Sales Enablement Soirée, Winter Recap: Top Four Trends for 2021

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The past year has prompted enablement professionals across the globe to react and adapt to numerous, hard-to-predict changes. With the ringing in of a new year, now is the time to reflect on future actions within one’s control. Resolutions made toward personal or professional goals crystallize into new habits and routines, demonstrating the tenacity that people can seize amid periods of disruption and uncertainty.

It is with this opportunity for resilience in mind that the Sales Enablement Soirée, Winter Virtual Event brought together sales enablement practitioners, expert speakers, thought leaders, solution providers, and analysts to explore how sales enablement can drive innovation in the year ahead.

The insightful keynote presentations, engaging panels, and interactive conversations with attendees made it clear that four key initiatives will be essential for enablement to embrace in order to expand its business impact and proactively strategize for the future.

1. Plan ahead strategically, but with flexibility

Planning for the year ahead is a critical practice of any business discipline, and sales enablement is no exception. But this year, it will require more strategic thinking and flexibility in order to adapt with the change that continues to unfold. Roderick Jefferson, CEO of Roderick Jefferson & Associates, introduced actionable tips to effectively plan ahead by embracing enablement’s ability to impact revenue.

“We break the complexity of sales enablement into practical ideas through scalable and repeatable practices that will lead to increased revenue,” said Jefferson.

To do so, he breaks down how to infuse three core skills into enablement’s approach to planning in the year ahead:

  • Communication: Be transparent with your team and begin to prepare them for the “next normal”. Ensure goals and deliverables are aligned to the priorities of executive leadership as well as the needs of customers.
  • Collaboration: Embrace cross-functional partners and bridge the gap between enablement efforts and the goals of key stakeholders in departments such as HR, marketing, and customer service.
  • Orchestration: Assess your own level of emotional intelligence and your ability to lead with compassion. This is necessary to effectively communicate and coordinate collaborative efforts.

2. Leverage enablement’s unique position to drive a sales culture where diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) thrives

Building diverse sales teams is not only imperative for a healthy culture, but also a key responsibility for enablement practitioners to prioritize when hiring and developing talent. In a culture where everyone with their many differences feels accepted and fairly supported, teams benefit from new ideas, increased trust and psychological safety, boosts in morale, and ultimately growth in performance.

In her keynote, LaKisha C. Brooks, chief learning officer at Brooks Enterprise and Consulting, offered a few important tips for enablement practitioners to overcome biases and enhance DE&I efforts in the development of sales talent:

  • Identify your own biases
  • Conduct a diversity assessment to understand the current state of the sales team
  • Create a coalition to support DE&I efforts
  • Build a culture that celebrates diversity
  • Create a safe place to discuss diversity and inclusion issues for psychology safety
  • Build and develop a pipeline of diverse sales professionals
  • Implement diverse recruiting and hiring practices
  • Evaluate your progress

“When it comes to diversity, it really is beyond the obvious,” said Brooks. “So consider different perspectives, jobs, background, when bringing someone into your sales team.”

3. Support professional development opportunities to increase diverse representation in leadership

As Mary Shea, principal analyst at Forrester, highlighted in her keynote, representative leadership is a strategic advantage. However, in sales, implicit and explicit biases have historically impacted the make-up of leadership teams, and these have reinforced societal and institutional norms that lead to the underrepresentation of women in sales leadership roles. The past year has further exacerbated these issues, as women in senior leadership positions were 1.5 times more likely than men to downshift or leave their careers due to the pandemic.

Sales enablement can play a crucial role in nurturing professional development opportunities for sales reps in order to support career growth, and in doing so, it is important that they make intentional effort to include women in meaningful ways.

With 27% of female sales leaders reporting being treated differently because of their gender compared to 0% of male sales leaders, Shea offered the following tips for women to develop leadership skills and advance in their careers:

  • Thoroughly research a company’s commitment to representation in sales leadership before joining
  • Understand one’s own economic worth
  • Engage in role-plays before having a compensation or promotion conversation
  • Ask for a promotion before one might think they deserve it

4. Overcome the status quo by investing in innovative initiatives this year

When faced with risks or challenges, it can be tempting to give into fear and stick to the status quo. However, innovation requires risk-taking. To defeat complacency and spark innovation, Colin Nanka, vice president of global sales leader coaching at Salesforce, outlined steps to embrace opportunities to grow in the face of challenges.

“Crisis creates opportunity,” said Nanka. “Play the long game.”

Nanka broke down the formula to surpassing average in the form of ABCs:

  • A: Acceptance of the circumstance in order to visualize the path to success; having a positive attitude and mindset about the journey needed to reach the objective; and learning from mistakes that leave you feeling stuck in an abyss.
  • B: Taking the time to breathe and tackle things one step at a time; building habits around your day to be intentional with your time; and breaking a sweat through regular exercise to support clear thinking.
  • C: Making intentional choices based on clear objectives; commitment to the effort and the processes necessary to reach the outcome; and capacity to focus fully on the objective and put your best foot forward.

As many sales enablement professionals embark on a new year of spearheading innovation for the revenue organization, staying ahead of emerging trends and thinking strategically can help enablement effectively navigate uncertainty and impact organizational change.

In addition to looking ahead and planning proactively, sales enablement practitioners can also draw inspiration from some of the exceptional initiatives that leading practitioners implemented throughout the past year. We are honored to showcase some of these standout projects as the winners of our inaugural Sales Enablement PRO Member Awards, which were unveiled at the Sales Enablement Soirée, Winter Virtual Event. Learn more about this year’s winners here.

To continue learning and gleaning insights from the thought-provoking sessions hosted at the event, be sure to visit the event agenda to access all keynotes and panels on-demand.

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