Welcome back to our series on ‘6 Key Elements to Effective Sales Transformation’.  Today, we will focus on sales enablement. Close your eyes and think back to 10 years ago. Do you remember the term “sales enablement”? Do you remember a department at your company called “The Sales Enablement Department”? Those of you that do remember were either pioneers in the sales enablement phenomenon or are remembering incorrectly!

What is Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement is a buzzword that has yet to be uniformly defined and agreed upon, yet is pervasive in just about any corporation that has a selling organization. It pops up in the following forms:

  • Technology: Anything that isn’t CRM or Marketing Automation but helps the selling organization sell more
  • Departments: A department whose purpose is to help the selling organization sell more, but isn’t a part of sales operations, marketing, training or IT. This department may have complimentary or conflicting roles and priorities when compared to the aforementioned 4 groups.
  • Initiatives: Any initiative that has to do with increasing the amount that the selling organization sells
  • Content: Any content that supports the selling organization in selling more
  • Events: Any event that supports the selling organization in selling more
Real Benefits from Sales Enablement

As you can imagine, keeping up with what sales enablement means to any given company is a task unto itself. Yet, many organizations are seeing real benefits from these efforts and enablement was recently highlighted by a tenured sales leader as one of the 6 keys to successful sales transformation. Like many buzzwords, there are tens if not hundreds of definitions of what the term means, case studies on what to do and plentiful examples of sales enablement efforts gone wrong. So, how does a sales leader cut through the noise and actually achieve value from this nebulous concept of ‘sales enablement’?

  1. Define what you want to accomplish: What is it that we want our sales enablement efforts to achieve for our business? When doing this it is important to define both leading and lagging indicators. Most initiatives have vague goals like “Improve the productivity of our sales organization” or have result oriented goals such as “Improve new account acquisition by 10%”. But they don’t have leading indicators to check in and see how the organization is progressing.
  1. Create clear responsibility: Who is responsible for our sales enablement efforts? Often times, the sales enablement function is a cross functional working group with competing goals. In other cases, the sales enablement function is given such a comprehensive list of functions that it is impossible to fulfill them all. In almost all cases, whoever is responsible for sales enablement is often times either replacing or complimenting things that other groups already do (Sales Enablement Department example above) or integrating these groups to function in a different way than they have in the past. Without a clear charter and responsibility assigned, it is very easy to do too much for the salesforce (overenablement – a new buzzword!), too little for the salesforce (underenablement – that’s 2 new buzzwords in 1 paragraph!) or do the wrong things for the salesforce (misenablement – yes, that’s 3 new terms!).
  1. Focus on the customer: What do our customers need to help them buy from us? There is a flood of new tools, technologies, techniques, books and ideas related to sales enablement. Many organizations fall into the trap of focusing on the neat new thing rather than understanding how their customer buys and what they need to make it easier to do business with their company. As one of my favorite customers often says “A fool with a tool is still a fool!”
  1. Less is more: How can we make our enablement efforts as simple as possible? Many factors have made sales enablement too complex. The leading ones are the complexity of the modern selling environment, the dynamic requirements for creating and sustaining a successful selling organization and the fact that sales enablement is a relatively new function that has emerged from a variety of different perspectives. In any case, almost all sales enablement initiatives are too complicated.  You will increase the chances of success by a factor of 100 if you simplify. When you think your initiative/content/technology/presentation is as simple as it can be, ask ‘How do we make this simpler?’
Put the Customer First

Keeping these 4 principles in mind will help you cut through the noisy environment full of technology vendors, consultants and trainers who have all defined sales enablement in self-serving ways. In the end, it’s all about a simple principle: understanding why customers buy and putting the selling organization in the right position to differentiate your company. Starting with this as a reference point will help you to make sure that the technology, tools, training and content that you procure or create will really make a difference to your business.

Written by: John Thackston | Sales Enablement | Element 2 to Effective Sales Transformation

For more on this topic and other areas of SOAR thought leadership:

Sales Enablement | Element 2 to Effective Sales Transformation