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.

Is Sales Enablement Part of Your Digital Transformation Initiative? When —If Not NOW?

Is Sales Enablement Part of Your Digital Transformation Initiative? When —If Not NOW?

Did you ever imagine that a virus would be the ultimate trigger for organizations to focus on digital transformation? Probably not. Here we are, in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic that will forever change the way we live, the way we do business, and also the way we run sales enablement.

Observations on sales enablement after being silent for a few weeks

As I transitioned from one professional role to another over the last few weeks, I focused on observing, rather than actively participating in, the sales and sales enablement space. Here is what I found:

  • The approach is understood, but execution suffers.

There is no lack of research, data, expertise, and best practices on WHAT should be done to make sales enablement a powerful driving engine for sales transformation. Sales enablement leaders struggle with HOW to approach this. Even if they theoretically know about the need for a strategic, formalized, integrated and targeted approach to meet their stakeholders’ expectations and KPIs, they struggle with getting access to their senior executives in the first place.

  • Talent is discussed one-way only.

The usual focus with regard to talent in a sales enablement context is the talent to be enabled. What’s ignored most of the time is the talent that’s required in a sales enablement role, especially in a sales enablement leadership role. We see many sales enablement program managers who are excellent at what they do—managing programs—but only a few business leaders who have the expertise and the business acumen to set up this business function as an engine for digital sales transformation.

  • Sales enablement and sales are only partly digitalized.

This is, especially now in times of COVID-19, a severe problem. With working from home policies in place, more sales forces than expected are struggling to engage their prospects and customers digitally. It was never just an option. Now it’s mandatory. It’s the same with sales enablement. Some enablement teams started with sales enablement content technology but did not digitalize their processes behind the platform. Other organizations already tackle sales enablement in more areas, such as content, training, and coaching. However, lots of training is still on-site, and only certain training services are available in a digital way, not to mention sales coaching services. Imagine, you have to onboard people digitally, and you are not prepared to do that. And imagine the tremendous competitive advantage of organizations that are doing this already.

How to integrate sales enablement into your digital transformation strategy

Ideally, there should be an organization-wide digital strategy in place. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. And in some cases, the strategy only says, “digitalize your processes.” Of course, that’s not an effective way, because a) such an approach doesn’t begin with the customer in mind, and b) it doesn’t optimize the processes before digitalizing them.

Whatever your situation is, here are four practices that help you to not only digitalize sales enablement but to make it even more effective.

#1: Key principle for how to approach digitalization: 

Technology is a great SERVANT, and with artificial intelligence even more so, if we carefully MASTER technology and clearly define what technology should do, and where human interaction is required and desired. Humans have to remain the MASTERS of digitalization and the MASTERS of the technology they implement to drive CX in the age of the customer which is more and more about customer convenience.

#2: All “safe havens” are now subject to digital disruption

The digital disruption started in different industries at different times. Think about the music and photography industry in the last century, then print media, travel, or television beginning about 2010, followed by retail, healthcare, automotive, education, telco, food, banking, and insurance around 2015. Now, in 2020, due to COVID19 and other factors, there are no safe havens any longer. Going digital is mandatory; it’s no longer an option.

#3: Design in an integrated way with the customer experience in mind

The age of the customer and the age of technology come together. It’s more than sales; it’s the entire process of how you engage potential customers, from demand and lead generation, followed by their first experience with sales professionals, through to their buying decision, customer success, and customer service experience. As more and more B2C and B2B customers prefer buying products and well-defined and categorized services online, make sure that their customer experience is seamless, smooth, and just-in-time, across your marketing, sales, and service and support functions, processes, and technologies. Now, the real focus where sales professionals will create a huge impact is in complex, enterprise selling scenarios. Here, business problems that impact several functions must be solved, and the buying team’s desired business outcomes are complex in nature and require an integrated, business-driven, differentiating engagement strategy.

#4: Be consistent, align, and integrate. Communicate, communicate, communicate

With these principles in mind, make sure the core areas of your sales enablement initiative, such as value messaging, content, training, and coaching are all aligned to the customer’s path, stage by stage, consistent with each other, and technically integrated. Here, an overarching value messaging approach is crucial, which ensures that all content assets and training services are consistent, telling the same story. Now, make sure that you leverage integrated digital sales enablement solutions that ensure that you can provide all these services using one platform, connected to the CRM or integrated into your CRM.

This article was initially written for Top Sales Magazine, April 2020 edition.

Image source: Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Sales Enablement Grows Up. But Not Fast Enough.

Sales Enablement Grows Up. But Not Fast Enough.

Sales enablement is on the rise, no doubt. At CSO Insights, we have seen a very fast growing discipline over the last six years. In 2013, only 19.3% of organizations reported having sales enablement established in their organization. This “enablement rate” increased to 32.7% in 2016 and to 59.2% in 2017. Now, in 2018, the data of our 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study (requires membership) shows a leveling off in growth, with 61.0% of organizations having a sales enablement team.

This 2018 number, 61.0%, is less than we expected because in 2017, 8.4% of organizations said that they planned to implement sales enablement within the next twelve months. That was apparently not the case. Instead, sales enablement seems to have arrived at a certain plateau. It is now maturing and thriving in particular niches.

Sales enablement is more relevant in larger organizations; it is found in up to 89.3% of organizations > $1B in annual revenues

The nature of sales enablement is to design, orchestrate, implement, and measure enablement services (content, training, tools, and coaching) across various functions to keep them consistent and effective for the sales force. That is one of the reasons why sales enablement is more established in larger organizations.

In organizations with annual revenues between $50M-$250M, over two-thirds (71.6%) of our study participants had sales enablement. This number increased up to 89.3% for organizations larger than $1B.

Organizations with sales enablement reported two-digit improvements for quota attainment and win rates compared to those organizations without enablement.

Yes, there is a business case for sales enablement. We compared key sales performance metrics, such as the percentage of salespeople achieving quota and win rates for forecasted deals, with the presence and absence of sales enablement:

  • The percentage of salespeople achieving quota improved by 10.6 percentage points, which is an actual improvement of 22.7%.
  • The win rates for forecast deals improved by 6.6 percentage points, which is an actual improvement of 14.5%.

Are all enablement teams equally successful? No. Only 34.4% of those with sales enablement met all or the majority of their expectations and achieved significantly better results.

The problem is the big group of enablement teams (61.2%) that met some of their expectations but ended up with only average performance results. That’s a difficult situation.

Almost two-thirds (61.2%) of organizations invest in sales enablement without seeing significantly better results. This could lead senior leadership to question the need for a dedicated enablement function.

In our Sales Enablement Grows Up: The 4th Annual Sales Enablement Report, we analyzed the research findings to show how to set up your sales enablement function for sustainable success. These foundational practices make a huge difference:

  • Follow a formal approach with a charter:
    This is the most critical practice, but too often ignored. It makes a huge difference if you run sales enablement as just another program, or if you have a strategic sales enablement approach that’s aligned to the business and the sales strategy, and connected to the strategic initiatives and goals of your senior executive sponsors. Only 9.2% do that, but this small group of organizations achieved 19.2% better win rates compared to all study respondents. To put that into perspective, the group with a formal approach but no charter could improve their win rates only by 3.4%. And those with informal and ad hoc approaches couldn’t even achieve average performance. So, a charter really matters. Check out my blog post series over at csoinsights.com/blog for details.
  • Make the customers and their customer’s path your primary design point for sales enablement:
    Sales enablement services cannot exist in a vacuum. A solid process framework, powered by technology, is essential. In the age of the customer, your internal selling process must reflect all steps and gates your buyers go through to make decisions. That’s what we call aligning your internal selling processes to the customer’s path, ideally in a dynamic way that allows you to make necessary adjustments as fast as possible. Only 20.7% of organizations do that, but this one-fifth improved quota attainment by 8.9%.
  • Align your enablement services to the different phases of the customer’s path:
    Some skills and methodologies are relevant throughout the customer’s path, such as value messaging. Others are more relevant in specific areas, such as prospecting or negotiation skills. It’s even more important with content. Content that helps to co-create a shared vision of success with a prospect is very different from content that supports detailed conversations with different buyer roles at the end of the buying phase. Interestingly, 42.0% of organizations reported that they do that, and they saw much better win rates: 53.5% vs. 42.0% for those that reported not applying this practice.
  • Build your enablement backbone: Implement a production process and mechanisms to measure enablement success:
    Only 25.0% have an enablement production process in place, but this one-quarter saw 5% better win rates. Only with a process can you provide scalable, consistent and effective enablement services. Less than 20% know how to measure sales enablement success, but those that follow a dashboard approach with leading and lagging indicators and ROI models achieved 5 percentage points better win rates compared to all. Measurement provides evidence of what works.

Sales enablement grows up; that’s good news. But not fast enough. Enablement leaders should take the time and focus on HOW they approach their enablement efforts before simply adding new “stuff” for the sales force.

This article was initially written for Top Sales Magazine, the December edition.

Photograph: Shutterstock 299846063

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


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