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.
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.