This article will explore five ways customer education teams can partner with your company’s sales organization to both improve efficiency as well as drive revenue. It will also provide you with examples of training resources that enhance the success of sales teams. In many cases, you’ll find that simply repurposing existing training resources is sufficient.
Tip 1: Learn about the sales process before making changes
As educators, you know the importance of understanding a challenge before coming up with solutions. Working with sales is no different, and potentially even more important. Why? Because sales is about relationships and rarely do all salespeople do things the same way. When you are doing a needs assessment, it’s helpful to chat with multiple people to get a clear picture of the actual challenge and not just one person’s perspective on it.
Talk with different members of your sales organization and find out where they are feeling frustrated or inefficient. Get into the specifics of their playbook and active campaigns, because that’s where you’ll find the most actionable and measurable opportunities to help.
To illustrate, here’s a scenario I encountered:
A sales rep was hosting a weekly webinar intended for prospects currently in a free trial of the product. The objective was to help guide these free trial users through some basic setup steps and give them a highly personalized and relevant experience. The hypothesis was that by giving the free trial users this experience, they’d have a higher likelihood of understanding the value provided by the software, and in turn they’d become paying customers when the trial ended.
Here’s where the sales team was running into problems:
Trialists would register for a webinar but not attend
Trialists would not engage with the webinar. They attended, but with their microphone muted and camera off. And they did not respond to any written or verbal prompts
There was no mechanism to track what people did after the webinar. No measurement of behaviors to show if the attendees took the recommended actions or not
When I analyzed what could be causing these issues, I discovered a lack of critical information about the needs of the free trialist. The process was created to fix a sales issue, not a customer issue. Some initial questions I had were:
What did we want the attendees to learn and what was the measurement of success? Put another way, what does a “good” attendee do after the webinar?
Was the timing of the webinar inconvenient for trialists?
Were trialists registering only to receive a recording to watch later?
Were people watching the recordings?
Was the information presented in the webinar actually the information attendees needed to complete the desired action?
What information would be needed by attendees to complete the action?
Were registrants skeptical of meeting with a salesperson?
Luckily, customer education processes have methods for answering these unknowns and can pave the way for more effective webinars. Just remember to ask multiple sales team members. You might be surprised that one or more of them have thought a lot about these issues.
Tip 2: Build and share a customer journey with sales reps
Salespeople know that prospects don’t just want to hear a list of product features. They want to understand how their pain points are being solved. Despite this, many reps revert to just showing off features during a demo. There’s many reasons this happens. Maybe the reps are new or don’t know the market. Maybe they haven’t learned the value story or, as the economy changes, they haven’t updated their talk track. One thing you can do to help is to document and share the customer journey with your sales team.
Not sure how to build a Customer Journey Map?
Take a look at this guide from Neilsen Norman Group
Customer Journey Mapping template by nngroup.com
A customer journey starts long before sales gets involved and extends through the entire life of the customer as they use your solutions. It will help the sales team to understand where they fit in this journey, and illuminate where the customer is likely headed in terms of seeing value.
When building your customer journey map, here’s some pointers:
Define the specific things you want the prospect to learn, the actions you want them to take, and what they’ll experience by reaching the end. For example, maybe they need to configure a setting in their demo then import some of their data to quantify potential time savings.
Make sure you can articulate “why” each action or concept is valuable to the prospect.
Organize these actions or learning stages into a linear flow. Even if the flow is somewhat arbitrary, it will help create focus and urgency about how to drive a person through to the next stage.
A question that you might ask when building these stages out is: How can I measure if a person has moved from one stage to the next? This is particularly helpful to figure out if your sales organization is investing in their operations. They might have some incredible data showing when these different stages are entered and left. You can also ask what information gets handed off from one stage to the next. By the same logic, once a prospect leaves one stage of their journey, what is needed by the next person to help them along? Are there pieces of information that could be gathered in early stages and shared with later stages?
There are a number of ways to measure a prospect’s progression, but the customer education team can help by using their learning management system (LMS) to provide additional data. By introducing training solutions into the customer journey with an LMS, you can authenticate prospects and track them. As a side benefit, LMS access can be a carrot to entice the prospect to start a trial in the first place!
But … people aren’t often logged into an LMS to attend a webinar, so how does this relate back to my example of improving webinar effectiveness?
Tip 3: Create multiple formats for demo information
Repetition is an effective way to increase a learner’s retention, so there’s value in creating more than one touchpoint to each learning objective. Let’s look at the sales webinar example from earlier and what we did to help.
We analyzed content in our LMS and identified material that supported the objective of the webinar. We then curated that content on a dedicated page. We then added this page to the confirmation emails sent to people who registered for the webinar. This gave trialists a way to get a “head start” on the learning and also a different way to consume information. Following the webinar, they were sent the link to this page again, which gave them more chances to learn and hit on that repetition concept.
Example of multiple demo options
Different formats lend themselves well to different content. What might be long winded to write out could be compelling as a short video. On the other hand, if you’re trying to follow a series of steps, repeatedly pausing and unpausing a video can be frustrating, so illustrated documentation might be more helpful. Webinars are not the best format for all learning objectives, so by blending the sales webinar with other formats it created a more rounded learning experience.
If you want to learn more about how to choose the right format, watch this webinar. You’ll need to be a member of Learning Outcomes to view it, which is free. Sign up takes just less than a minute.
Timing can be just as meaningful as format. Depending on the prospect’s urgency or available time, they may not want to register for a webinar and then have to wait a few days. The combination of webinar and LMS page meant that each learning objective was presented in at least two formats, and at three points in time: once immediately at registration, once during the webinar, and once afterward.
A further benefit of the LMS page was having the prospect enroll in an authenticated experience. By placing this content behind a login form, we could then track if and when the prospects were engaging with it. Remember one of the failings of the original sales webinar was not being able to track the engagement of attendees. Using the LMS allowed us to report on who consumed the content, how much they consumed, and whether it occurred before or after the webinar (or both). This data was fed back into the process for further refinement and enabled the salesperson to tailor their follow ups by understanding where the prospect was in their learning journey.
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Tip 4: Focus on specific areas of value
When you share an idea, how much are you contributing to the learner’s experience? If you’re just regurgitating information, STOP. Your time is more valuable than that. A good litmus test is watching for a sense of deja vu - do you feel like you’re repeating the same thing over and over to different people?
In our example sales webinar, one of the problems was uncertainty around whether each trialist was getting the information they wanted. The solution is not to flood them with more information, but rather to step back and focus on assessing their needs.
During the revised webinar experience, we promoted the value of a specific topic and then encouraged the prospect to check it out on their own. We let them know how we’d be making it available and really tried to focus on the value story for the call to action. A detailed description wasn’t really needed to unlock that value, and so we trimmed down the information and only answered things in more depth if those kinds of questions came up during the webinar itself.
Tip 5: Give the sales team more ways to measure the impact of demos
LMS’s have a lot of reports and data, so it’s easy to create complicated measurement schemes. Take care to not get too complex early on. It is often better to take a wide view of data and see what the status quo looks like. Look for things that are working and things that aren’t. Sometimes the big picture can tell you a lot.
First see what engagement you’re getting. For example, we followed up with learners to find out why they chose to engage (or not) with the on-demand content on our LMS page. That wasn’t a complex rubric nor had anything to do with business intelligence. It was just a simple interview. If the sales team wants to be involved in these conversations, be mindful of attempts to focus on the deal in a research call like this. In many cases it might be worth doing your outreach on prospects that have left the sales cycle or purchased the product. That is, after the sales engagement is over.
Once you’ve ironed out technical kinks and adjusted for any unexpected feedback, run a pilot project with a couple salespeople. Have them promote the LMS page while other sales people do not.
What was each pilot salesperson’s success rate before leveraging the on demand content and did it improve after?
Next, compare any change against non-pilot salespeople over the same time period to see if any improvement was actually related to other factors, such as cyclical sales cycles.
If you can show the on demand content improves close rates, you win!
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