Adriana Romero, Jill Emerick, and Rodrick Gibson delivered this presentation at the Sales Enablement Festival in May 2021.

In this article, we’re going to break down that single most daunting task for every enabler. You already know what it is! It’s the challenge of asking for a budget for any of your initiatives.

More specifically, we’re going to look at how we ask for: money, budget, resources, headcount, technology and certifications. You name it, there's so many things that we can ask for!

But before we dive into the main subject of this piece, let’s break it down into a few key talking points:

  • What’s the best way to ask for money from your initiatives?
  • Why sales enablement is overlooked
  • Why motivation is key
  • How do we stay on the leading edge?

To start with, let’s cut out all the fluff and ask this crucial question in its simplest form:

What’s the best way to ask for money from your initiatives?

The simplest answer is to present a tangible solution to a problem. When making the pitch, we say, “Look, here’s a thing that we think will really work.” Want to sound more convincing?

Compare it to two or three other vendors who've used a similar initiative successfully, or an opposing strategy unsuccessfully.

Still not convincing enough? Well, if you really want to prove the worth of your initiative, it might be a good idea to pitch a pilot program. But how does that work? Well, you trial your initiative with a couple of sales reps.

Best case scenario, if it’s truly worthwhile, the numbers will prove it out. With sales enablement, of course, there isn’t much room for ambiguity where numbers are concerned. If something works, it works.

But better yet, why not make this a two-pronged approach. Get some of your users to voice their support for what you’ve put in place. And get them to be specific.

Image of a computer screen with graphs displayed

How exactly has it helped? Is it saving them time? Is it getting them more leads? This is really the tried and trusted way to get buy-in on a new initiative.

But what if there’s no clear avenue for numbers?

We hear you! Typically, in sales enablement, we’re always trying to be as proactive as we possibly can. That should be the ideal state. But many times, especially in high-growth companies, where we’re always evolving and hiring more sellers, we're going to have to be a little bit more reactive.

And we’ll try to tie any initiative to the numbers. What are the hard benefits? Pilot programs are great, but sometimes we don’t always have a clear avenue for numbers. There's no ROI, or you can’t build a pilot program, build a tech solution and create numbers. How do we address that?

Go old school

If we don’t have the numbers, we have to take it retro, meaning we go back to how we used to do it in the past. We have to simply prove ourselves. Obviously, there're people out there who think that investing in sales enablement is a waste of money.

We have to show that we're professionals in this field and that we're the best of the best. We have to show that we can see solutions to the problems we’re having and that you should take us seriously. That’s going to have a real positive impact on the organization as a whole.

Now, we’ve touched on why enablement has been overlooked in the past when it comes to budget. Let’s dig a little deeper into that.

Why sales enablement is overlooked

So, maybe there are some super big companies that have the blessing of a budget for enablement. But let’s be honest, in many cases, that just isn’t the case.

The main issue is, sales enablement is a little bit newer in the world of commerce. Sales, of course, has been around since the beginning of time, and marketing has been around since the beginning of time.

But sales enablement is still a little bit newer. It's still coming into its own in that sense. Maybe the reason why we don't have the budget is that we're usually tied to sales. Typically, we fall under the sales budget and we get the scraps from sales.

Proving our worth

So, the question, how do we be more strategic in asking for that investment? The first thing is we need to be bold. Sales enablement should not be an afterthought on an Excel sheet, it should have it’s own Excel sheet outlining various resources for the sales enablement team.

Now this does come back to two crucial things: numbers and reputation. Ideally, you want to have both.

If you can consistently hit that mark your organization expects you to hit, they'll trust you to go and do it again. Numbers are important, but reputation may be even more crucial. Reputation is what is going to convince your senior stakeholders to invest in you.

You don’t bet on a horse that doesn’t have a proven track record.

Sales enablement are sales multipliers

So, how do we create trust? One way is to convince C-suiters that sales enablement is not something to be taken purely literally. In other words, sales enablement doesn’t just enable sales, it multiplies the sales group.

It’s about proving that sales enablement is a tool for making the whole of sales more organized and efficient in a way that positively impacts revenue.

How can we make it so that our people can do more with their hours? We can, for example, find a prospecting tool that decreases their administrative burden. This is a tangible benefit that’s not going to go unnoticed because it’s going to have a positive impact on your organization as a whole.

When sales are free to do more, it stands to reason that they’re going to make more sales. When you begin to show those benefits, that’s when you create trust. Maybe the problem is that enablement isn’t a very inspiring word. But multiplying suggests real growth. We’re not just enabling, we’re multiplying what our Salesforce can do.

Sales and sales enablement are not the same thing

We're your revenue multipliers. That's what enablement is. Salespeople are selling, but we’re helping them move the needle. Here're some of the measurable ways that enablement can assist sales:

  • Optimizing a process. This could be through providing better tools or resources.
  • Providing better training.
  • Getting them to understand time management.
  • Overcoming their own barriers when they're doing their selling.

All of these steps have one crucial thing in common: they've the potential to increase revenue.

Scrabble letters, laid out so they spell YES YOU CAN

Motivation is key

The question is, why do we place so much importance on sales kickoff? More specifically, why do we put money into sales kickoff? There's so much preparation, and there's so much expectation. Because it’s so important for us to bring in a motivational speaker who’s really aligned with what we want to do?

What is the purpose of it? Do we want to motivate? Do we want to train? Do we just want to be informative? The main benefit should be: you really need a trusted champion that your team can get behind and be inspired by.

It’s not all about methodologies and processes

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it's that some things are just more important. And one of those things is definitely getting your team more energized and more activated. It can be more difficult to convince members of the C-suite that something like motivation, good energy and motivation is worth investing in.

Inspirational speakers don’t always come cheap. Senior stakeholders are often only motivated by short term benefits. Your job here's to convince them that the long term benefits are worth fighting for.

But how do you convince them?

The first thing is to provide anecdotal evidence of how they’ve performed in other speaking engagements. Of course, this is actually true when trying to convince your higher ups of anything.

However, in this modern age, they don’t just have to take your word for it.

If the person is really a big deal, you might even be able to find video evidence from other conferences that confirms what you’re pitching. You can encourage your bosses to meet with them and see first hand what they offer. The problem is, of course, motivation isn’t a tangible thing in itself.

The fact is, and again this is true of every aspect of work life, you have to have the courage and drive to stand toe to toe with your leader.

A sign which says Turn Ideas Into Reality

How do we sell ideas?

In a way, we're always pitching and selling internally. Sometimes it’s our job to pitch ideas for changing the way training should be done, or how we should certify our sellers, etc.

In a nutshell, you’re in a constant struggle to get those higher ups on board with the vision. You want them to understand the vision, understand the gap that we have, and what it is that we want to achieve.

Form a hypothesis

The fact is, when you’re selling ideas, it’s hard to really put your finger on what the concrete benefits will be, especially when you haven’t actually put those motions into action yet. So, it helps to make some pretty reasonable assumptions or predictions. At least then you’re coming in with a kind of hypothesis to measure success by.

A scrabble board with the words: succeed, lead, and team

For example, you could form the hypothesis that 1% of sales might move faster if the seller is able to read the buyer’s body language over time.

If we moved 1% faster, that would result in half a million dollars more revenue.

Even if you can’t make it into an exact science, at least now you have a kind of measuring stick.

How do we stay on the leading edge?

But what’s the point in going forward with new innovations and new initiatives if you’re completely out of touch with sales and enabler communities?

Select the communities and find out what they want. It's the modern world, so get online and interact with different voices! Weigh up what the costs of those demands would be and what kind of budget will be expected.

If we're going to keep our whole organization leading edge, we need to stay leading edge. We need to stay in conversation with the community and keep learning. The great benefit of that is that we’re now able to bring this wisdom back to the sales team.

And it certainly doesn’t hurt to go up the chain of command to your manager. Stress the material benefits of being a part of different communities and how the knowledge you’ve already gained from them could have a positive impact.

To finish up: some key takeaways

1. Firstly, understand your numbers and your results. For many senior stakeholders this is simply going to be the most convincing cause for a new initiative. Even if you have to make some sensible estimates, at least have some numbers to show.

2. Secondly, build trust based on all the things that you have done before. Your reputation precedes you! Make your argument based on what you’ve achieved before.

3. Stay close to other enabler communities out there, as well as initiatives that've worked well in other organizations. If you don’t have evidence for a motion working successfully in your own organization, why not collect that evidence from elsewhere?

4. Have a plan. Sit down with your CEO or CFO, your team, and formulate a strategy for the coming year with realistic targets.

5. Speak the language of the person you’re speaking to. If your boss is very numbers driven, then use numbers. If your boss is keen on keeping track of competitors, then make sure you have your nose to the ground in that respect.

6. Lastly, just accept that you’re not going to have all the answers. It’s always a work in progress, and that’s okay! Accepting this is crucial because it means you're always open to newer initiatives, and it makes it easy for you to pivot at any moment into a new strategy.

Sales enablers need to be agile and adaptable. Let’s do it together!