How to Transform the Sales Organization into Sales Enablement Champions
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Despite being a function of its own, sales enablement still needs to sell. However, this isn’t in the way that you might think.
Rather than selling a product to external buyers, sales enablement professionals are selling their services internally, to their own organization. They need to build relationships with internal stakeholders, understand their needs, and prove the impact of sales enablement to gain support.
When many practitioners discuss getting buy-in for sales enablement, it’s often from the perspective of enlisting the support of executive leaders. While this is absolutely necessary, executives are not the only stakeholders that need to be sold on the concept of sales enablement.
There are many critical partnerships that can deepen the business impact that sales enablement can have, including stakeholders in human resources, legal services, marketing, and more. But especially within the sales organization, it is essential to seek buy-in from the top-down.
Buy-in is needed across all people within the sales organization – including executives, sales managers, and sales reps – to transform these internal customers into champions of sales enablement. To sell sales enablement to each of these groups, consider these tips on what they need to know and how to earn their trust.
When presenting sales enablement initiatives to executive leaders, data is critical. They need to be able to see evidence for its value and know why it is worth their investment.
“Any time you’re asking for some kind of investment of time or resources, you have to be able to say what the potential ROI is,” said Jen Spencer, VP of sales and marketing at SmartBug Media. “I think if you try to request resources without having data, if I was the CEO, I would shoot you down. You’re asking me to deviate from what is our normal process and what our normal budget is, so I have to see compelling proof as to why this is going to be effective.”
By demonstrating the business impact, sales enablement practitioners can earn their trust faster because rather than asking for attention, they are demonstrating the value. In doing so, it’s important to meet them where they are and speak in their language. Before sitting down with them to ask for support, know what their vision is for the organization and map impact to that.
“You need to have a full understanding of your exec team’s long-term vision,” said Marcela Pineros, senior director of sales enablement at New Relic. “So, you need to know what they are hoping to achieve in their one, two, five-year mark. And you want to invest your cycles on programs that are going to support that vision.”
Frontline sales managers will be the ones enforcing sales enablement initiatives, so practitioners need them all-in to champion the enablement cause. However, sales managers are typically responsible for their own quota on top of their managerial duties, and thus are often spread thin and weary of things that will take up more of their time. To effectively gain their attention, it’s important to prove that sales enablement won’t just become one more thing on their to-do list, but will actually save them time and help them close deals.
“It’s been critical to be very sensitive and very aware of the seasonality of their time,” said Pineros. “So, what weeks are completely off limits, what months are completely off limits, when are you more likely to get their attention?”
Then, it’s critical to not only understand what aspects of the business they want to impact – increased revenue, decreased ramp time, deal size, etc. – but also what that means in terms of activity they want to see from their reps.
“We’re very good at creating the micro-skills that produce activity and we can’t design a program until we’ve got commitment from the sales leaders and sales managers that they are going to hold their sales teams accountable to those activities,” said Cameron Tanner, sales effectiveness manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS).
In some form, most sales leaders understand sales enablement. However, it is more natural for them to understand sales rep performance in terms of delivering results. Thus, sales enablement needs to be engaged with sales leaders to understand the results they expect from their reps and design programs around that to demonstrate impact and earn their support.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Tanner. “You need sales managers holding their reps accountable to those specific activities that drive revenue, and then you hold enablement accountable on if the skills that we’re developing create a spike in activity.”
Salespeople are the direct customers of sales enablement. Without their support, most sales enablement programs won’t get off the ground. Thus, sales enablement practitioners need to consistently take the time to understand their needs. What motivates them? What are common obstacles they face? What do they not like about their job?
Be open and transparent with sales reps and lend a listening ear. By demonstrating that you care about their opinions and are open to their feedback, you can build rapport so they trust they can come to you with ideas and insights into how sales enablement initiatives impact their day-to-day.
“I like to ask people what sucks; what sucks about their job, what sucks about their work, what’s impacting them,” said Christopher Kingman, director of international enablement at TransUnion. “It’s a great way to get a laugh out of somebody. It’s very disarming.”
Then, ask what would make it better. Often, salespeople have the answers to problems that sales enablement is looking for because they are the ones engaging with enablement programs and processes every day.
“I think until you’ve spent time with your field organization, you don’t understand the receptivity that you are going to get from your major enablement initiatives,” said John Dougan, director of global sales and productivity at Workday.
Creating an environment where salespeople feel empowered to share their struggles and triumphs with you will help sales enablement better understand their barriers and programs that can address it. In turn, this will create a positive perception of sales enablement among the field and ensure that enablement activities are actually creating value.
Steps to Build and Maintain Organizational Support
Each stakeholder persona has unique needs and will have different expectations of sales enablement. Thus, it’s important to consistently set expectations with each and report on progress often to build and maintain buy-in for sales enablement initiatives. With the stakeholder context above, apply the following steps to achieve support.
- Create mission, vision, and charter to guide you. Without your own set of goals and expectations for your team, maintaining consistency in the design of sales enablement programs will be difficult. Know what your definition of success is before asking for support from key stakeholders.
- Understand stakeholder priorities. Ask for stakeholder input on initiatives. Be able to identify their pain points and craft proposals around those.
- Start small and expand. Show the impact sales enablement can have on a small scale to earn trust before embarking in large, ambitious projects that will need more allocation of time or resources.
- Communicate frequently. The stakeholders are sales enablement’s customers and needed to be treated in the same way that external customers would be treated by sales or customer service.
- Measure impact. To keep support, it is essential to be able to point to the tangible value sales enablement creates. Know what metrics you need to show to each stakeholder and track it consistently.