Imagine you are tasked with cooking a meal using ingredients that were given to you. But you don’t know your guests’ preferences and expectations. You don’t even know whether you’re cooking for a group of world-class tennis players, for a group of marathon runners, for a yoga class, or for a group that consists of all the three.
Many sales enablement leaders feel like a newly appointed chef in a kitchen who doesn’t really know the guests.
Often they are simply asked to “enable” the sales force. Most of the time, those new enablement leaders are constrained from the start by the meaning their executives have associated with the term “sales enablement.” No surprise, as the term still means very different things to different people. And without taking the time to think about the what, why, how, or to analyze their organization’s specific context, the newly appointed enablement leaders put themselves in the middle of activities. A new program here, another one over there, and this one here should be replaced by a completely new one. In parallel, they make a few technology decisions to “help” sales. And all of that because the executives want to see results next quarter. So, the newly appointed enablement leaders often don’t have enough time to analyze the root causes of the challenges and to think strategically before taking action. Resources get wasted.
The consequence of this overly activity-driven “the more, the better” behavior is more chaos across the sales force instead of more value. The “enablement menu” is inconsistent and has no central theme.
Now, let’s discuss the problem in more detail. Based on the work with our clients and our research, there are three steps that help newly appointed enablement leaders establish a foundation to move the performance needle.
First, let’s define what sales enablement is in general
Do your own research and think about the industry definitions that are out there. At CSO Insights, we developed this definition, based on our research, client work and my experience in developing sales enablement from an idea to a program, to a strategic function at a global IT service provider.
Sales Force Enablement — A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and frontline sales managers along the entire customer’s journey, powered by technology.
Let me quickly give you a frame of reference for a definition in general. Based on Socrates famous quote “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms,” a definition’s real value is to bring all involved people together on the same page. It’s about clearly stating what something is (a strategic, cross-functional discipline), why it matters (to increase sales results and productivity), how it is done (various enablement services, powered by technology) and for whom (salespeople and their managers), and where it is based on (on the customer’s journey).
Now, to be clear: Such an industry definition is by no means a “religion.” Instead, it defines what you should be doing as explained above. Additionally, a definition should provide clarity and orientation, and provide an outlook on how to evolve your current enablement discipline, based on your context. It helps to formulate your vision.
Second, analyze your context and point of departure
A definition itself doesn’t create any practical value unless it is put in your organization’s context. Imagine the definition of a traffic light (what to do when the lights are red, yellow or green). But if you don’t know the traffic regulations on which the traffic light is based on, what’s the value of defining the traffic light? It’s precisely zero. And that’s the same with any enablement definition if you don’t know the context.
This is why this second step is about analyzing the context in your organization. Then you can determine your organization’s current definition and your level of ambition. Analyzing your context begins with understanding the business and the sales strategy, and analyzing the current sales execution and the specific selling challenges. Then, it’s about analyzing all existing training and content services, and assessing them based on their impact, quality, and relevance to addressing the identified challenges. This preparation allows you to see where you currently are, what elements of enablement you are currently providing, and the changes you have to make to create the most value for the sales force, based on the selling challenges.
Third, connect the dots and create your enablement charter, your blueprint for execution
The third step is all about connecting the dots from the first two steps. Develop your vision (where you want to go), your mission (how you want to go there) and define your purpose (why you exist). Continue by defining your current target audience. If you only provide services for salespeople now, that’s totally fine. Clarity helps a lot. Then, derive your goals and objectives, and the activities that have to be done to get there, and put it on a roadmap. Finally, define the enablement services you want to provide. If that’s only in one area (such as training or content), that’s totally fine. Also here, there is no right or wrong. Your current charter is based on your context and maturity, and that’s totally OK. The only thing I’d recommend at this point is to focus on your enablement vision. Only when you have your enablement vision in mind can you take the next required actions to get there.