Engaging Your C-Suite as Enablement Champions
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Earning a seat at the executive leadership table is just the beginning for sales enablement to truly make its impact on an organization. For enablement leaders, gaining executive buy-in is a critical step in ensuring the success of the enablement programs and initiatives that bring value to the team and to customers. Not only do enablement leaders need to secure support, both financially and strategically, but in order to keep up with the rapid pace of a changing buyer landscape, support is no longer the end goal.
To truly adapt, enablement leaders may seek out a more engaged advocate in the C-Suite. Sales enablement functions are designed to lead those in the revenue organization toward new skillsets with opportunities to evolve and help meet buyers where they are. Plus, as highlighted in the State of Sales Enablement Report 2021, having a dedicated sales enablement function correlates with significant business impact for organizations, including 4-percentage-point higher win rates, 8-percentage-point improvements in quota attainment, and 9-percentage-point greater customer retention.
Effectively justifying the reasons why sales enablement is a critical piece in the revenue organization means demonstrating ROI, proving that enablement helps in producing a productive sales culture, and earning credibility with key stakeholders.
“I think if you understand the needs of your internal stakeholders, and they understand what’s in it for them to work together, it’s a lot easier to build something in a collaborative zone,” said Caroline Holt, vice president of revenue training and enablement at Bonterra. “Even if you know what you think the direction is that you want to take from a revenue perspective, it gives you more clarity and it enables you to work much more closely together because you feel like you have similar consensus-based objectives.”
Below, learn best practices for engaging the C-Suite and how enablement can be a strategic arm for the leaders across the whole organization.
Gaining the Trust of the CEO
Finding new ways to grow, including expanding into new products or services, discovering new business models, pursuing innovation, and hiring the right people to help propel those innovations forward are top-of-mind for CEOs across industries.
By understanding what the CEO cares about, what the company cares about, and how enablement plays a role in achieving that vision, enablement leaders can make a better case in advocating and owning the impact of their programs. To understand that impact, enablement can leverage metrics to help illustrate the value at a high level to their CEO.
“It starts at the top,” said Cameron Tanner, senior director of global sales enablement at Cisco. “If the enablement leader can’t reveal findings that could be interpreted as controversial, enablement is not really fulfilling its charter because it can’t report the insights that the industry needs to hear.”
Enablement can help CEOs understand deep insights into market trends and buyer needs. Overall, it creates greater visibility across the sales organization that shows how enablement can be a critical asset in impacting consistency when it comes to performance.
When determining what metrics to gather to demonstrate impact on strategic priorities, consider the below questions:
- How do your enablement initiatives translate the business strategy into realistic execution that is cost-effective?
- How does enablement help align sales and marketing to drive growth?
- What programs are being deployed that generate consistent performance among customer-facing teams?
Enablement can demonstrate to the CEO that keeping up with a changing buyer landscape encourages innovation and helps companies stay ahead of the competition. For CEOs, having a well-executed go-to-market strategy that underscores the importance of understanding different buyer scenarios can be achieved with enablement’s support. Enablement can demonstrate how to equip reps with the guidance to improve customer acquisition, satisfaction, and close high-quality deals.
Investing in Growth With the CFO
It may be easy to view the relationship between finance and sales as a naturally contentious one. After all, at first glance, it may look like goals for each department are continually at odds: finance teams focus on cost and efficiency, and sales teams obsess over revenue and growth. But that’s not always the case. A recent study found that across the middle market, CFOs pick top-line growth over profitability by nearly four-to-one.
For enablement leaders, this is significant. As customer buying behaviors continue to shift, the need to train sales teams so they are as up-to-date as possible is critical in closing the gap in time to win the deal. A recent report found that the cost of acquiring a new salesperson, training them, and the number of lost sales during that time can amount to nearly $115,000 on average. Investing in retaining employees and keeping reps engaged and motivated helps to reduce churn, stay productive, and drive ROI.
“We looked at the time to first sale for all of the reps that had not gone through the program that we launched, and then looked at the ramp time and the time to first sale for all of the new account executives that had gone through that program,” said Amanda Romeo, senior manager of revenue enablement at DailyPay, Inc. “We saw a pretty large decrease in that time to first sale because we were able to have that benchmark data.”
Enablement can lead the charge in reporting on data that shows the impact of an enablement program and help improve sales forecast accuracy and transparency. With the data on rep performance, customer sentiment, and more, enablement teams can help CFOs make more informed decisions on determining budgets, distributing resources, and planning for long-term sustainable growth, like hiring and headcount.
For example, the ability to train salespeople quickly and efficiently pays off quicker than most other expansion activities, like hiring new reps, is especially crucial now as digital selling continues to expand and the workforce has taken on more of a hybrid approach. CFOs concerned that sales teams may not hit their quotas may be inclined to see where investment pays off for accurately training reps to feel prepared for more arduous sales cycles.
Aligning Strategy with the CMO
Today’s buyers are sophisticated. They are doing more research on their own now than ever before, taking their time to weigh the benefits and compare the features of certain products and services. For example, buyers may consume, on average, up to 13 pieces of content before making a decision, according to a recent report.
The chief marketing officer (CMO) of any organization is likely focused on driving the pipeline, increasing customer satisfaction, and generating high-quality content at a rapid rate to communicate the perfect message for the right buyer at precisely the right moment in the sales cycle. Enablement helps support the integration of end-to-end marketing and sales processes by increasing conversions, promoting higher customer engagement and satisfaction, and increasing rep confidence through tools and resources that are aligned with marketing.
“One of the first things we did was get representatives from corporate marketing, product marketing, and sales enablement together to discuss how we needed to streamline access to content produced across our teams,” said Renee Tily, vice president of sales enablement at TechTarget. “We discussed ownership of which teams would be responsible for some of the pieces that could have fallen maybe to either team. And then we also worked out how we were going to communicate changes or updates to sales.”
Gaining alignment between sales and marketing can often be the missing link for organizations in improving their efficiency and affecting their bottom line. Enablement is uniquely positioned to have access to the sales teams to garner feedback, analyze data for content usage, and more to understand how marketing resources impact a seller’s confidence and engagement with buyers. Marketing invests heavily in content creation, and if it’s not being used or used correctly, it is difficult to gain an accurate understanding of the ROI of their marketing efforts or what is landing with customers.
With support from enablement to drive alignment between marketing and sales, CMOs can better understand how to ensure that marketing efforts don’t go to waste and customers are satisfied with their experience throughout the buyer’s journey. Enablement can help land those strategic goals to ensure reps have the content they need to perform consistently.
Partnering with the CSO
Potentially one of the closest, if not the closest, executives enablement leaders will engage with is the chief sales officer (CSO). Focused on closing deals, keeping a pulse on sales performance, and monitoring and refining sales strategies, CSOs are constantly thinking of ways to generate and nurture new leads for their organization while also understanding how to deliver value to the customers and keeping reps in tune with what is relevant to every segment of their customer base.
Depending on the size of the organization, CSOs may be quite hands-on as a sales leader and be involved with prospecting or deal closing, or they may focus more on the overall engagement of conversations with customers and evaluate the teams’ performance and efficiency in the sales cycles.
Enablement can help track sales metrics effectively, build insight into how rep behavior affects performance over time, and design programs to pinpoint those metrics and demonstrate improvements against a CSO’s top priorities. One way enablement can deliver unique value is by helping to tailor resources and training for the different roles within the sales organization to ensure all reps are effectively prepared to deliver value to customers. Enablement can drive impact against the CSO’s objectives by aligning teams with a common purpose and tailored support to improve confidence across the sales cycle.
“We haven’t taken a one-size-fits-all approach to enabling sales roles because they are quite different,” said Daniel West, chief sales and support officer at MYOB. “We’ve built out sales playbooks against different types of sales specialists, so that even though our sales methodology has a common foundation, the customers have different needs and types of conversations and talk tracks that they’re going to respond to that address their specific needs and challenges, so that tailoring is quite critical.”
Demonstrating Enablement’s Impact with the CRO
Enablement plays a significant role in an organization’s ability to scale. A CRO is keenly aware of how certain metrics affect the company as a whole related to driving profitability and achieving higher performance across revenue teams.
Enablement teams are impacted by an organization’s revenue goals and serve as a critical arm in analyzing and understanding what is impacting revenue, pipeline, and funnel metrics. They suggest ways to improve the performance of sellers. The CRO may set the vision, but enablement teams can help tweak the levers generating revenue based on the new data, and fresh insights enablement can highlight.
“As [enablement leaders] become experts in the business, they become really consultative partners for an individual like myself and my leadership team, because they’re far more informed, they have more context so they can build out ideas farther without having to engage us a ton,” said Mike Weir, chief revenue officer at G2.
Continuing to build the business case for enablement to have a seat at the leadership table is crucial in ensuring that enablement programs and initiatives can grow. Having executive leadership advocate and even prioritize the success of enablement can drive more significant ROI and insights, deepen relationships cross-functionally and improve an organization’s bottom line.
“You cannot systematically execute at scale if you don’t have an ability to go arm and equip your team,” said Jeff Depa, chief revenue officer at Gainsight. “And that’s everything from content and messaging all the way down to tools and baselining how you expect the knowledge to be both deployed and leveraged by your sales organization.”