Most people who work in sales enablement will be familiar with the underlying frustration that often exists between enablement and sales teams. You are providing them with useful content and valuable training, yet sales reps are not engaged, and you are left feeling that you are forcing unwanted activity on them.
As a result, you are not achieving your desired results or, even worse, the results of your activity are completely unknown.
This is an all too familiar situation, extremely unfulfilling for the sales enablement team and a huge, missed opportunity for the business as a whole. But why does it happen?
Bridging the sales and enablement gap
In my experience, it comes down to understanding. Sales reps are quite rightly focused on growing revenue, and often they can feel overwhelmed by content and information coming from other teams in the business such as marketing and technical. This information can be onerous and sometimes an irrelevant distraction from their valuable selling time.
This is clearly where sales enablement saves the day – the people with the power to focus and harmonize interaction between these teams - but unless you ensure that your strategy is aligned and that the sales team sees the value, then you might be in danger of falling into the same trap.
Top tips for sales enablement
So, what can be done about it?
My main advice for sales enablement teams is that it is not about the volume of content or hours of training you produce, it’s about the right activity delivered in the right way and at the right time to achieve a shared goal.
There are 7 key things you can do to help you achieve this.
1. Know where you are starting from
To start with, it is important to know where your sales reps’ skills gaps are in order to identify your priority areas and what success looks like. This information may already be to hand within your organization’s coaching framework, or alternatively an exercise in analysis of performance against your key sales competencies will give you a benchmark.
2. Align your enablement strategy with business goals and sales strategies
What are the priorities for the business, and what is the sales strategy to achieve these? If you know, for example, that driving-up new deal value is an objective, then coaching on the communication of benefits to potential customers and training on negotiation might be among your priority activities.
3. Understand the operational rhythm of your sales team
If you know the existing processes your sales team are used to, then you can work out how your enablement activity can be best operationalized in their day-to-day work without asking them to adopt too many new procedures. If you can take the outcomes from a training session and make them part of the team’s operational rhythm, then it will help to embed those learnings and create a skills improvement journey rather than just a one-off training session.
4. Familiarize yourself with their existing KPIs
If you know the KPIs and metrics that the team use currently, then you can align your enablement activity so that its impact can be measured, ROI can be demonstrated, and a clear pathway is created for each sales rep.
5. Don’t go it alone!
Engage the sales leaders and make sure they are bought in to what you are wanting to achieve and show them how you can help them to shorten sales cycles, boost sales team performance or increase revenue for example.
Make sure that they are also on board with your processes and any technology you are using – given the earlier point these might not be too dissimilar from those already in place but if you are proposing new technologies for example, ensure sales leaders are sold on the benefits and that you propose a way for it to be adopted into the current operational rhythm.
The bottom line is, if sales leaders are not on board, your efforts will struggle to penetrate.
6. Don’t forget the sales managers
If part of your strategy requires sales managers to coach sales reps, then remember to make sure they have the required skills to do so. Often businesses can mistake length of experience in a role with the ability to coach – they are very different things.
In fact, some of the most successful coaching frameworks have reps being coached by someone other than their line manager and often outside of their team to emphasize objectivity, although this is obviously not possible for all organizations!
7. Make everything you do accessible and integrated
If you have successfully aligned your sales enablement and sales strategies and have buy in from senior leaders – don’t fall at the final hurdle. Make sure the content that is being produced is readily visible to sales reps and is not hidden away somewhere they don’t regularly access.
To my earlier point, it is also important that measuring the outcome and effectiveness of sales enablement activity does not cause an admin headache! If you don’t use an enablement platform that does the job, look into whether your tech stack is integrated to collate performance metrics and make sure it's capturing the data you need to measure performance improvements.
Let’s bring this to life using training as an example...
Sales enablement professional Jenny wants to hold some training for the sales team, but she knows that despite everyone’s best intentions, when the day job kicks in after training, a lot of what has been learned is forgotten and disregarded.
She wants to do it differently this time and make sure the training sticks!
Beforehand, Jenny sets out some clear goals that she wants to achieve from the training and identifies the skills she is looking to impact on, gaining a benchmark for those skills so that she can measure improvements.
She also sets out a longer-term plan, outlining the ongoing key milestones for individuals and the team – after all, training is not just about the session itself!
She uses this to get buy-in from senior sales leaders and also communicates with the sales reps to point out what is in it for them and how it is going to make their life easier or better.
Feedback and accountability
Jenny is aware that in past training sessions, a few things have been missed that she wants to improve this time. Firstly, making sure everyone is trained in the skill of giving and getting feedback – a lot can be missed in the poor delivery and receiving of feedback, and addressing this can really help to improve results.
Accountability is also something that has been lacking in previous sessions, and Jenny believes this has had an impact on knowledge retention and overall benefit.
This time she plans to ask everyone to commit to their next steps in the session, put them in writing and share it with their manager. She is also asking each sales rep to record a video to present their learnings from the training and cement their own personal plans to follow up on this.
Follow up to maximize value
After the training session itself, Jenny has planned contact with all of the sales leaders to ensure that they are consistent in following up the agreed action plan for their team as a whole as well as individual sales reps.
As the training was focused on impacting on competencies that are a high priority for the business, Jenny has also developed a coaching plan for each sales rep which maintains focus on these skills, enables regular discussion about them and maximizes the value of the training itself.
Prioritize the action plan
Jenny is also on a communication mission! She is making sure that the action plan appears as a priority discussion point in all regular team meetings to maintain everyone’s focus. She is also using the business’s internal communications channels to highlight best practice in this area and shine a spotlight on who is excelling and the benefits they have experienced as a result.
Jenny has also found peer learning to be extremely powerful so the sales reps themselves are given their own space to share their experiences with each other, discussing how they have found implementing changes since the training, what has worked for them and what hasn’t etc.
Focus on visibility
And finally, Jenny has diarized regular opportunities to share the outcomes and successes with the team and senior leaders, complete with real data and evidence of the difference it is making to the business overall. She will also monitor missed deadlines and make sure that action is taken so that commitment does not slip.
Let’s all be more Jenny!
Now obviously, not all challenges are surmountable overnight, but it's important to remember that sales enablement teams have the unique ability to impact sales teams’ performance in the areas that will make a real difference to a business – show the sales team you understand them and deliver activity seamlessly from the ‘inside’, not as an outsider, and it will help to break down the barriers and improve success.