Building the Business Case to Gain Stakeholder Buy-In
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As an enablement leader, building credibility with stakeholders is key to success. This is especially critical to establish in the early stages of a new enablement function – whether it is being created from scratch or built upon an existing foundation. For their voices to be heard, enablement leaders need to build a strong business case for the value of their initiatives.
“Act as if you’re in the shoes of other leaders and think about why they should be listening to you,” said Leon Hassid, head of sales enablement at Hack The Box. “There’s no better way in my mind to gain alignment.”
By understanding the ins and outs of a company’s purpose and culture, enablement is better able to align their efforts and implement their strategies to drive impact. In doing so, practitioners can take advantage of opportunities to showcase quantitative and qualitative evidence surrounding the success of their initiatives to establish credibility.
“Build credibility early,” said Hassid. “You need to show impact right from the get-go before suggesting changes or anything new.”
Below, learn four strategies that enablement can leverage to build their business case.
Engage in Active Listening to Understand Business Problems
Building trust and a sense of confidence with leaders and reps requires intentional effort as the interpersonal relationship is developed. This begins with a shift in mindset to speak less and listen more in order to understand the needs of each stakeholder from their unique perspective.
The business challenges that stakeholders care most about will vary from company to company and team to team, making it essential to gain insight into the key priorities through the lens of each audience in order to frame enablement initiatives and outcomes.
Creating purposeful silences provides room for other parties to be heard, enabling proactive communication and the open exchange of ideas, which aids in building empathy. By taking the time to listen first before attempting to persuade, enablement can garner respect and camaraderie, ultimately helping them to position their business case in a way that will best resonate with each individual audience. It’s important to remember that this is an ongoing process, as priorities will inevitably change as the business encounters transformations and shifts in the market.
“Building out an ideal team is really fluid and you’ll have to really listen to what the company needs,” said Kevin Morrell, senior manager of global sales enablement at R3.
Align Stakeholder Expectations Through an Execution Plan
As the industry has evolved over the last few years, it is more important than ever to have a shared understanding across the organization on what enablement is, what it isn’t, and the value it brings. Not only does this help establish which deliverables will help expedite success, it also creates alignment on expectations and helps teams connect back to overall business and customer goals and values.
“If there are not clear expectations, then that could lead to assumptions and it could lead to misaligned ideas of what to expect,” said Alex Zikakis, vice president of enablement at Sales Assembly. “Setting and then resetting expectations consistently throughout the process is super important.”
One way to effectively build this alignment is by creating an enablement charter. The charter itself is a business plan that outlines at a high level what projects or programs will move the needle on the goal, the timeline for each, and resources needed to execute successfully. This can demonstrate to stakeholders that the plans are realistic and achievable, reinforcing that investments are worthwhile and that outcomes are scalable and measurable.
Once created, the enablement charter also provides members across several teams with a mutual understanding on enablement methodology and business needs, further contributing to a structured enablement function along with cohesive relationships with other teams. More importantly, this builds alignment across the business in terms of enablement goals and execution plans, helping to demonstrate how enablement actively contributes to collective success.
Communicate Your ROI
While enablement leaders know the value that they drive for the business, articulating those results in a way that will generate increased support for enablement initiatives can be more difficult. By leading with the return that leaders can expect from enablement initiatives – particularly as it relates to their core business challenges – enablement can begin to build the case for ongoing investment in its efforts.
“Always lead with the ROI,” said Vanessa Metcalf, vice president of revenue effectiveness at Docebo. “[My team] would talk about an enablement project and we knew the value of it, but unless we were leading with what the business problem was and what our anticipated ROI was, it was very hard for others in the organization to digest. I find by leading with your impact statement – what is the problem we’re trying to solve and what is the goal we’re trying to hit here – that puts it in terms that people can understand.”
In communicating ROI, it is important to first define the core metrics that enablement can and should contribute to. By doing this in partnership with leaders across the business, enablement can sharpen its focus to impact the outcomes that leaders believe are most critical. However, since it can take time for clear results to materialize, it can also be helpful to run pilot projects that can demonstrate the potential impact of enablement initiatives on these key metrics.
“By running a sales enablement project on a small scale, you can demonstrate what that uplift is and once [leaders] have a taste for it, you’ll get more credibility and more buy-in to do that on a broader scale,” said Rachel Chambers, head of enablement at Marketplacer.
In addition to communicating the ROI to leaders, pilot projects can help engage reps in enablement initiatives by demonstrating what success can and will look like, improving the likelihood of generating impact when the initiative is scaled across teams.
Engage Frontline Managers as Allies
Ensuring that frontline managers are bought into enablement as allies is crucial to scale support across the organization.
“Partnership with your managers is super important,” said Ashton Williams, senior manager of revenue enablement at Ada. “Your frontline managers are going to be your best allies in building anything. In any enablement function, whether you’re taking the organization from good to great or starting from nothing, those have to be the cross-functional collaborators you spend time with.”
To do this, consider pre-launching new programs or initiatives to managers first. By giving managers an opportunity to share feedback and ask questions, they can become involved as part of the solution, helping to build trust and ultimately engage them as champions of enablement internally with reps and leaders.
Additionally, strong ties with frontline managers helps to clear blurred lines that may occur between the sales organization and sales enablement, as it defines roles from the top-down early on. This helps stakeholders understand how enablement helps them excel in their own responsibilities, improving how the business impact of enablement is perceived.
Building the case for enablement requires collaborative effort and strategic goal-setting. With a strong foundation, holistic alignment, demonstrated ROI, and key allies engaged across the business, enablement can build and strengthen its business case over time to continually scale impact.
Gathering and consolidating proof of enablement’s value transforms strategy into actions, helping to solidify enablement as a key lever to drive tangible results.