- Defining sales readiness
- The key differences between sales readiness and enablement
- Using AI to boost and promote readiness within sales and the entire organization
This episode is perfect for anyone preparing for sales who’s interested in how AI can prepare and train sales reps.
Nick: Hello everybody and welcome to Mind the Gap, Enablix’s only podcast seeking sales and marketing alignment. I’m your host Nick Ziech-Lopez and today I am joined by Jawahar Kanjilal.
Jawahar, how’s it going?
Jawahar: Great. Thank you very much for having me.
Nick: Absolutely. So I’m very excited today. I think we have a really cool discussion.
Before we get into the meat of it though, could you introduce yourself for our listeners?
Jawahar: My name Jawahar Kanjilal, I’m the founder and CEO for Streamz. Streamz.ai is a sales readiness platform. We focus ourselves on the desk-less workforce. People who are out there on the field and generally forgotten by large enterprises because they work for third parties, the channel partners.
So we enable large enterprises to connect with them, to keep them enabled and ready.
Nick: There’s a term you used there that I want to focus on today. Because I think it’s distinct in our ecosystem.
Sales readiness, I know there are a lot of words that come to define a lot of the ways that we help enable the reps. and help build reps. and make them successful.
How do you define sales readiness?
Jawahar: I’m glad you started off there and I’m glad you asked this question.
The key part here is to differentiate what is readiness and what is enablement. At the end of the day, both are required.
So sales enablement is a much larger sphere. It is all about enabling content, enabling with all the tools, enabling people with all the resources that they need to do the job well. Obviously over a period of time our systems are more intelligent and are able to predict exactly what someone needs at what life stage of a particular conversation and are able to surface those resources to a sales rep. correctly.
After having all those resources, it is also a question of that person, the sales rep, the human being to be able to effectively deliver that interaction, to be able to drive home the right points, and have an expert oriented conversation with the customer, with the prospect.
And that’s where it is supremely important for the person to be ready. That’s predominantly the sales readiness paradigm and the sales readiness paradigm focuses primarily on the individual to make them confident and make them fully prepared for every sales conversation that they are headed in.
That’s the critical difference from the enablement space, focusing on resources, do the individual in the readiness space wherein you are driving home the ability for the person to stay confident and feel confident during that conversation and after the conversation.
Nick: So would you say readiness starts at rep. performance like within a call or within an interaction?
Jawahar: I think readiness starts so much before that. Readiness starts with preparing your rep. Right?
So it starts with right at the beginning of the life stage of a rep., right at the right amount of induction and showing that are at a particular level of threshold to perform and you get there by self learning.
You get there by instructor-led training, you get there by coaching, you’re on the job, and there are many elements for it. It is very important though that is a sustained level of intervention, developmental intervention for the person, and that is a continuous intervention that goes along the life stage of the rep.
So for any kind of non sales intervention, sales call, you obviously are ensuring that the person is well-prepared for that interaction. During the interaction, they should be enabled with the right resources, ability to be able to handle objections, probably able to show a video, asset, a presentation, etc., and what is required.
Where we focus on specifically is for a desk-less workforce, which is predominantly on their mobile phone. Using streams, companies are not only able to have a very effective induction, but they are able to have a continuous, lifelong learning. Which includes not just soft skills, which enables coaching done by the superiors, but very importantly a continuous stream of product information that flows to them.
A continuous assessment happens for that individual by which the company gets to know their knowledge gaps on which dimensions of the product. So for example, if you are an EV electric vehicle manufacturer, and now I am a sales rep. in that company, after a day long session, all of us get judged for whatever we’ve learned and we get an aggregate score. Comprehension and we get an aggregate score.
But, this aggregate score is of no use if I need to actually know what I did not know. You’re supposed to, both of us who went through it and we both got a 70. I did not know the 30 that I could not answer correctly was about the differential gear system. The 30 that you could not answer correctly was more to do with the new battery technology etc.
Nick: You had mentioned a continuous level of intervention for the rep coming in. I imagine those interventions, coaching sessions, times to talk…how do you know when the right time is to coach or train or make a rep ready?
Jawahar: Yeah, it is very important for you to know exactly the knowledge gaps and people forget. This is a very dynamic and moral person to use the knowledge that they have got the more it becomes solidified. But imagine that you’ve gone through a training program and you get assessed. We get aggregate scores generally at the end of the day. It’s possible to know through that aggregate score what I do not know and what I have not scored correctly on.
So what we do is we ensure that we have regular assessments flowing down to people, and this is a very autonomous set of questions that are triggered as part of that assessment driven by an algorithm which actually takes into account what you have not answered correctly, what you have done, so when the past to what you have hesitated to answer etc.
So you are choosing those questions, a personalized set of questions in an assessment for an individual to really check their knowledge levels once again on the perceived knowledge gaps or the anticipated knowledge gaps. And you want to check those right?
Many times what happens is that assessments are not just for checking knowledge, but they are also a good tool to refresh and remind. Because sometimes you have some things at the back of your mind, but just by exercising a little bit of talk, you’ll bring it to the floor.
So assessments are a good tool to refresh, remind, as well as assess. Combination of all of this, you are able to spot the exact knowledge gaps that the person has, the individual has, and then recommend the right streams of content.
In our case, it is bite-size streams of guards that flow through. That’s why the company streams, the product is streams, and these are very targeted and sharp. Literally it’s like, I said I didn’t know this and I hear, I serendipitously are able to see what I need to refresh and learn. So there is a value that a rep sees and that’s the continuous cycle of improvement that is continuously happening.
You’re assessing and recommending over a period of time. Assessing, recommending, and puzzle it in.
Nick: How do you see the difference between readiness and a more traditional training or coaching program? Perhaps like an LMS type of an ecosystem.
Jawahar: Yeah. The primary differences and traditional training is a very one-off kind of an event.
You know, it’s very event centric. Whenever I have a new product launch, I have trained people. So if I have a very large sales organization, channel partners, etc. I’ve not been able to do that effectively, I just send presentations to them.
Or I have an LMS, I just make them go through a 30 minute course or an artist course and a few questions and that’s it. What readiness does is, you’re not only doing that on your mobile device, at least for us we are very mobile centric, so mobile devices. But then you’re continuously assessing, continuously recommending, continuously up-skilling, and you’re doing that on multiple parameters. You’re doing that on the product, you’re doing that on the new processes that a company may have, you’re doing that on soft skills. As people progress, managers have different intervention needs and development needs, so you progress.
So it’s truly an autonomous journey that a person can do and here the content is coming to you based on the gaps that the system is evaluating. Or the companies deciding that the rep needs to know these particular knowledge items, these particular product items now, because I am running a campaign and it is important for them to know about right now.
Who decides that, it’s part of a go-to market. The go-to market is decided by the enterprise. So you are able to control what your frontline sales guys need to be ready with and you’re recommending that.
So that’s the key difference in LMS or training? It’s one off and then you depend on somebody’s memory to serve them. In readiness, it’s a continuous always-on effort and it is an automated effort. It is an autonomous effort that is reaching out to you for the right knowledge gaps.
Nick: When it sounds to me, when you talk about readiness, you make it sound almost like it should apply to everyone across the company.
When you talk about it like that like hey, how do I know that you know what you need to do to be effective at your job? Because when people can be effective at their position in the job, no matter what, right?
Many people without readiness are effective today. I think that top-down, it’s useful to have. I mean, I was in an organization recently where we almost had IT readiness. Every week, we’d have to kind of what you said, either on our mobile phone or on our computer taking quizzes for things like password sharing and data sensitivity and things like that in the wake of GDPR.
Why do you think sales is the right place to start with readiness? What is it about the sales reps job that makes it either dynamic or different that makes readiness so crucial right now?
Jawahar: A very good question.
You have to be skilled and you have to be aware of what it takes to do your job, right?
So from that perspective, you have to be ready for whatever the job that you undertake.
Now, the most important difference here is that sales is the most dynamic function in any company. Your products change, your competitor changes, speed changes, your configuration changes, your trade teams are different, your sales focus for the month is different.
So every month there is something, or the other at least at that cadence of a month is constantly changing. Which other function in a company changes that rapidly?
Also the journey is also quite high in the states. So you have a two dimensional dynamic right. The change and the need for keeping abreast. Even if the person is the same, the need for keeping refreshed and getting the new information is very critical for you to do your job well.
So that’s the hardest part and that’s where you need to focus yourself the most.
Nick: Well and those two things, like you said, the two dimensions, they certainly don’t feel unrelated. That sales reps job is constantly changing and also being in a very high turnover area. Let’s zero in on that for a second.
Why is it, like you said, sales changes more than any other day to day, month to month life of a sales rep changes more than almost any other position in the company. Why is that?
What is it about sales that makes it so that flux is okay or expected?
Jawahar: Oh, you’re fighting it out in the marketplace and the market is not the same. It is constantly changing and that’s your interface to the market.
So you have to be agile and adaptive, and that’s why sales functions are the most dynamic functions in any organization. And that’s why every organization needs to keep their channel partners because their selling plan will be constantly ready, constantly sharp, constantly confident.
If a company does not keep their channel partners up to speed and ready, that’s a very big vulnerability because it’s an extension of that brand. That’s a very important dimension for solidarity in the business.
Nick: You know, I find that so interesting.
The concept of the rep job is changing so quickly, the readiness there is most important.
Do you see readiness kind of cascading throughout the organization, going from the most changing to sales all the way down to sale CS or engineering?
Or do you see it staying in sales, but where do you see the future of readiness going?
Jawahar: You know, everyone has to be ready for their job right from the day one of joining a company. They go through that induction to stay ready. Then, if the processes are set and if you’re doing something that is fairly repeatable then, you develop proficiency over a period of time just by doing the same thing.
Readiness becomes extremely critical for functions where things change. So that’s why you find, uh, the banking insurance sector heavily regulated to ensure that there are compliance tests. That’s why you find IT and security, those functions having to refresh themselves. They have refreshers and training and compliance certifications.
There’s no certifications required from a point of view regulatory for sales, other than some industries like BSI, etc. But primarily it is in the interest of the company to ensure that. The people who represent that brand are people who are their own employees or people who are their channel partner employees are always ready so they are able to represent the brand correctly, represent and sell the proposition correctly.
It is no one else’s responsibility in the company to ensure that. The product is correctly represented and sold by the people who are responsible for representing it and that’s why readiness is very, very important.
Or when you are representing yourself to an extended world, predominantly in sales, right?
Now I want to pivot a little bit and talk about the industry itself.
So, you are Streams.ai.
AI is built into your platform.
Can you tell me how you see artificial intelligence or advanced intelligence playing a big part in readiness?
Why is it so crucial to have that AI component?
Jawahar: Well, when you are trying to up-skill thousands of people, it is manually impossible for a team of trainers or coaches to handle that.
So when you’re talking about thousands of people across different countries, across different channel types and partners, and you are talking about people joining at different times, so at any given point in time, you have people who have just joined today to people who have spent a long time in the organization to most people in between, right through the spectrum.
So you have this complexity. Now, traditionally, we push everyone in a class and that’s why interventions are worn off and very, very periodic.
Jawahar: But if you are talking about readiness, if you’re talking about keeping each individual, immediately brought to a point of productive levels very, very fast boasts that induction period. You have to come to a productive level very fast and once you get to a productive level fast, you become more confident in your job and wonder why people leave jobs.
And by that is high turn. Turn is a symptom of a person not feeling confident of what they are doing and which is again, a net result of how well they have been handled through in that journey.
So how well have they been kept ready or brought to that state of readiness?
So that’s an important part of the journey in a company that you’ve got to make people at that level of readiness and keep that continuously growing.
Nick: Either either non-confident in what they’re doing or very…
Jawahar: Yeah. So coming back to your question about AI, sorry I have to bring it back there.
Nick: No, no it’s okay.
Jawahar: So where is AI coming now?
If you have such a wide spectrum of people at different levels of proficiency awareness and further there’s a large velocity of information as we see. The streams of information that need to flow through to every individual, if it is personalized to what I as a rep needs at that point in time, it is most beneficial.
Yeah so to speak, so AI kind of delivers “engineered serendipity.” So basically, wow I kind of had forgotten about this and so nice that I’m just about to be able to read this and refresh myself. So that trail you can give, as well as when you are seeing people continuously for the knowledge gaps, and you are then recommending the right knowledge gaps at an individual level at scales of thousands, tens of thousands of people.
It is impossible to do it without AI and that’s where AI comes in. So AI is basically augmenting the learner by delivering what the person needs at the right moment in time, as well as augmenting the manager or the coach or the trainers capability to be able to intervene and help the right people rather than waste that effort across.
So it’s a time-saver, augmenting people’s capabilities significantly. That’s where AI comes in.
Nick: Like a force multiplier, almost being able to apply intelligence to cover so much more than a person could.
I mean that makes a lot of sense to me and I think it demystifies it.
I think the concept of how AI fits into things is so very confusing for a lot of people.
Like we just throw around AI, like you could with anything.
I think the idea of applying intelligence to a problem to scale makes a lot of sense, especially in writing this.
Jawahar: And AI is absolutely part of the DNA for readiness, because if you want to have your sales reps and you have tons of them, many, AI is the only way to be able to do it and bring out the personalized effectiveness of each individual, right? Because each individual’s needs are different.
Nick: Needs need to be tailored.
So before we break here, I am interested, we’re coming up on time.
But we’ve talked about a lot, we’ve talked about readiness and the sales team itself and AI.
What do you think the next five years holds for this? You could call it sales in general, but we saw sales enablement has really taken off. Sales, readiness, and readiness type ideas are happening, rev ops is at its peak.
What do you see happening in the next five years in this general sales space that you think is worth paying attention to right now?
Jawahar: And I’ll focus my answer on the readiness space.
And I clearly see that we are at the cusp. We are at a very nascent stage. We are at the cusp of things taking off.
There’s a large realization amongst enterprises that this needs to be done at scale, and it needs to be done at the hitting home and being impactful to each individual. So that’s the first step.
Second step is how do you ensure that the person is effective? So it’s not just readiness from a point of view of keeping a person well-informed, confident, ready, knowledgeable at a particular treasure level, but you also bring in signals from other enterprise systems like your sales, performance management systems, your CRM systems, etc.
And then the doors activities as well, which further inform and recommend the right behavior shaping content to an individual, right?
So you then are able to shape leading behaviors, which is very important. Sales today have been rewarding defacto departments. Factor apartments rather, construct, right?
Once you’ve achieved your quota, once you’ve achieved your target, you get rewarded for that. But what if during the period month, quarter, whichever way, during the period, you were able to influence the right behaviors? Leading behaviors that could enhance your productivity a bit and if you are able to do that at the scale of tens of thousands of people, imagine the benefit that any enterprise can gather.
That would be the next summit climb for the industry. Once again here, since there are so many data points pertinent to that one individual and that performance, which can differ in different cohorts, even within a company, different business groups, even within a company, it needs a lot of data science expertise. It needs a lot of advanced analytics. You know, it could go beyond the gut into a lot more data oriented readiness and analytics.
A lot of ground needs to be covered there.
Knowing the state of I’ll say continual readiness of many of the sales teams I’ve seen, it seems like there is a lot of opportunity for that to happen.
Before we break, would you like anything to be plugged in or turn the people to?
Jawahar: Well, the only thing to remember here is as an enterprise, your guest link is the people who represent you and it is the large enterprises brand’s responsibility to keep everyone in that channel fully ready and fully prepared.
And at scale, you will not be able to do it without a modern sales readiness platform like Streamz.
Nick: I would go as far as to say your weakest link is potentially your strongest link depending on how ready they are.
Jawahar: Make your weakest link your strongest link.
Nick: Make your weakest link your strongest link.
See, we try to have every podcast have a tagline, and I think we just found ours for this episode.
Thank you so much for coming on the podcast Jawahar.
It’s been a lot of fun talking about something that honestly before we met, I was not too familiar with, so thank you very much.
Jawahar: My pleasure. Thank you for having me, I wish you the best.
Nick: Ladies and gentlemen, this has been Mind the Gap, a podcast about sales and marketing alignment put on by Enablix. My name is Nick Ziech-Lopez.
Thanks for listening.