Assessing the Sales Culture for Sales Enablement Success
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Sales enablement professionals aim to make sellers’ lives easier so that they can be more productive. To do so, empathy for the sales team is critical. Enablement professionals need to understand what drives success for salespeople; what motivates them, what their goals are, and what obstacles they may face to those goals.
Often, the sales team has a culture of their own that is separate from the overarching company culture. As a result, trying to enforce practices rooted in the larger company culture without understanding the unique state of the sales team might actually undermine sales productivity rather than improve it.
To truly improve sales effectiveness and efficiency, sales enablement professionals must assess and understand the current state of the sales culture at their company.
Here are three ways to go about it.
1. Shadow frontline sales reps
In your first 90 days as a sales enablement professional, you have to spend time with the salespeople on the frontlines observing their day-to-day workflow. The reality is that until you have walked a mile in a seller’s shoes, it is impossible to provide relevant context to the field. Thus, it is essential for anybody who wants to assess the current state of play of the field organization to understand what is being asked of the sellers entirely.
Seek answers to the following:
- What is the sales process they go through? How does that align with the core behaviors that are exhibited by your buyers?
- What is the process that they go through?
- What are some of the challenges they face?
- What can you help them fix, accomplish, or avoid?
Beyond an understanding of the processes, learn how salespeople feel about their role. Whether it is through a survey or face-to-face check-ins, check the pulse on the outlook salespeople have about their jobs. Ask questions that will illustrate salespeople’s confidence in executing against what is being asked of them, and then their motivation to actually do it.
Until you have spent time with the field organization – shadowing, interviewing, and listening – it is difficult to fully understand the receptivity that you are going to get from your major sales enablement initiatives.
2. Engage with executives to understand their long-term vision
In addition to understanding the challenges that the salespeople face on the ground, sales enablement professionals also need to gain a clear understanding of the short, medium, and long-term vision of the executives in the sales organization. Without that, it becomes significantly more difficult for enablement professionals to sell their initiatives up and achieve executive support.
Make no mistake, sales enablement is a function that is in servitude to the field organization, making the lives of sellers better whether or not that means achieving the compensation that they desire. It could manifest itself in other impactful ways, such as helping them be more productive in their role or increasing work-life balance by reducing time spent on tedious administrative tasks. Whatever the seller’s motivation is, sales enablement needs to understand that on an individual, team, and group level.
Then, they need to understand what the vision of sales leaders is and whether it aligns to the seller’s motivations. Because sales enablement as a function is in servitude to the business, they need to constantly be thinking of the company’s frontline customers – the sales organization.
Build relationships with the sales leaders and regularly meet to understand:
- Are they happy with what you are doing?
- Do they believe the sales enablement initiatives are relevant and useful?
- Do the sales enablement initiatives align with the vision that the sales executives have?
Sales enablement professionals serve and sell. They sell up to the sales executives on what they are going to do and the outcomes that their activities are going to produce for executives, and they serve an organization that needs to feel like they are part of it.
3. Invest in the average reps, not just the top performers
In many companies, the relationship between those who ask of the field and the field who receive what is pushed to them is one of friction. As a sales enablement professional, that tension is something they should set out to remove as quickly as possible.
Every initiative should map to the motivations of the salespeople. That way, they know they can expect that each initiative sales enablement pushes out to them is made with their best interest in mind.
However, sales enablement professionals need to be careful that this does not solely cater to the top-performing reps. One crucial element is the responsibility that sales enablement has to rep performance, understanding whether they are performing up to par and if they are not, making sure they get the assistance that they need.
But the responsibility of measuring rep performance can make lower performing salespeople wary of sales enablement and less receptive to their initiatives. Often, sales enablement professionals try to take what the top 20% of sales reps are doing and push it down onto the middle and low performers. What works for the top performers, though, does not always translate to success for the average rep.
Sales enablement professionals need to invest in the middle 60% and deliver a way for that core to be more consistent, measured, deliberate, and thoughtful around what they do. This centers on effective planning and opportunity management. Enablement must listen to and understand the needs of the average reps just as much as the top performers, and prioritize initiatives designed to address those needs.
By investing in the middle pack of sales reps, sales enablement professionals can help build trust with the field, boost morale, open lines of communication and feedback, and create more alignment between the company’s goals and the field’s performance against those goals.
Without a solid understanding of the sales culture, the impact that sales enablement can have on sales productivity and performance will be limited. Sales enablement professionals need to be proactive in seeking out that understanding through intentional, consistent communication with the field and sales leaders.