June 29, 2021

Sales Effectiveness: Translating Enablement Efforts Into Tangible Sales Results

**This post is part of a series based on Showpad’s 2021 Modern Selling Study. To dig into all the data, visit the study homepage.

Sales effectiveness is the domain where enablement collaborates with sales management to translate enablement efforts into tangible sales results. This is the domain where we need absolute clarity on responsibilities. 

Sales effectiveness is where enablement efforts translate into sales results

This domain is all about how effective customer facing professionals are at each stage of the sales cycle. We look at their effectiveness for example in stages such as awareness (prospecting, building pipeline), discovery (questioning, objection handling, storytelling), requirements (positioning, articulating value and differentiation), solution validation (executing proof of concept, pilot, demonstrating value), and purchasing (negotiation, contracts, purchasing, legal).

On the one hand, the enablement leader is responsible for providing the right content, the right messaging, the right tools and the right onboarding and ongoing training to build and practice the required skills and expertise. And these responsibilities cover the two enablement domains on the left hand side of our domain framework, sales readiness and sales content management that are all before the opportunity.

On the other hand, the sales managers are responsible to build on these enablement efforts and to translate them with their sales coaching skills into tangible sales results. Before we go into the details of this domain, let’s first visit how selling has changed during the pandemic.

It has not necessarily been more difficult to close deals

This was one of the surprises of the 2021 Modern Selling Study: 45% of participants said that it has been more difficult to close deals than before, while 42% said it’s about the same as before. Most interestingly, 12% said that it has become easier than before.

In other words, only 45% said that it has become more difficult while 54% said that it’s about the same or easier than before.

Now, let’s go from this general data point into the details of the actual selling challenges that are linked to the sales effectiveness domain.

Selling challenges linked to sales effectiveness

These three selling challenges are directly linked to the sales effectiveness domain. Let’s look at the increasing inability to access the economic buyer and to diagnose the buyers’ challenges, as well as the inability to connect solutions to buyers’ goals.

These selling challenges clearly show where the rubber meets the road. Let’s assume for a moment that all enablement efforts have been implemented successfully in alignment with the sales leadership’s requirements. That means that foundational selling skills have been developed and the right content and the right messaging is available at their fingertips, tailored to buyer roles and customer journey phases. If all of that was true, sales professionals should be highly effective in accessing the economic buyer, right?

It’s a bit more complex. Another question is if the sales person has been assigned to the right territory or accounts and if the salesperson is coached by their managers. Regularly and consistently. Ideally, the sales coaching efforts of the sales managers go hand in hand with the enablement efforts of the enablement team. Ideally, they build on each other so that the coaching can drive reinforcement and adoption.

In addition to driving adoption of the enablement efforts, sales coaching’s role is to make sure that salespeople learn how to directly apply what they’ve learned in concrete buyer interactions. Ideally, sales coaching at this stage is always focused on a particular lead, opportunity or account challenge. And this is why the collaboration between enablement and sales management from the very beginning is so important. One cannot succeed without the other.

Increasing inability to access the economic buyer

While most selling methodologies help to identify the economic buyer, getting access to them is the part that’s a real challenge. Usually these roles don’t care about any feature of function. What they care about is the business case of the investment, the goals they can achieve with a certain solution and the KPIs they can only achieve this way. So, it’s a business conversation rather than a technical conversation. Adequate and buyer role focused messaging is a key challenge that requires practice. Practice is something sales readiness can provide, but the effective use of this messaging in a specific opportunity is a sales coaching responsibility.

In addition, sellers have to adjust their approach to changed buyer behaviors regarding reprioritization of their buying decisions. And connecting these dots is mainly a sales manager’s role in their regular coaching sessions to empower their sellers to move deals forward.

Increasing inability to diagnose the buyers’ challenges

This is a challenge that requires solid questioning skills and the ability to put the answers together with the perspective of the salesperson’s expertise into the buyers’ specific context. This way, they can understand the magnitude of the challenges they are facing as well as the economic impact.

In addition to building the technical product expertise, it’s vital to enable and empower sales professionals to understand the related conceptual layer as well as the business context. The latter is usually what’s missing. If the business context is missing or not completely understood, salespeople will always struggle and fall back into a feature, function product conversation, or they will try to connect products to solving an abstract business problem they don’t fully understand. And that’s never working, as a solution that consists of various elements (not only products) cannot be developed and demonstrated.

Increasing inability to connect solutions to the buyers’ goals

This one is a follow-up challenge to the previous one. If diagnosing buyer challenges is an issue, then connecting solutions to their challenges will also be a challenge. The best way to approach this is to connect the dots between product knowledge and actual business problems (not just use cases) of the targeted buyers in their industries. Use cases are fine but don’t solve this issue. The business impact is a broader issue and ideally reflects the business impact for all involved buyer roles. To be effective, salespeople need to map out each buyer with their role, profile, perspectives, preferences, goals and attitudes.

Getting started with sales effectiveness from an enablement perspective

We’ve put together a few recommendations on how to get started here:

  • Collaborate with sales management and map out their required skills and expertise per sales role.
  • Prioritize with sales management on what skill gaps to focus on first.
  • Define with sales management how to measure the current state and the progress.
  • Design a specific training and onboarding service to tackle the prioritized skill gaps.
  • Develop a coaching approach and provide sales coaching skill development for sales managers.
  • Implement both the training and the coaching approach for the prioritized challenge.
  • Measure success and adjust accordingly.

*Survey demographics

Showpad conducted the 2021 Modern Selling Study, a global survey at the end of 2020. More than 400 organizations were involved in the survey that covered the US (56%), the UK (23%) and the DACH regions (21%). Organizations came from various industries such as technology, manufacturing and finance. We interviewed sales (45%), marketing (38%) and enablement roles (17%). And also at a hierarchical level, our study participants covered practitioners (20%), manager and director level roles (63%) and executives (18%).

Visit our 2021 Modern Selling Study hub and discover how the pandemic has impacted every area of enablement.