My Sales Enablement Journey – End-to-End Sales Enablement

Welcome back! Let’s continue with the fourth and last part of the series on my sales enablement journey. I have already written about my early enablement days, the next steps from program to function, and moving the function to sales.

In this phase, we made a quantum leap regarding the volume of programs, the business value they created and the velocity with which we were driving change.

Lesson #1: Review your enablement charter regularly and adjust it to changing environments and stakeholders.

Those of you who follow our research and read my blog posts already know that I often talk about the need for a formal enablement charter. I learned to love charters as very valuable tools to get the priorities right and to keep your focus. As a side effect, organizations with charters achieve much better quota attainment results. Based on the story I used to convince my new boss, the SVP global sales operations, I started to put a new enablement charter together. At the same time, I was given a new responsibility: strategic account management. This big priority had a huge impact on everything else, in terms of resources, budget and timing.

With the updated version of the charter, and the commitment of all stakeholders, we were good to go, and had clarity on what to do and, equally important, what not to do. In an enablement role, requests are frequent: “Could you do this for me?” “We need this or that because we are so special,” and so on. Without a clear set of priorities, you can get lost in a bunch of distracting activities; you can lose your way while achieving nothing that matters to your sponsors. There is a whole chapter on the relevance if a sales enablement charter in our sales enablement book, a step-by-step process and a real example you can use as a blueprint.

Lesson #2: Strategic account management is more than a plan. It’s about planning from the customer’s perspective to grow their outcomes and your business.

This is a huge and challenging topic that’s often not even part of sales enablement but of sales operations. Whatever the situation is, it’s a great opportunity to make a real difference. From an enablement perspective, these learnings mattered:

  • Understand why nobody wants to fill out an account plan form!
  • Look at the business challenge in these accounts: Is insufficient growth the common denominator?
  • Use a simple model that allows account teams to identify new business ideas and to evaluate existing leads and opportunities. Thanks to Scott Santucci for coaching us to implement his very effective three-step go-to-customer approach, called Model-Map-Match.
  • Focus your implementation on changing (the hardest and longest part!) perspectives. Account management should begin with the customer’s challenges, their visions, goals and desired results (model), not with your product portfolio (map). Mapping the latter is only the second step to come up with new business ideas and leads (match).
  • Account management is about collaboration with many different teams, and that doesn’t happen based on files. You need an application that allows all involved teams to work on the same data using the newly implemented account management process. And no, it’s not about uploading an account plan.

Lesson #3: Don’t underestimate the collaboration, negotiation and persuasion efforts that are necessary to purposefully align your content and training services.

If you follow our research and my blog posts, then you know we have a lot of data on the disconnect between enablement services and the confusion it creates for the sales force, not to mention the lack of performance. So, we had a product training team within the portfolio organization, the sales enablement content team (my old team), and marketing and HR and L&D, and my team orchestrating the process and the outcomes.

Accomplish one goal at a time. First, everyone needed to get on the same page and out of their silo. They needed to understand that the enablement services we provided as a whole were not consistent and effective, and that was one of the reasons for our performance problems. Second, we introduced a concept to change their thinking: working with the customer’s path as core design point, our sales enablement framework.

Third, the content team shared the lessons learned with assessing and mapping content, with identifying and mastering gaps, etc. Then, we empowered the whole team to understand that the same problem we had with content existed for all sales training efforts. We used performance data and survey results from our sales force to underline the relevance. And only then did we have a foundation to work with.

It may sound simple, but it took more than half a year to establish this understanding. Then, it was again very challenging to run an assessment and map all sales training services. After that, the hardest part began: designing together a new way forward and implementing the new approach with lots of changes. And this approach challenged every single team involved regarding their resources, their work, and their budget. We ended up with a cross-functional enablement approach that had the vision in mind, not the individual silos. However, it required ongoing and regular reinforcement to avoid falling back in old patterns, powered by the still existing silo culture.

Lesson #4: Don’t forget to engage, equip and empower your sales managers first. They are the most important role to drive adoption, reinforcement and performance.

Another key topic that’s often underestimated in sales enablement: enabling sales managers. The key to successful implementation of everything you do in enablement is your sales managers. I learned it the hard way: doing everything else, and not seeing the desired results. Yes, the numbers went slowly in the right direction but we were not where we wanted to be. And, during the account management implementation I worked with many sales managers and their account teams, and I realized how far away many of them were from what we wanted to drive.

So, a whole new approach was necessary to tackle this challenge: engaging, equipping and empowering our sales managers. Luckily, I had Christian Maurer working with us, designing and rolling out this holistic program internationally. And finally, we came much closer to achieving the desired performance results. I have done a lot of research on the topic since I am an analyst, and my experiences and lessons learned are also captured in great detail in our Sales Manager Enablement Report. To sum it up for now:

  • Whatever your budget is, make sure that you invest in your sales managers who lead quota-carrying salespeople. There is no better leverage effect in the sales organization.
  • Sales managers are the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, group to work with. Always, always run a pilot with them! It’s essential that they feel equipped and empowered, not “trained.”
  • Develop and implement a holistic sales manager enablement program, but focus on sales coaching due to the double-digit performance impact.
  • Selling internally is often hard, especially for this function. You might feel resistance from your sales leaders. It’s simply because they were not coached and they didn’t experience it, but they feel that this change will impact their own leadership style at some point. And that can happen whatever the numbers are you present! Be persistent, and create alliances early on.

Lessons learned #5: Don’t underestimate organizational drags and the sales organization’s comfort zone

These are underlying challenges that impacted all the initiatives I worked on in my practitioner role. These organizational drags often appear in large organizations that have already experienced many, many different reorganizations, new and failed initiatives, etc. We had the challenges of an RFP-driven, rather reactive, sales culture. Although we had ambitious end-to-end processes, we still had a functional silo culture. Whatever your specific challenges are, the impact is the same: it’s hard to drive change. But there is no way not to drive change. Otherwise, sales organizations cannot keep up with changing buyers and the impact of digitalization.

You can only be as consistent and honest as possible in whatever you do, engage and empower people you work with, sharing and showcasing their efforts, good examples, and great results. And, again, working with the sales managers, building a team of sales managers who appreciate your work and are happy to implement and coach their teams along those lines. The better their results become, the easier it will be to get others on the same enablement path as well. And the more this spirit grows, the more impact you will see. Planting seeds is one thing; seeing the plants growing all over the place takes time. And at the end, you will see that, as Ori Brafman said, “The opposite of control is enablement.”

Now, this series, my story as an enablement practitioner, ends here. After the implementation of the sales manager enablement program, I had the amazing opportunity to become an analyst, and to connect experience and research.

I could add a lot more stories and lessons learned and experiences. More important is: what are your stories, your lessons learned, your experiences as a sales enablement practitioner? Use #MySalesEnablementJourney (thanks Mike Kunkle for the idea!) and share your story!

And don’t forget to check out our sales enablement book! The areas that I have addressed here are covered in the chapters on the sales enablement charter, aligning enablement services through value messaging, coaching services, collaboration.

Questions for you:

  • What’s your story as an enablement practitioner? What are your lessons learned so far? Share your story using #MySalesEnablementJourney


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