Best practices for conducting sales knowledge checks

by | Jun 22, 2021

Kushal Bhomick

JUNE 21, 2021

Why Knowledge Checks?

Knowledge Checks (or structured assessments) are a key tool for sales enablement managers and sales trainers. They are timely assessments that sales enablement managers can schedule. Your sales champions then receive these Knowledge Check assessments at pre-decided intervals. Conducting regular Knowledge Checks helps understand and eliminate knowledge gaps in salespeople and teams.

Using Knowledge Checks, sales enablement managers can design more precise and effective interventions. Done well, knowledge checks can help drive up to 70% faster time to productivity in new salespeople. Additionally, it can drive up to 10% more quota attainment across the company.

What can you assess with Knowledge Checks?

Knowledge Checks help assess sales teams on a number of varied topics. These assessments typically cover the following:

  • Products features and customer usage insights
  • Sales pitches
  • Sales processes
  • Market and competitors updates

Figure 1: Knowledge checks on mobile sales readiness application
In our view, you can build highly differentiates sales teams. The key is to regularly assess your reps’ knowledge retention through Knowledge Checks.

For instance, in a company that sells primarily through distribution and gig-like arrangements, the impact of knowledge checks is exponential. Therefore, if your eventual sellers are far removed from the organization’s day-to-day contact and span of control, you must run regular Knowledge Checks.

Knowledge Checks Impact: Choose A Single Metric for Measurement

Figure 2: Comparing competency profiles of two salespeople
Companies should choose a single numeric metric (say on a scale from 0-100) as a measure of knowledge levels. Each measurement will represent the knowledge of a salesperson for a key “topic” (we call these “Objectives” on our application). The simplest form of topics can be the company’s product families. We see this used a lot.

Our platform automatically updates these metrics when a salesperson responds to an assessment with a specific “topic” tag. In the below figure, you can see the knowledge representation of a particular user along with several products.

The metrics can be the following:

  • The proportion of correct responses over time
  • Collective responses in a range of assessments
  • Knowledge Decays tracked over time

A great place to start is a simple proportion of correct responses by a topic.

To do this properly, companies should develop and maintain competency maps that represent the mapping between critical topics and sales roles. There is a separate data science process to develop and update this mapping, but we will not cover it here.

Owing to modern sales readiness platforms – such as Streamz, it is possible to view the metric by hierarchical aggregations across teams, product families, and other key business entities (e.g., re-sellers, 3rd party sales agents).

Such views can unlock a deeper understanding of skills and knowledge gaps across sales teams, distribution entities, and product groups. Therefore, they should be used to design ROI efficient and precise learning interventions or to bring particular problem units into focus.

Figure 3: Heatmap helps to understand knowledge gaps by business units

When to do Knowledge Checks

From our experience, you should conduct Knowledge Checks for the following three scenarios.

After onboarding followed by periodic continuous monitoring

Companies make considerable investments in salesperson onboarding – often lasting weeks or months. The main goal of these sessions is to quickly onboard salespeople and reduce the ramp-up time. Therefore, these sessions usually have a structured framework for disseminating information.

They are, however, compressed in time. Additionally, a massive amount of information has to be assimilated in a short duration. It is widely acknowledged that much of this information is lost within weeks. This has a negative impact on the time-to-productivity of new salespeople. Developing a good understanding of the development of new salespeople cohorts and taking timely actions is critical to get them to productivity faster.

We recommend companies should perform a comprehensive knowledge check at the end of onboarding to create a baseline. On-boarding knowledge checks should cover topics that are critical for a salesperson’s time to productivity. Furthermore, they should assess sales reps based on topics in the Role Competency Map. The company should monitor the development of skills and know-how of the individual and the cohort through regular knowledge checks once the benchmark is established.

When launching a new product or refreshing existing ones

In the last year, 8 in 10 companies have either launched a new product or substantially changed an existing product. One of the biggest challenges senior leaders face is that, while they are confident about creating new products, they are less confident about their ability to ensure commercial success.

Selling new products needs a greater intensity of preparedness of sales teams. New products are often sold to existing customers or new segments. Salespeople have to spend up to 40% more time in involved sales communication and solution development with customers and prospects. The difference between a successful product introduction and a failure mostly comes down to the preparedness of sales teams.

In new product training, Product Managers typically cover all the bells and whistles about the new product hoping that the salespeople will get super excited about the innovation. However, salespeople don’t usually get all excited about the latest and greatest features. In fact, they often struggle to articulate how the innovation will solve customer challenges.

For new product scenarios, salespeople not only have to learn and articulate the capabilities of the product but also make customers and prospects comprehend the value creation process and how the innovation solves their challenges.

In addition to the usual training that accompanies new product introduction, add a process for measuring the readiness of salespeople covering:

  • Product Features
  • Insights about how the new product/innovation solve customer challenges
  • Risks and people issues leading to changes in customer processes
  • How other early customers have benefited from the innovation

This can be accomplished through a series of knowledge checks leading up to the new product launch and for a period of time thereafter until the new product knowledge is stabilized among sales teams.

After a sales training (change this to testing for whatever you covered in the training)

Companies invest considerable time and effort doing training events and workshops for sales. However, a very small percentage of what is learned in these sessions is retained over time. Sales reps forget most of what they learn in such “one-shot” training within 90 days.

From our experience, a series of time-delayed knowledge checks covering the training materials, augmented with a personalized question selection method, so we don’t check what a user already knows, can simultaneously aid knowledge retention while providing product managers and training managers information about how knowledge decays in sales cohorts over time.

Such models of knowledge retention among the company’s sales teams can help develop more effective training interventions and automated recommendations on the company’s digital learning platforms.

Figure 4: Enterprise models of knowledge retention in salespeople
For example, if a product manager conducts a product refresher training, they could set up an assessment immediately, and then repeat it after 7 days, 21 days and 90 days. On our platform, where we have automation supporting question selection and personalized distribution, we have seen such strategies drive up to 80% knowledge retention of key concepts post 90 days.

These are our recommendations for leveraging Knowledge Checks in your Sales Enablement strategy. For more tips and best practices, subscribe to our blog.

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