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Implementing Your Sales Enablement Project

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The implementation stage can simultaneously be the most satisfying and cumbersome part of project management. It is gratifying to be able to check items off of your to-do list and watch progress grow. At the same time, keeping track of all the details to ensure the project meets its objectives can be tedious.

Setting your sales enablement project up for success in the early stages of initiating the idea and building the plan are critical. But your ability to manage the details throughout the implementation of the project can ultimately make or break its success.

Effectively communicating and reporting progress, running productive meetings, managing risks and expectations, and monitoring and controlling the project will help you keep your sales enablement project on a steady journey toward achieving its goals.

Communicating and Reporting Progress

Communication and reporting are key to running a well-informed project, wherein stakeholders are in sync and leadership knows what to expect, by when. Especially when it comes to stakeholders, it can be tempting to wait until a project is complete to report on outcomes. However, doing so increases the risk of misalignment on final results, as those involved in early decision-making can disagree with other steps taken along the way or have difficulty understanding what results mean without visibility into how they were achieved.

“Don’t wait until you’ve achieved the results or any sort of result to communicate back to the leadership team,” said Yarun Nahar, senior manager of sales enablement at Rackspace. “Always communicate progress, trending metrics, any indication that what you’re trying to drive is having a positive, and the right, impact.”

Similarly, communication and regular reporting is important to keep the project team aligned on priorities, next steps, or areas where adjustments need to be made. Putting rigor around communicating project updates and regular reporting can remove instances of “I didn’t know…” when it comes to team involvement. Be sure to consistently and clearly communicate the following types of updates throughout the project implementation:

  • Responsibility: Ensuring each member of the team knows the part of the project for which they’re responsible
  • Coordination: Enabling the team to work together efficiently
  • Status: Tracking progress along the way and identifying problems
  • Authorization: Making sure stakeholders know decisions made by customers, sponsors, and management that relate to the project

With any type of communication, it’s important to remove ambiguity. Consider using the following strategies to reduce any gray area in communicating with your team:

  • Explain deliverables with context, when needed
  • Be clear about the level of effort required
  • Address obstacles head-on
  • Hand out work assignments personally with time for questions and discussion

Running Effective Meetings

Team meetings are an essential part of project management, but a poorly organized, poorly run meeting is a quick way to lose your audience and put the project at risk. Spend time to prepare for meetings in advance: Make sure the meeting is necessary, provide an agenda, and clarify objectives prior to the meeting.

During the meeting, provide an equal playing field: Let everyone have a say, keep discussion centered on key issues, and end with an action plan and defined next steps. Follow up with meeting outcomes, a reminder of assigned action items and deadlines, and offer support to those who may be overwhelmed.

“When you’re in those meetings, make sure that anything that you’re communicating is driven back to a strategic business initiative, the priorities, and the metrics that you agreed on during the beginning of actually planning your agenda,” said Nahar.

Throughout the project, ensure you include the following types of meetings, with the latter two recurring at a regular cadence:

  • The Kickoff: Represents a clear, decisive start that brings all stakeholders together to commit to reaching goals
  • Individual Status Meetings: Regular time with each member of the team on an individual basis to help them be more productive and understand what they’re working on, as well as address any problems that arise along the way
  • Project Status Meetings: Group meetings aimed to keep a project on track by sharing information and making decisions

Managing Risks and Expectations

It’s inevitable that every project will face adversity at some point. Sometimes, this is due to factors outside of sales enablement’s control, such as evolving market conditions, personnel changes, and more. This requires sales enablement leaders to be agile and capable of pivoting if unavoidable risks arise.

“There’s not an easy workaround, but it’s just part of the challenge,” said Leon Hassid, sales enablement lead at SecurityScorecard. “Leaders need to always keep in mind that there are a lot of uncontrollable variables that are impacting the business.”

However, often obstacles occur that are within the realm of control for sales enablement leaders, such as missed deadlines, scope creep, funding changes, quality issues, or people problems. The following strategies can be helpful to address these common risks:

  • Adaptive project management: This approach aims to address these issues by chunking the project into smaller segments that are easier to manage. That way, project teams can use the results and lessons learned of previous stages to improve approaches later stages.
  • Rapid results initiatives: Similarly, this approach mitigates project failure risks by using short and small projects intended to deliver results incrementally. This can be useful if you need to produce quick wins to maintain momentum or gain support for the project.
  • Sponsor resourcing model: An effective resourcing model is often followed by venture capitalists. Rather than getting all the resources at the beginning of a project, break it into stages with sponsors joining at different points in the timeline to allocate more resources based on needs of the stage and lessons learned.

Monitoring and Controlling the Project

As the old saying goes, “that which can be measured can be improved.” Measuring, in this case, means tracking project activities, collecting performance data metrics, and monitoring changes to the plan.

By monitoring and collecting data, you can analyze performance to determine whether the plan still holds or needs to be adjusted. Set a performance baseline for major milestones and determine when intervention is required to keep the project on track.

When changes need to happen—and they will—have a process in place for rejecting or accepting changes. Some changes may require group approval, whereas others may not. Seemingly simple changes could impact other groups down the line, so be clear on what types of changes require which types of approval, and how that will be achieved and communicated.

Depending on the size and scope of your project, daily, weekly, or monthly progress reports to stakeholders may be appropriate. These reports serve to both record progress and notify of any projected risks and impacts.

“Don’t be afraid of more meetings,” said Hassid. “It’s helped me build rapport and it’s about building those relationships that will allow you to be successful and be able to drive the initiatives you want to drive forward.”

Ongoing Implementation

Once your project is kicked off, it requires steady oversight and management to thrive. It can be easy to become so deeply immersed in the day-to-day details of execution that project management processes get deprioritized. However, without rigor to ensure the project stays aligned to the plan agreed upon with stakeholders, projects often run the risk of failure.

Consistent effort around communication and reporting, running effective meetings, managing risks and expectations, and monitoring and controlling the project will help you keep projects running smoothly throughout their duration.