Why you need a sales enablement charter and how to get there: Part 1

For those of you in an enablement role, it’s the time of the year when strategic planning processes for 2019 are underway and budgets are created. How your sales enablement budget will look depends heavily on the approach you take.

That’s why it’s a perfect time to look at how you currently approach sales enablement in your organization, and how you set priorities for sales enablement. Let’s begin with a data point, from our 2018 Sales Enablement Study (requires membership).

Sales enablement grows up: For the first time since we began researching sales enablement, 50.5% of organizations run sales enablement in a formal way, with or without a charter.

The good news is that the percentage of organizations taking a formal approach (without a charter) increased 8.5 points, while the percentage of organizations that follow an informal approach decreased 5.4 points.

Sales enablement grows up… but not fast enough, because the percentage of organizations that follow a formal approach with charter was already small last year (13.1%) and it’s even smaller this year (9.2%). And the difference matters a lot.

With a formal approach to sales enablement with charter, win rates could be improved by 19.2%. That means that only 9.2% of organizations leveraged this performance potential of a sales enablement charter.

The bigger group with a formal approach (32.8%) that has not created a charter and gotten it approved by their senior executive sponsors could only improve their win rates by 3.4%. Isn’t that a huge difference?

It’s definitely a reason why you should always aim for a formal approach with a charter. It’s not a huge amount of work to turn a formal approach to sales enablement into a formal approach with a charter (call it a business plan if that works better for you), but it’s a huge difference if you look at the results. And that’s because a charter is a blueprint that is aligned to the strategic initiatives and objectives of your executives.

Now, the next question is, what exactly is a sales enablement charter and how to establish one? Here is what it is, directly quoted from our book:

“Your sales enablement charter functions as your business plan and is your guide for turning random sales enablement efforts into a formal, scalable and strategic enablement discipline that has a definable, positive impact on your business.”

I could go on and write about all the steps to establish a sales enablement charter. I don’t because there is ONE key practice most organizations struggle with. And all others are pretty straightforward. And the one so many organizations struggle with makes or breaks your attempts to create and approve a meaningful sales enablement charter. And that’s the practice about the organization’s vision, mission and strategy!

Interview your senior executives across various functions to deeply understand the organization’s vision, mission and strategy.

These leaders (not only sales!) are your “sales enablement buyers;” you have to convince them why sales enablement should play the role of a strategic engine to successfully transform the “how to sell” approach to drive better customer engagement, customer experience and sales results. Get to know them better, understand their perspective of the business strategy, the organization’s vision, mission, their main challenges and strategic initiatives. Only then can you derive a vision for sales enablement! And a powerful strategy to get there. And that’s what you need! For those of you who struggle with the terms, here you go:

A vision statement outlines where you want to be as an organization. The vision communicates both the purpose and values of your business. The mission defines how you get to where you want to be.

If there is no vision and mission, it simply means that the organization does not know where it wants to go, what the destination should look like and how to get there. Now, if you don’t know where the organization wants to be (and how to get there), how can you tailor your enablement function in a strategic way to help achieve the non-existing vision? You can’t. You can only add stuff to the sales force, running an ad hoc, one-off, project-style enablement approach that doesn’t even achieve average performance. So, insist on getting the foundation right.

 “But we have goals and objectives!” I hear you. If these goals and objectives aren’t more than a set of financial performance indicators without any value and purpose behind them, it doesn’t help a lot. Goals and objectives have to be derived from somewhere, ideally the defined, desired future state (vision).

Let me give you an example:

Your organization might have a goal of becoming the number one in a certain market. That’s fine. Now, there are different ways to achieve this goal. One side of the spectrum could be to become the cheapest and win through operational excellence and the lowest price. Or you could decide to deliver the best quality and service ever and charge a premium. Your sales force would have different “how to sell” challenges in these two scenarios. So, if you don’t know the vision, but only the number, it’s hard to tailor a strategic enablement function. You simply don’t know in which direction your enablement efforts should go! And then, you may find yourself responsible for providing a program to fix the next few quarters. Somehow. And those ad hoc or project manner approaches to sales enablement are not successful at all, as we see year after year in the data.

How to get to a vision and mission for the part of the organization your enablement team is responsible for:

If such a vision and mission and strategy is not formulated right now, use the conversations with your senior executive leaders to ask specific questions so that you can put the vision together and get it approved across the group of senior executives. Ask them about the HOW, how their desired selling future should look, how they envision salespeople interacting with buyers to drive customer engagement, CX and customer loyalty. Ask them about the role sales enablement should play (and inspire them with your ideas), and how enablement should help the organization get to their desired future state.

Now, you can put together such a vision based on the minutes of your conversations, and you are in a much better place to tailor your enablement function and create your enablement charter, your business plan.

Stay tuned, next week, we are going to talk about all the others steps you need to take to create a meaningful charter to leverage its huge performance potential.

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 you set priorities for sales enablement in your organization?
  • Do you run sales enablement as a project or as a business based on a business plan, or a charter?
  • Do you have senior executive sponsors?
  • If so, how did you get buy-in from your senior executive sponsors?
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