While many organizations reported increased adoption of a sales enablement function in recent years, several still struggle to use it effectively to achieve their goals. According to CSO Insights’ 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study, 61 percent of organizations have a sales enablement function. Of those, only 34.4 percent of respondents indicated they were meeting the majority of their expectations.
One reason that companies struggle to achieve their sales enablement goals is the way they think of the initiative. If your organization refers to sales enablement as a project or program, you’ve set yourself up for failure. Typically, projects and programs have a start date, an end date and are usually associated with training. Successful sales enablement is never a one-off, standalone initiative. Instead, sales enablement is an ongoing process for arming your sales team with the training, coaching and content they need to achieve the desired sales results for your organization.
Let’s review six of the most common reasons why sales enablement initiatives struggle and how to guide yours to success.
- Align Sales Enablement to Your Business Goals
Sometimes, companies implement sales enablement without considering how it strategically aligns with its business goals. Before implementing, proactively connect your enablement practices to organizational-level objectives. Start this process by developing a formal sales enablement charter. Similar to a business plan, this document outlines the processes you will use to achieve your goals, defines how you’ll measure success, and assesses the challenges you’re likely to encounter. Your charter sets clear expectations for executives by explaining your required resources and expected return on investment. More important than the finished document, this process of analyzing your sales enablement strategy, the methods you will put in place and how each part aligns with the customer’s path provide the true value of the exercise.
According to the 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study, only 9.2 percent of organizations develop a formal enablement charter. However, the study found that organizations with a sales enablement charter have a win rate of 59 percent. This win rate is 7.8 percent higher than those organizations with a formal approach to sales enablement, but that do not have a charter. If you’ve already started a sales enablement initiative, it’s not too late to create a charter. In fact, it will help you reassess your strategy and refine your goals.
- Earn Executive Sponsorship
Besides clearly defining your objectives, your charter also helps you gain executive buy-in. Without executive-level sponsorship, your sales enablement strategy won’t gain the support and budget you need to scale and succeed. Executive sponsors should connect you to key stakeholders in your organization so that you can explain how sales enablement will help achieve business KPIs important to them. Without executive sponsorship, sales enablement may be viewed as an optional initiative rather than a driver of business transformation. As a result, if your company experiences a few bad quarters, sales enablement may be viewed as expendable.
- Coordinate Your Sales Enablement Services
Sales enablement services typically consist of an expansive collection of training, tools and content. The trouble is, similar services have been pushed on sales from other business functions for years, which has led to inconsistency and confusion. Sales enablement, when not implemented properly, only adds to this confusion. If inconsistent delivery continues, it may result in your sales team ignoring new materials and your enablement services having little or no impact on predictable sales results. Instead of marketing, training, sales ops, front-line managers and legal all creating and maintaining their own enablement services, you need to eliminate the silos. To ensure consistency, sales enablement needs to orchestrate services across all the contributing functions. This coordinated approach is the core value of sales enablement and provides a greater chance of achieving business KPIs.
- Reinforce Enablement Training with Coaching
Sales enablement training is only as good as the ongoing coaching that accompanies it. Many organizations don’t offer coaching support to sales teams in tandem with their training. CSO Insights research shows that organizations with dynamic coaching reinforce other enablement services and have a 57.7 percent win rate. Comprehensive sales coaching should be aligned to the specific enablement services you’ve implemented for your sales force. As an example, if you have a business value justification or a social selling program underway, develop coaching services that allow your sales managers to coach along those lines. Implementing a coaching strategy for your sales managers ensures they coach their teams regularly on the related skills and behaviors that are already addressed in your enablement services.
- Don’t Let Your Sales Technology Operate on Autopilot
Sales technology, such as your CRM platform, can also provide actionable data. If you dig deeper, your CRM system can deliver valuable insights about where opportunities are stuck in your pipeline, suggesting steps to guide prospects further down their path. For example, your technology may indicate topics of importance to your buyer, which can inspire you to create a specific piece of content that guides the buyer to the next stage of their buying process. For your technology to provide such valuable insights, design your content services to tailor them to all phases of the customer’s path. Your preparation, training and content assets all need to be properly organized for the sales force to gain meaningful insights from your sales technology.
- Use the Right Metrics to Measure Success
When many organizations measure the success of sales enablement, they default to its impact on revenue. The problem with that approach is that several different functions generate revenue—it’s influenced by too many varying factors to accurately reflect your sales enablement function. Instead, we recommend evaluating leading and lagging metrics. Leading indicators, such as conversion rates along the customer’s path, are critical for sales enablement leaders to see early on if an initiative moves the needle in the right direction or not.Lagging indicators can include win rates, market share growth, quota attainment and revenue plan attainment in specific areas like geographic markets, product groups and customer segments. The relevant metrics will differ for every organization. It’s your job to align sales enablement goals with business goals to choose the most meaningful metrics for your company.
When executed properly, sales enablement transforms your sales force to positively impact win rates and quota attainment. But to avoid the common pitfalls associated with sales enablement, it’s critical that you:
- Connect enablement goals to your business strategy
- Earn executive buy-in and sponsorship
- Develop enablement services in a cross-functional, coordinated fashion
- Reinforce enablement training with ongoing coaching
- Maximize the value of existing sales technology
- Select relevant metrics to measure the impact of sales enablement on the business
Are you ready to implement fully aligned, optimized sales enablement practices in your organization? Miller Heiman Group can help you get the most out of sales enablement from Day 1, so you can focus on boosting the performance of your sales team.