How to Collaborate With Sales Leaders to Land Effective Sales Plays

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Driving revenue is no small task; it requires immense tact for effective execution. Sales leaders are well aware of the difficulty within sales: The State of Sales Enablement Report 2020 found that 77% of sales leaders think sales has become more challenging in the past year. Moreover, 66% of sales leaders rate the challenge level as significant. Sales plays can be a critical vehicle to help reps overcome these challenges and effectively execute on the strategic goals of sales leaders – and sales enablement is key to landing these in the field.

When implemented effectively, sales plays can be the backbone of driving consistent rep performance. Sales plays guide sellers through what to know and how to most effectively deliver messaging in interactions with customers and prospects throughout their buying journey. Creating effective sales plays requires time, careful planning, and consideration of sales leaders’ common obstacles and goals.

Crafting an optimal and dynamic sales play involves a ground-up, buyer-centric approach, with collaboration across sales reps and sales leaders. In efforts to create a successful sales play, there are specific guiding principles to collaborating with sales leaders that can help enablement drive progress against their core objectives.

Establish Clear Goals

Establishing clear goals is of paramount importance when collaborating with sales leaders, regardless of the task at hand. For sales plays specifically, embracing collaboration to foster relationships with sales leaders and integrating their feedback is vital to ensuring that plays reflect their strategic priorities. To do so, practitioners can take the following steps:

  • Gather feedback on the outcomes sales leaders want to see: Seeking the concrete goals of sales leaders from the leaders themselves and other teams will help to initiate a focused sales play creation process. Once these goals are defined, gather feedback on the most critical knowledge and materials necessary to achieve each objective from a variety of teams and reps with diverse experiences. Because sales plays are not one-size-fits-all, collaborating across teams to pinpoint specific outcomes or scenarios will foster productive conversation and brainstorming, and eventually, effective sales plays that resonate with sales leaders.
  • Identify obstacles and outline solutions: A key factor to establishing clear goals is identifying potential obstacles, and more importantly, potential solutions. Highlight the importance of each specific component of the sales play, and how different teams can use their own expertise and experience to enhance the success of the sales play. Sales enablement can offer solutions to help sales leaders overcome obstacles by starting small and expanding with existing resources, aligning sales plays to company priorities, and using data on sales play performance to inform leaders on best practices.
  • Use data to communicate impact: Sales enablement can help sales leaders execute necessary strategic actions and decision-making to surpass sales goals by equipping data-backed insight on the impact of sales plays. For example, practitioners can show the correlation between improvement on a specific metric and use of the sales play in the field. This requires enablement to target that metric in the development of the play to demonstrate tangible improvement.

“We’re able to actually gather data and really understand how our sellers are executing,” said Remy Khoung, director of sales enablement at Airtable. “Who are top sellers? What are they saying? What are they doing? And how can we replicate that across the board to all the folks that are coming either as new hires or for our existing sellers who are looking to be part of that top five or 10%?”

Gain Sales Leader Confidence and Trust

Sales leaders are one of the most important internal customers that enablement works with because enablement has the capacity to transform the top-level strategy set by sales leaders into real-life, on-the-ground, practice. In aligning sales plays to sales leaders’ strategic vision, sales enablement can gain their confidence and trust. Consider leveraging the following strategies to build this trust through the implementation of sales plays:

  • Demonstrate how sales plays impact efficiency: Sales leaders have extremely demanding schedules – their time is precious. If enablement is able to give them time back in their day to focus on high-impact priorities, it will go a long way toward building confidence and trust. By giving clear guidance to reps on exactly what to know, say, show, and do to effectively connect with customers, sales enablement helps ensure sales leaders can focus their time efficiently on setting the strategic vision while enablement can then turn that strategy into action to achieve sales goals.

“Come first to the sales leaders with some tools and programs to help them,” said Yohan Labesse, director of sales enablement at Lectra. “[Sales leaders] have plenty of tasks to do – administrative tasks, selling tasks, coaching tasks, and so on. That’s a starting point, if you find a way to help them limit their time or to better manage their effort and energy, you will get their attention and you will win their confidence.”

  • Communicate clearly and consistently: Following up and checking in on the progress of the sales play will demonstrate dedication to success. However, it’s also important to be intentional about every communication to ensure it makes the most of a sales leader’s time and expertise. Rather than coming to sales leaders empty-handed, ensure all updates communicated to them have a clear purpose, tangible result, or outlined action item.
  • Prove success with a pilot of the sales play: To demonstrate the potential of the sales play and increase the likelihood of buy-in, start small by testing its success with a small pilot group. By generating small wins with a sample group of reps, enablement can show the success that is possible through play adoption, and simultaneously generate momentum among other reps who want to achieve that same success.

Embrace Feedback

Successful plays are not static, but can be consistently optimized alongside the objectives of sales leaders. Recognizing the value in sales leaders’ expertise and leveraging feedback to generate more thorough, comprehensive, and efficient sales plays is vital.

“You don’t want a sales play to be completely different from any other strategy,” said Nieka Mamczak, senior manager of productivity and enablement at Drift. “In fact, your sales plays should have some continuity or evolution to them.”

Utilizing feedback presents an opportunity to continuously align sales plays to revenue strategy. Through their support and feedback, sales leaders act as champions to scale sales plays to the rest of the sales organization at large.

“The leadership team is going to be your ally in delivering your messaging, your sales plays to the rest of the roles and the rest of the team, and they’re going to be the ones to help bring awareness, visibility, and participation the best,” said Mamczak.

The process of gathering this feedback involves not only asking for it directly from sales leaders, but also sourcing it from the field to ensure that plays are being used as intended and leading to the desired outcomes. To source this feedback, the following techniques can be beneficial:

  • Conduct a survey among reps using the play, tightly aligning questions to the goals agreed upon with sales leaders
  • Shadow reps in the field to observe how the sales play is being leveraged in the moment, and compare the original vision with the actual outcomes
  • Engage a select group of reps in a focus group discussion to dive deep into their experiences and encourage active brainstorming on potential areas of improvement

Using on-the-ground experience in conjunction with sales leaders’ feedback will not only keep plays aligned to strategic priorities, but also foster effective evolution of plays to help them remain relevant over time.

Collaboration with sales leaders greatly benefits the process of building strategic sales plays. Tying sales plays to the strategic goals of sales leaders, establishing a sense of trust and confidence between enablement and sales leaders, as well as leaning into the fundamental role of feedback will generate success in alignment with strategic sales goals.

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