Align Sales and Sales Enablement to Hit Your Revenue Target

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What does it mean to align sales and sales enablement, and why should it be important to you?

I recently came across a blog by Tenfold that describes sales enablement as “like archery (without the lethal pointy bits).” I particularly like this analogy because it goes on to highlight the importance of aligning customer-facing functions in an organization. Just like an archer must align his whole body to making his shot, sales organizations must be aligned with customer support, product and enablement to hit their targets.

Though sales enablement was created to help improve sales performance, most organizations find it difficult to align the sales and enablement functions in a meaningful way. As a result, enablement continues to launch training and content initiatives that are ignored by sales. And sales continues to devote valuable selling time to creating their own ad hoc content and processes.

What is Sales Enablement?

Sales and Sales Enablement Alignment

Sales enablement is so much more than training and content creation. The function has evolved significantly in recent years. Thierry van Herwijnen, Global Head of Worldwide Sales Enablement & Sales Operations at WIPRO and host of Sales Enablement Lab podcast defines sales enablement as “optimizing the supply chain behind sales.”

Training and content development is just a small part of optimizing a sales supply chain. It begins with the sales strategy. When enablement is included in the creation and direction of defining a sales strategy, they are able to then direct and create the elements that will make that strategy become reality.

Why is Sales Enablement so Difficult to Get Right?

The greatest challenges for most sales enablement organizations is influence and relevance. As Dan Sincavage in his Tenfold blog writes, “All too often, sales leaders treat enablement like a short-term quick fix.” Sales has a habit of wanting to “go it alone” only to pull in enablement for assets when goal attainment starts going sideways on them.

In such an organization, sales has too much control over enablement. Sales enablement should be the long-term, strategic arm of the sales organization, allowing sales to focus more on short-term quota attainment. When sales and enablement are equal partners in defining and executing strategy, enablement is allowed to work the way it is meant to.

We are also working in a very fast-paced business environment. As the creators of content, it is sometimes difficult for enablement to get the right information into sales’ quiver at the right time. Agile sales enablement is an emerging trend in sales organizations that helps increase speed to market but requires a high level of sales and enablement alignment to work well.

Aligning Sales and Sales Enablement

Sales Enablement Quiver

Aligning sales and enablement into a cooperative, collaborative group helps mitigate these difficulties. When sales and enablement share common goals and objectives, enablement is more empowered to create relevant initiatives and content that are more likely to help improve sales performance. Here are a few simple steps that can be made to create sales enablement alignment in your organization:

  1. Schedule consistent, periodic meetings between enablement and sales leaders to discuss goals and objectives, needs, and share insights
  2. Include enablement in sales strategy discussions where they can proactively influence direction and communicate where and how enablement can contribute
  3. Develop common goals and celebrate shared successes amongst both sales and enablement
  4. Staff your enablement team with sellers, giving your enablement team the critical insights they need to creating relevant content and training that sales teams will love

Like hitting the bull’s eye is the result of the combined effort of the archer’s fingers, hands, arms, torso, back, legs, and eyes—hitting your sales target takes the combined effort of a team working toward a common goal. Your sales team cannot determine the direction of the company to hit their number. Rather, they need to be the arrowhead that drives the combined efforts of your entire team to a shared goal.

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How To Improve Sales Productivity With CommercialTribe

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Improve sales productivity by improving the performance of your sales managers and reps.

Anyone can become a salesperson, but very few are actually good at it. True professionals are always on the lookout for how they can improve sales productivity. The ability to take those that have chosen to become not just great salespeople, but great sales managers and leaders, and give them the tools they need to improve their craft is why the team at CommercialTribe gets out of bed every day.

The reality of the sales profession is that the “make it or break it” mentality is what is keeping sales organizations from attaining the next level of sales productivity. Our big idea is that we can improve sales productivity by moving sales teams into a sustainable world where people are being coached and developed on an ongoing basis. A world where sales teams reach their maximum productivity not by waiting for the next improvement in CRM technology, but through the improved effectiveness of each of their interactions.

Becoming a great sales professional is just like becoming great at anything. If you want to become a guitar player or basketball player, you practice your craft. You practice every day, and you put your practice to the test by performing in concerts or games. In a quota-driven environment, the ability to hone your craft as a salesperson is compressed. You have to get to performance level fast, and you have very little time in your schedule to do it. You need a tool that enables practice, reinforcement, and feedback to get you to your goal.

Founded by sales executives and built by reps for reps, CommercialTribe has a broad set of observational modalities to capture reps in both simulated and live environments. This gives sales managers and leaders visibility into critical interactions that they are currently blind to and provides reps with a clear path forward to improved performance.

Learn how you can improve sales productivity with CommercialTribe >>>

Two Fundamental Shifts In Enablement At The Sales Enablement Soiree This Year

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This year’s Sales Enablement Soiree, hosted during Dreamforce, demonstrates the momentum building in the function.

Attending the Sales Enablement Soiree at Dreamforce this year was an eye-opening experience for me. The sophistication of the topics presented and the quality of the content made attendance well worth it. It was also a testament to the ongoing development and clarification of the sales enablement role—and its significant importance in influencing revenue goal attainment.

While there were a great variety of topics presented during the Sales Enablement Soiree this year, there were two themes that specifically captured my attention. Both represent a fundamental shift in how businesses are structuring the sales enablement role in the organization, from content creators and trainers to sales team developers.

Leader-First Sales Enablement Multiplies Success

sales enablement soiree leader-firstIncreasingly, the sales and enablement world is recognizing that enablement isn’t just about sales rep enablement. Sales managers and leaders must also be empowered and developed into force multipliers for any new initiative (whether it’s a new product or messaging launch, re-brand or M&A, or a process change) to be successful.

What this means on the ground is that, during a sales transformation, the whole organization is “certified” on new product, messaging, and process initiatives and it starts at the top, rather than just focusing on the reps. When sales leaders and managers are certified first, they can reinforce and coach reps toward the desired skill development and behavior change more effectively. It’s a simple, yet fundamental shift: when frontline managers are trained on what their reps are expected to do, they are better able to coach to that change.

For this reason, leader-first enablement requires a commitment to the development of sales managers into coaches. With leader-first enablement, leaders and managers must let go of status updates and stat reporting interactions with their teams. They must develop the skills they need to coach their teams to improving sales skills and applying behaviors in the field to create real-world outcomes from enablement initiatives being launched.

This approach also requires a high level of sales and enablement alignment. The most successful enablement organizations are closely aligned with sales leadership. They share objectives and goals and meet on a regular basis to align with the tactical sales plays the team will be running that month to support those objectives. Only with this level of alignment can the enablement organization develop resources that are relevant to the activities and objectives of the sales team.

Salesforce.com, for example, is now consistently using the leader-first sales enablement approach to successfully upskill and pivot their global sales organization of 30,000. I’ve also witnessed this approach first-hand only in our most successful customers here at CommercialTribe.

Agile Sales Enablement For Just-In-Time Pivots & Transformations

sales enablement soiree agile-enablementAgile sales and enablement is definitely an emerging theme this year. Agile Alliance defines agile development as “The ability to create and respond to change in order to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment.”

Truly, what can be a more uncertain and turbulent environment than the sales environment—and the relationship between sales and enablement in many organizations? In an agile sales enablement organization, enablement initiatives are developed in close alignment with sales goals and objectives. Sales and enablement are not two distinct organizations, but a collaborative working group in which feedback loops and learning cycles are condensed and communication passes between the functions freely.

In an organization that applies agile principles to sales enablement, enablement is the hub that disseminates information and feedback between sales and the business. They set up a consistent cadence to provide sales with new information. And they know how to package new information in a way that is useful and consumable for the field. This structure ensures that “idea of the week” noise isn’t automatically passed through to blind-side the sales organization and knock them off their track. The field knows when to expect updates, new information, materials, and/or tools on a consistent basis.

The trick to agile sales enablement is in getting just the right cadence to ensure sales is receiving (and using) relevant information just-in-time, but are not being overwhelmed with a constant barrage that may or may not be useful or relevant to them. The ideal timeline will differ for different businesses, largely depending on the speed of growth or change happening in your business and/or industry. Generally, a monthly or quarterly cadence is your best bet. Monthly or quarterly cycles get relevant information to the sales organization quickly, but also allow for uptake, learning, and feedback.

Leaving the Sales Enablement Soiree just a few short weeks ago, I felt a renewed sense of energy for sales enablement teams everywhere. While sophisticated processes and tools have long since been created and perfected for other functional areas of the business, the still relatively new sales enablement function has yet to receive the dedicated attention it so desperately needs. As more attention, structure, and technology is being applied to improving sales performance through enablement and development, I am optimistic that we are experiencing a new era of sales improvement through performance alignment with a strong and formalized sales enablement team.

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