Leader-First Sales Enablement Activates the Multiplier Effect In Your Team

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leader-first sales enablement

Improve sales performance with leader-first enablement.

Leader-first sales enablement is a relatively new concept to many enablement organizations. The traditional approach is to train reps, but leave sales leaders and managers out because they either don’t feel like they need the training and/or they are too busy to participate. But then everyone wonders why the reps never truly adopted what they learned. With leader-first enablement, enablement and management work together to ensure initiatives are relevant and that they are reinforced across the sales organization.

What is Leader-First Sales Enablement?

what is leader-first sales enablementLeader-first sales enablement recognizes that sales leaders and managers are key to successful transformation adoption among the sales team. 

It involves training and “certifying” your sales managers before reps go through the same training. Some teams will also train managers along with their reps, but training beforehand allows them to provide additional feedback and support before the bulk of the sales team enters training.

A leader-first sales enablement approach also helps foster a close, collaborative alignment between sales and enablement. It improves the communication between the two departments and results in providing better, more relevant services, training, and content to the sales team. When sales and enablement teams are closely aligned and pulling toward the same goals, sales performance quickly improves.

Why You Should Use Leader-First Sales Enablement

When sales managers don’t know what is expected of their reps, they cannot reinforce the skills or content that was taught in training to form the desired behavior changes. Everyone wonders why training was never adopted by sales reps and applied in the field. The answer is that, first, they likely forgot 70% of it within a week. Then, their managers are on them to perform at all costs. They have little (or no) idea what their reps have learned the week before. They are stuck in “status quo” land, and they keep their reps there with them.

Using this approach guarantees that the enablement and sales functions are working against each other, rather than with each other toward their common goal. Leader-first enablement aligns enablement initiatives with sales objectives and goals. It helps enablement develop sales manager partnerships in facilitating long-term initiative success, which leads to improved engagement and adoption. And, as we all know, improved adoption of important enablement initiatives leads to improved sales performance!

How To Structure Leader-First Enablement

structure leader-first sales enablementStructuring a leader-first enablement mindset can be a bit tricky, particularly for legacy organizations that are used to doing business the same way for a long time. But, it’s important to note that the most progressive (and successful) sales organizations in the world are being trained in this way today. The need to change to leader-first sales enablement is economic.

Start by meeting with sales leadership at the beginning of planning period (usually the year or quarter) to understand sales objectives and goals. Then, create an enablement strategy that aligns with these goals and refine it with feedback from sales leadership and management.

Some examples of enablement training we’ve worked with that work particularly well for aligning sales goals with enablement initiatives include:

  • Improving early-stage pipeline size
  • Improve funnel velocity
  • Improve conversion rates
  • Close key skill gaps
  • Get X% more reps to goal
  • Improve retention X%

Once you’ve created a plan and developed the content, train and certify sales managers first; then go to sellers. Establish a framework for how sellers will be assessed and certified during the initiative and provide managers with observation, assessment, and coaching tools.

Don’t let the momentum drop with a “thud” after your training event. Provide managers and reps with on-going reinforcement materials.  These could include:

  • Announcement videos
  • Email templates
  • Highlight reels
  • Success stories (i.e. “Jamie increase her sales 10% by introducing {New Product} to her customers!”)
  • Ongoing observation, assessment, and coaching until mastery of the message, skill, or process is reached

4 Mistakes to Avoid In Leader-First Sales Enablement

1. Skipping Alignment

Alignment and buy-in from sales leadership and managers are critical to creating a successful leader-first sales enablement framework. Without close alignment, sales managers will only continue to disengage or ignore completely your enablement initiatives. Ensure enablement initiatives are closely aligned with sales objectives and establish working relationships with leadership and management during training and transformation initiatives.

2. Skipping Reinforcement

I have witnessed countless enablement initiatives end with a “thud” after training or kickoff. Your plan must go beyond the main event to continue providing reinforcement and motivation throughout the year, and possibly beyond. Leader-first sales enablement requires that enablement partner with sales leaders and/or managers to help make reinforcement relevant and impactful.

3. Not Enabling Sales Managers

In leader-first enablement, sales managers need a structured framework to observe, assess, and coach their reps to effectively reinforce desired behavior changes. Work with sales leadership and management to find a tool and create the processes needed to gain visibility into the sales team’s daily interactions with customers and prospects. Gaining insight into how well reps perform in the “real world” provides the most valuable information for sales managers to coach and develop them on an ongoing basis.

4. Not Measuring Progress

How will you know if the training or transformation is having an impact? Integrate your sales and enablement teams to develop a framework to measure how well reps and managers are progressing against the desired changes—and how those changes are translating into revenue for the company!

Leader-first sales enablement is a powerful framework for both sales and enablement leaders to activate sales managers as coaches and improve quota attainment. 

By partnering with sales managers, enablement leaders create a collaborative relationship that ensures both departments are working toward the goals that improve team performance and revenue attainment.

 

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