How Do I Know If I Need Sales Tools or Sales Training?

So, How Do I Know If I Need Sales Tools or Sales Training? We Got the Scoop from SalesLoft.

There’s a distinct difference between sales tools and sales training, but because they often overlap, it can be difficult to know which one is best for your organization. 

In this episode of sALES with ASLAN®, Scott Cassidy talks with Jeremey Donovan, SVP Sales Strategy and GM NYC at SalesLoft, about where to draw the line in the sand and how to find a sales solution that fits your organization. 

 sALES with ASLAN Episode 23: How Do I Know If I Need Sales Tools or Sales Training?

Scott Cassidy: Welcome back to another episode of sALES with ASLAN, your weekly therapy session with sales reps and sales leaders. You know I love doing what I can to help you guys. Today we are going into uncharted waters. We’ve decided to bring in an interesting partner of ours, a partner opportunity, someone in the sales enablement space. I have with me Jeremey Donovan from SalesLoft. Welcome, Jeremey.

Jeremey Donovan: Thanks, Scott. Thanks. It’s so nice to be on the show.

Scott: It’s great to have you. I know you’re a fellow East Coaster. Actually, I was wondering, are you a Yankee fan or a Met fan down there in-

Jeremey: Oh, you tapped into the very boring side of me, which is that I am not a sports fan of any kind.

Scott: So we won’t have a Red Sox/Yankees problem on this particular podcast.

Jeremey: No, no. Although we might… I do occasionally go to an MLS game, so Red Bulls would be my team, I suppose.

Scott: Okay. All right. And we’ve got the Reds up here. I don’t pay as much attention to that, but at least that could be part of our ongoing conversation. As you know, Jeremey, here on sALES with ASLAN, the first thing we do each week is that we get into something cold and frosty. What do you have in front of you that you’re going to look to enjoy this afternoon?

Jeremey: Yeah, so I was up in Vermont a few years ago and discovered an insanely great beer from the Alchemist Brewing Company. The beer is called Heady Topper. Very hard to obtain. They don’t ship it, but the beer is amazing.

Scott: Awesome. All right, well, look forward to hearing how you enjoy that. I’m going to crack myself something a little boring today. I’m going to go with just a Corona Premium, which is sort of new to me. I’ve had Coronas for years and Corona lights, but this premium one is new, so let’s see what we got here. All right, let’s pour that and just get a little taste. That’s pretty good. I’m not sure it tastes that different from a Corona, but I’m sure there’s something premium in there that is making me happy. By the way-

Jeremey: Should have a lime built in somehow.

Scott: I don’t taste the lime in there. I should’ve brought one. How do you have a Corona without the lime?

Jeremey: That’s like a Blue Moon without an orange. You just can’t do that.

Scott: It’s illegal almost, I would have to say. But Jeremey, it is so good to have you on the show, and obviously our companies have talked a few times and there’s lots of interesting information, I think probably misperceptions and interesting perceptions in the market about where sales enablement and sales training overlap, or underlap. What’s the difference? And so why don’t we start with, first of all, a little bit of your background in your company and what sales enablement means to Jeremey Donovan.

Jeremey: Yeah, so I work at a company called SalesLoft, and my particular role here is actually in sales strategy, which I think is a good jumping off point in a way into the whole sort of enablement, engagement and strategy world. So SalesLoft thinks of itself as a sales engagement platform, which is even a subtlety on enablement. I think it’s probably kind of a splinter off of enablement.

Jeremey: These days I tend to define sales enablement as inclusive of training and collateral, I think being maybe the two main pieces, to make sure that new hires get ramped effectively and that existing hires continue to produce at higher and higher rates, hopefully.

Jeremey: And then sales engagement is all about engaging those prospects and customers in a cadence of communication, whether that’s email, phone, social, direct mail, what have you. So that sales engagement space, again, is about contacting and engaging folks to get meetings, progress opportunities and then ultimately up sell a new business.

Jeremey: And then the third category is overlapping all of those, which is sales strategy, the thing that I focus a lot of my time on, which takes some of those elements and broadens it out to things like compensation and territory and so on.

Scott: Yeah. That’s an interesting one because sales training for us can mean a lot of different things, right? I mean, we’ve got 11 different programs that we have for both sales reps and sales leaders in call centers. And I think there’s confusion over where we can help. I like to say that I think the distinction for sales engagement’s an interesting one because a company like a training company does not stick around and help customers, but reps actually execute. That’s where you guys kind of pick up, isn’t it?

Jeremey: Yeah. I’d like to think of the training companies as being, as you described earlier, as being key partners, right? That you’re providing the methodologies, the playbooks, the fundamentals for people, sales processes, either at the micro level, which could be a call plan or pre-call plan, post-call plan, whatever, however you guys do it, all the way up to the more macro level, which is things, for example, your qualification framework, the way that opportunities get managed and so on.

Jeremey: So yeah, I think sales training companies are critical in helping to define what the processes should be for companies and then absolutely a sales engagement platform like where I work picks that up and allows you to actually turn that into a system of action.

Scott: Yeah.

Jeremey: It’s a good way to think about it.

Scott: And of course, you work with all the big heavies, like integration with Salesforce and all those sorts of things as well, right?

Jeremey: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Just make people’s lives easier. Salesforce is an amazing platform. I do think of it as a system of record, if you will. Yes, you can execute emails and make phone calls out of Salesforce. It’s just not yet fully tuned to be able to do that. So there’s a whole ecosystem of companies out there, whether it’s sales engagement, whether it’s incentive compensation management, there’s the whole run of the ecosystem that builds on top of Salesforce as again, just a stunning platform for doing that.

Scott: Yeah. Well, and what’s interesting when we come in and what I’ve talked with some of the folks at your company and a lot of customers is that our process is really to prepare the company that we’re trying to support. Then we go through the ignition phase, which is the actual what you would call sales training, right? And then there’s the transformation piece. I look at where companies like SalesLoft and ASLAN sort of intersect is a little bit in that transformation piece. It’s when things move from the original education and more into what we call the transformation of changing the way sales execution works for clients. I imagine that fits nicely with what you guys try to help customers and reps do as well, right?

Jeremey: Yeah. I think that’s fair with respect to all kinds of different methodologies and frameworks and so on. One of the big challenges that sales leaders have is knowing whether or not that training, that methodology, actually moved the needle, on first I guess behaviors, but then ultimately business results. So at the very least, I like to think of metrics kind of in three, it’s a side tangent but a relevant tangent, but I think of metrics in three categories. It builds off the work of Jason Jordan who talked about results, pipeline and activity. For me, I have a similar three but I replaced the middle one which is results, efficiency and activity, because the link between activity and results is efficiency.

Scott: Yup.

Jeremey: So kind of getting, bringing that back to what we were just talking about, you guys can come in and define a new process, a new methodology. Then that has to actually get implemented, and sales enablement platforms definitely help people to transform the behaviors and then also measure to make sure that those behaviors are actually being followed. And then ultimately since tools like Salesforce allow you to stitch together all the different activities and pipeline and so on, you can actually see whether or not you’ve moved the needle. In truth it would be great if you had a perfect AB test, but no one trains half their sales force and then doesn’t train the other half of the sales force and find out what happens. They tend to train everyone at the same time. So you can’t have a perfect AB test, but you can do the best you can.

Scott: Well, it’s interesting, we actually did get an opportunity to do that in a rather large company that was unsure. You would not be surprised that the team that was trained had much better results. And don’t quote me on them, as the marketing guy I should know them, but I don’t know the exact results, but much higher engagement. All of your productivity activity metrics headed in the right direction based on some of the stuff that we taught. But it’s interesting because we’ve got, in our transformation phase we talk a lot about results equals, and we have our own sort of equation. It’s very similar to yours. We talk about the reps desire plus their productivity, which is basically activity but the right activity, right? Productivity metrics, and then competency, which would not surprise you as part of a training company.

Scott: So what you have is results equals desire plus productivity plus competency. And when you get those things right, that’s what, as a sales leader for my friends out there that are sales leaders, that’s what you coach to. And we think that there’s three different hats that they wear. They manage, they lead and they coach. And so very good alignment with some of the things that you’re talking about, which actually leads me to a question for you. Think about customers that are having success with SalesLoft, and what are some of those common things you notice on the front end that you’re able to resolve on the backend when they engage, maybe with or without a training company, but when they engage with this platform you call sales engagement?

Jeremey: Yeah, I don’t want to oversell or sell at all, really, but the reason people come to sales engagement platforms in general is usually twofold. The primary motivation of all sales leaders is to increase their ability to achieve their quota, to meet and exceed their quotas, to drive bookings, to drive revenue. So being able to use a communications workflow tool to get more top of the funnel meetings that convert into opportunities and then take those opportunities through to close and then obviously engage existing customers to upsell, renew service, what have you, that sort of thing is the primary motivation.

Jeremey: There’s a secondary motivation as well, which is that, especially this is true for larger companies. They’ve made massive investments in the rest of their tool stack, in particular into Salesforce, and yet, I know this from personal experience. I worked at a very large company for 16 years and we would benchmark every year how the rate of CRM adoption. And the rate of CRM adoption, there was about 50% of the AEs would routinely use Salesforce. That’s very common inside of large enterprises to sort of see that 50% mark. I’ve talked to a lot of colleagues elsewhere over the years who experienced the same thing. So that’s another reason people will use sales engagement platforms, it just makes it really easy to drive activity and importantly to track all the activity to be able to realize the investment in your CRM. So that’s a pretty common thing.

Jeremey: There are other ways people get value, for example with inbound leads, but I feel like I’ve been talking for a while so I’ll pause before I talk about it inbound leads.

Scott: No, no, this is good. This is good, yeah, because I am curious, we talk a lot about, from a transformation perspective, that change. So if you’re trying to drive change into your sales organization, it happens one to one. And I think from a human perspective that makes sense, right? The rep and the coach working together to achieve two things, the rep’s desired result but the company’s desired result, and together the rep and the coach come up with that plan of how to get there.

Scott: You introduce, as SalesLoft, the tools that can help that rep activate what their goals that they come up commonly with their manager would achieve. And I think that makes a lot of sense and helps us really with the synergies that it could exist between the sales engagement and the tool stack, as you call it, and then the training or the human preparation that we talk about in our business. Does that make sense to you?

Jeremey: It does. Yeah. That makes me think a lot about another thing I’ve learned over the years, which is all change must be driven by the first line sales managers. So yes, you need executive alignment, but that’s not enough. And yes, you need the individual contributors to be held accountable to whatever the change that you’re trying to drive is, but you will absolutely not be successful unless sales managers, at the first line sales managers are bought in, because using your great description of them as coaches, it’s beholden on them to ensure, to inspect and expect and and coach and provide feedback to the reps to make sure that, let’s say you’re rolling out concepts that come out in the ASLAN training courses, training material, then you need to make sure that those concepts are actually being followed and understood and optimized.

Scott: Yeah, you just said something that totally brought me back, when I was back with Schneider Electric years ago in the industry business over there, there was a guy that said, “People will respect what you inspect as a leader.” And I never forgot it. I think it was so well said. But as coaches and as developers of talent, we have to be very careful and specific about what we expect of our salespeople. And if we prescribed that properly, they will react to that because they’ll respect what we’re inspecting, what are we watching, what are the things that are important to us. And I think that’s another reason a tool or a stack of tools like what you all offer help drive that to the proper behavior and ultimately to the change that we all desire in terms of Salesforce execution. Right?

Jeremey: Yeah. To that point, I have a few different jobs here at SalesLoft, but one of them is also being, having the honor I should say, of having our sales development team, which is about 40 reps, roll up into me ultimately. And to your point about people who respect what you inspect. I’m very laser focused with respect to sales development on picking one metric that is, I call it, think of it as a canary in the coal mine metric, because if that metric is working, it probably means that everything else is working. And that metric for me is the number of calls per day. It’s a little old school call center and I hate doing it, but I’ve found over many, many years of doing this that if you hold every person accountable every day to a certain number of calls, not talk time because that’s a metric I hate, but to a certain number of calls, then you’re going to get differential results, and I’ve seen that everywhere I’ve been. As much as I hate doing it, it’s the transformational metric.

Jeremey: And that’s true in sales development and in every single function, whether it’s account executives, account managers, customer success managers, what have you, there probably is a canary in the coal mine metric. That’s an activity metric that tells you whether all the other elements of the system are functioning properly or not.

Scott: Yeah. And if you listen to my podcast, you know I ask for feedback all the time, but I’d be curious if anyone in the audience has a perspective on that because I can tell you, I started out selling copiers in New York City many years ago. But when I wound up selling software, one of the things we were forced to do was make a certain number of cold calls every Tuesday morning from 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM because that was a proven success metric at the time.

Scott: And I tell you, as much as I hated it as a sales rep, it worked. Just forcing myself to make enough phone calls. Now, what we all learn later, as we get further into our careers and with hindsight as a guide, is that it’s the right phone calls, too. But the sheer numbers, to your point, really do add up. And I think they forced the behavior of just keep trying, keep trying, keep trying. Right?

Jeremey: Yeah. We like to think of it as pleasantly persistent. I read quite a lot. I just wrapped up reading yet another sales book over the weekend, and that book is very much about getting back to the basic fundamentals. And one of the good pieces of advice in the book is, there’s nothing in any sales book I think is probably particularly novel, they’re all good reminders, but it’s time blocking. And one of the things that’s advocated was basically time block every single morning, every single day, whatever it is, hour, hour and a half to prospecting, because of the age old problem that reps get so focused on spending time either servicing their existing customers or bringing late stage deals across the finish line that they move in these feast and famine, roller coasters that they ride. So to prevent yourself from having that situation, that consistent prospecting with an hour, hour and a half every single day, and often your most productive time is the morning. And prospecting is the hardest, I think it’s probably the hardest thing you do. So why not do that first thing in the morning when you’re most productive?

Scott: I think you just, you hit on something we’ve been really hyper focused on in the last several weeks, not only in some of our content we’re producing in written format like our blogs and stuff, but really on our podcast series as well, is that prospecting somehow has gotten a little bit lost, that people, because customers can do so much research and get so far on their own. And the Gardner study from a few years back that 50%, 57% of the sell cycle is over before the sales rep is even invited into a discussion, I think that number is probably closer to 70% now, that that excuses us as salespeople and sales leaders from prospecting. And I think the opposite is probably true, where there’s more of a pressure point on us, prospecting the right types of customers we say that we want to work with. As when our sellers are out there, we choose who we want to sell to, the types of companies that we think we can help. And I think you guys are probably the same way. You know what your type of customer looks like. And prospecting, while easier than it was years ago, still is an effort game, isn’t it?

Jeremey: Yeah. And it is a more effortful game probably than it used to be simply because you probably have to have more touches more consistently to actually get people’s interest. But yeah, you simply can’t rely on inbound alone to drive your business. And there are definitely companies who for a period of time are able to do that. It’s sort of the, if I had a penny for every conversation I’ve had where someone told me our business was steaming along on inbound very successfully, and then all of a sudden they’ve tapped out, not tapped out, but it slowed down. Inbound is slowed down, so they need to go outbound. And that’s a pretty universal thing to see. So yeah, I don’t think you can even get around that. But by the way, an interesting side note is, that book also went on probably a 20 page rant at the beginning of the book railing against the 57% of the decision making processes done before the rep, before the, sorry, the prospect actually reaches out to the rep.

Scott: Is that right? Wow.

Jeremey: Yeah. And so part of it resonated with me. They were arguing to, I think, throw out basically all data. And I don’t feel that way at all. But their point was there’s a risk of over-reliance on averages, and he didn’t exactly express it this way, but imagine that half of your customers or half of your prospects, I should say, didn’t do any research before they, or limited research before they reached out to you. And then the other half were basically just about across the finish line. So the average there, if 50% are at zero and 50% are at near 100%, the average is 50%. So if you just say, 50% of people or 50% of the way through, you really have missed, used an average to miscommunicate. Forthe statisticians in the audience, you basically don’t have a single normal distribution, right? You’ve got some sort of barbell buying, bi-modal distribution.

Scott: Yeah.

Jeremey: But most of the time I think averages actually are actually reliable. In that case, I don’t know if they’re reliable. I was thinking about just yesterday actually, well, just yesterday, we realized we want to increase our forecast accuracy. So I think I did what a lot of buyers do. I went on Google, I went on G2 crowd, I went on different forums that I’m a part of and looked around at who was recommended as forecast vendors. I shortlisted or longlisted, I guess, 10 of them. And I went inbound to those 10 and set up discovery demos for me to kind of walk through their products. But if somebody were to send me an outbound, if they were outbounding to me and sent me a prospecting email today about how do I improve my forecast accuracy, they’re hitting the need that I have today, I’m going to respond and take a meeting.

Jeremey: And I think that’s largely true. I think it’s much harder for people to break through when I don’t have the need. I’m probably going to ignore it unless they’re offering, unless it’s not the sort of same old, same old, right? If I’m going to take a meeting with somebody who’s cold prospecting me, I want to feel like I’m not just going to be asked a whole bunch of discovery questions. I want to believe I’m going to get some kind of value out of that interaction.

Scott: Exactly. Yeah. You wandered right into sort of part of our value proposition, which is someone is very unlikely to receive your message if you’re not identifying something that’s on their whiteboard, the figurative, what’s keeping me up at night sort of scenarios. So if I’m trying to sell to Jeremey and he’s focused on a forecasting situation he has, then I am probably going to get receptivity if I hit him with a message that either shows a gap in his understanding or something he just didn’t know, or is something that is now a perceived need. And we talk through that extensively through the training, so I think we’re all on the same page here. And I know I have kept you a very long time, but I do want to put a bow on this. Is there any place or any thing that people should do to learn more about where sales engagement in this sales enablement ball field sort of plays out in your mind?

Jeremey: Oh, wow. It’s a good question. I don’t know if there’s one place, but certainly, I try to give as much value as I can in as non promotional way as possible. So I guess the thing of value I can offer is definitely connect with me on LinkedIn. It’s Jeremey Donovan, and in exchange for connecting with me, and I pretty much accept all connections unless you don’t look like you’re an actual human, I post a one sentence immediately actionable tip every day that folks hopefully can use, often very data-driven. And that’s it, basically. I do not violate my rule of short, data-driven, immediately actionable and non-promotional. So if you do connect with me, you’ll have that on your LinkedIn feed.

Scott: Very cool. And yes, of course, we believe that you out there that sell for a living or coach, those that sell for a living have a difficult job. Many of us have done it before. Many of us have stayed in the game because we see such tremendous value in bringing value to our customers and helping them buy versus selling to them.

Scott: And so you can learn a lot more about Jeremey and hear him every week on his own podcast, Hey salespeople, you can find that all the same places you can find sALES with ASLAN. So make sure you check him out, check him out on LinkedIn and keep SalesLoft and ASLAN training dot com in mind when you have gaps in your sales force execution. Thanks for another great week of sALES with ASLAN. We’ll see you in another week. Take care everybody.

As VP of Marketing at ASLAN Training & Development, Scott’s passion is to share our solution with those in need and those who seek sales transformation. Find him on: Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

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