Make no mistake, building a sales enablement team from scratch can be a daunting - and, yes, scary - task for any sales enablement professional. So, we're going to confront the most common things that go wrong - and show you how to preempt them.

Lack of focus of who your customers are

When assembling your team and designating roles and responsibilities that will sit within it, you’re setting yourself up to fail from the outset if you lose sight of the end-user: your customer-facing reps.

According to recent Forrester research, three-quarters of sales enablement leaders say that seller end-user experience is critical to delivering great enablement programs, but well over a third continue to focus their organizational structure on deliverables or company offerings, rather than the reps themselves.

Your job as a sales enabler is to be alert and receptive to your sales reps’ ongoing needs and challenges, and to be an advocate for ensuring the support and material is delivered in the right way, the right time and in the right format. Yes, your enablement strategy should be aligned with overall corporate objectives - but the role of your team isn’t to drive revenue: it’s to empower your sellers to do that.

Recognizing this is the first step to pinpointing the resources you need to make sales enablement more effective.

Lack of role definition

There are many strands to sales enablement, and every team’s balance of priorities will be different, depending on the market focus, product portfolio, sellers’ experiences, culture and more.

This is your starting place for defining the roles you need to create and finding the right people to fill them. Below are some common job titles for you to consider when structuring your team (some will be more relevant than others):

Sales Enablement Manager: the most critical role, key to maintaining close relationships with sales reps and directly responsible for delivering sales enablement initiatives, as well as keeping track of whether these are performing.

Program Managers: depending on your size and scope, they focus on and specialize in a single aspect of your enablement function, such as onboarding or content.

Instructional Designer: able to assess the sales culture and skills gaps to create courses that resonate with reps to ensure effective sales readiness.

Sales Enablement Co-ordinator: keeps enablement teams organized and day-to-day processes running smoothly. Often a first-step role into sales enablement for someone with a sales or marketing background.

Content Specialist: works closely with stakeholders, especially marketing and HR, to ensure messaging stays consistent with other corporate communications.

Sales Coach: takes a hands-on approach to defining obstacles to reps’ development and works with sales managers to lead strategy for all coaching and training programs.

More senior roles in larger organizations:

Director of Sales Enablement: responsible for establishing key cross-departmental relationships to recruit advocates for sales enablement.

VP of Sales Enablement: keeps the overall sales enablement strategy aligned to the senior leadership’s vision for the company.

Chief Enablement Officer: enablement’s champion within the C-Suite; usually only found within businesses that have a large enablement team.

The key to determining the ideal team roles for your function is to understand your mission and vision and your capacity to execute against that with your current team. Then, assess where some of these common sales enablement roles can fit into your sales enablement roadmap to help you be more effective as your team grows and function matures.

Hiring for the wrong skills and competencies

We’ve established that your internal customers - your sellers - should be the center of your enablement activities, and this should be reflected not only in the roles you prioritize for your team (whatever titles you give them), but also in the specific competencies and skills that you hire for. Where are the current deficits that are creating barriers to delivering what they need?

For example, if there is urgency to get an online training program up and running as quickly as possible, you may look for someone experienced in identifying training needs and delivering learning content, and who also has strong decision-making skills.

If the emphasis is on gaining buy-in and developing an enablement culture, you could be recruiting for someone with a sales background themselves who can empathize with the daily realities of a rep’s role, and who also has strong communication and stakeholder management skills.  

If enablement content needs a complete overhaul, then you’re probably looking for someone who’s competent in content creation and management, but who’s also highly-organized and has the communication skills necessary to carry out a complete audit of existing materials and possibly siloed information.

Undefined accountabilities

It’s true that sales enablement teams are often pulled in different directions by stakeholders with differing expectations, maybe from business development, marketing, sales managers… and that’s before we even get started on the C-suite.

As your new hires come on board, especially if your enablement function has been newly-introduced, they may well feel unsure about who owns their time, and what tasks they have ownership of, even if this seems clear and uncomplicated on paper.

If you’ve done a good job of generating awareness and excitement about your developing team, you may find that managers from all over the business are keen to get your recruits stuck into tasks that might well be valuable to them and to the business, but don’t strictly fall into the remit of sales enablement. Or maybe you have two or more departments with conflicting priorities vying for your resources. This can cause problems for your team - as well as making them feel awkward about who they’re accountable to and for which areas of their work: undefined work expectations are one of the top five work stress factors, according to a Harris Interactive poll.

You can take control of this by reaching out to your stakeholders (and this includes your own team members) to reinforce what your team is there to achieve and ask for their support.  Develop and communicate a process for collaboration with other departments, including how an initial approach should be made whether this is casual - you might ask that they contact yourself on email in the first instance, or more formal, using a Trello board and through scheduled, regular meetings. This can be adapted as your team scales, of course - sales enablement is all about adaptability!

Assuming knowledge

If you want to communicate effectively, you need to keep two things in mind: it’s got to be clear and it’s got to be engaging. If not, they’ll turn off and probably forget most of what you say.

Just because you’re immersed in your subject matter and familiar with all the acronyms and concepts it involves, it doesn’t mean everybody else is. It’s easy for your messages to be lost in translation or, even worse, cause misunderstandings and confusion. This point becomes critical if this is the first sales enablement role for at least some of your new team members, especially if you’re onboarding them remotely. When establishing your team, and even at the recruiting stage, you need to set clear expectations around roles, responsibilities and remits and you can only do this if everybody understands what you’re talking about.

You coach your reps to clearly convey information when talking to customers so put your money where your mouth is when talking to your own team!

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