delivery. And lastly, the ‘assess’ phase offers a thorough evaluation of the training program to determine top learning and make any improvements required. Given its application, it can safely be considered a virtuous cycle aimed towards sustaining workforce development in the face of technology disruption, diversity of the company’s operations, or even manpower churn.
Besides a well-developed strategy, it is essential to realize that the main objective of training should not be to merely conduct an upskilling session for employees. The focus should instead be on establishing a sustainable practice that continuously shifts along with the changing requirements and the latest market trends. Furthermore, apart from equipping them with the know-how of the latest sales tools, these programs should hone the analytical abilities of the learners to leverage data-driven reports and draw actionable insights.
In the technology-driven age and amidst automated customer interaction platforms, training programs must not only realize the relevance of the ‘human voice’ but also coach salespeople to develop their soft skills and have more personal customer conversations. In fact, while about 65 percent of employees admit the positive influence of quality training programs on their engagements, companies are found to achieve 73 percent quota attainment through consistent coaching practices, according to CSO Insights.. These efforts can help organizations build the qualities of multitasking, dynamism, and the culture of staying relevant in their sales brigade.
Integrated efforts to bring true reforms
To solve the conundrum faced due to unprecedented market changes, the education system will need to be updated to account for the varying skill requirements and upcoming trends. Establishing a flexible and innovative curriculum in academic institutes and conjoining them with vocational courses and R&D centers targeted at training the workforce to be ‘industry-ready’ will also be imperative to generate future-ready salespeople.
With the coming together of government functionaries, industry experts, and leading researchers around the globe, it is possible to identify and frame solutions for most prominent learning needs of people, hence adapting future sales teams to technologies that will likely emerge. Such integrated efforts will not just develop teams that can deliver results even in the fast-paced and constantly evolving sales environment, but also seed a growth mindset for constant upskilling and reskilling of salespeople to keep them geared for tomorrow.
Thus, training the sales team and equipping them with the skills needed to thrive in the future is imperative to achieving sustained success. Organizations must prioritize the need to upskill their workforce and incentivize learning to ensure that the learning journeys are engaging, fun and challenging.