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
Increasingly, 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
Agile 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.