Embrace Agility, Confidence and Coaching for ‘Sales Mastery’

We define “sales mastery” as when a salesperson has achieved the confidence and competence to have conversations that accelerate buyers’ time-to-decision by adding value with each interaction with that buyer – and hopefully more closed deals!

The best sales rep is one who learns and prepares wherever, whenever they work as they’re always ready for any selling situation. They spend hours preparing their pitch and learning the new curves of the selling game. These include garnering knowledge and skills they need, from the same systems and devices they use every day. To better understand how modern businesses can create and sustain “sales mastery” with B2B tools, AI, and enablement models, we spoke to Jim Ninivaggi, Chief Readiness Officer at Brainshark.

Tell us about your role at Brainshark and the team you lead.

At Brainshark, I hold the unique title of chief readiness officer. In a nutshell, that means I’m responsible for leading Brainshark’s sales enablement and readiness strategy – ensuring our field force is ready to maximize every interaction with buyers. I also assess our sales technology stack to make sure our reps have the right tools and technologies to optimize their productivity.

One major solution we rely on here is Brainshark’s software – we drink our own champagne!

We use Brainshark to create sales training and readiness content, and deliver that content when, where and how our reps are working (on their phones, in the CRM, in Brainshark’s own readiness portal, etc.). We also use Brainshark’s video coaching and assessment tools to help us make sure reps have mastered what we need them to master.

I wear other hats in my role too: working with Brainshark’s product team (on our roadmap, strategy, and innovation), marketing team (on strategy and messaging), and clients and prospects (providing advice and best practices, given my background as an analyst). I also share tips and trends from Brainshark, including as a columnist for Forbes’ Business Development Council, to expand awareness of sales readiness and its benefits.

How do you define and build “The Path to Sales Mastery”?

We define “mastery” as when a salesperson has achieved the confidence and competence to have conversations that accelerate buyers’ time-to-decision by adding value with each interaction with that buyer – and hopefully more closed deals!

Being masterful also requires agility.

As we all know, sometimes we think a conversation with a buyer will be about one thing, but then the call takes a completely different direction. When you’re at or approaching the path to sales mastery, the sales team can pivot. The rep has the knowledge, skills, and preparation to discuss whatever the buyer is looking to discuss that day.

How do you get to this state of perpetual readiness?

There are three critical stages: learn, practice and apply. That is, you build mastery through a combination of content that shows reps what “good” looks like (e.g., using video, peer-to-peer learning, knowledge-checks, etc.) and assessments (e.g., having reps, often in a simulated environment, demonstrate they are mastering competencies – as we do with Brainshark’s video coaching tool).

Finally, after the learning and practice stages, there should be real-time coaching in the field, with a manager or other embedded coach. That’s the only way you ultimately get to be a master at something: when someone can observe you and provide that validating feedback.

Which types of content benefit sales teams the most?

As it relates to training and other readiness content, the content type – whether it’s a video or reading material, etc. – really depends on the rep. What you need to do, as a sales enablement leader, is provide a variety of content that accommodates different learning styles and preferences. Most importantly, that content needs to be instantly accessible whenever the rep needs it – delivered when, where and how that rep is working.

We like to say that we don’t want our reps to have to find content; instead, the content should find the rep. So if reps are in the CRM, their learning portal, Outlook, or on their mobile phone between sales calls, the best type of content is there at their fingertips, right when they need it, in the modality and format from which they like to learn.

What is the ‘State of Sales Transformation’ in 2018? How does Brainshark enable customers to adapt to this state quickly?

Sales organizations are continuing their journey of catching up with modern, empowered buyers. And while there’s been a lot of talk around how buying behaviors have changed in the last five-to-10 years, many sales organizations have been slow to respond and slow to change the ways salespeople are selling.

Case in point: many organizations use sales methodologies from the 1980s and 1990s that don’t reflect how salespeople need to interact with buyers today.

Today’s salesperson communicates with buyers across a variety of channels: not just phone and face-to-face, but also through texting, video conferencing, email and social media. It’s important for companies to continue to evolve and improve salespeople’s skills across all these different channels.

Brainshark takes a multi-pronged approach to readiness – enabling sales organizations to continually provide the training and coaching to reinforce and support this transformation and other learning needs.

How should sales organizations strategize and deliver on their sales enablement and readiness goals?

First, it’s important to align sales enablement to the overarching corporate strategy, as well as overall goals of the sales leader. Then, understanding those objectives, you need to look at the talent you have in place, determine where competency gaps exist and close them – so you can execute on the goals.

For example, if the chief sales officer’s (CSO’s) goal is to penetrate a new market, the enablement leader needs to ensure that reps are ready to engage a new base of buyers and have the conversations needed to be successful.

Working backward from that outcome, sales enablement needs to be able to track the readiness of the field force – in terms of learning consumed, assessments completed and certifications passed. So when the CSO asks “Are our reps ready?” the enablement leader has the data required to respond with confidence.

Given the current shift in analytics and customer intelligence, what skills and knowledge do sales teams need to close deals faster?

There’s more data, analytics and intelligence available to salespeople and their teams today than ever before. But all the data in the world doesn’t matter if reps can’t distill and use that information to foster meaningful conversations with buyers.

So it’s absolutely critical for sales teams to be able to take actionable data and intelligence, and process it – and then know what the next best activity should be. They need to apply data and analytics to make themselves super-relevant to the needs of their buyers. So critical thinking skills are really coming to the forefront as an emerging critical competency.

Thank you, Jim, for chatting with us about Sales Mastery.

AIBrainsharkForbesJim NinivaggiSales EnablementSales MasterySales Transformation’Salestech InterviewVideo Coaching
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