Creating sales and enablement alignment improves sales efficacy and quota attainment.
Does this sound familiar to you? Sales claim that everything that comes out of enablement is useless and should be ignored. Enablement says that, if sales would just engage in their initiatives, they could greatly improve their ability to attain quota. In my experience working with hundreds of companies—and from being a sales enablement leader in a former life myself—the truly great ones that are hitting growth goals have successfully created strong sales and enablement alignment.
There is a bit a truth in both sides’ pain. But if a sales organization strives to improve goal attainment, they have to find a way to align and work as a collaborative group. This takes some work and open communication from both the enablement and sales leadership sides of the organization—neither can do it all on their own.
Frankly, it is very difficult for sales enablement to assess and communicate their relevance. Their work is far away from the results of the field and, unless they have a close relationship with their sales counterparts, their contribution to the field’s success is frequently downplayed.
Sales, on the other hand, is openly exposed to the results (or lack thereof) of their contributions to the organization. Everyone in the company knows whether or not the sales team is hitting their quota, and they are only a quarter or two away from getting the boot if they don’t perform. They simply don’t have the time to engage every time a new initiative comes out of enablement—they need results.
Creating Sales and Enablement Alignment
Sales managers are in a constant vice-grip between reaching quota and improving their sales reps’ skills. They are not resistant to using new information—they will do anything that results in getting more sales. Issues arise when the new information is not clear or relevant enough for them to apply it quickly and seamlessly.
While aligning sales and enablement organizations isn’t always easy, it’s also not impossible. Specific steps can be taken to get the movement on the right path.
1. Talk with Senior Sales Leaders
The most unfortunate, yet most common, characteristic of a poorly aligned sales and enablement relationship is a lack of communication. Enablement needs to understand what the sales organization needs, what the goals and objectives are, and share in the responsibility to get them there.
The best, most direct way of doing this is to get some face-time with senior sales leadership and ask them:
- What can I do to help your team reach their goals?
- What are the most critical performance gaps on your sales and management teams?
2. Claim a Seat at the Table
In the very best organizations that have strong sales and enablement alignment, enablement leaders are included in the setting and planning of the strategic direction of the commercial organization. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many companies today.
Without having a seat at the table during strategic sales objective planning, enablement is left at a strong disadvantage to have an impact on the attainment of those objectives. They are treated as mere support functions that must simply respond to the sales team’s every request.
If your enablement organization is not represented in sales strategy meetings, it is difficult for your team to understand where the goals, objectives, and asks are coming from. Your team is working in reaction mode, rather than proactively influencing how enablement can contribute.
3. Share Common Goals & Success
What are your department’s annual goals? Do they focus on training and development? Or are they tied to driving Sales Qualified Leads (SQL), optimizing pipeline conversions, and producing field-ready new hires from boot camp? Do you see a difference?
Enablement must share the goals of the sales department to be relevant and successful in the organization. If your team is not laser-focused on how to get sales to their goal, you’re spending your time on the wrong things. Your success isn’t defined by finding the next cool new tool or trend, it’s about making the sales team better at what they do.
When sales and enablement are closely aligned, they are also better able to share in the successes of their mutual efforts. Rather than struggling to define your contributions to the organization, your contributions are shared in the common successes of the sales team.
4. Staff Enablement with Sellers
If you are not doing so already, consider how helpful it will be to staff your enablement department with sellers. It is shocking how often people in enablement positions are making decisions that will directly affect the sales team, and yet have never sold a day in their lives.
The best way to be relevant to the sales team is to have salespeople on your side of the office. Either through recruitment or cross-training, increasing the sales savviness of your enablement organization will further help align your initiatives and communications with what is most relevant to salespeople.
Managing Change in Sales Teams
Each time you launch a new initiative, such as a new product, new messaging, or sales process, you are changing the way you expect sellers to work in some way. This change creates “friction” for busy sales teams.
When change happens in the organization, they have to stop what they are doing and reset their team. Stopping means they are being pulled away from the activities that allow them to reach their goals in the ever-present forward momentum of the typical seller.
As you are creating greater sales and enablement alignment, change management becomes easier. First and foremost, you know that your launch initiative is highly relevant to the sales organization’s need for goal attainment. You are also better equipped to recruit sales leadership and management to help champion the change among their teams to create greater participation and compliance.