Working collaboratively with cross-functional teams to ensure resources are being created, and processes are being used, in a way that has the most positive impact on sales performance, is at the core of sales enablement. This facilitation and governance is vital to delivering your enablement services effectively and consistently.
It also means you and your team regularly interacting with individuals who will have varying expertise, experience and backgrounds, but who you need to support you in your fundamental goal: driving sales and revenue.
A diversity of perspectives from across the business is both a blessing and a challenge for enablement.
On one hand, you’ve got a rich variety of skills, experience and knowledge involved in your sales enablement initiatives, which can be great for coming up with innovative ideas, viewing issues and solving problems from multiple angles and for bringing different resources to the table (including access to valuable contacts within and outside your business).
However, a lack of clarity about purpose and objectives, plus a reluctance to adopt new ways of working, can create barriers to collaboration. To deliver maximum value - and particularly if you’re at the beginning of your journey - you need to find ways to break down silos and create excitement around participation in sales enablement initiatives.
Focus on clear communication
When you’re working with a variety of professional backgrounds, you need to anticipate some misunderstandings, especially in the early stages of putting a process for collaboration together, such as a cross-functional working group, and before relationships have been properly established. Every field has its jargon that may be a perfectly clear way of explaining issues to others who work in the same function, but complete gibberish to anyone who’s not in the same department or profession.
For example, a developer with a fundamental understanding of the technology at an intimate level may happily refer to ‘FTPs’ and ‘PnPs’, a marketing exec might talk about ‘CTAs’ and ‘GDPR’, and an HR professional refer to ‘RTW’ and ‘PM’, while someone not immersed in the language of that industry may simply be thinking: ‘WTF’?
This can be further exacerbated by the drawbacks of virtual meetings, where people accidentally talk over one another because of the relative absence of body language and visual cues.
If you arrange an enablement meeting with a group made up of people from several teams, you need to encourage the participants to explain things in terms or expressions that most people are familiar with - as well as to understand what it’s like to be baffled by what someone is saying, without getting exasperated or frustrated.
And remember that an advantage of the virtual environment is the ability to use the chat function to ask questions when someone doesn’t feel comfortable interrupting the conversation. It’s often the case that others aren’t clear either, so it’s beneficial to everyone. This can also make the person speaking mindful that they’re using jargon or acronyms that aren’t readily recognized outside of their profession.
It’s good practice to step in and ask questions to clarify what someone means, even if you understand the term yourself. Or, you could repeat what’s being said in layman’s terms to reiterate the point for the whole team. For example, an SEO (search engine optimization) expert might say:
“We should disavow these spammy inbound links, as they could result in a penalty and harm or DA.”
You could respond: “So we’ve got an issue with low quality sites that link to ours, which could affect the way we rank on Google - but we can ask Google to ignore them?”
When you think about successful teams outside of the workplace - whether it’s a sports team or platinum selling pop band - what do they have in common? They work together well because each member shares the same objective: to win the league or sell more tracks than other artistes.
But it’s all too common for different teams - or the individuals within them - to have completely different, and often conflicting, priorities.
Getting support from senior management for your sales enablement strategy will make your life a whole lot easier because they can reinforce the message of shared goals as part of your ongoing corporate narrative among every department and encourage every team to play their part.
Familiarizing yourself with what other teams are working on will give you a strong basis on which to approach them and get buy-in. Get to know your co-workers as individuals, their working styles and current projects.
You could use cross-functional team meetings to shine a spotlight on one team’s role, achievements and plans. This way, not only will you and your team members have a much clearer understanding of one another’s roles and pain points, but it will highlight any further opportunities to collaborate and reduce duplication of work.
And it’s just as important to keep sales enablement’s headline upcoming work visible on a regular basis throughout the business, with relevant links to projects or initiatives with an invite to join in if they’d like to contribute.
Clearly delegate accountabilities
At the beginning, and when new co-workers join, there can be confusion as to what your sales enablement team is trying to achieve and its relevance to the teams that you want to collaborate with, especially if they’ve had little or no direct involvement with sales before.
A common barrier to participation is “It sounds great, but I haven’t got time. Maybe next month”. It’s a reason - not necessarily an excuse - that we’ve all used at some point.
Or maybe you manage to get buy-in and participation from other teams, but fail to maintain momentum as deadlines slip and people are distracted by other projects.
This why it’s essential to:
- Negotiate at management to identify who needs to feed into your enablement strategy, and why (this is where support from senior management comes into play).
- Create a framework that lists out all of sales enablement’s specific goals and objectives, how they align with company-wide objectives, mapped alongside the activities and responsibilities for each team. Share it with your entire company so that every team - from accounting to sales - understands the bigger picture.
- Present a clear proposal, timeline, and estimated time commitment for each team’s participation. How much time will they be expected to commit to execute tasks that feed into sales enablement?
- Introducing a new way of working will impact on people’s ways of working - and people can be reluctant to break habits! So start slowly, maybe with a kickoff event to explain the what, why and how of enablement and provide an opportunity to ask questions.
- At a more granular level, as with any project, to ensure tasks are completed and deadlines are met, use a project management tool, such as Monday.com or Trello, to keep everyone up to date of individual accountabilities, dependencies etc. Keep this visible and accessible.
Finally, keep reinforcing how sales enablement is adding value to everyone in the business, and how each team’s contribution has an impact.
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