You may already have a sales enablement program, initiative or function at your organization. Or perhaps some of your colleagues want to talk to you about developing one.
If your enablement initiative drives sales results as expected, you don’t need to read this article. If that’s not the case – if you’re not engaged in sales enablement or your current approach doesn’t meet your expectations and deliver desired results, I encourage you to read this blog post with an open mind and heart to establish a thorough understanding of sales enablement.
I began my blog series for senior executives in April, driven by COVID19, with the goal of highlighting the value of an integrated sales enablement approach and why it matters more than ever.
Today, let’s take a step back, because I want you to truly understand the concept of sales enablement and how it can drive your sales results in a consistent and sustainable way. We’ll begin by debunking myths so we can build on a clean slate as I move on with this series.
Myth #1: Sales enablement only adds more layers to and complicates tasks previously accomplished elsewhere
This is a common misconception, and nothing could be further from the truth. Sales enablement is not about complicating processes or building new silos. If that’s currently happening in your organization, I’d encourage you to stop it right away.
Sales enablement should be strategic, orchestrated and cross-functional in nature. One of the reasons why sales enablement exists in the first place is that silos no longer work in our fast-paced digital age of ever-changing buyer preferences. Here’s why:
Whether you’re in a sales or marketing role, look at the situation from a salesperson’s perspective:
They receive new content from marketing, are asked to attend new courses from sales training and learning & development, are expected to digest new checklists and processes from sales operations, learn new compensation plans from sales managers (without proper coaching) and keep up with reminders from CRM systems. Despite all this, there are still essential components missing, such as proposal templates for specific use cases, the latest scope of work for a particular buying situation and on and on and on. Even worse, the content they get from marketing doesn’t match the messaging used in assets from the product team or the information drilled into them during training, so they confuse your buyers and end up creating their own content, wasting several hours per week. And here we run into issues that should be top of mind for every executive: productivity and available selling time.
Would you like to step into the shoes of your salespeople? Probably not. The challenges sellers face come from siloed functions that look at sales from their perspective and ultimately create more confusion than value. As these functions are not consistent with one another and often contain misleading messages, they fail to engage sellers – the first hurdle you need to overcome if you want to equip, enable and empower them.
This is why the strategic, orchestrated and cross-functional character of sales enablement is the key to its success, ensuring consistency that makes sense for salespeople, their managers, and, ultimately, your buyers. In order to maximize the results of sales enablement, you must ensure all involved functions are on the same page and that they do their work as part of a sales-oriented approach.
Myth #2: Sales enablement is just another word for content or training technology already handled by our L&D platform
First, sales enablement is about a lot more than technology. The technology you use only accounts for 25% of your efforts to drive change and results in your organization, regardless of whether you focus on content, training, coaching or all of it combined.
Secondly, sales enablement technology only amplifies what you use it for. What does this mean? It means you could be listening to the same bad music, only louder.
The secret to leveraging any sales enablement technology is spending the necessary time to do your homework first, such as evaluating existing content and training services, being honest and throwing away what’s no longer relevant or useful, and closing existing content and training gaps.
The role of sales enablement is ensuring this preparation is done properly across all involved functions in order to position the technology for maximum success. In the case of content, that means marketing, product, sales ops, sales enablement and legal teams. It often goes unmentioned, but based on research from CSO Insights, less than 40% of the content salespeople need to close deals comes from marketing.
Thirdly, this myth is probably why you took a hands-off approach to sales enablement, delegating it to sales ops, product marketing or L&D. Now, as we debunked Myth #1, you could see that providing salespeople with all the services they need along the entire customer journey in a cross-functional way is the essence of sales enablement. That’s why different repositories for sales content don’t work, and why companywide L&D systems are not what your sales teams need to be effective.
You may be wondering why your existing L&D system isn’t the right solution. I hear you.“ The issue is it’s not tailored to salespeople and their unique needs. As a salesperson, if you already have a hard time making quota, especially in today’s ultra-challenging times, you’ll be very frustrated and impatient if you need to jump from a CRM to various content repositories to find the assets you need. As training is often closely related to the content (no content without training!) you want sellers to use, the messaging you want them to convey or the methodology you want them to utilize, training services should be available at salespeople’s fingertips, just like their content, when they need it and where they need it.
If your training services are housed in a separate system, you won’t serve your sales force as best as you could, and adoption will decrease. An integrated sales enablement platform that covers content, training and coaching is essential to driving adoption and reinforcement among your salespeople. L&D platforms will always have a reason to exist, especially for providing general training courses for all employees that are less time-critical (security, compliance, general work and management skills, etc.).
It’s different for salespeople, as the ability to quickly and easily find all they need for their roles is vital to day-to-day performance. It could be the latest product training for a critical opportunity, the most up-to-date messaging or a reminder of what content to provide for different buyer personas in a specific deal. In order to cater to salespeople’s workflow and support success, all sales-specific training services should be made available in an integrated sales enablement platform alongside all relevant content.
Myth #3: Sales enablement is actually sales operations
Let’s not confuse apples and oranges … and pears. Yes, sales enablement, sales ops and sales management are three different things: apples, oranges and pears, if you will. And the lack of clarity surrounding sales operations and sales management leads to the same confusion regarding sales enablement.
Sales enablement and sales ops are both supporting functions, representing two sides of the same coin, whereas sales management is an executing function.
The main task of sales ops is to establish the foundation of your selling system, otherwise known as your sales engine. Sales ops defines items, such as your coverage plan, your territory and account model, and your sales process, ideally including sales methodologies, cadences and forecasting procedures. Owning your CRM system is also a major part of establishing this foundation.
In other words, sales ops has an architectural responsibility to build a solid sales system so your sales force (sales managers and their teams) can be productive and effective.
Sales enablement builds on this foundation by working with the sales force and all involved functions, such as marketing, product, L&D, human resources, information technology and sales management, to engage, equip and empower salespeople and their managers to be relevant, valuable and differentiating across every buyer interaction, ultimately, creating the best possible buyer experience.
The better your sales ops team is set up, the easier it is for sales enablement to drive results. Sales enablement services cannot exist in a vacuum; processes, methodologies, CRM and pipeline are all necessary.
I hope debunking these myths has helped you better understand what your employees mean when they talk to you about sales enablement. Regardless of which department they represent or their area of expertise please give them a chance and listen. If not, you may lose an amazing opportunity to leverage sales enablement to drive your digital sales transformation and achieve desired results.
And once you’re done listening, ask them how best to implement sales enablement at your organization. After all, now you know how important a comprehensive approach is.
Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for more in this series for senior executives.