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Demonstrating Sales Enablement’s Value as a Vehicle for Change

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One would be hard-pressed to find someone unaffected by the sweeping changes of the past year. In the business world, these changes haven’t come without their challenges — responding and adapting quickly is no easy feat. Like all challenges however, there presents itself an opportunity to come out stronger, nimbler, and with greater resiliency than ever before.

This is especially true with sales enablement. As an entity that has struggled in the past with being considered a strategic partner of the business, enablement has an opportunity to show its true colors as an instrumental driver of change. Whether it’s redefining how frontline managers support team performance, or retraining reps to accommodate a transformed market, sales enablement is well-equipped to guide the business toward recovery and reinvention.

With that in mind, sales enablement should heed this opportunity to showcase its necessity as a vital agent in deploying necessary change initiatives. In doing so, enablement leaders may find themselves better positioned to attain executive buy-in, secure budgeting, and be seen as an indispensable partner to the organization.

Here are some of the key programs that sales enablement can build, facilitate, and develop in order to adapt the business and drive revenue amid changing circumstances, along with a few key metrics to measure success and effectiveness along the way.

Retrain Reps For a New Target Market

For many organizations, their target markets have experienced a shift in their needs, seemingly overnight. This has left reps with significant gaps in their knowledge about customers and prospects. In fact, according to TOPO’s “Sales Leadership and the Impact of COVID-19” survey, 66% of respondents reported that due to the pandemic, they were forced to change territories, segments, or target accounts altogether. As a result, sales enablement should be prepared to bring sellers up to speed quickly, with a focus on five key principles when designing their retraining programs.

  • Buyer Centricity: Guidance and messaging should reflect the new and evolving priorities of buyers, while also addressing the tactical challenges they’re experiencing in a virtual-first format.
  • Experiential learning: To have the greatest effect on reps during the virtual retraining process, be considerate of how information is delivered. Reference instructional design and virtual design best practices to ensure reps engage, retain, and practice what they learn.
  • Mentoring and feedback: Leverage peer-to-peer feedback and mentoring capabilities to further reinforce retraining efforts. Not only is this a useful tactic in the experiential learning process, but it creates a sense of togetherness as a reminder to reps that “we’re all in this together.”

“We’re having mentors on a video call and they’re sharing their screen, and the newer reps are watching them with their workflow, their calls, how they’re conducting outreach, etc.,” said Murt Hussain, sales enablement manager at Celonis. “It’s been a supermassive success for us because as the mentor is doing their normal day-to-day and the people who are in training are really learning a lot from that.”

  • Frictionless content experience: As new content is developed to address changing customer needs, it’s equally important that reps have a positive experience in accessing content within virtual environments. Furthermore, this content should be accurate in its reflection of real-time changes to the market, and also be easily deployed to customers and prospects.
  • Milestones: In order to understand the impact of retraining efforts, enablement should evaluate the activities of reps post-training. Milestones can take the form of metrics that track the progress of a rep’s change in behavior, knowledge, or ability.

Metrics

Some of the relevant metrics that demonstrate impact from these efforts include:

  • Revenue per seller: how much revenue is the seller generating post-retraining?
  • Time-to-milestone: how long did it take for you to make an advancement in a new vertical, industry, target account?
  • Scorecard performance: how is coaching affecting specific skill development?

Reinvent Selling Fundamentals for Remote Environments

Conducting business in an exclusively remote format is not a minor transition. For some reps, it’s a leap into unchartered territory that necessitates skills that have been previously untapped, and techniques that are largely unfamiliar. This creates mounting pressure on sales enablement to identify what will resonate most with buyers during these unique circumstances. In lieu of face-to-face meetings, here are some key remote selling fundamentals that enablement should ensure reps are familiar with in order to stand-out in virtual meetings.

  • Use case storytelling: Case studies are nothing new to sellers, but sellers should strive to encapsulate these proven studies within a narrative that piques the interest of the audience using an engaging, peer-backed storytelling approach.

“What I like about the peer-to-peer [best practice sharing] is you’re learning best practices from a rep that might have different experiences,” said Jenn Haskell, director of sales enablement at Everbridge. “They’re talking to different customers, they’ve been in different sales plays. So, you’re really learning from that rep.”

  • Teaching with visuals: When presenting customers with information over a virtual meeting, pay special attention to breaking up text with process diagrams or workflow visuals to ameliorate the effects of potentially monotonous presentations.
  • Live annotation: During discovery calls with prospects, solidify understanding of concepts with virtual whiteboard sessions. Features like annotation in video conferencing tools allow both parties to draw and mark-up, and visual content for a more collaborative, engaging experience.
  • Meeting facilitation: Reinforce standard meeting fundamentals during virtual sessions, such as providing a clear agenda, encouraging and leaving ample time for questions, and practicing active listening skills in order to control the flow of the conversation.

Metrics

Some of the relevant metrics that demonstrate impact from these efforts include:

  • Stage conversion rate: what is the percentage of opportunities or deals that move from one stage to the next?
  • Sales velocity: how quickly do deals move through the pipeline and create revenue?
  • Revenue per seller: how much revenue is the seller generating as a result of these efforts?

Generate New Ideas to Improve Buyer Engagement

Another big challenge for sellers during this transitional period has been engagement with buyers. TOPO’s COVID-19 survey reports that “buyers not booking meetings” was a top challenge for pipeline generation in Q2, meaning that what once compelled customers to meet with reps is no longer effective in this current market. In order to address, sales enablement should consider how to turn meetings into high-value offers – a meeting so irresistible that the buyer or prospect is compelled to sacrifice their time to attend. Here are some examples of high-value offer meeting ideas that are proven to impact engagement.

Market insights

Due to the massive disruption of the market, many organizations wish to understand how their industry is faring overall, and what specific actions their peers have taken to stay afloat during these times.

Deliver a presentation on market trends and solutions, with a focus on anecdotal evidence from existing customers. Presentations should be accompanied by a high-quality written piece for buyers to read on their own.

Virtual workshops

The last thing organizations need right now is to be overloaded with raw information that can freeze their decision-making process. Rather, many of them are desperate for a solution that acutely addresses their new and unique challenges.

Strive to be a trusted partner during these times, and run a facilitated, collaborative online workshop that helps to design the buyer’s ongoing strategy while addressing their mission-critical priorities. These workshops can be run by subject matter experts to garner credibility among your customers and prospective clients.

Peer data and benchmarks

Many of the metrics that governed an organization prior to the pandemic are either obsolete or less relevant than previously, and organizations wish to understand which new benchmarks can help guide their business.

Create and deliver presentations with rich industry data that can resonate all the way up to the C-suite. Create customized reports that compare the prospect or customer’s data with those of peers or competitors, but framed in such a way that supports the rep’s strategy.

Metrics

Some of the relevant metrics that demonstrate impact from these efforts include:

  • Number of meetings influenced: how many meetings were agreed to as a result of these efforts?
  • Percentage increase on win rates: how many opportunities were revived or un-stuck as a result of high-value offers?
  • Revenue influenced: how much revenue did the high-value offers contribute to as a whole?
  • Talk-to-listen ratio: is there a difference in the talk-to-listen ratio of high-value offer meetings compared to traditional sales meetings that resulted in accelerating those deals?

Enable Frontline Managers to Effectively Run Their Remote Teams

Sales managers are no strangers to change, and in fact, they often play an essential role in enacting the change initiatives set forth by enablement. Even so, the accelerated changes that have occurred in the past year have forced many sales leaders to completely reinvent their management cadence, and sales enablement is well-positioned to support them through these efforts.

Prior to the pandemic, TOPO’s 2020 Sales Leadership Report concluded that three of the topmost factors that contributed to success in the sales org were a strong sales culture, strong frontline managers, and a metrics-driven culture. With these factors in mind, sales enablement should focus their efforts on how to recreate these key elements in virtual working environments to assist the sales managers who are accountable for their execution.

In order to help the sales managers run their teams more meaningfully, sales enablement should help managers identify which sales performance data is critical for consistent analysis during this remote period. Then, enablement can determine which of its levers and resources are useful in driving the productivity of those metrics. Some examples might include:

  • Component: Activity
    • Metric: Number of meetings held
    • Enablement levers: High-value offers, reduce time spent on low-value activities
  • Component: Pipeline
    • Metric: Money in pipeline
    • Enablement levers: Prospecting strategy, account-based marketing partnership
  • Component: Conversion
    • Metric: Pipeline-to-close ratio
    • Enablement levers: Messaging effectiveness, high-value offers
  • Component: Deals
    • Metric: Product strategy sales price, product strategy sales price as a percentage of total sales
    • Enablement levers: Product bundling strategies, pricing and negotiation skills

Transition from Annual Planning Cycles to Shorter Sprints

The rate of change within the business world seems to be increasing every year, as organizations experience either rapid growth or evolution due to advances in technology and global access to internet resources. As a result, many sales leaders and their teams are challenged to keep up the pace, which can lead to a competitive disadvantage in the long-term.

In recent months, many organizations were exposed very quickly to the unpredictable nature of some of those changes — leading many to wonder how they can optimize their own processes to better prepare themselves.

One highly effective approach is to reconsider the standard of annual planning cycles as it pertains to elements such as budgeting, resources, and headcount. Instead, organizations can adopt shorter planning sprints that provide them with a clear view of the customers’ needs, how the company can address those needs, and then how to create flexibility to enact those changes quickly.

As a strategic partner that regularly deploys insights into action, sales enablement is well-positioned to develop a “newsroom” that gathers, curates, and analyzes various data to inform agile decisions on messaging, tools, and sales plays. Insights can come from various sources, such as engagement data, intent data, conversation intelligence, and qualitative feedback from frontline sales reps.

In order to orchestrate the development of these programs amid rapid market volatility and uncertain changes, revenue leaders and their teams should rely on the inherent capabilities of sales enablement for maximum success.

Furthermore, sales enablement leaders can use these instances of effective change management to demonstrate their strategic necessity in the organization. In turn, this can help to secure buy-in and support for enablement initiatives, all the way up to the executive level.