How Sales Operations Can Partner With Sales Enablement to Improve Forecasting

In my last few blogs, we focused primarily on process maturity and impacts on sales performance, with a sales operations perspective. Today I want to turn our attention to the people side of things and why it’s important for sales operations to partner with sales enablement. What we do (process, technology) ultimately enables the sales teams (people) to be more productive, and collaboration with sales enablement is how we can ensure sales is effectively using and adopting the processes and technologies we provide.

At CSO Insights, we have a strong history of sales enablement focus through the works of my fellow analyst, Research Director Tamara Schenk. So there are plenty of blogs and research studies around sales enablement that I won’t go into here. If you’d like to read more on sales enablement, check out Tamara’s recent blog on clearing the fog around what sales enablement really is.

Today we focus on why sales operations and sales enablement really are two sides of the same coin! (Click to tweet)

In our 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study, we surveyed more than 300 participants, and the top two barriers to accurate forecasting were:

  1. Salespeople are too subjective about close possibilities.
  2. Sales managers do not investigate their salespeople’s commits well enough.

Note that the top two barriers involve people, compared to the rest, which involve process, data or technology. This is a good example of an improvement effort where sales operations should be partnering with sales enablement! Yes, it’s a partnership—not something to “throw over the fence” to sales enablement. Let’s take a look at how such a partnership might work.

Sales operations and sales enablement collaborate to improve forecasting (Click to tweet)

Both functions need to be involved to help reduce sales teams’ subjectivity in close possibilities. Below we take a look at potential areas of focus (process, technology, people) and the role sales operations and sales enablement can play for each of the three areas.

Process: One way to minimize subjectivity in a salesperson’s forecast is through inspection of the sales process. Organizations can look at how defined their sales process and related activities and outcomes are and inspect how well salespeople are completing the activities, instead of going off of their “gut” feel alone.

  • Sales operations. As keepers of the sales process, sales operations can look at the current state of the sales process and determine whether updates are needed. They also can pull a report from CRM to inspect how complete each salesperson’s activities are per stage and review that information with sales managers. Sales operations also can proactively analyze completeness of activities and look for any correlation to win rates, which can then be shared with sales managers and their teams as possible best practices.
  • Sales enablement. Sales enablement plays a key role once process-related work is driven by sales operations. The next step is to educate and train the sales teams on the process (new or updated) and expectations around using it consistently. It’s also important to equip sales managers with opportunity and funnel coaching guidelines and review the reinforcement role they will have. Updating training content and user guides associated with the process is also an area sales enablement can drive, with sales operations involved as the subject matter experts.

 

Tools/Technology: Organizations may also choose to update sales forecast dashboards to reduce subjectivity in forecasts. Artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology now provides predictive analytics that combine subjective and historical data and proactively provide insights that help reduce subjectivity. Click here to read more on this in last week’s blog.

  • Sales operations. Sales operations can drive and lead the technology selection and implementation phases. Requirements gathering, user testing with active sales user participation and implementation of the sales technology are some of the areas sales operations drives, in partnership with sales leaders and IT. Updating existing forecast reports through the new technology and/or incorporating new analysis available from the new technology into existing reports is another area sales operations can manage.
  • Sales enablement. Sales enablement can take a lead role not only during the implementation phase with sales user training, but also during the requirements-gathering phase. Sales enablement can provide input into the requirements-gathering phase by taking into account the user experience and training considerations when looking at technologies—what training manuals and training will be available out of the box—to determine what needs to be developed in-house. During the user testing and implementation phase, sales enablement can become familiar with the technology so that they can build an effective training program, including coaching and reinforcement support from sales managers.

 

People: Enabling people is at the core of sales enablement. Engaging, equipping and empowering our salespeople and sales leaders is the sales enablement trilogy we use at CSO Insights. Click here to read more about it in a recent blog by Tamara Schenk. Sales operations’ equivalent of a trilogy might be build, monitor and refine (Click to tweet)—define and build the sales performance foundation through process and technology, manage and monitor them on an ongoing basis, and refine and adapt in alignment with changing market and customer needs. So while sales operations’ scope may not directly involve the people side of things, the main objective of our efforts is to build the foundation that supports the sales teams—so keeping the sales team top of mind as our internal customer is key to ensuring what we deliver process- and technology-wise meets their needs.

 

So whether you are in sales operations or sales enablement, the next time you have an improvement effort or change initiative of some sort, take a moment to pause and think through how you might partner with each other. Flip that coin, and see what the other side might look like! (Click to tweet)

 

Questions for you:

  • When was the last time you reached out to the other side (sales operations or sales enablement)?
  • Think of a recent change initiative and ask yourself, “What role would sales operations and sales enablement each have?”
  • If there was a time when you didn’t involve the other side (sales operations or sales enablement), what might have been the reasons? Reimagine what a partnership would have brought to the table.

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