Defining sales enablement is very important. The definition should serve as a beacon, identifying what we need to do to make sales enablement successful. Numerous definitions exist; Google “sales enablement definition” and you’ll get plenty of results. At the Sales Enablement Society conference in Dallas this past October, the Definition Working Group unveiled their definition:
Sales Enablement ensures buyers are engaged at the right time and place, and with the right assets by well-trained client-facing staff to provide a world-class experience along the customer’s journey. While utilizing the right sales and performance management technologies, in addition to synergizing cross-organization collaboration, Sales Enablement optimizes the selling motion in order to increase pipeline, move opportunities forward and win bigger deals more efficiently to drive profitable growth.
I’ve worked with companies for over 25 years on sales enablement initiatives--work spanning five continents, including many industries, and involving companies ranging in size from SMB’s to large multinationals. In my view, success or failure hinges on incorporating a number of key factors in any initiative, which in turn should be articulated in our definition. Although the Group included many of those factors, I respectfully submit that, in my experience, others need to be accounted for. For example, a supporting framework is required where executives drive sales enablement efforts top-down and sellers receive consistent, proactive coaching from sales managers. Further, in my view the definition should precisely reflect the alignment required between the buyers’ journey, sales process, and content.
With that in mind, here is my definition:
Sales enablement is a strategic discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by identifying the steps in the buyer’s journey, aligning the sales process to that journey, and providing the right content at the right time and in the right format to the sales team as they execute those steps. Ensuring success requires a committed supporting framework.
By applying this definition and the methods that emanate from it, I’ve seen companies achieve 1,900% improvements in key sales enablement metrics in less than two quarters and increase product sales from as low as 207% to as high as 647%.
Why are the factors mentioned in my definition important?
Aligning buyer journeys with sales process and content is an imperative. Companies should first identify the solutions they provide and the steps buyers take in their journey that lead to successful sales for those solutions. Next, the company should identify the corresponding steps from the sales process that align with each step in the buyer journey. Finally, content should be developed to help the sales team successfully complete each step. The result is a buyer-centric approach to sales enablement.
As more fully described below, the supporting framework includes key roles played by executives, sales managers, marketing, and a cross-functional development team. It also includes training, technology, predictive metrics, and alignment of compensation plans to metric-based sales enablement objectives.
Corporate efforts, including sales enablement, fail unless they’re driven by executives top-down. More than just leading, they must own sales enablement. If they don’t, many sales managers will apply proactive coaching processes inconsistently and, in turn, sellers won’t embrace sales process or content as being integral to their success.
Sales managers are the lynchpins of the sales operation. Typically, only about 15% of sales people are “eagles,” those natural-born sellers who excel on their own. Consequently, a key goal for sales operations is to create eagles. This requires the integration of three key elements:
- The sales process provides sellers with the skills needed to execute under pressure.
- Content helps them adapt those skills based on their buyers and the solutions the sellers provide.
- Proactive coaching provided by sales managers, where the goal is to identify and help sellers overcome deficiencies (which may include opportunities, pipeline, and/or skills) and achieve peak performance. Specifically, sales managers must consistently execute several tactical functions, including opportunity assessment, pipeline management, managing to key predictive metrics, and skill development.
The content development team should be cross-functional, comprised at minimum of representatives from:
- Marketing, who must keep their finger on the pulse of external factors impacting markets and the resulting impact on buyers, their needs, personas, etc. Marketing must then translate that information into valuable market and buyer information, along with leading the content development effort.
- Sales, who bring important perspective on buyers and their actual use of your solutions. This will also garner support and buy-in from the sales organization.
- Product/service personnel, who understand the capabilities that their solutions provide to help buyers.
This team should report directly to the executives driving sales enablement.
Let’s next discuss delivery to the sales team. Technology must support a logical workflow to train, develop, and aid in the execution of sales efforts, including:
- Training new hires and/or new solution training
- Pre-call planning
- Conducting sales calls
- Generating post-sales call deliverables to set up sales cycles
- Conducting sales cycles along with generating appropriate deliverables throughout
Management should use predictive metrics specific to sales enablement to pinpoint specific performance anomalies related to key steps in the sales process, which in turn enable managers to determine whether an individual seller has a skill and/or other deficiency. Once pinpointed, surgical corrective actions can be taken.
Finally, compensation plans should be formulated that provide the sales and sales management teams with the incentives needed to achieve sales enablement objectives, based on achievement of predictive metric goals.
Bob Junke is the Founder and CEO of Adventace®. He is also the author of the bestselling book, Create the High Performance Sales Environment® and creator of the Adventace Sales Management System™, a Salesforce-based application that enables a high-performance sales environment. You can learn more about him at Bob's Bio and reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 724-443-2383.