Salespeople thrive on competition — it drives them to succeed. But for sales organizations, the competitive nature of their reps can undermine attempts by leaders to build more cohesive teams.
Many reps are reluctant to share knowledge and skills with colleagues. Some are too busy to offer assistance or find ways to collaborate. And because business-to-business selling typically requires salespeople to spend a lot of time alone on the road, there may simply be little opportunity to communicate or work closely with other reps. Many sales organizations let their collective knowledge slip away by either losing track of, or not making available to their sales teams, materials such as presentations, training lessons, comments feeds and videos. Another challenge is that seasoned team members take institutional knowledge with them when they leave the organization.
To overcome these challenges and find ways to close more and bigger deals, sales leaders are turning to social learning to foster a teamwork culture that drives sales and knowledge across the organization. Social learning tools allow far-flung teams to engage with one another and accelerate learning, both through real-time and recorded interactions.
Social learning can help sales leaders in four basic ways:
1. Retain and share the sales organization’s collective knowledge.
When planning sales strategies, reps need to know what has worked in the past, what hasn’t and why. It is also essential for them to have access to the most up-to-date information on products, the company and the competition to ensure accuracy when educating customers, and to quickly and thoroughly address any questions or concerns they may encounter.
By collecting valuable learning materials and the personal expertise of salespeople into a centralized system, and allowing reps to access that content wherever and whenever they need it — and more importantly, communicate with each other in real time about it — sales organizations can unify their teams and enhance their effectiveness in the field.
2. Use metrics to monitor performance and lead more effectively.
In addition to social-networking capabilities, today’s sales leaders need robust analytical tools to help manage and lead their teams more effectively. These tools can help them track and reward the success of top performers, pinpoint reasons why promising reps may have difficulty filling their pipelines or identify the need to team up salespeople to promote knowledge sharing. Having consistent, integrated pay-for-performance capabilities helps align the sales workforce to corporate objectives, motivate employees and drive better business execution.
Also, by being able to view the contributions of individual reps to the organization’s social-learning efforts, sales leaders will see which team members are working the hardest to share best practices and create a winning culture and reward accordingly. Analyzing the content and use of social-learning networks also can reveal salespeople’s expertise that might otherwise be hidden or overlooked.
3. Create the right culture that fosters success.
For a team to achieve sales success, reps must be able to share success stories and best practices with each other in real time. Social learning takes the valuable interactions and exchanges that typically occur among salespeople during weekly conference calls and other sales meetings and allows them to exist in a central repository that can be accessed by the global team.
This way of collaborating and sharing knowledge also supports the formation of networks among salespeople who otherwise might have had little or no opportunity to connect with colleagues facing similar challenges or who have shared interests. The benefit to sales leaders is a comprehensive picture of how their team is collaborating and what best practices and challenges are helping — or hurting — sales momentum. And ultimately it creates a more efficient and winning sales team.
4. Effectively coach and train dispersed teams.
When sales teams are large and geographically dispersed or there are channel partners in the mix, training can be difficult to coordinate — and expensive. Social learning can help sales leaders connect salespeople with the latest and best advice, efficiently and cost-effectively, by allowing them to establish real-time collaboration sessions, hold ad-hoc hours to share advice and ask questions, and record collaboration sessions and contribute them to the community. For example, in the instance of a new business lead, the sales manager can alert team members to video assignments or educational webinars that include relevant case studies or selling tips.
Companies today need leaders who know how to use tools with built-in social networking capabilities to help build a sales culture where collaboration is embraced in both spirit and practice. To compete, companies and their sales teams must have a 360-degree view of customers’ needs to deliver on expectations and earn loyalty. Social-learning can help organizations meet these challenges by accelerating the flow of business and allowing reps working remotely to easily share best practices, manage metrics, keep pace with market shifts and changes in consumer buying behavior, and address unexpected challenges as they arise.
David Koehn is director of product strategy at Saba, a provider of people cloud applications. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.