The First Step to Building a Successful Sales Enablement Program
Sure—there’s always been some element of sales enablement at successful organizations. Perhaps it took the form of a veteran sales rep sharing his best practices with rookies. Or a member of the sales or marketing team tasked with providing reactive, ad hoc support—on top of their full time jobs.
Today, companies are moving away from random acts of sales enablement to more formal programs and dedicated teams, and for good reason. It’s become clear that a successful sales enablement program can have a large, quantifiable impact on a company’s growth. CSO Insights found the percentage of reps achieving quota at companies with an enablement program improved by 22.7%, and win rates for forecast deals were boosted by 14.5%. And that’s just the beginning of the story.
You’ve heard the message loud and clear and have decided to launch a sales enablement program at your company. With so many moving pieces, how do you know where to start?
The first step to building a successful sales enablement program is to develop a sales enablement charter, a business plan that lays out the who, what, when, where, and why of your program.
Why is a charter necessary? In addition to formalizing your program, a sales enablement charter is linked to greater success. The same CSO Insights report referenced earlier found that organizations with a sales enablement charter achieve greater close rates than those that don’t.
Establishing a charter is a critical first step to developing a successful sales enablement program, but what should be included in the charter? Read on to explore the different components you’ll need to include in your organization’s sales enablement charter.
Make it clear what roles and teams will benefit from your sales enablement efforts. For example, while some sales enablement teams exclusively support sales reps, others support the entire go-to-market team, including customer success, professional services, and other customer-facing teams. Be sure to indicate if there are any teams or roles that are not supported by sales enablement efforts. Let’s say your team supports all customer-facing roles except solution engineers—be sure to indicate that in your charter.
2. Mission Statement
A strong mission statement helps your entire organization understand the purpose of the sales enablement function and who it serves. It also helps inspire and guide the members of the sales enablement team in their day-to-day work.
An effective sales enablement mission statement is short and sweet—just a sentence or two will do—and easily communicates your team’s key objectives. It can be as simple as this:
This mission of the [company name] sales enablement team is to provide the sales organization with the information, content, and tools they need to be more efficient and effective in engaging buyers along the purchase journey.
Before you start building a laundry list of tactics, you must first develop a sales enablement strategy. Doing so allows you to move away from reactive, random acts of sales enablement to a strategic, proactive function that plays a key role in your company achieving its growth goals.
A great place to start is to remind yourself of the reason your sales enablement team was created. For example, perhaps your organization was hiring a large number of sales reps but didn’t have a formal onboarding program. It’s also important to thoroughly understand your organization’s sales strategy, what its quarterly and yearly goals are, and where there are gaps in productivity.
Once you’ve aligned with sales and marketing on a strategy, make a list of the initiatives your team has committed to. It’s also helpful to indicate specifically who owns each project. In addition, list the initiatives that aren’t currently in scope for your sales enablement program. For example, if your team doesn’t provide career mapping and development, be sure to include those in a list of items that are out of scope.
Laying out what is (and isn’t) in scope will set expectations and avoid unnecessary confusion about your sales enablement team’s areas of responsibility.
4. Plan for Programmatic Onboarding and Continuous Learning
Training is at the heart of an effective sales enablement program. After all, training — including onboarding and continuous learning — is necessary to ensure your sales team is always ready to sell.
For starters, determine core competencies and key milestones that align with the ramp schedule of a new salesperson. Your onboarding program builds the foundation for your new employees’ experience at your company; you want to ensure they have the information and support they need to be successful.
Onboarding will look different at each company, but an effective program generally includes a blend of classroom trainings and self-directed learning. While classroom trainings are an important way to generate engagement and integrate the new employee into your company’s culture, self-directed learnings can be effective in providing role-specific training and reinforcing classroom learning.
You may also want to include a peer mentor (AKA “buddy”) program as part of onboarding. New reps are partnered with a more veteran rep who is available to answer questions and make introductions. A buddy program can help increase engagement and help your new salespeople be more productive.
Once you’ve developed your onboarding plan, it’s time to determine what your team’s continuous learning program will look like. Ongoing learning ensures your sales team is always equipped with the latest information, content, and tools they need to be effective.
Rather than being reactive, develop a strategic, process-driven plan that includes a quarterly focus for each audience. Similar to onboarding, there is no “one size fits all” approach for continuous learning. However, effective continuous learning programs often involve components such as:
- Classroom trainings
- Self learning modules
- Surveys, quizzes, and other assessments
- Recording of role plays that can be used to understand areas for improvement and coaching from managers
Remember: It’s crucial to collaborate with your Human Resources team when putting together a plan for onboarding and continuous learning. By aligning with HR, you can ensure your programs are seamless and complementary.
5. Goals and Metrics
You’ve developed a mission statement and you’ve aligned with sales and marketing leaders on the strategy that’ll help you achieve your mission. Next, you need to determine how you’ll measure success.
Start by making a list of goals you have for your sales enablement program and the metrics you’ll use to determine success. For example, perhaps you have a goal of reducing ramp time for reps, so you’ll measure this by determining the amount of time that passes from onboarding to first, second, and third sales. Or maybe one of your goals is to improve communication to the field; you’ll measure this by determining the percentage of field team members who are opening and reading different communications from your team.
Regular measurement allows you to continuously improve your sales enablement program. Plus, it helps your organization’s leadership understand how enablement efforts are contributing to revenue growth, making it easier to secure future investments for your program.
6. Executive Sponsor
An executive sponsor is essential to the success of your sales enablement program. In fact, sales enablement programs often fail due to lack of support.
In many organizations, the executive sponsor for sales enablement is the head of sales. In this role, this person provides strategic guidance, supports sales enablement initiatives, and holds the sales team (or whoever is supported by sales enablement) accountable to continued learning and improvement.
It’s important for the sales enablement leader to schedule regular strategy meetings with the executive sponsor. Why? Because sales enablement must understand sales strategy in order to effectively develop programs to support company growth.
7. Plan for Collaboration with Key Teams
Sales enablement isn’t an island; it’s a cross-functional discipline requiring collaboration from a number of different teams across the organization, including sales, marketing, and operations.
Designate a member of your team who will serve as a liaison to these key teams. Then, outline how you plan to collaborate with them on an ongoing basis. For example, perhaps your director of sales enablement holds bi-weekly meetings with leaders of your sales, marketing, and operations teams to ensure everyone is aligned.
Remember: if sales enablement is a new function in your organization, it’s likely a new concept to some (or even many) of the teams you’ll need to collaborate with. Part of your partnership will include ongoing education on the role of sales enablement and how you will work together to achieve your organization’s goals. You’ll also work to ensure the training needs of each of these teams is understood and properly planned for.
Revisiting Your Sales Enablement Charter
Developing a sales enablement charter is a critical first step to launching a successful sales enablement program, but you shouldn’t “set it, then forget it.” Over time, your company will grow and evolve. Be sure to revisit your charter regularly (at least once a year) to ensure it continues to meet the current needs of your organization.
You’ve developed a sales enablement charter. What’s the next step toward sales enablement success?