If you are in sales enablement, creating a Sales Advisory Council is a critical piece of the alignment puzzle. Why? Because we all know that understanding the wants and needs of the Sales Executive team is important. However, getting in touch with the daily life of individual sellers – what their pain are, how they see the world, and how decisions are affecting them – is ALSO a huge part of knowing what needs to be a in your enablement plan and how it should be executed. Plus, it can help you credential yourself and grow buy-in from the very teams you support.
I have run many councils over the years and there are several things that I have found that can mean the difference between successful outcomes and frustration.
Sales Advisory Council DON’TS
1. DON’T include management
While it may seem like a good idea to include sales management in these sessions to garner their input…don’t. It will stifle the open sharing of information and keep you from getting the true picture of what is going on at the street level. Of course, there are exceptions, team leads seem to be less threatening and likely not cause any friction. The key is to think carefully about the effect each person will have on the others.
· TIP: Try this – make the invitation to join the Sales Advisory Council a great honor for quota carrying reps. You can even ask regional leadership for nominations across their teams, publish the roster in a company update, or give fanfare at a QBR. The point is to make this a team that sales reps want to join, while at the same time making clear it is only for reps and not sales management.
2. DON’T limit yourself to high performers
It is tempting to only include the “best of the best” in your councils…don’t. But who better to give you direction on the effectiveness of sales tools then the best in sales? Well, there’s the trick. Many of the top sales professionals have either a natural gift for persuasion or so many years of experience that they don’t remember what is like starting out. You will miss the majority of your target audience by not include greener reps into the mix.
· TIP: Try this – include representation from all regions, segments, tenures, and skill levels. It is even better when you can meet with them all together. Most of the time, you find more similarities than differences and come up with more creative solutions when you open up the discussion in a diversified group.
3. DON’T allow project owners to be participants
While it seems to make perfect sense to fully include the project owner/manager on the topic you are reviewing with the Sales Advisory Council…don’t. No one want to give negative feedback to the person who just spent 100 hours creating something. But more importantly, it can create defensive dialogue from the project owner and shut the conversation down. If you need to have their input, have questions/answers go through a neutral moderator. Remember – the goal is to get the REAL story – not confirm pre-conceived ideas.
· TIP: The earlier that you can bring a project into review, the better. If you are only getting feedback on projects that are already baked, the Sales Advisory Council will feel like they are wasting their time.
4. DON’T ask questions the way the project owners/SMEs give them to you
Asking questions is an art form. Take it from the sales reps we often train in questioning skills. It seems easy enough to get a list of questions from a project owner or SME to ask sales…don’t. That often won’t get you an actionable answer. Instead, either modify the questions, add layers of deeper discovery into the questions, or build your own repeatable questioning strategy that you can use across sessions.
· TIP: Try this – instead of asking the Sales Advisory Council if they “like” a project or even doing an add/keep/kill exercise; ask WHEN specifically they WOULD USE or HAVE USED it with a customer. Make sure to ask for an example of what the customer goal would be. Remember, all contacts should have a goal to get a customer from point A to point B – what was it for this project? If you don’t get a clear answer, that should tell you what you need to know.
A sales Advisory Council can be a valuable source of field and customer information for groups around the company. If you organize it correctly you can improve not only your project success, but the success of company-wide initiatives. All while building greater organizational alignment.
In part 2 of this article we will discuss the top best practices for running a Sales Advisory Council.
With a degree in Marketing Management, certifications in Sales Methodology coaching, consulting and message creating, as well as Learning and Development Program Management; Jennifer Robinson has spent the last 20+ years up-leveling her skills and following her vision. She found her niche over the last 12 years “out of the ivory tower and into the weeds” – focused on how Sales Enablement can be a lynchpin; aligning sales across marketing, product, operations, and other business functions to move deals forward and shorten sales cycles. You can reach Jennifer through LinkedIn, her blog, and Twitter.