March 27, 2023
5 min read
In partner sales enablement there is a paradigm of the story that is told, versus the story that needs to be told.
Every sales rep at some point in their career has taken training or has been presented with content on a product, service, or skill set that is considered required. There's often a naughty list of those who have not completed training monitored and sent out by sales leaders, whose concern is to keep their people off the list.
If the enablement evaluation stops at completion, then all you have is a sales compliance report. There is no success story for TL&D in training compliance for sales.
For sales, it’s all about the actions that are taken after training, and the results that may or may not incur.
Just because an employee goes through training, doesn’t mean they are going to close more deals. They might; they might not. The training and enablement materials may make a huge difference in sales performance, or it may be just a colossal waste of time.
Sales training and enablement are expensive. Production goes well beyond a one-pager and a battle-card. Organizations are making major investments in video production, virtual presentations, app development, and analytics - all designed to better meet the learning expectations of sellers and to provide reporting for their leaders.
There is also the opportunity cost of sellers not engaging with customers. Fewer appointments, fewer dials, and fewer meetings can all equate to revenue lost for a seller.
Businesses need to show that all of the cost and effort put into partner sales enablement is worthwhile. With all of the business analytics that are now available, there is one question that is often ignored but must be asked to properly evaluate enablement:
Are employees applying what they learned?
It doesn’t even matter if the actions are immediately successful.
It’s about the attempt.
If employees are not applying the learning or using their support materials, then there is no way to evaluate if the learning and support are effective. One might argue that the lack of application is a sign of ineffective enablement, and that, in part, could be true - but there may be other factors that could be impacting performance. Factors that lie outside of the intended objectives of training and enablement in the first place.
As an example, if sellers complete their learning modules for a new product, and the product isn’t selling as expected - it may not be an enablement issue. There could be external market forces that are impacting sales - like a shift in demand. Or there could be conflicting internal KPIs and incentives that drive sellers to pitch other products versus the new one. In both of these cases, more training and enablement materials may not help to get the new product sold.
The only way to know for sure is to look at the learner’s behavior after the training. Are they attempting to apply what they learned? This simple observation needs to be made regardless of success or outcomes. If no one has tried anything that they learned, then logically, no one can evaluate if the enablement was effective.
Only if sellers are applying what they learned in the real world, is it possible to begin evaluating the quality and effectiveness of the enablement alongside other internal and external forces.
The attempt to apply learning is referred to as Enablement Attempt Rate, or EAR.
It goes a step beyond completion rates (compliance) and seeks to measure if there is a change in behavior, i.e. have the learners tried to do something new based on what they learned?
If there is a high EAR and line-of-business KPIs are changing for the better, great! Now that is the beginning of an enablement success story.
If there is a high EAR and the line-of-business KPIs are going in the wrong direction, it’s still great. There’s an opportunity to talk with the sellers and evaluate what is going on.
Maybe the enablement was incomplete?
Or impossible to apply?
Or completely off the mark?
It’s better to have the conversation and pivot than to blindly proceed with more ineffective enablement.
The good news with sales organizations is that they have very clear definitions of success.
Other than marketing, they arguably have more KPIs and analytics available than any other LOB.
Tying enablement to sales KPIs does take strong partnerships and visibility into sales reporting. Cross-functional alignment needs to be in place to be sure that what was learned is being attempted and can therefore be measured.