Managing Stakeholder Expectations for Enablement Initiatives

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In sales enablement, managing stakeholder expectations can be a formidable task.

Due to the nature of their position, sales enablement professionals can have stakeholders within many different teams and at varying levels of their organization. Each stakeholder is concerned with goals and objectives that may relate only to their specific team or to the organization as a whole. These differing goals and objectives can lead to a diverse set of expectations for the sales enablement team.

Stakeholders whose expectations are disjointed from the objectives, processes, and measures of success for the sales enablement team may be dissatisfied throughout the process if they can’t clearly see how enablement impacts their priorities. To generate the greatest level of satisfaction, sales enablement professionals can implement practices to strike a balance between stakeholder expectations and the sales enablement team’s process and objectives.

Below, learn key strategies that enablement can leverage to effectively navigate stakeholder relationships and align on expectations.

Facilitating Conversations on Alignment

To begin to effectively manage the expectations of stakeholders, sales enablement professionals can open a line of discussion on aligning specific goals and areas of interest. As a connection point between stakeholders throughout the company, sales enablement professionals can gather a variety of inputs from stakeholders in different departments and levels of the organization. Collecting diverse insights can help enablement better communicate the impact of its efforts as it relates to what various teams across the organization care about most.

“[T]he easy way to align our goals with the other stakeholders is to first ask the other stakeholders what they need, what are their KPIs, their goals, and where we can help,” said Yohan Labesse, senior director of commercial excellence at Bureau Veritas Group.

This conversation can allow the stakeholders to clarify their expectations while also assisting the sales enablement team in identifying common goals for improvement among different departments. By first dedicating time to gain insight into what the stakeholders are working to achieve, enablement can better discern their motivations and the reasoning behind their expectations.

Collecting this information can also be of great assistance when communicating with stakeholders on progress and results in the future. The ability to specifically identify how the results of the project will directly benefit the business and the stakeholder’s department based on the pre-established expectations and objectives can be a key point in increasing stakeholder buy-in and demonstrating the value of enablement.

When aligning with stakeholders, highlighting data-driven observations of areas for growth can further the discussion on what enablement can target for improvement. In addition, directing stakeholders’ attention to areas for improvement through data can aid enablement in contextualizing projects and reinforcing the significance of addressing the target areas. It also assists in bringing clarity to the stakeholders on the scope of the sales enablement team’s objectives.

“Have an interactive discussion on why these gaps might be occurring, and bring a few plans, bring a few options to the table on how you might address it,” said Kristen McCrae McMullan, global sales enablement and readiness leader for professional services at Amazon Web Services.

Defining The Process and Quantifying Success

While discussing areas for growth that can be addressed by enablement, it is important for sales enablement professionals to define and outline the expected timeline of the initiative. This especially can aid in negotiations on specific aspects of the initiative since it provides a baseline expectation for both the sales enablement team and stakeholders to reference. It also can be of use to stakeholders who may need to recalibrate their expectations to align more with the sales enablement team’s capacity.

“We need to then help prioritize and we have to be the voice of reason saying, ‘all of this is not going to change at one time,’” said Cori Hartje, director of global sales enablement at Mitel. “We have to help them prioritize a set of cascading outcomes.”

Along with the expected timeline, the sales enablement team can develop a clearly defined course of action on how the aligned objectives will be met. This will provide stakeholders with a comprehensive understanding of the project process and how they play a part in achieving the end result.

“Put together a really solid structured plan and involve those executives, involve those leaders throughout the process,” said McMullan.

This involvement will also aid in securing stakeholder buy-in on the proposed course of action while keeping them eye-to-eye with the sales enablement team’s process and objectives. For the sales enablement team, when executing the outlined actions, which may require some adjustments or changes in different departments, stakeholders who have bought into the project and are involved in the process can be of great assistance in mitigating friction and navigating change management.

Throughout the implementation process, this established course of action will provide a reference point for stakeholders and the sales enablement team to refer back to for information on the initiatives’s process.

“Then, you can come back to some part of this process to say, ‘here we are going to improve it to influence the overall sales process,’” said Labesse.

This keeps the stakeholder’s and sales enablement team’s objectives clearly defined and within alignment, which will further assist in the management of expectations throughout the process. In addition, the specific point of reference allows sales enablement professionals to create a baseline for quantifying success.

Using the specific goals and areas of interest gathered from alignment discussions with stakeholders, success can be quantified in a manner that demonstrates what stakeholders can expect for the fulfillment of those goals. At the end of the project or initiative, enablement can evaluate and compile specific measures of success that are aligned to the stakeholder’s defined objectives and expectations.

“What I’ve found is that when you quantify and you are data-driven, and you say this gap is going to fill this core KPI, [stakeholders] are always involved,” said McMullan. “These are the things that they love to do and don’t have enough time to do in their day-to-day.”

Establishing goalposts that are meaningful to stakeholders, their departments, and the sales enablement team at the end of the initiative further encourages stakeholder buy-in and alignment on the initiative’s value.

As the connection point between many different stakeholders, the sales enablement team faces varying goals and objectives that carry numerous expectations. All of these expectations, however, carry one commonality: the improvement of revenue performance. Sales enablement professionals can bring balance through this commonality by aligning stakeholders, defining the process of how the enablement team will reach key objectives, and quantifying success so that all parties understand the value.

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