January 8, 2021

From Virtual Selling to Virtual Enablement

Looking back on a pandemic-driven year, we learned a lot about remote selling, virtual selling and engaging via video. 

For some organizations this wasn’t really new, apart from the fact that it was the only way to interact with prospects and customers. For others, it was a bigger challenge as they had to get used to a practice they didn’t focus on before the crisis.

The virtual world is here to stay

And most of us are realistic enough to see that there is no way back to what was perceived to be “normal” about a year ago. Whether we like it or not, the digital transformation is progressing in a fast-pacing manner, and many organizations around the globe prepare themselves for a digital and remote 2021.

Does sales enablement as a discipline also need to shift to virtual enablement?

You may be thinking, “We run all our meetings online and provide almost every enablement service in a digital way. No need to adjust that, right?” 

Most enablement services were already digital

Yes, in the area of enablement services (all content, training and coaching services and related tools your enablement team provides for your specific target audiences), many organizations are on the right track by providing these services in a digital way. 

For content services, there wasn’t a big shift in most organizations. But for training services, some industries were still focused on a high percentage of on-site training programs. Some organizations experienced a big challenge during the first lockdowns, as they had to quickly transform their onboarding and training programs to become 100% digital. 

What almost nobody expected, happened: it worked. Of course, it would have been nicer for the new hires to make real-life personal connections, as virtual coffee machine or water cooler conversations are just not the same. However, they could be onboarded to get started in their new roles. 

The real challenge for enablement is often elsewhere.

The challenge is in the area of enablement capabilities

In the areas of enablement capabilities (the internal enablement processes and frameworks your enablement teams use to create, manage, maintain and provide enablement services across various functions and third parties), many organizations experienced serious additional challenges during the pandemic.

Two scenarios we experienced:

  1. Enablement teams had no framework of processes or collaboration models in the first place. Cross-functional collaboration on content or training services was done in an ad-hoc manner. What that means is this: enablement teams fixed things on the last mile with a tremendous effort in terms of resources and budget to get things done on time and in quality. 
  2. Enablement teams already had a framework of processes and collaboration models that helped to navigate through the crisis. These organizations were in a much better position as they could build on a solid foundation. The main thing they had to make sure of was that the processes also worked in a remote and virtual world. But the main advantage for those teams was that they had a proper and scalable foundation of enablement processes and frameworks.

Let’s discuss how we create and manage enablement services in a constantly changing world

There won’t be anything like going back to normal even if the pandemic was over tomorrow. The big shifts that have already been made to a virtual and remote world are here to stay. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have in-person meetings anymore. We will. As far as I can see it, organizations will evaluate differently when in-person meetings are really necessary and when a virtual setting is sufficient to serve the meeting’s purpose. 

In December, I had the pleasure to speak at a virtual event in Europe, and all speakers including me were on the same page that flying for a 2 hour meeting across Europe (most flights are about an hour or two) won’t be part of the new reality anymore.

In addition to these changes, the world is changing faster than ever before, in all areas of our lives. Think about changes in healthcare and totally new concepts of approaching diseases, such as virtual appointments, local data collection of chronic diseases and instant communication of, for instance blood sugar data to the doctor. Also, think about mobility and the meaning of owning a car compared to a few years ago. The concept has totally changed. 

Think about changes in the destruction of our environment and new ideas to plant trees with drones. Think about the huge revolution the financial industry is facing with DeFi (Decentral Finance) and blockchain technology that will not only revolutionize the finance industry but all industries sooner or later. If you own crypto currencies you are already working with blockchain technologies as you buy, exchange and store your coins. 

Speed is crucial. Fast and smart adjustments are the answer – and that requires a scalable foundation

Buying and selling teams have to adjust their behaviors as well, and as usual, buyers will adjust a bit faster than sellers. Additionally, sales enablement teams will also have to adjust.

Now, why don’t we adjust as enablement teams NOW and create the required prerequisites? Why don’t we create scalable processes and frameworks that organize the cross-functional collaboration? 

Processes that lead to waterfall implementations are predictable. But they are most probably too slow for the world that’s coming. Not only because of the speed, but also because of the requirements that are changing along the way.

The answer could be to create an enablement capability model that’s based on a different way of working: in an agile way

The Agile Manifesto comes from the software industry, and it provides an answer to the need to create continuous value for the customer in an ever-changing environment. If you’d like to reference it, you can check it out here. What can these principles mean for virtual enablement and in this decade?

    • Frameworks drive speed and scalability:
      If you don’t have it yet, you need a framework of processes and collaboration models that define how you design, create, provide, manage and measure your enablement services across all involved functions and third parties. For more details, check out my blog post on scaling sales enablement.
    • Bring the framework to life with regular, short meetings:
      Advisory board meetings are great to present results. But to actually create these results, it’s essential that the working teams across all involved functions come together often and regularly, ideally a few times a week for short, now virtual “stand-ups.” This way they can adjust changing requirements early on.
  • Include your customers earlier:
    Establish a culture of “sharing drafts is great” and involve your target audiences early on to get feedback and reality checks. It’s an aspect of a learning culture and a culture that understands that every final version is only valid until the next change occurs.
  • Simplicity is essential:
    This is the art of “maximizing the amount of work not done.” In other words, “bells and whistles” that are not really required and don’t serve the intended purpose are not added.
  • Principles over rules:
    In an ever-changing world, processes alone are not enough. It’s actually often better to keep those on a high level and to add strong principles.
    What is a principle really? Think about cooking a risotto. You can do it the “Italian” way, roasting onions and garlic, adding the special rice,the broth and stirring the risotto until it’s ready to be served. Part of the principle is also when and how to add additional ingredients like vegetables. If you as a cook know this principle, you can create a risotto with vegetables, another one with fish or something else completely. Because you know how to adapt the principles. It’s the same in enablement. 

At the end of the day, principles empower individuals and teams and allow them to be the best version of themselves, especially in times of transformation.

This blog post is a starting point to discuss what virtual enablement could mean. We look forward to hearing from you and how you experience enablement as a discipline growing up and evolving.

Want to talk about virtual enablement? Connect with me on Twitter.