What Sales Enablement Content Analytics Really Mean

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Albert Einstein

Einstein’s observation holds true for sales enablement content-related analytics. Imagine the launch of a shiny, new enablement and collaboration platform. Many different roles in sales, marketing and product management are looking forward to the content analytics that the system will provide. Will the reality live up to their expectations?
Let me share with you a few lessons I’ve learned.

Correlation and causation

According to Oxford Dictionaries, a correlation is “a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things.” Causation, on the other hand, is the action of causing something, e.g., “the postulated role of nitrate in the causation of cancer.” Let’s keep in mind that even a strong correlation is not a proof of causation.

View, clicks and downloads are indicators—nothing more, nothing less

These metrics are foundational information, for different target groups—salespeople, their managers and the cross-functional enablement team. The data shows what people view and what they download. That’s all it says. It does not necessarily mean that people use what they download. And it does not say that the downloaded content was helpful. These are very common and widespread misinterpretations.

To better understand these analytics, check out your organization’s key sales initiatives. What are the important products, solutions, services? For which portfolio elements can people earn the biggest commission? Is there a performance management rule that rewards people if they download or indicate that they used certain content, e.g., the latest campaign playbooks? Next, check out the biggest revenue generators in your portfolio and examine the analytics for the related content. It can happen, especially if a sales force is very experienced, that there is only a small correlation between top revenue generators and related content usage. Those experienced people often still share across the “black market” of sales information, which is the informal network of colleagues who know each other personally. Map these insights back to your enablement analytics and you will come to a slightly different conclusion. Even if your enablement platform is completely linked to the CRM system and analytics show people working with recommended content stage per stage, it’s never more than a correlation.

Content ratings and likes—it depends

The biggest challenge for enablement platforms and teams is always to get the salespeople to actually use these social functions. Being a customer at Amazon and being a sales person in complex B2B sales forces are two different things. Just because sales people have an “Amazon” behavior at home, does not mean that they behave the same way at work.  Mature sales forces are especially hard to convince that there is value in this activity—value for the entire sales community and over time. What we appreciate with top performers is their strong focus on what matters to their sales success, and to ignore everything that doesn’t create immediate value for them. Rating content is definitely not in this category, especially not when you ask them to go back to the system and rate the content after they have used it. And what does it mean when a rating is given by someone who has not yet used the content? Nothing. To understand ratings and likes, it helps to analyze the percentage of your content that’s rated in the first place. The lower the percentage, the less valuable it is. Then, check which roles are authorized to rate and to like content. If there is no role-based limitation (and that happens more often than you may think!), the value of ratings and likes is precisely zero. On more than one occasion I have discovered that content creators have rated their own content high and their colleagues’ content low. If that’s the case, it’s better to switch off the entire function: the absence of data is better than false data.

Content analytics are only one side of the coin

What content analytics really mean is different in every sales organization, in every culture and in every industry. Imagine a sales force of millennials in San Francisco selling technology, and a mature sales force in the manufacturing industry in Europe. The specific value of content analytics couldn’t be more different in these two cases. For you as a sales enablement leader, it’s essential to define a content analytics framework that defines how to look at the data and what additional elements are necessary to understand the big picture. Additional elements can be dedicated win/loss interviews, campaign reviews, and sounding boards with “early adopter” salespeople and front line sales managers to discuss analytics and learn more about their perspectives and experiences. Approaching the issue in a holistic way like this helps to leverage content analytics and to make the right content decisions—to create value, not noise.

How To Drive Cross-Functional Collaboration With Councils – Part 2: Trainings Council

Sales trainings – what’s crossing your mind first? Product trainings? You are in good company. But that’s only one of several sales training categories. That’s why there are many different stakeholders, perspectives and target groups to be orchestrated. And that’s the reason why cross-functional councils can increase effectiveness significantly.

At this point, we assume that an overall strategy is in place and that sales trainings are considered as a strategic issue: More in Dave Stein’s excellent article “Tactics vs. Strategy: The Distinction Makes a Difference”.

Let’s look at the two different target groups: Front line sales managers and sales reps. Whatever you invest in sales reps, you will have much better results, if your sales managers are equipped accordingly – how to become a world class front line coach for their teams. To equip the sales managers the right way is essential to leverage any sales system’s full potential.

Let’s look at different training categories that are relevant for each target group, but in different shapes and forms:

  • Skill trainings that cover e.g. value messaging skills, storytelling skills, questioning skills, presentation and negotiation skills or how to manage tension. Coaching is part of this category.
  • Product or portfolio trainings – revisited.  They should equip people how to sell, what products and services do and what they mean to different customers, rather than what their features and functions are. Ideally, these trainings are closely connected to messaging trainings. If integrated, even better.
  • Sales methodology, sales process and customer’s journey: This is all about how your sales methodology and your processes look like and why it helps to be valuable and successful. Account management is also in this category.
  • Tools and systems: CRM, SFA, sales enablement and collaboration platforms, pricing tools, proposal tools, client visit tools, on all devices, and many more.

So much for that. Your foundation should be an overall sales enablement framework with the customers at the core, with different sales milestones that are mapped to the different stages along the customer’s journey. All that should be connected to the sales process. Such a framework is your design point for all enablement, not only for training services.

Let’s define a Trainings Council as a cross-functional strategic board that makes strategic decisions on design, piloting, rollout and impact metrics for all defined sales training categories and for both target groups: sales managers and sales people. The execution can remain in the initial functions. Budgets should be assigned to the council, but your point of departure will often be the other way around.
True leadership is required!

Follow these steps to initiate your trainings council:

  • Create a compelling story to sell your vision internally and to get senior executive buy-in: Address the challenge clearly (current focus is too narrow on product trainings, an integrated big picture is required across all training categories on what and how to sell, efficiency potential between content and training has to be leveraged, coordination has to be improved to avoid “random acts of sales support”). Make pretty clear, that sales managers need a special focus on coaching to leverage a sales system’s full potential. Your story is to make the whole training landscape much more efficient and effective. In a perfect world, the sales, the marketing and the HR leader are the council’s senior executive sponsors.
  • Define the trainings council lead: The person, who leads the strategic sales force enablement team should lead the trainings council to provide strategic guidance, based on the overall framework. Make sure that your partner in crime, the content council leader, is a member of the trainings council.
  • Define the council members: Typical members are the leaders of product & solution marketing, vertical marketing, portfolio management, content council, any kind of dedicated training teams and – often overlooked – HR business partners and skill development leaders are important members.
  • Create a council charter: Such a charter defines vision, mission and principles, defined outcomes for each phase of your roadmap, members, sub-teams and sponsors as well as a meeting calendar. Creating this charter together will help you to build a strong team.

Define a first roadmap:

  • As-is Analysis and big picture: Create transparency on all the different training services that happen across the sales system. Map them to three dimensions: Your target groups (sales managers and all sales roles), the customer’s journey (where along the customer’s journey it this training most relevant?), and to your training categories. Identify redundancies and gaps. Create a big picture of your desired future state based on the above mentioned dimensions.
  • Define two fields of action: One to fix the worst redundancies, one to address the most important gap (which will be often a sales manager coaching program).
  • Create a roadmap from current state to future state and define teams to execute the first two projects: Such a road map needs milestones that are easy to communicate (design, pilot, rollout or as-is-analysis, redundancies are fixed and gaps are closed), that help you to track progress and to communicate success and to address necessary decisions to your sponsors.

These three streams decide on your council success: Your vision and how well you execute on it. The next two streams are ongoing streams, which – depending on your organization’s maturity – have to be developed from scratch or just to be honed.

  • Align trainings and technology to increase efficiency and effectiveness
  • Create metrics along the customer’s journey to measure efficiency and effectiveness

Start your trainings council and create impact!

This post was published initially @ TopSalesWorld, December Magazine.


Forrester Sales Enablement Forum 2013 – Highlights Part 1: The C-Level Perspective

I’m back from the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum. It was the third event since 2011 and the first event outside of San Francisco! We were in Scottsdale, AZ, blessed with sun and a really beautiful location, close to the desert.

Sales enablement is growing up, the maturity curve and the number of participants are increasing!

What are the 2013 highlights – apart from learning, sharing, talking, networking within the broader community?

I will share my most important impressions for all those of you who couldn’t attend the conference this year. Part one – today – will focus on the CEO and the CFO view on sales and sales enablement and what does that mean for our approaches.
In part two, I will share the latest and greatest on the selling system, why it’s often not stable enough to support our changing business strategies regarding execution. Additionally, why we need to focus on people and why we need to think differently to create simple frameworks that make a difference – and why it’s really hard work to make frameworks as simple as possible.

First, the CEO view: Forrester’s CEO George Colony made some research with CEOs in Davos. We remember the 2011 results, when he asked them this question “Are you satisfied that your sales force is getting your company to its strategic objectives?“. The answer was “The selling system is not adapting quickly enough to accommodate our changing business strategy.“ Apparently, the CEOs were not pretty satisfied with their sales forces at this point in time.

This year, George Colony asked the CEOs this question: “What are YOU personally doing to ensure that your sales force is getting the company to its strategic goals?“
The answers were interesting – finally we learned a lot. It was a broad range of mixed answers from  it’s all about the product “we build great products“, it’s about selling “I personally follow up on deals…“ and “I personally lead the sales force“, it’s about clear goals, it’s about pushing the vision – something I liked very much.
Additional answers were for instance “I personally tune the comp plan – it’s important because sales people are all coin-operated“.
Then, it’s about focusing on people, for instance “…driving training“.
For me, the people focus is very much related to the idea of pushing the vision.
But what’s the bottom line of all these answers?
The CEOs are all very engaged in many ways – that’s positive. But they don’t see selling as a system, they have many gut feelings about sales and sales people, which are triggers to their different activities, but they don’t have a lot of data and no big, cross-functional view on the entire system. Additionally, there was no answer that stated something backwards from the buyer’s desired outcomes, challenges and problems. These answers were pretty much inside-out.
These are the challenges, we need to tackle.
Apparently, sales enablement missed to integrate the CEOs role and view point in the sales enablement strategies. Furthermore, sales enablement has to make a much better job in defining the overall dependencies, the selling system as a whole and how the system’s efforts map to the CEOs desired outcomes. Consequently, our CEOs need an active role in our sales enablement strategies.

Second, we learned more about another C-level role – the CFO. Forrester’s CFO Mike Doyle enjoyed to talk about the financial view point – what an excellent key note! First of all, he stated that the most common financial statements don’t tell us if we are doing the right things regarding our sales and marketing efforts. Wow! I cannot express how grateful I am for this statement – from a CFO.
I experienced the different languages sales and finance are using, when I created together with Finance a shared approach on how to segment accounts in 2012. It started in the very beginning  with the simple question “what is an account?”. Sounds simple, but simple questions show immediately how different the view points are. Next, how to segment accounts – of course, Finance looks at financial criteria with a certain focus on the past. That’s what can be measured. But sales needs to look at the growth potential – which really matters, but which is not measurable in a way financials can be measured. I presented our sales and finance experiences in my key note, and more detailed in my track session.
So, great starting point! Then, Mike Doyle described the current dilemma on measuring around internal design points such as products and geographies. But the good news are, according to Mike Doyle,  that the financial discipline is much more standardized than sales and sales enablement. Metrics that matter most for a CFO are for instance client/new business profitability, targeted market share, total cost to deliver sales revenue as well as productivity and ROI for total sales enablement. Especially the last two KPIs are a perfect indicator for the overall need of a well defined, cross-functional selling system that covers the entire value communication chain across multiple functions (which is more than sales and marketing!). It’s a broad range from how to get a prospect to how to close a contract including people, structures, processes, procedures, principles, systems and much more.
There are four categories we should care about: Efficiency investments (collateral, demand generation, sales support services etc.) and development investments (training and eduction, coaching, best practices and job aides etc.) as well as variable costs (commissions, incentives, reporting etc.) and base costs (salary, benefit loads, on boarding, infrastructure etc.). Based on these categories, we should be able to identify and to analyze costs cross-functionally along the entire selling system – always together with a finance expert. Then, let’s map the costs to different revenue streams – this big picture will be much more relevant for a CFO and also for a CEO.

So, partnering with Finance should be based on the specific expertise both partners can bring into this exercise – facts, figures, objectivity versus sales strategy, clients, markets and sales enablement strategy. Our challenge as sales enablement professionals is first of all an internal selling effort – to sell our sales enablement vision and strategy to the CFOs. Therefore, we have to design our story around the CFOs problem and his challenges – and that’s overall growth as a primary driver, combined with expanding margins and earnings. Then, let’s use typical patterns and impacted stakeholders to find ways to solve his problems, then let’s develop a shared vision of success based on a phased plan to help the CFO to get a much better answer on the question “are we doing the right things?“.

Let’s go GoToCustomer, let’s practice what we preach. These internal selling efforts are similar for the CEOs and the CEOs – we have to design these conversations outside-in, backwards from these internal customers, their problems and challenges. That’s what we do in general regarding our initiatives. There is a clear need to get the CFO and the CEOs perspective to work backwards from their desired outcomes and the visions and strategies they are communicating – our foundation, which we have to translate into sales enablement execution programs.

Successful companies will start these conversations with their CEOs and CFOs to hone their sales enablement strategies and programs and to make them relevant and indispensable for the C-level. Successful companies will work cross-functionally to overcome collaboration obstacles across the selling system, to make better resource decisions, to achieve better results.

Part 2 will follow soon!

What’s the role of collaboration for sales enablement?

Attending a conference, having the possibility to talk to many people in different roles is always exciting, especially attending the second Forrester Sales Enablement Forum, March 19-20 in San Francisco.

Ask ten people how to define sales enablement, you will still get ten different answers. Ask ten people how to define collaboration and collaboration’s role regarding sales enablement, it’s almost the same. But at least eight will define collaboration from a technological perspective only. I had many conversations on the role of collaboration for sales enablement and most of them – even in our community – were like this:

“Well, of course it’s important, but everybody has another definition of collaboration” or

“Collaboration? But we already have implemented the products x,y and z” or

“Isn’t that all about communication and organizational alignment and already covered in different approaches?”

As you can imagine, I don’t agree.

No, collaboration is not only about communication, it’s not only about organizational alignment and it’s not only about technology.

Let’s figure out how collaboration is actually defined and how and where it is an essential prerequisite for the sales enablement discipline and sales enablement performance.

Who is the thought leader number one when it comes to collaboration? Morten Hansen, management professor at University of California, Berkeley and at INSEAD, France. To make a long story short, Morten Hansen says first of all, “the key point is… to start with the end in mind: the goal of collaboration is not collaboration, it’s better results!”

How many so-called collaboration projects do you know that have something like “better collaboration” or “more collaboration” as project goal in their charter? I’m sure, we all know many projects like this, focused on implementing technology for “more” collaboration. But what is “more” collaboration? As Morten Hansen says “you should only collaborate when it’s the best way to improve performance”.
Collaboration within companies (which is our focus here) can be between divisions, geographies, functions and foreign subsidiaries.

First of all, let’s map that view of collaboration to the well established Forrester sales enablement definition to identify the need of collaboration to improve performance across the entire selling system.

Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.

Collaboration is not mentioned, explicitly. So, I will try to derive the need for collaboration:

  • “all client-facing employees” are not the sales people alone, different kinds of SME’s from different functions, business units or division are included. In big outsourcing deals, collaboration between buying and selling teams to achieve the customer’s desired outcome is not just nice to have, it’s the essential success factor to win a deal and to achieve the customer’s desired outcome later on.
  • “right set of customer stakeholders”: sales people have to address different stakeholders with different roles across the customer’s agreement network.
  • “at each stage of the customer’s problem solving life cycle”: The customer has a problem solving process which we have to align to our sales process. Both processes cover a variety of different roles from different functions and all these roles need to collaborate efficiently across the vendor’s internal supply chain and across he customer’s complex stakeholder network – to get the best resources for their deals. Also here, the success factor is to have a common goal, e.g. the desired customer outcome and a shared vision of success to achieve this outcome.
  • “to optimize the return of investment of the selling sytem”. Sales might be a function, but selling is a system. Only if we consider all roles and functions across the end2end value communication chain, we are able to reduce the randoms acts of sales support which is relevant to improve the ROI of a selling system. Also here, a common goal is mission critical to be able to drive an approach like that, and collaboration is the enabling power to achieve it.

Second, we also need collaboration to establish the sales enablement discipline itself in our organizations, especially if we have a strategic and holistic ambition. Let’s take a few of the most important sales enablement fields of action (see also Forrester’s SIMPLE framework):

  • Sales model: designing a coverage model – how ever it might look like – requires to achieve a common design point between sales and finance, which is easier said than done, because sales wants always more (growth), finance wants always less (EBIT). What do we need? Collaboration between functions, the critical success factor is to have a common goal.
  • Engagement models: Designing your operating engines, you will need different engagement models for your different sales segments, sales channels, sales units – you name it. All of them will be based on collaboration at least between functions, often also between busines untis and between foreign subsidiaries. Also here, the crtitical success factor is a common goal.
  • Sales content on a certain maturity level is based on a cross-functional content management process that covers content structure, content generation, content publishing and content localization. Collaboration is the essential prerequisite to get such a process successfully implemented. We are talking about collaboration between functions, business units and foreign subsidiaries.
  • Knowledge management is the same challenge. If you want to solve this challenge for the entire organization and not just provide a nice tool for a single function, you won’t be successful without cross-functional collaboration. You will need to define taxonomies covering the entire organization, it’s about collaboration between functions.
  • Metrics: That’s one of the most important sales enablement topics – from a collaboration perspective. Not the functional driven KPI’s are the KPI’s that matter, what matters are the KPI’s along the end2end value communication. What do we need to establish before? Yes, collaboration between functions to be able to measure what really matters. Sounds so easy, but it’s not. Have a look at your financial reports. What are they based on? Functions, business units, right?

That’s why I think, we have to include the role of collaboration in our sales enablement definitions, in our frameworks and concepts, but in a way that we really focus on collaborations’s business value first before we are think about collaboration technology.

Technology has of course great potential to enable collaboration, once we defined what we want to achieve in terms of business results and once the management has designed mechanisms to tear down well known collaboration barriers.
But managing collaboration barriers, that’s another topic for another blog post…

Chime in and share your ideas!