Sales Enablement 101, Part 2

03 Feb Sales Enablement 101, Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about the importance of having a solid sales strategy to guide the selection and integration of your various sales tactics – all under the umbrella of sales enablement.

Before we write any more blogs on sales enablement, I want to define what we specifically mean by the term sales enablement. Because if you ever go to a sales enablement event, you will find all kinds of definitions coming from all kinds of people. I think this is why Scott Santucci likes to refer to “flavors” of sales enablement. It’s all part of one buffet line, but what eventually goes on each plate will be as unique as the individual selecting the food.

The definition we use in my consulting practice at Growth & Associates, at a high level, is very simple: sales enablement is getting the right people into the right conversations in the right way. This definition has three key elements.

FIRST, the right people.

The right people are ultimately in the right role. They are customer-facing and directly impact the generation of revenue. But they are not all necessarily “sales people.” They can certainly come from the Sales group, but they can also be from the Technical, Marketing, or even Finance groups. They can be from any group that is needed to generate credibility and confidence for a buyer (or likely group of buyers) to make a buying decision in a sales conversation.

Here is the hard part. Every person needs to know their role in these interactions. It’s not simply a matter of bringing someone from Legal to help finalize a tough negotiation. That person from Legal – and everyone else involved on behalf of the sales side of the equation – needs to know their role and be able to fulfill it.

Pause. Does your organization create that kind of role clarity? And just as importantly, does your organization hold people accountable for fulfilling their role? Because without clarity and accountability, sales enablement will NEVER take off in your organization. It will be one miserable failure after another. You will only be left with an absolute dependency on your product/service innovation cycle, because without a great product/service that literally sells itself… Well, you get the picture.

SECOND, the right conversations.

We have a truckload of upcoming blogs on this topic, but let me summarize it thusly: Sales conversations are THE MOST IMPORTANT focus point of the definition of sales enablement.

Why? Because customers – your customers – do not want to be talked at, spammed, pitched, or anything else that gets labeled as “selling.” Those activities are not selling. They are begging. And they are wildly ineffective, especially when compared to the alternative that your customers actually want – a relevant, insightful conversation about solving their problems and addressing their challenges successfully.

Too much of what gets labeled as a sales enablement initiative is not focused on generating the right sales conversations. I mean, honestly, God bless those folks from Marketing and Legal, but good grief…

We’ve made this the center point of what we are doing with Agility Selling – enabling the right conversations (and yes, there is more than one kind of conversation) with a variety of buyer types – at a variety of altitude levels. And all focused on what is most relevant to those buyers (which is solving their problems and addressing their challenges).

Pause. Does your organization focus on successful sales conversations? Or does your organization provide “help” in other ways? Because if sales conversations are not the center of your sales enablement strategy, your own company will consistently get in the way of sales success, over-complicating the sales experience and bogging down your sales team’s efforts. You will become addicted to reliant on sales people who will do the right thing in spite of the company. And even that will be hit and miss, in terms of the consistency of their success. There is only so much that a sales professional can do without the support of his/her own company.

THIRD, the right way.

Again, we have another truckload of blogs coming on this topic, so let me summarize this way: The definition of the right way is entirely dependent on the current state of the organization.

This is perhaps the biggest reason why there are so many “flavors” of sales enablement.

Some organizations are entirely focused on enterprise-level selling – and have the organization structured to support that focus. What works for a smaller, less complex environment will have little value to the enterprise-level environment. And vice versa. Overly complicated coordinated approaches will get rejected by the street-level reality of more transactional or even commodity-based selling.

But regardless of the state of your business, there are always core components that define the “way” to sell. I mentioned them in my last post, but here is a brief summary:

  • Fundamentals – What does it take to successfully sell one time? Your sales enablement strategy should begin with getting these bits right. Focus on roles – on both sides of the table. Get specific on who you are selling to and who you expect your sellers to be. Recruit and equip these roles accordingly.
  • Processes – How do you make core selling actions repeatable and successful? Once your fundamentals are defined and in place, you need to get people to work together efficiently and effectively. And the core sales process is opportunity management, but there are other sales processes as well – like the account management process, the territory management process, the sales coaching process, and so on.
  • Relationships – How do you (re)align groups of people – internally and externally – to work together in more powerful ways? This gets to the heart of issues like the Sales/Marketing divide, but also tackles account segmentation and new market partnerships. Just know that these sales enablement initiatives are often complex and require LOTS of cross-functional collaboration.
  • Information flow – How do you increase the movement and analysis of data to become more useful? Do not confuse this component with technology, which we purposefully leave out because it applies to fundamentals, processes, relationships and information flow (technology is the enabler – or disabler – of each of these). Real information flow is focused on the meaning that data provides. Which means that if the data is bad or incomplete, the information is basically worthless.

Finally, these four principles act as a maturity model framework for your sales enablement efforts. In other words, don’t work on processes until your fundamentals are successfully in place, don’t work on changing or realigning relationships until your fundamentals and processes are reliable, and don’t drive information initiatives unless the data on your fundamentals, processes, and relationships is solid.

You will never achieve the enablement of “the right way” by skipping components – even if your executive leadership is demanding it.

Pause. Are your sales enablement efforts bogging down or off track? If so, is it possible that the reason for this is you are not implementing your sales enablement components in the right order? In all seriousness, I have been a part of sales enablement for well over a decade (since before sales enablement was even a term) and I have never seen success when the components are installed out of order.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

P.S. – If you want to know more about sales enablement, check out the Sales Enablement Society on LinkedIn. It’s the best starting point we know.

8 Comments
  • David London
    Posted at 14:17h, 04 February Reply

    This article really brings to light the issues that people face on a day to day basis

    • Tim Ohai
      Posted at 21:13h, 05 February Reply

      Thanks. And we wish it wasn’t so accurate…

  • David London
    Posted at 14:40h, 04 February Reply

    Great Post, it is especially useful when the author takes the time to spell out a solution in detail!

    • Tim Ohai
      Posted at 21:12h, 05 February Reply

      Thank you, David.

  • Sterling Garrett
    Posted at 14:52h, 04 February Reply

    The Sales Ttraining business is loaded with one liners and cliches. It is good to see someone who has a real grasp of the subject matter. Thank You

    • Tim Ohai
      Posted at 21:12h, 05 February Reply

      I appreciate the positive feedback, Sterling. Hopefully you’ll find our content to always hits the mark.

  • Kevin M Daley
    Posted at 17:12h, 05 February Reply

    Great post! Your details are very helpful. Thanks for your work.

    • Tim Ohai
      Posted at 21:11h, 05 February Reply

      Thank you, Kevin.

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