JUNE 21, 2021
Testing and assessing are something we have done in many areas, and of course, in education we all have been tested through many standardized tests. But once we are in the working world, the process of measuring, testing, and assessing may not be the priority.
I recently had an interesting support experience. My Internet TV service was failing and dropping all the time. I called the tech team, and they were quick to respond… After hearing my problem, the service tech came in to change some parts. He concluded I should replace my router with a new one. When the issue wasn’t resolved, the tech changed another item, but the issue persisted. In short, the tech came and replaced 5 items with 5 different visits and finally the problem got resolved.
As an informed customer (with an engineering background) I asked him- How were you so sure? The unanswered question making the rounds in my head was why didn’t the tech “test”? Testing, measuring and assessing would have saved money and improved customer experience.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that when LinkedIn asked L&D professionals globally what their most important area of strategic focus was for 2020, evaluating the effectiveness of learning programs topped the list. My sales and marketing background asked me a question:
Do we need to test and assess sales reps?
Sales reps (direct or channel partners) are key in communicating value to our customers about our products and services. All sales and marketing leaders agree that a knowledgeable product advisor would do a better job of selling since customers have researched and know what they require from the products as they go through their buying journey.
Here are some important points to consider
- As Product Marketers and Sales Enablement practitioners, we do tons of training in new products and skills. In a recent survey by ATD, over 60% of the sales training focused on product knowledge and sales strategy.
- As per research from HBR, on average, salespeople spend 35% more time meeting with customers throughout the new product sales cycle than they do when selling established goods and services. This is a costly investment of sales resources and hence they need to be well-versed in products. During a product launch, training is merely a product showcase in disguise.
- According to the Buyer Preferences Study, only 23 percent of B2B buyers consider salespeople as a resource to solve a business problem. This is a cause of concern for sales leaders. There is a need to be more precise when evaluating sellers, but upper management often approaches sales leaders for on-the-spot evaluations of their sales reps, with open-ended questions like, “Is this sales rep good?” Not only is the definition of “good” completely subjective, but these types of evaluations are sometimes used to inform key decisions about hiring, promotions, and performance reviews.
Finally, there is a whole question on knowledge retention. The idea is to ‘arrest the forgetting curve’. 90% of all training is forgotten in 30 days. Measuring how well sales reps can retain knowledge and reinforcing the knowledge reduces the gaps.
I did an informal survey of my sales manager friends and the most common answer was I am meeting the sales reps regularly and have a good idea. While many managers can do a subjective assessment of their employees, many agreed an objective way would be more beneficial, as it would eliminate various opinions and biases and focus on actual issues.
How can we test and assess sales reps’ product knowledge objectively?
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This can be achieved in several ways:
a. Knowledge checks
Quiz them by asking questions regularly. This is not just after training, but a continual pop-up quiz, on-the-go quizzes, which measure knowledge retention objectively. The primary aim is to identify whether sales reps have really understood the content and where you require ‘interventions’. Today, tech allows us to scale these knowledge checks in an automated fashion and get a deep analysis of product knowledge measures for each sales rep, region, or country. We can further reinforce learning with explanations of the quizzes and intelligent learning recommendations.
Create a safe method for sales reps to pitch their knowledge using role-play methods, assess them, and give feedback. Today, we can ask sales reps to send simple video pitches using smartphones, assess them on a rubric, and give quick feedback. Sharing the best practice videos amongst various sales reps can give ideas for improvement.
c. Observation at the time of engagement
This is where sales managers can review communications between the sales reps and their prospects and see whether they have applied the learning. There needs to be a proper assessment method. Today’s tech allows you to record calls and have them reviewed. Of course, a manager can accompany the sales reps on a call to assess intensively.
Leading Enterprises have started on the road to test and assess objectively and continuously whether the sales rep is ‘ready’. Companies invest a great deal to bring their new products to market and drive growth. Having the sales reps ready and measurably aligned with the strategic objectives has proven to be a clear winner for organizations. The sales reps can have meaningful and valued conversations with their customers and position products and value with confidence. This can undoubtedly improve sales efficiency and customer retention.