Implementing Sales Technology Requires Sales Enablement and Sales Operations to Work Together

On Tuesday, Seleste Lunsford shared some of the findings on sales technology in our 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study. One of her recommendations is to not underestimate the role of sales enablement when it comes to reinforcement and adoption of technology.

Adoption rates of sales processes and CRM systems are not getting better. This is a multi-year trend. These adoption rates aren’t universally above the 75% level that they usually need to be to create significant productivity and performance improvements. The fact that only 24% of all respondents to our 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Study said that, “Our CRM system significantly improves the productivity of our salespeople” supports the point that there is a real challenge to be overcome when implementing sales technology.

As a result of poor adoption rates, the problem of ineffective technology implementations is getting even worse because people don’t trust the data in the system. In the same study, only 24% of all respondents said that, “Our sales organization is highly confident in the data available from our CRM system.

As the number of sales technology solutions continues to grow rapidly, it’s urgent that organizations get better at implementing sales technology.

You can deploy technology, but you cannot deploy adoption! Successful adoption of any sales technology requires a solid sales enablement and change leadership approach.

How do you get there? Based on the sales technology you want to implement, it’s about balancing the triangle of process, methodology and skills.

Often, there is a strong foundation of technology, a slightly smaller layer of process (WHEN to do what), a small layer of methodology (WHAT and WHY) or a lack thereof, and another small layer of the related skills (HOW to do it) that are required on each layer. And then any implementation can only fail. All layers have to be balanced!

The assumption that technology should be intuitive and doesn’t need to be trained is a misconception. In fact, skills have to be developed on all three layers: technology, process and methodology, ideally integrated in one compelling enablement and change leadership approach.

Skills are the capabilities that allow people to apply something effectively, whether that’s a tool, a process, or a methodology. As you can see here, skills have to be developed on all layers. People need to understand how to use the tool in general, then how to use the process that’s empowered by the tool and maybe will be enhanced by the AI-based technology. Here are a few ideas about how to set up an enablement program for a successful technology implementation.

  • Make sure that the technology provides a strong answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?”

If it does, then an enablement initiative makes sense. If it doesn’t, it’s a waste of money and resources. The root cause should be addressed first. As an example, if your new CRM system provides only value for sales operations but not for salespeople, no enablement initiative can fix this problem. That’s a design issue that needs to be covered first. Ideally, you can use compelling use cases based on what your target audience will find most beneficial in their daily work.

  • Develop a compelling change story that answers the questions WHY, WHAT, HOW and WHEN.

That’s often done for you, but if not, enablement leaders have to insist on a change story even if you have to create one on your own. Focus on the WHY, not only on the what, and ensure the approval of the sales leadership team. This should happen in close collaboration with sales operations and HR. Ensure that you are aligned with the sales communications team in case you don’t own this within enablement. Develop your enablement program for a successful tech implementation that leads to the desired sales results

We have seen that developing the relevant skills touches all layers: technology, process and methodology (if we talk about a CRM implementation). For other sales technologies it’s always technology and process (use case).That’s why you need to address all layers in your training services. As it’s about a tech implementation, it makes sense to design the training around the technology at the center. Make sure that you refresh the already established process and the methodology skills in that new context of the tech solution. Consider various training modalities, short and crisp, very practical around daily use cases, and ensure that they are also available on a mobile device.

  • Enhance the coaching services for sales managers accordingly

As we know from our research year after year, sales training services are most effective if the sales managers’ regular coaching practice is designed to drive reinforcement and adoption. So, developing sales managers’ coaching skills as part of a formal coaching implementation is one thing; engaging them to actually do the coaching is a challenge your sales leadership team will need to help with.

  • Measure success and make adjustments if necessary

Measure success early on to check if you are on the right path. In the case of tech implementations, adoption and usage data are helpful milestones as well, and also the feedback from managers and salespeople. If your enablement approach is an issue, you can fix that. If the underlying tech solution is concerned, sometimes sales operations and usually IT are the responsible teams.

Enjoy the daily challenge of engaging, equipping and empowering your target audience to become more successful by leveraging the newly implemented technology. Listen to their feedback and make the necessary adjustments.

Enablement teams play a big role when it comes to sales technology implementations. Ideally, they work in close collaboration with sales operations and the sales leadership team, as well as the sales managers, to adopt new solutions quickly. Only then will technology investments pay off. And that is the purpose of investing in technology in the first place: improving productivity and performance.


If you haven’t already, have a look at our new book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. Lots of “how to” information to address the challenges mentioned here.

Questions for you:

  • How do your support implementations of sales technology in your enablement role?
  • How do you collaborate with sales ops and IT
  • How do you deal with change management and change leadership challenges?


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1 Comment
  • Robin Griffiths
    Posted at 12:58h, 14 September

    Great article – so many points that are spot on…

    1. The assumption that technology should be intuitive and doesn’t need to be trained is a misconception. – I’m glad someone has called this out! All too often these days people work under the misconception that people should be able to figure out how to use software all on their own.. You’re right people have to understand process and methodology in addition to the technology.

    2. Make sure that the technology provides a strong answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?” – so critical!

    3. Develop a compelling change story that answers the questions WHY, WHAT, HOW and WHEN – very important but often not given sufficient attention.

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