Designing Trainings for Go-to-Market Team Members

Roz Greenfield has led sales enablement at Optimizely and Oracle and is now the Chief Enablement Officer at Level213, a boutique sales enablement consultancy. In this guide, she explains how to design trainings for sales and other go-to-market teams that zero on the content that sellers actually need to do their jobs, without wasting time on non-useful information.

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Questions covered in this guide

Why is it worth investing in well-designed training?

It’s important for training to be good because you’re taking sellers ‘off the floor’ – if you’re going to ask a revenue-generating team to do a non-revenue generating activity, it has to produce a 10x productivity lift.

Be thoughtful about what and when you train – and think about when the salesperson is going to actually use it. For example, if you’re rolling out a new product in five months, don’t teach me how to demo it today because that’s not something I’m doing in the next few months. But if you’re rolling out a product next month, then teach me today because I have to be comfortable demoing it to a customer in a month from now. 

Be thoughtful about the way adults learn – only teach them things that they need to do their job better, leaving out information that is not relevant to do their jobs. Think about, “what are they required to do with this information”  

When should a company formalize go-to-market trainings?

With smaller teams, you can be more customized and ad-hoc – it might not have to be formal since you probably know each of the sellers personally and know their skill sets. 

When you start to have more sellers, or multiple offices, you need to scale training – since the tribal knowledge isn’t as strong, you don’t know every person individually, and you might be dealing with different time zones. 

Who designs the trainings, and who should be involved?

Leverage subject matter experts to build and deliver content – whether you have Enablement or not, the SMEs will have to be involved. Enablement doesn’t know everything; its job is to be curators of the knowledge. 

Sales enablement needs to figure out what’s relevant – to act as the bridge between Product, Product Marketing, and Sales. Subject matter experts will often give far more detail than sellers need (I once sat in a training where an engineer who was an expert on the product literally said “you will never need to know this”…and then he spoke for an hour and a half detailing information about the product design that the Sales team will never need or use). 

It’s Sales Enablement’s job to say, “tell me about this product from the lens of what the Salesperson needs to know and what the salespeople need to do.” The expert should help to build the content and develop the content especially when Sales Enablement is not the expert on the topic, but enablement should partner to deliver it to ensure that only the necessary info is coming through and it is taught in a way that the salesperson can execute on. 

If you don’t have enablement, Product Marketing, Sales Operations or the sales leader typically takes point – that person then needs to take on the bridging and filtering role. If you’re not the subject matter expert, don’t pretend to be the subject matter expert. Leverage the expert to extract from their brain what the salespeople they’re training need to know based on how they have to execute. 

Which go-to-market functions do you need to design trainings for?

Train anybody who’s customer-facing on your product and market
  • Sales Development Reps (SDRs)
  • Solutions Engineers (SEs)
  • Account Executives (AEs)
  • Customer Success Managers (CSMs)
  • Support Reps

Don’t forget about Support – there are two reasons why a buyer reaches out to Support. One is that something’s not working and they’re frustrated. If support doesn’t know how to handle that correctly, you’re making someone even madder. The second is that people reach out and they need more options for the product that they already have and support could be a revenue-driving engine for you.

How does training vary for each function?

Have some courses everyone needs to go through – there are some things that everybody should know, such as buyer persona information, and all positions will share those training materials. Where there’s overlap in the information that needs to be covered, you only have to design the knowledge portion once, then modify it slightly for each position or product. 

Have relevant specialized courses for each function – based on what particular roles need to do.
  • For SDRs – you’re only going so far because their job function ends at the very top of the funnel.
  • For AEs – who are responsible for the full sales cycle so will need to be training on all aspects of the sales cycle and buyer engagement.
  • For SE/SC/SAs – go much deeper into the technicalities of the product being that their function is to sell and support the buyers and customers with the technical aspects of the solution.

What are the key subject matter areas you need to train for?

Industry knowledge -what space are you in, and what problems are you solving?
  • Industry trends
  • Competition
  • Buyer personas
Product knowledge – how do you, as a company, specifically address these problems?
  • Use cases
  • Demos
  • Product capabilities/USP
  • Customer case studies
Internal process and company knowledge – what tools and processes does your company use, and why and how do you use them?
  • Sales processes, e.g. sales stages and exit criteria, quote to cash process, deals desk/approval processes 
  • Sales methodology
  • Sales tech stack
  • Job Expectations and evaluation criteria (e.g how many calls you need to make, how comp works)

Skill development – skill training depends on the experience and sales skill and acumen of your team. This typically depends upon the role, stage of the company, and industry. 

What should your objectives be when designing and conducting go-to-market trainings?

Train for what the person needs to be able to do – for example, if I’m teaching someone how to drive a car, I don’t need to teach them how the engine works. I just need to teach them to drive the car (and that there is an engine). If I’m teaching them to be a mechanic, then that’s when I need to get into how the engine functions. You’re trying to train them for the job that they’re doing, NOT giving them info they don’t need.

Don’t waste their time – As revenue-generating individuals their time is literally money to them and the organization. you’ll also lose people’s attention immediately if you dive into things that they don’t need to know. 

What are the steps to design a good training?

Step 1: What is the objective – define what the salesperson has to be able to do as a result of the training.

Step 2: Is there anything I need to define – for them so they are able to do it. If they don’t necessarily know what a certain term is, or a certain methodology is, I need to define that.

Step 3: What is the “prescription”/knowledge content – what do I want to teach them? Work with the subject matter expert to curate the knowledge.

Step 4: What examples can I use – examples help people to understand, especially adult learners. They come to the table with a lot of life experience and examples that help them to connect to that. So examples are one of the most important elements of structurally designed training for an adult.

Step 5: How are they going to apply it – how can they practice? In the learning to drive a car analogy, the learner would first need to practice with someone else who knows how to drive. What’s the right way to practice the knowledge in this training?

Step 6: How will I assess it – what framework will I use to test the knowledge? Be very clear on what you need the salespeople to be able to do and then assess that they can now do it as a result of the training..

How do you deliver a good training session?

Create a blended learning plan, depending upon your goals – blended is a mixture of live training (in person or virtual), asynchronous learning, and application of the concepts. 

Think about the complexity of the topic, and the likelihood that people would have questions – if people are likely to have a lot of questions because it’s a complicated topic, then asynchronous learning might not be the right route and the training should be live instead. 

Have them actually do it – you only get 10% of your learning from hearing someone tell you something; you get 90% from applying the learning. 

Think about how you can assess them – assessment options range from a quiz to a live presentation depending on what the learner has to be able to do as a result of the training. For example, if they’re going to have to present a call deck to a buyer, you’ll want that assessment to be a presentation, but if you want to assess if they can recall your buyer personas, that could be a quiz. 

How should you design new hire training, and how should you design ongoing training?

The new hire often lacks industry knowledge and lacks internal knowledge – new hire training will require background on your space, products, and processes. 

Think about new hire training in 30-60-90 days – what do they need to be a productive team member by 90 days in?
  • Days 1-30 – focused heavily on training, teaching them the knowledge that they need. 
  • Days 30-60 – focused on practice, ensuring they’re able to apply what they’ve been learning and practice what they learned in the first month.
  • Days 60-90 – focused on application, supporting them from a learning perspective, but heavy training is starting to fade out because they’re applying it now. By the end of the third month, they should be able to do most of it on their own.
For continuing education, think about changes that need to be communicated, and skill gaps
  • Company and market changes – what has changed in the business since they started, what new products do we have, and what new competitors are out there?
  • Skill gaps – you’ll want to focus on skill gaps that you’ve seen over time as you’ve worked with people or new skills they may need as they evolve in their roles or your company evolves in the market.

Feed data from new hire training and continuing training into each other – typically, anything you put into your continued education, should make its way into your onboarding program.

What are the tools that support training?

Learning management system (LMS) – especially if you want to scale and assess learning. This will also be helpful because you want a place where they can go back and refresh their memory. 

Knowledge management system – for just-in-time information. For example, if I want the sales team to be good at handling pricing objections, I may do a pricing session objection session, but then when they’re on the call with the buyer, I want them to be able to pull up just that little piece of information on that specific objection and have it easily accessible. The important thing is that you have only one source of truth. As your company grows, you don’t want people to start to do things differently. This information could be kept in a specialized tool, or even in a Google Doc. The easier you make it to find knowledge, the better – enablement needs to think about how the salesperson is using the info, e.g. battlecards that are easily accessible. 

Call coaching software – e.g. Gong, Chorus.

Avoid being too “tool happy” – and having too many tools because the sales team gets overwhelmed. You want to be very thoughtful of the tools you bring into your team and how you’re going to standardize them. 

What factors about your business should influence your training?

If you’re disruptive vs. have already “crossed the chasm” – if your first to market you’re going to be offering something different than people have experienced in the past, and your customer-facing team needs to be ready to communicate that and educate the market. If you’ve already “crossed the chasm” and people already know your company and or offering, the adoption process will be very different. 

If you sell to SMB vs. enterprise – these are very different motions. The more zeroes you have at the end of the quote, the more people are going to have to be involved from the buyer’s side and therefore from your side. Smaller companies make decisions faster and larger companies have a much more complex and drawn-out buying evaluation process. 

If you’re global – the way you sell in APAC is different than the way you sell in the United States. For example, it might be customary in the US for an SDR to engage with a VP-level buyer, but in Japan, you match level to level. So you’re not likely going to have an SDR call on the CEO or VP. 

What are the most important pieces to get right?

Any time you take a revenue-generating person off the floor, it needs to boost productivity – too many companies do “trainings” that are a complete waste of time for the sales team, and therefore for the company. When you train anyone whose job is to generate revenue (sales, customer success, etc.) you have to justify that time spent not generating revenue by making your revenue-generating engine better as a result. 

Constantly ask: what does the person need to be able to do? – you should only be teaching them things that they need to do their job better. Don’t teach the entire theory, ask what they are going to do with the information.

What are the common pitfalls?

Don’t ad-hoc it and dump irrelevant information – you’ll lose attention and credibility. In the future, people will roll their eyes and feel like the next training sessions are going to waste their time. 

Don’t make time and place errors – don’t try to schedule trainings for the end of the quarter, and don’t train on something that’s not coming out for 6 month.

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