Collaboration In Enablement: Current State, Improvements and Challenges

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

Look at sports. What collaboration means is pretty clear. It’s being committed to working together to achieving a goal, such as winning a championship.

Clarifying the goals of collaboration: nothing is more important than this step. Or do you know any Formula 1 team or any basketball or football team that doesn’t have a clear goal in mind, what they want to achieve by collaborating with each other as a team? Exactly. There are no exceptions. They have all defined their goals and therefore the purpose of their collaboration.

But in sales, things get mixed up or confused. Collaboration is often reduced to using a “collaboration tool,” as if a “fool with a tool” would no longer be a fool. Nothing could be further from the truth. In sales, the fundamentals that are crystal clear in sports are simply overlooked. And the fundamentals require defining the purpose of collaboration and the goals to be achieved with other functions such as marketing or IT.

Collaboration does not exist for its own sake. The purpose of collaboration is achieving better results, ideally in a shorter amount of time.

Enablement – sales force enablement, as we call it – is always a cross-functional discipline, because no enablement team can provide integrated content, training, and coaching services throughout the entire customer’s journey for different user groups and powered by technology, alone. No way.

So, cross-functional collaboration is mandatory for three reasons. First, to provide the defined enablement services. Second, to achieve the enablement goals in terms of sales results and productivity. And third, to keep enablement as cost-efficient as possible.

Now, let’s look at some data to learn more about the current state of collaboration in enablement, based on our CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study.

Cross-functional collaboration is improving: Formal collaboration increased from 12% last year to 22% this year!

collaboration-approach
Informal and ad hoc collaboration (the least desirable forms) are still the leading approach (a combined 68.8%) as illustrated in the data chart on the left, but this is better than last year (83%).

One difference compared to last year is that the ad hoc collaboration has been reduced from 41.0% to 26.1%. The other one is that formal collaboration increased from 12.0% last year up to 21.7% this year. Both improvements are very positive!

While there is overall good news, let’s be aware that 43% of all study participants, like last year, collaborate on an informal basis, and almost 10% don’t collaborate at all. Now, let’s look at the key findings of the cross-functional collaboration assessment we processed as part of our CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study.

Enablement’s collaboration efforts must not be reduced to sales and marketing alignment. Instead, enablement has to collaborate with eleven functions!

In reality, enablement teams have to collaborate with almost every other function in the company, including L&D, HR, sales ops, legal, sales management, executive management, product management, marketing, customer service management, event management, and IT. The type of collaboration might be different with each function, but the need to define collaboration goals with each single function remains the same. As an example, with marketing and product management, the goals can involve content creation or events. With L&D, it’s often about aligning and integrating training services, and with executive management, most of the time it’s about getting their buy-in and their executive sponsorship.

 Room for improvement with IT, HR and product development – successful collaboration with sales ops, sales management, L&D and marketing

 Interestingly, collaboration with IT shows the highest need of major redesign. That might be because the two functions speak different languages and have different perspectives. Is IT needed for budget reasons, or also for integrating enablement technology in an enterprise architecture? Is IT perceived as a showstopper or as a valued partner to getting things done? Please for details.

Enablement often reports into sales operations, and naturally these two functions should collaborate effectively. Sales management can have different roles: one is the role of a customer in terms of delivering sales results; another is as a target audience for equipping sales managers with, for instance, better coaching skills.

Stay tuned! We will look deeper into the performance impact of cross-functional collaboration, and into the nature of collaboration types and how to effectively approach them, in future blog posts.

 

Questions for you:

How do you collaborate in your organization? Ad hoc, informal or do you follow a formal approach?

Who are your most important collaboration partners?

What function is the easiest and what function is the most difficult collaboration partner, and why?

 

Related blog posts:

Collaboration in Enablement: Potential for Huge Performance Improvement

Sales Enablement and Technology – The Collaboration Gap

The Dark Side Of Enablement: Why You Need An Enablement Production Process

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