Tips for Sales Enablement Pros to Gain Stakeholder Buy-In
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In sales enablement, the first step before getting started is actually a rule for what not to do: don’t do anything without stakeholder buy-in. That may sound like a no-brainer, but getting stakeholder buy-in means more than just aligning with leadership on the results you want to create for the organization. It also means syncing up on the activities or initiatives you will implement to create those results.
Sales enablement professionals are often activity-focused and eager to jump in and begin designing initiatives that will create change for an organization. Sales leaders, on the other hand, are often results-focused – they don’t have time to develop enablement programs because they are accountable to their sales results. Sales leaders invest in a sales enablement function because they don’t have the ability to slow down in order to speed up, they need enablement to do that for them.
While many sales leaders understand enablement at some capacity and know the outcomes they want for their organization, they can quickly become unaligned from enablement specialists if there isn’t agreement between them on what those initiatives should look like and what it’s going to take to improve overall performance. This, of course, can be easier said than done.
One of the major obstacles to stakeholder buy-in is that for many of today’s sales leaders, the industry as a whole is vastly different from when they started their careers. They didn’t have access to the data and insights on behavior that we now have; today, leaders can measure performance in seconds and develop reps in real-time. That means that there’s a delta between what’s possible today and what they know produces results. Because of this, it’s essential for enablement specialists to align with sales leaders and executives not only on the end-goal for change within the organization but also on the contemporary practices that can help produce that result.
Often, sales leaders will communicate what their goals are, such as more revenue, pipeline, market share, or ramp, improved sales productivity, bigger deals, or a certain percentage of that product sold. While that is necessary, what’s most helpful to enablement is to establish with the leadership what that goal means in terms of activity.
Since sales leaders are quicker to say what they want as an outcome rather than the activities that produce that outcome, sales enablement professionals need to press on the leaders and ask specifically for what activity they want to see from their sales team. Then, sales enablement professionals can implement training that creates that activity. Enablement can’t be designed without commitment from the sales leaders that they are going to hold their sales teams accountable to those activities.
To get buy-in from executives, sales enablement professionals need to learn about the stakeholders they are dealing with and what they know about enablement, create a cadence for reviewing results with stakeholders, educate leaders on enablement functions and programs, and start small to demonstrate results with the intention of eventually expanding to focus on more activities.
Learn About Your Leader
Some sales leaders are more aware of sales enablement’s function and involved in the ideation for programs than others. In order to put an effective plan in place, sales enablement professionals need to learn about the sales leader they are working with and their level of expertise on sales enablement.
At the same time, sales enablement professionals need to be empathetic and understanding of the fact that sales leaders often simply do not have the time to study the craft of enablement and learn the language, frameworks and contemporary tools. Sales leaders are busy executing, which is what makes them successful and it’s what they should be doing. Depending on the sales leader’s level of involvement and expertise, sales enablement professionals can cater their approach to resonate best with executives by relating back to their goals in the prioritization of programming, tracking of results, and education on the value of enablement.
Regularly Review Results
Once activities and goals are established, sales enablement professionals should create a standard cadence to review results together with the organizational leaders. It’s very easy for sales leaders to invest in and have an enablement function without maximizing the full return of it, simply because they don’t know what activities are actually effecting change.
Getting activity that produces the desired outcome is fairly scientific – it requires experimentation with different activities to determine what yields the best results.
By establishing a regular cadence to review results together, sales leaders and enablement professionals can work together to identify the activities that are needed to actually change performance.
A key component to establishing alignment and getting stakeholder buy-in is to educate them on enablement topics and trends. Sales leaders and sales enablement professionals need to understand that they are on a journey together to create organizational transformation.
As a jumping off point, sales enablement professionals could send an article on a unique topic related to enablement to the leader they are working with at a consistent time once a week. It’s a small enough task for both parties to participate in and helps ensure that all parties are on the same page while planning and implementing sales enablement initiatives.
Start Small and Expand
When working with some leaders, it may be difficult to get their full attention and buy-in going from nothing to a lot right away. Instead, find one thing that the leader cares about in a specific area that’s hurting their business. For example, maybe it’s compete scenarios, finding the right people to speak to, engaging executives or selling wider in the business. Once that’s identified, then enablement professionals have some leverage because they can focus in and execute well on one thing to demonstrate the impact that is possible. This can help enablement teams earn trust quicker because rather than just asking the executive leaders for attention, they’re coming back to them with value.
Sales enablement is an essential investment for any sales organization, but it can’t fulfill its purpose of creating organizational change without full support and understanding from stakeholders. Be strategic in approaching leadership by taking the time to understand them and their goals for the organization and identify together what activities they want to see to reach those goals. Then, by beginning small and demonstrating tangible results, setting an expectation for reviewing results and learning about enablement together, sales enablement professionals can build credibility and earn stakeholders’ trust.