August 4, 2020
Updated: October 29, 2020

How to scale sales enablement and be more effective amid restricted resources

How do you scale sales enablement? And what’s your role as an executive? Welcome to the fourth post of this blog series for executives, where I will take you on a scalability journey.

We already covered a lot of ground in this series, and I only mention it here because these previous blog posts are an important foundation for our scalability discussion today.

First, we talked about how enablement could be your engine to drive digital transformation. Second, we looked in greater detail at vertical and horizontal alignment and alignment’s role within the three enablement success factors. And third, I shared why you as an executive have a special responsibility when it comes to change management and leading the change you want to see in your organization.

Scalability is a term that has become almost a buzzword. But what does it really mean? 

According to Merriam Webster, scalability is a property of a system or process of being easily expanded on demand. Similarly, the Oxford English Dictionary defines scalability as the fact that it is possible to adapt something to greater needs in the future

Scalability in the context of enablement is the ability to expand services to growing audiences without adding more resources 

For the sake of clarity, and you can feel the former analyst in me, let’s first put scalability in the context of enablement. Scalability is the ability to expand sales enablement services to a broader audience without adding more resources to the enablement system.

Today, we are discussing how to scale your enablement efforts especially in a time where resources are restricted and how you should approach enablement scalability from an executive perspective.

“Wait a minute,” you may ask, “scaling enablement in these uncertain times, during a recession? I’m about to close down enablement and just focus on what moves the needle.”

That’s exactly why you should not close down enablement in the first place. 

If, and I hear you, enablement didn’t move the needle in your organization so far, then let’s change that and make sure that it’s designed and set up properly and empowered to do exactly that and help you achieve your goals. If that’s the situation in your organization, check out the previous three blog posts of this series mentioned above, as well as the CSO Insights Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study

Scalability becomes increasingly important for enablement, especially in fast-growing industries

And that’s exactly the reason why we discuss it here. You as an executive might think about acquiring companies in the near future. Or, you’ve already done that and were disappointed that your enablement team was not able to scale their efforts to the newly-acquired sales force(s).

And that brings us to the core issue: Most enablement teams are designed to serve the current state of a business, without considering the efforts to be taken to support a growing future state. 

Scaling enablement requires clarity — lots of clarity 

Only if you have clarity on the enablement goals, strategies, processes and metrics, scalability can succeed. In simpler terms: You cannot scale a process on which you have no clarity. 

A strategic, formal and charter-based approach to enablement is a prerequisite for enablement scalability

And that begins with how you set up your enablement initiative or function. As we know from research over the last couple of years, organizations that have set up their enablement teams in a strategic, formal and charter-based way can improve sales performance in a two-digit manner. For details, click here and here.

Such an approach is a prerequisite for enablement scalability for two reasons:

  • You worked closely with your enablement leader to make sure that the enablement strategy is designed to help achieve your goals, the metrics you are measured on. This business-focused approach ensures clarity on the vision, the mission and the purpose of enablement in your organization. Then, the enablement strategy and the related tactics are based on that level of business clarity.
  • You may recall my approach on how to set up a charter in my book. The enablement leader has already specified in their charter not only what enablement services they are going to provide to their target audiences to drive performance, but also what enablement capabilities have to be implemented to do so.

Enablement capabilities: the secret to enablement scalability

It sounds more complicated than it is. Enablement capabilities refer to the processes, collaboration and governance models every enablement leader should define and implement. And yes, they can only do that with your support.

Let’s view an example. If an enablement team is focused on providing content through an enablement platform, one of their challenges is to get all content creators on the same page to ensure that the platform always has only the most compelling and up-to-date content. And that requires clarity on a content production and management process and collaboration model.

What does that mean? It simply means that if your enablement team doesn’t have these processes and models in place, they are not able to scale their enablement efforts. 

If your enablement team operates with ad-hoc processes, they cannot scale their enablement services 

Ad-hoc and informal approaches are based on no processes and no clarity on roles and responsibilities. And that means there are no enablement capabilities in place that would allow them to grow and scale their enablement services. In other words, they are getting things fixed during the last mile rather than following a defined process and established collaboration model from start to finish.

If enablement capabilities are not defined and implemented, they cannot be automated. And a lack of automation means no scalability, especially not in an environment with restricted resources.

The same is true if your enablement team provides a comprehensive onboarding initiative that’s based on various content creators and instructors. A cross-functional production and management process has to be defined and implemented together with a collaboration model that defines for each enablement service who is accountable, responsible and has to be informed and consulted. A classic RACI model will do the job. But it has to be done. And implemented.

Encourage and support your enablement leader to implement a solid suite of enablement capabilities 

Here are three steps for ensuring your sales enablement team can drive scalability:

#1: Ensure that they implement an enablement production process

This is all about giving enablement leaders the space and time to create and implement these processes. Usually, they need one process variation for content services, and another for training services. It’s a simple process that defines all steps from the specification of an enablement service (e.g., a whitepaper, a skills training, an ROI tool) to the creation, localization, publication and tracking. 

It’s not difficult. But the majority of enablement teams doesn’t have these capabilities defined and implemented. Usually because they don’t have (or are not given) the time to do it and are spending all their energy providing enablement services rather than building the capabilities to scale their services.

If that’s the situation in your organization, ask your enablement leader to fix that gap and update their enablement charter as soon as possible. 

#2: Ensure that they implement a collaboration model

Whereas the production process describes the sequence of activities to produce and provide an enablement service, the collaboration model defines the exact roles that are required along this sequence, based on a classic RACI model.

That often sounds more complicated than it really is. Your enablement leaders should take their list of enablement services (per training service) or content (per content type, not format!) and define these four roles (RACI): who is accountable, who is responsible, who has to be informed and who has to be consulted.

The challenge with the collaboration model is not putting it together and getting everyone on the same page across multiple functions.  Getting this model defined and approved by all roles involved is a manual process that will likely span several meetings and workshops.

As an executive, you can speed up this process by making it a priority and articulating its goal: achieving enablement scalability.

#3: Ensure that the defined capabilities are powered by technology and ready to scale

This step is a critical one, especially if you require your enablement team to scale their efforts sooner rather than later.

Here, it’s important to approve the necessary investments for enablement technologies to ensure that the well developed capabilities can be automated as much as possible.

As an example, content creation will always require labor to target and tailor content pieces to prospects and customers. However, the life cycle management of content assets, as well as the necessary steps to ensure each asset is presented in the best way possible, can be automated by the enablement platform. And, of course, technology provides you with all the data you need to better understand whether or not an asset is valuable. The same is true for training, learning and coaching services. 

I hope you can better focus on your next acquisition knowing that your enablement team is working on building these capabilities to scale their efforts — with your permission and support!

Next time, when a new sales force has to be onboarded, they will be in a much better position to get the job done in three months rather than half a year.

Sales enablement is your engine to drive digital transformation

Sales enablement is your engine to drive digital transformation

Why should executives be invested in sales enablement? Implement an effective enablement strategy to drive your digital transformation initiatives — with the customer at its center.

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