Summary: taking your sales academy digital isn’t an impossible task. Start with the sharpest pain, ship programs quickly, get executive buy-in, reuse your existing content, and be bold – you can probably digitally enable more than you think.
Over the past few weeks / months, we’ve all become very good at working from home.
We’ve all got our work spots carved out.
Now it’s time to get down to brass tasks. And for enablers, that means continuing to support onboarding and ongoing training for go-to-market teams – teams that are now 100% remote.
And that means no in-person training, no SME sessions, and for some, a total rethink for how they enable their sales teams.
Fortunately, I found an expert who’s been there and done that.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to chat with Paul Bleier, Director of Sales Enablement at TELUS. Paul is uniquely qualified to talk about the topic of digital sales enablement because (1) he’s terribly smart and (2) he’s done this before. At TELUS, Paul has:
- Transitioned TELUS’ Sales Academy to online
- Replaced in-person training sessions with micro- and asynchronous learning
- Tied his digital sales academy to revenue outcomes.
Here are my top takeaways from our conversation on how to digitally transform your sales academy to an online enablement powerhouse.
1. Find the sharpest pain and solve that first
Start where your sales team needs the most help. For Paul, that was onboarding. Onboarding was where his pain was sharpest.
According to Paul:
“Your onboarding structure for the first year of someone's life in a sales role, in any organization in the world is the most important foundational piece to enablement.”
Given where we are right now, starting with onboarding might not be right for you. But there are plenty of other pressures on enablers right now to transform sales academies, roll out new messaging, help redefine markets and territories, and help sales managers coach newly-remote teams.
In short, enablers are being asked to do everything they can to get sales productivity back to where it was.
And with so many challenges, it’s tempting to solve the problem that’s easiest or most pressing for you.
Don’t do that.
Instead, spend an afternoon talking to a few key stakeholders, ideally some sales managers, some VP Sales / sales leaders, your RevOps team, and whoever owns revenue at your org (more on this in a second).
From these groups, you’ll get:
- A good sense of the problems on the ground
- An idea of where the problem is according to your sales data
- A broader picture of your sales ecosystem
- An overview of the business as a whole.
Combined, you should be able to piece together your #1 problem.
Then, design your sales academy to solve that problem first.
2. Get something out the door (even if it’s ugly)
When Paul first transitioned his sales academy to a digital format, it wasn’t anything fancy. It was SharePoint and WebEx. “It wasn't sexy, it wasn't pretty, but it actually fulfilled that asynchronous learning modality where someone could self-serve the learning at the time that they need it.”
Naturally that evolved (in part because of LevelJump) to a superb digital sales academy.
But the first effort was just to get something shipped.
Sales teams need help now. Not tomorrow. Not after breakfast. Now.
To do all the things we just talked about.
So for sales enablers who are transitioning their sales academy online, don’t worry about making it perfect. Just make sure you nail down the #1 problem your sellers are facing, then do everything you can to help them solve it.
We did this for probably about six months… It wasn't sexy, it wasn't pretty, but it actually fulfilled that asynchronous learning modality where someone could self-serve the learning at the time that they need it
Ideally, you'll be able to prove the impact of the programs that you run on the metrics that represent the problem you’re trying to solve. (Pro tip: if you can do this with early indicators it’s even better.) But regardless, focus on shipping something, and shipping something fast.
2. Get executive buy-in
From as high as possible.
Remember those early conversations that we were talking about, with your executive leader? Make sure they’re bought into the digital transformation project you’re embarking on. Make sure that they understand:
- What you’re trying to do
- Why it’s important
- What business impact they can expect to see
- When they can expect to see it.
These are the questions that they’re going to get asked down the line, so arm them up front with the answers.
You need full executive buy-in for a few reasons.
First, it’s the only way to get anything done.
Second, this shouldn’t be positioned as a band-aid fix. Eventually, quarantine will end, but remote working will likely stick around now that we’ve all built systems to support it.
That means that the better the foundation you lay now for your sales academy digital transformation, the better off you’ll be. And executive sponsorship is critical to lay that foundation.
And finally, digital asynchronous learning, digital enablement, and delivering programs that tie to outcomes is the future of sales enablement – and of which are far easier to deliver with a digital sales academy.
Eventually, quarantine will end, but remote working will likely stick around, now that we’ve all built systems to support it.
As Paul put it: “If you're going to start moving things into more digital formats and abandon full classroom based training, you need to make sure that you've positioned the expected improvements that you're looking to see.”
4. Reuse your content (you probably have everything you need)
We often hear from enablers that they don’t have the content they need to run a digital sales academy.
So Paul recommends going on a content scavenger hunt. You don’t need to create a bunch of new stuff – there’s already a ton of valuable content out there that you just need to capture.
Of course, this won’t be beautifully organized in a CMS. TELUS, for instance, had to dig around for the right stuff: “there was a lot of content everywhere. Some was sitting here and there, or in this platform, and that intranet, and this SharePoint site, or this subject matter expert was great about talking about this.”
“there was a lot of content everywhere. Some was sitting here and there, or in this platform, and that intranet, and this SharePoint site, or this subject matter expert was great about talking about this.”
But the content is there.
Paul’s advice? Get together with your marketing, product, and content teams and see what’s already out there. It’s also worth sitting with your sales managers to see what’s really working for them in the field. Can you record a perfect pitch to use in your new messaging program? Or steal an email cadence that had a 50% open rate?
These sorts of things are immensely valuable and usually already exist.
5. Be Bold (you can digitize more than you think)
The last key takeaway when you’re taking your sales academy remote is this: be bold.
Be bold in designing your online sales training program, and be bold in replacing instructor-led training (ILT). As Paul put it: “You would be surprised in terms of what you can convert.”
For example, as part of the TELUS rollout of their digital sales academy, Paul transformed a two-day whiteboarding session into an enablement program inside Salesforce, delivered over several weeks as micro-learning moments. But when he first proposed that transition, people said he was crazy. But once the program was underway, it showed managers and sellers that they could learn exactly what they needed to, when they needed to know it, right within their existing workflow. It also meant that whole teams weren’t taking two or three out of their week to go do training, but rather, engaged in enablement when and where it suited them.
So think critically about your enablement programs. Don’t think about their existing format, but rather, think about what you’re trying to achieve.
Then, ask yourself: ‘can I achieve this outcome without requiring in-person ILT?’
For example, say you’re running some classroom training designed to teach sellers about a specific product. The outcome isn’t ‘all my sellers now know about Product X’. The outcome is ‘we’ve increased sales of Product X by 20%’.
So think about what you’re trying to achieve with your program, and ask yourself: ‘can I achieve the same thing with a digital experience?’
Odds are, you can digitize more than you originally thought.
Bullet point summary
- Taking your sales academy remote doesn’t have to be a huge multi-year undertaking. You can get programs digital and help sales solve problems now, even if you don’t have a full plan or a complete understanding of where your content lives.
- Make sure you’re solving the sharpest pain first. Find out where your sellers need the most help from the perspective of sales managers, sales leaders, your Salesforce data, and for your business, and align your initial digital sales academy program around that. You can do this by talking to managers, sales leaders, RevOps / Sales Ops, and executives.
- Get executive buy-in. It’s going to be far easier to push through digital changes, and more importantly will help you lay a sound foundation for future sales academy investment.
- Reuse your content. Start your digital sales academy with content curation rather than creation. Talk to your SMEs, sales mangers, marketing, and product teams to pull the collateral you need for your digital enablement programs.
- Be bold. You can probably digitize more than you think you can, and if you focus on the outcomes you want to generate, you can transform your existing enablement to be asynchronous, seller-led, and delivered when and where it’s needed.
Cover image: Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash