Sales Enablement Talent: What You Need As A Sales Enablement Leader

Sales Enablement Talent: What You Need As A Sales Enablement Leader

Sales enablement talent is not discussed very often. Usually, the discussions are about the sales talent that’s required in the digital age of the customer. But there is almost no discussion about the necessary talent, sales enablement leaders need to have to be successful.

The challenge with sales enablement: only a minority moves the needle

Only about one-quarter to one-third of sales enablement teams are effective and tangibly move the sales performance needle. In other words, most organizations invest in sales enablement, but don’t move the needle. No wonder that the current crisis hit sales enablement hard. Sales enablement is at the crossroads. A situation that offers excellent opportunities to understand successful SE teams and leaders better. First, they are good at these two critical success factors:

  • Critical success factor #1 is implementing a strategic, formal, and charter-based approach to sales enablement.
  • Critical success factor #2 is meeting your senior executives’ goals and expectations.

Second, their leaders share some of the following talents.

The famous five talent facets of effective sales enablement leaders

As we go through these five specific talents and skills, you will see that these talent facets are required to successfully implement the above-mentioned critical success factors.

Sales talent and love for sales

This is critical, and I know many heads of sales enablement don’t have a sales background. Imagine, you coach one of the favorite NBA teams, and you have never played basketball. You will have a hard time would be an understatement. You wouldn’t even be able to land the job. For sales enablement, you don’t need a long and super successful sales career. Still, it would help if you had worked in a sales role, that you understand salespeople’s daily pressure, requirements, behaviors, and challenges. You have to FEEL how they FEEL. And you need a sales background to be able to engage with your senior executive leaders successfully. That’s a key barrier why many sales enablement initiatives are not positioned and set up as they should.

Business acumen talent

Sales enablement is a support discipline or function, no doubt. You can only design sales enablement in a way that drives business results if you fully understand the business strategy, the sales strategy, and other strategic initiatives. Therefore, I’m always advising clients to hire for a business leader to lead sales enablement and not for a program manager. Not that you don’t need program managers (yes, you do need them), but to lead sales enablement, you need a business leader with the talents listed here. People with business acumen tackle challenges from a business perspective and the related business goals and KPIs to be met, rather than from a program perspective and related program KPIs.

Customer-centricity talent

For sales enablement, customer-centricity is a two-step approach, a B2B2C, or a B2B2B approach. Your sales enablement customers are the customer-facing professionals you are providing services for, either in your organization or in channel organizations. Your senior executive stakeholders are either sponsors or stakeholders or both, but they are never your sales enablement customers. Now, why is this customer-centricity DNA so important? Because SE leaders require to think, design, and execute with two customer layers in mind. As discussed here, the primary customers are the customer-facing pros and their managers. However, enabling them to be as successful as possible with your target buyer roles requires to provide sales enablement services that ultimately resonate with your target buyers. For example, if you implement a new value messaging approach, you do this with the targeted buyer roles in mind to ensure that the messaging resonates with them. Then, you want to provide updated content and training sessions for your salespeople to become fluent with the new messaging, followed by regular coaching sessions to drive reinforcement and adoption.

Holistic, system-thinking talent

That’s a consequence of the cross-functional nature of sales enablement that covers, in addition to sales and marketing, more functions, such as sales management, sales ops, product management, IT, or L&D. That given complexity requires a SE leader who can think across various dimensions, see the bigger picture while dealing with issues in each of these areas. The ability to quickly see how multiple streams are connected with each other is essential. The big danger here is that everyone will tell you to “simplify” things. However, the successful sales enablement leader knows that it’s not “simple” at all to “simplify” sales enablement for their salespeople and their managers. The “simpler” it appears at the end of the day, the more work was involved beforehand.

Orchestrating and collaboration talent

The ability to effectively orchestrate complex issues and collaborate with various functions is crucial to enablement success. It’s a two-fold talent. It’s about the skill to see the broader picture and to orchestrate all required streams of activities, it’s about setting up effective collaboration models, and then it’s about executing based on these models and processes. The orchestrator talent may sound new, whereas the collaboration talent may sound “normal.” However, both are often underestimated. Crucial to understand is that the orchestrating talent includes stopping doing things that don’t create any value. It requires the system-thinking talent and the business acumen talent to have the staying power and the time it takes to set up enablement as an orchestrating and collaborative discipline. Only if all roles are clearly defined per sales enablement service, the sales enablement efforts are scalable.

Ambitions senior executives know that their sales enablement leader plays a pivotal role to achieve their shared goals.

Enablement Mechanisms: From “Push versus Pull” To “Be Inspired!”

Providing all the content that was available to the sales force and let them search – that’s where sales enablement has its early roots. Stand-alone knowledge management and enablement platforms were invented, sold and implemented. Everything was designed to provide content on a platform for sales. Various search options and taxonomies often made it difficult for salespeople to quickly find what they were looking for. Many of us walked this sometimes painful path.

Was that a push or a pull approach? It depends…

As a sales enablement leader, you may look at this issue from this role’s perspective. Then, it is a push approach; pushing everything you have on enablement content to sales. Now, change the perspective to the salesperson, and it is just the other way around. They don’t feel pushed; as everything depends on their initiative. They have to take the initiative; they have to search to find what they need. For them, it’s more of a pull approach.

Nowadays, sales enablement strives for enablement solutions that are highly integrated with the CRM landscape. The aim is to provide the right enablement and client-facing content at the right time for salespeople when they need it, along the stages of their opportunities. It depends on enablement to create a modular enablement framework that leads to these “customer challenge/industry/buyer role/deal stage” matches. The salespeople are at the receiving end. Again, it depends on your perspective whether you may consider this as a push or pull approach. Ask ten people with different roles in the same industry, and you will get as many push as pull answers.

The “pull versus push” question actually describes a content delivery mechanism, depending on our perspective and interpretation. Why not take these approaches to a level of more descriptive imperatives from the customer’s perspective? Imperatives for salespeople, the enablement clients. Then, approaches that are based on salespeople’s responsibility to search in order to get what they need can be described as “Search & Find.” This is not exactly what salespeople like to do or what makes them really effective. Approaches that provide client-facing and internal content at the salespeople’s fingertips, exactly when they need it and how they need it, can be described as “Be Inspired!” approaches.

“Be Inspired!” models in sales enablement – think about design, content services, technology and adoption

  • “Be Inspired” design means designing a customer core sales enablement framework. The customer’s journey and all involved stakeholders are the design points. The customer’s journey has to be mapped to the internal process landscape, from marketing to sales and  services/delivery. The goal is creating tangible value for customers, to help them to achieve their desired results and wins.
  • “Be Inspired” content services are tailored to the different phases of the customer’s journey, and then tailored to the relevant buyer roles in different industries and to different situations. In complex B2B environments, it’s hard to predict what a salesperson will need in which exact combination. That’s why content modules became more and more important. Ideally, those modules are designed as templates that allow salespeople to edit and customize customer-facing content, powered by technology where appropriate.
  • “Be Inspired” enablement technology is integrated with CRM systems. Salespeople don’t have to go to another system, log in, and search for what they need. Pull technology suggests content (and related training services) based on the characteristics of salespeople’s opportunities and accounts. To make this mechanism work, the customer-core enablement framework and the content creation process as described above are an essential foundation. The future vision of success is that salespeople have one collaborative platform they are working with.  The foundation is often the CRM system that integrates enablement and playbook systems, learning content, and predictive analytics to support them along their deals. Additionally, those platforms provide the foundation for the frontline sales managers’ coaching approach.
  • “Be Inspired” adoption is the ultimate advantage. All the efforts that have to be made earlier regarding the customer-core enablement process are worth the energy. Adoption will be much easier. When salespeople don’t need to go to another system, when they get the content (and related training refreshers) they need at their fingertips, pull systems unfold their ultimate advantage – increasing productivity and performance and higher adoption rates.

“Be Inspired” enablement systems are designed for salespeople. “Be Inspired!” systems give them what they need, when they need it, on all devices and wherever they currently are, at the pace of technology.

Interested in more details? Join me for my session at the Qvidian Connect Conference, March 24, 3:15pm in San Antonio, TX.

 

Enablement Mechanisms: From “Push versus Pull” To “Be Inspired!”

Providing all the content that was available to the sales force and let them search – that’s where sales enablement has its early roots. Stand-alone knowledge management and enablement platforms were invented, sold and implemented. Everything was designed to provide content on a platform for sales. Various search options and taxonomies often made it difficult for salespeople to quickly find what they were looking for. Many of us walked this sometimes painful path.

Was that a push or a pull approach? It depends…

As a sales enablement leader, you may look at this issue from this role’s perspective. Then, it is a push approach; pushing everything you have on enablement content to sales. Now, change the perspective to the salesperson, and it is just the other way around. They don’t feel pushed; as everything depends on their initiative. They have to take the initiative; they have to search to find what they need. For them, it’s more of a pull approach.

Nowadays, sales enablement strives for enablement solutions that are highly integrated with the CRM landscape. The aim is to provide the right enablement and client-facing content at the right time for salespeople when they need it, along the stages of their opportunities. It depends on enablement to create a modular enablement framework that leads to these “customer challenge/industry/buyer role/deal stage” matches. The salespeople are at the receiving end. Again, it depends on your perspective whether you may consider this as a push or pull approach. Ask ten people with different roles in the same industry, and you will get as many push as pull answers.

The “pull versus push” question actually describes a content delivery mechanism, depending on our perspective and interpretation. Why not take these approaches to a level of more descriptive imperatives from the customer’s perspective? Imperatives for salespeople, the enablement clients. Then, approaches that are based on salespeople’s responsibility to search in order to get what they need can be described as “Search & Find.” This is not exactly what salespeople like to do or what makes them really effective. Approaches that provide client-facing and internal content at the salespeople’s fingertips, exactly when they need it and how they need it, can be described as “Be Inspired!” approaches.

“Be Inspired!” models in sales enablement – think about design, content services, technology and adoption

  • “Be Inspired” design means designing a customer core sales enablement framework. The customer’s journey and all involved stakeholders are the design points. The customer’s journey has to be mapped to the internal process landscape, from marketing to sales and  services/delivery. The goal is creating tangible value for customers, to help them to achieve their desired results and wins.
  • “Be Inspired” content services are tailored to the different phases of the customer’s journey, and then tailored to the relevant buyer roles in different industries and to different situations. In complex B2B environments, it’s hard to predict what a salesperson will need in which exact combination. That’s why content modules became more and more important. Ideally, those modules are designed as templates that allow salespeople to edit and customize customer-facing content, powered by technology where appropriate.
  • “Be Inspired” enablement technology is integrated with CRM systems. Salespeople don’t have to go to another system, log in, and search for what they need. Pull technology suggests content (and related training services) based on the characteristics of salespeople’s opportunities and accounts. To make this mechanism work, the customer-core enablement framework and the content creation process as described above are an essential foundation. The future vision of success is that salespeople have one collaborative platform they are working with.  The foundation is often the CRM system that integrates enablement and playbook systems, learning content, and predictive analytics to support them along their deals. Additionally, those platforms provide the foundation for the frontline sales managers’ coaching approach.
  • “Be Inspired” adoption is the ultimate advantage. All the efforts that have to be made earlier regarding the customer-core enablement process are worth the energy. Adoption will be much easier. When salespeople don’t need to go to another system, when they get the content (and related training refreshers) they need at their fingertips, pull systems unfold their ultimate advantage – increasing productivity and performance and higher adoption rates.

“Be Inspired” enablement systems are designed for salespeople. “Be Inspired!” systems give them what they need, when they need it, on all devices and wherever they currently are, at the pace of technology.

Interested in more details? Join me for my session at the Qvidian Connect Conference, March 24, 3:15pm in San Antonio, TX.

 

Sales Force Enablement – See you in Atlanta, Sept 17

The term “Sales Enablement” is used for almost everything that has to do with content, messaging, training, collaboration and technology to improve sales productivity and drive sales effectiveness. The function is rarely a strategic discipline that translates selling challenges into integrated, tailored sales execution plans. But this is exactly the kind of strategic approach that is required to create sustainable business impact and to drive sales force transformation successfully.

Sales enablement daily challenges

Our clients’ reality is that it’s still challenging to provide core enablement services in an effective and valuable way. The environments sales enablement leaders are dealing with are complex. Sales alone is a complex system with many dimensions that are all connected to each other. Furthermore, the need to work cross-functionally adds more dimensions to this existing complexity. Not to mention a variety of external providers of content, messaging, technology and training to work with. All these dimensions and their dependencies have to be orchestrated effectively to create significant value for the sales force. Additionally, there are still missing elements in many enablement approaches that need to be integrated with current enablement approaches, e.g., the relevance of frontline sales managers, the need to develop integrated content and training services, and to establish a strong foundation in sales operations that’s beneficial for both disciplines. This complexity is why frameworks are so important for sales enablement leaders. Frameworks provide a visual supporting structure, they cover several dimensions and their interdependencies on an aggregated level, and they enable us to navigate complexity in a more effective way.

Foundation for Sales Force Enablement (SFE)

In my SFPC session, Sept 17, 8:00 a.m., I’ll share some fresh data from our 2014 MHI Sales Performance and Productivity Study, including data on the biggest inhibitors to sales success, data on a growing sales enablement scope, and data on enablement investments and the correlation to quota achievement. Based on the data and the still-existing different perceptions regarding what sales enablement should do, we will then establish a customer-core foundation for sales force enablement, which covers the entire customer’s journey.

Our MHI Sales Force Enablement Master Framework is based on this customer core foundation. It enables you to define, structure, process and prioritize your sales enablement efforts to create more business impact in a more effective way. I will share an overview of the framework, what the different areas look like, and how you can use them. You will learn how to connect the customer’s journey with the internal value creation processes. We will discuss how to tailor your enablement services to all stages and all levels of the customer’s journey. And we will discuss how sales force enablement and sales operations belong together. Last but not least, we will look at a phased approach to a successful change and adoption program.

See you in Atlanta at the Sales Force Productivity Conference, Sept 17, 8am


Related blog posts:

 

Defining Sales Functions And Programs – How to Define Your Charter

Now, as we have defined vision mission and purpose, we have to be more specific. Based on your target audience (sales roles, sales manager roles, channel partners, etc.) motto, objectives, strategies and tactics, your specific services and your metrics have to be defined. For you as a sales leader make sure your sales functions complete these charters. Also, make sure they connect the dots between the different charters to set a foundation for effective collaboration. Let’s look at your five steps to complete your charter. These steps build on the first three steps, discussed here.

Create an inspiring tag line to address your target audience

A tag line should capture your vision. Especially in times of transformation, change and adoption programs, those tag lines shouldn’t be underestimated. That’s how people will feel about your function, initiative or program. An example for sales enablement and or sales training could be: Let’s change from “I have to sell a product” to “I love to solve my customer’s problems.” Then integrate vision, mission and purpose as discussed in my previous post.

Define goal and objectives

The goal is closely related to the vision, it captures what has to be achieved, e.g. “We implement sales enablement and collaboration platform for the sales force” or “we want to provide a state-of-the-art CRM system that drives collaboration and effectiveness.” Goals do not have to be strictly measurable or tangible. Objectives instead have to be tangible and measurable. Several objectives can lead to your goal. An example could be “The CRM collaboration platform will go live August 1 for selected users, migration will be completed by Oct 30.” Another objective could be “to implement interactive playbooks until September, to decrease salespeople’s search time by 20 percent.”

Define strategies, create a phased approach

This section is about how to bring the vision alive. A strategy refers to a plan of action which is designed to achieve the defined objectives. Detailing the strategies, the activities have to be derived from, and connected to the expected outcomes that have to be achieved. Capture all activities necessary to achieve the objectives. If you are going to implement sales technology or new enablement services, make sure there is an adoption activity included. Think about the salespeople you provide services for. Finally, organize the activities on a timeline and create a road map.

Define your services and offerings

Your services and offerings are what’s visible to your defined target audience, the different roles within the sales force and channels. Your services are what people use and how they will perceive your function. Those services are  e.g. sales enablement content, interactive playbooks, different training services, a collaboration platform, a performance management framework or a coaching guideline for sales managers. Define what is provided for which target audience.

Define how to measure success

Last but not least, define how to measure success. Those metrics depend on what’s included in your charter. If there are services to be implemented for the first time, milestones will be very important for you. If services are already in place, their effectiveness and their impact on sales performance is what matters. Last but not least, how efficient are these services produced? Make sure to cover all dimensions adequately.

Now, put it all together. Begin with your target audience, inflate vision, mission and purpose from the previous post, and add the topics that we discussed here – and create a compelling charter. It will become your go-to-resource for any kind of internal selling, communication, change and adoption situation.

 

Defining Sales Functions And Programs – Why You Need Vision, Mission, Purpose First

Fitness, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is defined as “the quality or state of being fit.” That’s a general guideline, but what does it mean to you? It depends on your context. Are you a professional decathlete or a weekend trail runner?

Defining functions and programs the right way is key to success for both you as the sales leader and your sales functions as leader. Definitions create value only if they are adjusted to your organization’s specific context and challenges. Developing a big picture on vision, mission, purpose and core values is the first step in creating a meaningful charter for each of your sales functions. The purpose of such a charter is to support you in various internal selling and adoption situations with consistent messages that tell a compelling story.

And that’s the part you have to be deeply involved, because it’s about bridging the gap between business strategy and sales execution. Today we cover part one – vision, mission, purpose. A follow-up post will cover goals and objectives, strategies, the function’s services and metrics.

Step 1: The vision describes the desired future state

It describes WHERE you want to be, and what you want to achieve on a high level. To develop, for instance, a sales enablement vision, the organization’s vision has to be mapped to both sales and  sales enablement. Visions for sales forces often have to do with transformation from product selling to outcome selling. If so, your vision can describe, for example, being the leading internal function that drives the transformation towards outcome selling as well as productivity to create more customer value in complex buying environments. It’s of course different if sales’ vision is to build partner channels. Key to create a meaningful vision is to work precisely from top down. You cannot put the cart before the horse.

Step 2: The mission is about the current state leading to the future state

A mission defines HOW you will get to where you want to be. An example for sales ops could be defining and executing a sales operations framework to provide a compelling and integrated value creation process from prospect to contract, easy to use and powered by technology. An example for a sales enablement mission could be defining and executing a cross-functional enablement framework to provide integrated services that are tailored to an outcome oriented sales approach, powered by an enablement platform.

Step 3: Purpose and core values

The purpose answers the question WHY a certain sales function exists. A purpose can be that sales enablement orchestrates the various sources of knowledge to create integrated enablement services, tailored to each stage and each level of the customer’s journey. A purpose for sales ops could be to build the skeleton of the sales organization.

Core values show how you and your teams will behave along the journey to achieve the vision. This area depends on your organization’s culture. There are three core values you will always need in a world-class sales organization – collaboration, accountability and leadership.

Don’t underestimate these three steps. If these fundamentals are not defined properly, you and your functional leaders will need much more time to sell every single initiative internally. Be ready to provide answers to questions that are related to vision, mission, purpose and values. Invest your time wisely, and develop vision, mission and purpose for your core sales functions!

Watch out for the next post where we’ll talk about the second part of your sales functions’ charters – goals and objectives, strategies and tactics, services and metrics.