This article comes from the panel discussion, ‘The Fundamentals of Establishing Enablement’, at our 2022 Sales Enablement Festival, check out the full version here.

Getting sales enablement off the ground is no small feat. Between gaining buy-in, selecting tools, and building programs, it's easy to feel overwhelmed as an enablement leader.

To shed light on the startup journey, three sales enablement pros recently came together to share their lessons learned: 

  • Konstantina Ntokorou, Program Manager at McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship
  • Orla Pollard, Head of Sales Enablement at Paddle, and
  • Cristina Patranoiu, Senior Sales Trainer & Coach at Ericsson

The trio drew from their diverse experiences establishing enablement functions to provide actionable advice.

From quick relationship-building tactics to reporting structures, measurement challenges, and more, their insightful discussion covered all the core bases of enablement.

Here are their seven top takeaways for enablement leaders looking to start strong!

1: Plant seeds of trust through quick wins

It's no secret that gaining credibility with sales reps and leadership is critical in enablement. But how exactly do you sow those initial seeds of trust when parachuting into a new company?

Orla swears by delivering value quickly through high-visibility wins. In one story, she shared how creating a simple sales playbook document addressed a glaring need voiced by struggling new hires.

"I remember standing at our all-company summit, and one of our reps said to me ‘I'm just not really sure what the actual steps are to close the deal.’ He was fairly new," she recalled.

"I said ‘Okay, do you need a playbook?’ We had information absolutely everywhere, but we needed it centralized.”

While not a sophisticated tool yet, distributing this Google Doc met an urgent rep need, helped managers, and signaled Orla’s ability to execute.

Getting reps onboard is about listening first, then delivering practical solutions fast. Even simple tools like checklists and email templates can provide that proof of concept.

Konstantina concurred that sitting down with reps, sales leadership, and other stakeholders quickly is crucial for gathering intel. But she warned not to get stuck in an endless listening tour.

“Give yourself a deadline because I felt the more I was talking to the reps and the directors, the more ideas I had, the more directions I was going.”
“You need to be strict, and say: I’m gonna give myself 15 days to drive the internal case to understand where we sit, and stick to it.”

In other words, balance speedy relationship building with decisive action. Don’t let perfection paralysis set in.

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2: Paint the big picture but start small

Having an inspiring vision resonated with our experts as another key to success. According to Cristina, clearly articulating “why” you’re in enablement is step one.

Her team’s purpose statement focuses on:

Enabling the revenue team to think differently, and grow revenue through communication, education and preparation.”

While motivating, grand visions still require bite-sized execution. Cristina, Orla, and Konstantina all emphasized incremental progress through quick wins.

Orla described how she elevated sales leadership alignment by planning out enablement’s long-term roadmap and headcount needs. But she balanced that with quick playbooks and training that resolved rep frustrations.

For Konstantina, quickly coordinating enablement responsibilities and priorities in tandem with sales leadership and marketing was key. 

In Orla’s view, saying no to outlier requests and clearly communicating quarterly priorities helps reinforce focus, and enabling selective small wins builds momentum.

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3: Metrics - Start simple, but build towards impact

What gets measured gets managed. But without extensive historical data, how can enablement leaders prove their worth?

Konstantina advised being adaptable and leveraging simple metrics at first. “Be creative in your current structure, and build out those metrics,” she offered.

Gradually layering in indicators tied to deal progression can illustrate enablement’s influence.

While not every impact is immediately quantifiable, Cristina emphasized creatively connecting enablement KPIs back to big picture business goals like lowered attrition.

“If you don't help the business, in a very concrete way, you're going to lose people. And if you lose people, you lose money."

Orla also encouraged carefully defining metrics and not falling victim to vanity metrics that sound good but lack actionability. For example, scrutinize ramp time definitions. 

Gradually building a metrics framework tied to revenue is crucial, even if you have to start small with imperfect indicators.

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4: Technology - Validate with end users first

The right technology stack can make or break enablement execution, but procuring tools is rife with pitfalls.

Konstantina warned about purchasing based on vendor recommendations without internal vetting.

“First, you need to understand, I need a tool that does X, that measures Z, that will give me Y results, and then decide accordingly.”

Piloting tools with a test group of reps and requiring hands-on experience before large contracts are signed is a must, the experts emphasized.

According to Orla, when considering LMS versus CMS options, you have to negotiate for what your team needs.

Above all, resist the pressure to make quick, expensive technology decisions without careful evaluation. There are tons of free tools and platforms to leverage in the interim until you've aligned on needs.

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5 - Cast a wide net for resources and ideas

While starting enablement can feel daunting, the good news is you don't have to do it alone. All three leaders emphasized connecting with mentors, peers, and online communities.

"Finding Sales Enablement Collective has been really, really key for me, especially in the first six months where I was technically alone in my role, especially when you're trying to build that trust and build that vision.”

Cristina also encouraged reaching out to others further along the path for guidance. 

“There’s real strength in asking for help. Enablement is still maturing globally, so we are all learning together. Connecting with peers who are further along in the journey can help you shortcut growing pains and build excellence faster.
You don't have to make every mistake yourself to get to success."

With enablement meetups, LinkedIn groups, and virtual water coolers, there are abundant opportunities to connect and learn from fellow practitioners. 

Don't let imposter syndrome hold you back from building your network!

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6: Structure can be secondary to results

What is enablement’s ideal reporting structure? 

According to Orla, embedding within sales has boosted her credibility and trust with that group. But she acknowledged how priorities may shift over time, necessitating closer marketing alignment for broader influence.

Cristina noted there are pros and cons to any structure, especially in large, matrixed organizations. She advised focusing less on your org chart box, and more on fostering connections across departments to accomplish goals.

While consensus was that the perfect structure doesn’t exist, our experts agreed having an influential executive sponsor is paramount, regardless of where enablement sits. 

Savvy enablement leaders foster relationships across the C-suite to promote alignment at the top.

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7: Empower reps to drive content and relevance

How do you run enablement with limited marketing resources? Konstantina shared tips for maximizing internal subject matter experts. 

“Recruit from your sellers, recruit from people that know the product, know the pain point, know what is missing in the training, know what is not converted best."

Reps have invaluable insider intel that external hires lack. Tapping their expertise directly by involving them in content development ensures relevance versus guessing at what will resonate.

Orla also emphasized the importance of continuous collaboration with product marketing to align on responsibilities and create consistency for the field.

When bandwidth is limited, clearly delineating deliverables and timelines helps avoid confusion.

While building out an enablement dream team may take time, scouting top talent internally first helps ensure programs hit the mark. Your best co-pilots may already be on the rocket ship with you.

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Final thoughts

Forging enablement from scratch is far from straightforward. 

But by focusing on fundamentals like quick wins for credibility, metric frameworks tied to revenue, leveraging networks and internal experts, enablement leaders can get off the ground successfully.

“While launching enablement can be challenging, keeping these fundamentals in mind will help set you up for success,” Orla summarized.

“Remember you don't have to have all the answers on day one.”

With a learner mindset, dedication to reps, and support from fellow enablement pros, you’ll be flying high in no time. The enablement rocket ship awaits - are you ready for liftoff?