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“If you’re making quota, we’re happy.”
That’s how Nate Vogel, the director of Tableau’s sales training team, describes his team’s mission to Tableau’s sales force.
Tableau’s sales team doubled in size over two years, so the sales training team has had a unique opportunity to explore what works and what doesn’t when it comes to helping new hires (and long-time employees) achieve their goals. As a result of rigorous continuous improvement efforts, this team has achieved a steady decrease in new sales hire ramp time over those two years. This paper will review some of the techniques they’ve used to measure and improve the success of the sales team.
“We’re playing the game while the board is being built,” says Grace Amos, Tableau’s global sales trainer. “We let the data guide us.”
“We really look at the data and ask, ‘What’s working?’ and ‘What’s not working?’” adds Vogel, who’s worked with sales teams for 25 years. “We know what’s working and what we need to work on.”
Here are some of the improvements they’ve made:
According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of sales employees’ time is not spent selling. Tableau’s sales training team wanted to understand what our sales team was doing instead. They surveyed the sales team, and then they visualized the results, grouped by different types of sales roles. As you can see in the dashboard below, Tableau’s account managers reported spending above-average time prospecting, and below-average time with people development.
After seeing this data, our sales training team decided to invest in a tool to help our sales team with prospecting, and they implemented a mentorship program to improve the people development score. When the survey asked our sales team what their obstacles were, overall they identified administrative obstacles. But when they drilled down into the data, our training team noticed that our APAC sales team actually considered prospecting to be an obstacle. They talked to some of our APAC employees about this, and they uncovered the underlying problem: the prospecting tool was optimized for English-speaking countries, and it was less accurate for APAC. Our U.S.-based sales operations team was able to take immediate action to resolve this.
When Tableau’s sales training team was formed, one of their first questions was about how product certification impacted ramp time for sales hires.
At Tableau, we advise our new sales hires to become certified with our product in their first 30 days of employment. Tim Lens, our global product sales trainer, discovered something interesting in his analysis of the product certification and ramp times. Since 2012, 18% of Tableau’s new sales hires took more than 30 days to become certified in our product; the rest were certified in an average of 24 days.
By blending the certification data with Salesforce data, Lens and the training team discovered that those 18% generated only 14% of sales, and their average closed won opportunity amount was $27,000 lower than the faster learners. Worse, over time that gap went up, to $31,000 in lost opportunity sales. There was a clear negative trend.
The training team now uses that visualization to emphasize the importance of product certification in conversations with sales managers and in new-hire training. They’ve also modified on-boarding training to better enable new hires to become certified.
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