Mapping Success: The Sales Enablement Plan
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Just as a map is needed to navigate through unfamiliar territory, a sales enablement plan is needed to navigate from goals to outcomes when implementing initiatives.
Putting this plan in writing not only helps practitioners map out core elements of a project’s design, but it also helps keep them accountable to the goals they set out to achieve and results they envision. Through a simple framework that prompts practitioners to think through all angles of a project – the what, who, how, why, and when – sales enablement professionals can stay organized and aligned with stakeholders from start to finish.
Download our Sales Enablement Plan at the bottom of the page and continue reading for a breakdown of each section.
Goals & Stakeholder Priorities: What do you want to do?
Before designing any initiative, understand the purpose of the project through the lens of the overarching sales enablement charter. Mapping every sales enablement project back to the charter will help ensure that the function stays true to its purpose and maintains alignment with key stakeholders.
“It really helps you anchor yourself to something because if you don’t say, ‘here’s what I’m here to do’, you’re open to being there to do everything,” said Christopher Kingman, director of international enablement at TransUnion. “I think that can distract or water down an enablement function to be the jack of all trades.”
When defining project goals, clearly state what the project will do to fulfill sales enablement’s mission. Even better, tie these goals to ROI to demonstrate to stakeholders why the project is worth the investment of time, resources, or budget. This requires deep knowledge of stakeholder priorities for the business as a whole so that you can design programs that will resonate with them and the business impact they want to achieve.
“You need to have a full understanding of your exec team’s long-term vision,” said Marcela Piñeros, senior director of sales enablement at New Relic. “So, you need to know what they are hoping to achieve in their one, two, and five-year mark. And you want to invest your cycles on programs that are going to support that vision.”
As you determine goals, ask yourself: How does this initiative fulfill the sales enablement charter? And, what stakeholder priorities does this initiative work toward? Explicitly stating this within the project goals will help ensure alignment with stakeholders throughout the project execution.
Audience: Who are you serving?
Sales reps are the direct customers of sales enablement. As such, their feedback on what sales enablement can do to help them be more productive should be taken into consideration when designing an initiative that will be pushed out to them.
Often, sales enablement practitioners have multiple initiatives in flight at once that they are trying to do equally as well. But without an understanding of what the sales reps want and what they experience in their day-to-day, some initiatives may never get the traction they need to be successful. Take the time to ask the sales reps what they want – whether it be types of initiatives, methods of delivery, or cadence – and work that feedback into your project plan.
“I’ve got to listen to my customer,” said Cameron Tanner, sales enablement lead at Amazon Web Services. “My customer wants more of that one thing and you have to start expanding on what that means.”
Key Partnerships: Who needs to be “bought-in” to the initiative?
To maximize the impact of any project, seek out partnerships with key influencers in departments you need to work with to execute the project.
“It is your responsibility to find the right influencers, the right decision-makers, and to influence and nurture them,” said Cat Young, head of global sales enablement strategy at Xerox. “It is your responsibility to grow your target lead list of people you are going to approach and approach them.”
Sales enablement cannot own every aspect of every project, so they need to enlist partners that can drive forward different components throughout the life cycle of an initiative. For example, when rolling out a new playbook to the field, sales enablement may need to rely on product marketing to ensure the copy is consistent with approved messaging and frontline managers to enforce usage.
To figure out the right partnerships, list all portions of the project where sales enablement relies on the influence of another role or function and identify who has the most authority over that component.
Team Roles: Who do you need doing what?
Regardless of whether your sales enablement function has a large team or is a one-person shop, every project will require different roles and responsibilities to be engaged. This might mean delegating specific roles to the partners you are working with, segmenting out duties among your team, or both.
For example, some sample roles needed for a single initiative could include the following:
- Diagnosticians – those working with sales leaders to understand problems as they arise and address tactical issues in real-time
- Communications – those crafting the message to sales and pushing the initiative out to the field
- Events – those coordinating any sales events or meetings associated with the initiative
- Systems & Tools – those overseeing any systems or tools used by the field for a specific initiative and monitoring how it is used and received
- Trainers – those providing any training associated with an initiative
Sales enablement is a team effort. Consider the many responsibilities associated with a single initiative and engage team members early so that they know what is needed from them and when.
Strategies: How will you deliver the initiative?
Be cognizant of how your sales reps best receive and absorb sales enablement material. With multiple generations, levels of experience, and personality types on any team, it is important to consider the different mediums that can be used to meet the reps where they are.
“You really want to make sure that we’re giving people the choice for what makes sense for them and what is most digestible for them,” said Hillary Anderson, senior sales enablement manager at Host Analytics. “If you have folks that are blocking out their day in terms of how they’re managing their book of business, and then you unexpectedly toss a training on in the middle of the day, that can interrupt their flow.”
Ask your reps what works best for them, and incorporate those strategies into your roll-out plan. Think about how you might leverage methods such as video or email newsletters versus in-person meetings, and diversify your approach to improve receptivity from the field.
“The more desire and interest in terms of how you’re delivering that content, the better off you’re going to be because you’re just going to have more people on the other end of that content or that training that are able to actually make good use of it,” said Anderson.
Value: Why is it worth the investment?
When communicating the value of investing in a sales enablement initiative, always use data to highlight what the potential ROI is. Again, tie this back specifically to stakeholder priorities. For example, if the organization cares about deal velocity, explain what the project does to help shorten the sales cycle.
“I think if you try to request resources without having data, if I was the CEO, I would shoot you down,” said Jen Spencer, vice president of sales and marketing at SmartBug Media. “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.”
Key Dates: What is the cadence or important project milestones?
Aside from important dates like a product launch or event, make sure to map out other project milestones including deadlines for core aspects of the project. Additionally, set a cadence for reviewing project progress with the full team, including partners and stakeholders.
A common source of friction when implementing sales enablement initiatives is a lack of communication and visibility for all stakeholders beyond securing initial buy-in and reporting results. By regularly reviewing progress, ambiguity is eliminated and key partners, stakeholders, and team members can stay organized and prepared for action items that arise.
Metrics: What do you want to achieve?
Press the sales leaders and executive leaders to determine what they want as an outcome, but beyond that, understand what they want to see in terms of behaviors and actions that will produce that outcome. Aligning on this will help you ensure that the outcome metrics you set are actually achievable based on the program design.
“Sales leaders are very quick to say what they want as an outcome, but they aren’t quick to say what they want as activity that produces the outcome, because getting activity that produces the outcome is actually very scientific,” said Tanner. “Once you know what activity they want to see, you can implement training that creates that activity.”
Obstacles & Risks: What do you need to mitigate?
With any new project, there will be risks associated. In your initial project plan, it’s important to think through what those risks are so that you can anticipate obstacles and prepare a strategy to mitigate those.
“If you speak to a lot of enablement leaders around why they’re not more successful, they’ll say they have a wonderful strategy, but they don’t have enough sponsorship, resourcing, or budget to really transform the organization,” said Tanner.
Taking the time to think through the elements in each stage of a sales enablement initiative – before beginning the design and implementation – will help practitioners understand what resources, sponsorship, and budget they need to secure to deliver the best results.
Download our Sales Enablement Plan now to maximize the impact of your next initiative.