5 Steps to Sales and Enablement Alignment

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Develop a high-performing sales team that will crush business goals with sales and enablement alignment

Though sales and enablement are technically on the same team, working toward the same ultimate goal, the two functions in many organizations have grown apart. The reasons for this disconnect vary, but the solution to aligning sales and enablement in your organization is relatively simple. Start creating a stronger, more relevant partnership by focusing on these five keys to sales and enablement alignment.

1. Build A Relationship With Sales Leaders

Communication is key in sales and enablement alignment, and the best way to improve communication is to build a relationship with sales leaders. The best way to begin building this relationship is by scheduling a meeting with senior sales leaders to discuss the sales team’s quarterly and annual goals. Understanding the goals and objectives your sales team is working toward will help you discuss how enablement can help influence those goals and build a highly relevant enablement plan.

Also, establish regular meetings with sales leaders. These ongoing meetings will help ensure your enablement team is on the right track, gain insights into how sales is tracking toward their goals, and inform any shifts in planning or tactics that may be needed. Keeping the line of communication between enablement and sales open helps build and strengthen your relationship and improves enablement initiative relevance, planning, and uptake.

2. Shared Sales and Enablement Goals

sales and enablement alignment goalsSpeaking of goals, sales and enablement should have shared goals that you are working toward. If your enablement team is measured based on a separate set of goals than the sales team, the disconnect is structural. So often, enablement is measured based on metrics such as training participation and content engagement. But remember: the goal of sales enablement is to help sales sell more effectively. Are your metrics measuring that goal?

Though it is more difficult to calculate, sales enablement must always be focused on making sales reps and managers better. For enablement, this is done through training, content, and tools. But these elements must be highly relevant to the specific needs of your sales team—and, in many cases, individual reps and managers—and they must be limited in the amount of disruption to sales’ day-to-day workflow as possible.

3. Get A Seat At The Planning Table

It’s unfortunate how often sales enablement is not represented at the executive planning table. Without enablement participation in the business’s strategy and planning, how can they set relevant goals and plans?

A powerful, effective enablement organization has a huge impact on the growth of a business. We’ve seen many examples of how a strong enablement organization, closely aligned with a forward-thinking sales team, impacts a company’s ability to achieve long-term growth goals.

4. Understand The Sales Role

On the reverse side, it’s also amazing how often sales enablement has no background in sales. Enablement cannot possibly be effective without understanding the unique challenges and needs of a sales rep and manager. This is a pitfall that many organizations, unfortunately, fall into that results in poor performance and a lack of relevance. A lot of time, effort, and money is invested into initiatives that are never adopted by sales.

Build an enablement team with people who have worked in sales before. Then, try cross-training individuals on both sales and enablement teams so there is a better understanding of what team members do. At minimum, enablement should spend time observing as many live or recorded sales calls and meetings as possible to gain insights into how these interactions run.

sales and enablement alignment in-workflow5. Provide Value In-Workflow

There are times when salespeople need to be taken out of the field for training to “sharpen the saw”. But limit this as much as possible with virtual sales training and through platform certification. Sales teams that are trained and certified using platform technology solutions for assessment and coaching not only spend more time selling, but they become far more effective at what they do. This is because enablement organizations that use this approach have shifted to agile sales enablement to provide just-in-time training and individualized coaching and development.

Using this model, reps and managers receive the training and coaching they specifically need—rather than enablement or leadership’s best guess on what the team as a whole needs. And they get it faster without taking them out of their daily workflow, so they can apply it instantly.

These keys may seem like an over-simplistic view of the varying issues sales and enablement functions within most organizations face today. But focusing on improving each of these areas will improve alignment, enable more effective sales managers, and develop high-performing sales teams that will reach your common business goals.

 

Sales and Enablement Alignment Sales Transformation Checklist

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

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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

[CHECKLIST] Sales Transformations That Sales And Enablement Can Love >>

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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The More You Know: Creating Sales Transformation That Sticks

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Knowledge may be half the battle, but that’s no reason to stop your sales transformation there.

I am 39 years old, which puts my Saturday morning cartoon watching timeframe somewhere between 1985 and 1993. I have this slogan that sits with me today…”The More You Know”. Somewhere during the 2nd commercial break of Saved By The Bell, a jingle would hit my ears and that slogan would flash across the screen. It was NBC’s attempt to enter my juvenile mind and help me to understand that diversity matters, that education matters, that health matters, that people matter.

Somehow lessons from your youth can stick with you in funny ways. The last 17 years have taken me from a sales guy turned frontline manager, to enablement and sales ops team member, to Head of Global Learning. But today it has gotten me to thinking: How does this concept of knowledge at scale impact the world and science of selling?

While NBC’s effort to inform the masses is admirable, it only scratches the surface of what is needed to change behaviors in the real world. In my line of work, I have witnessed so many otherwise great enablement organizations make this same mistake. Knowledge is a critical first step, but in the business world, you need to enable real-world application by breaking old habits and creating new, desirable ones. How do you accomplish this? By reinforcing changes through observation, assessment, and coaching.

Observation: Create A Window Into Sales Interactions

Enablement organizations suffer from a perennial visibility issue. While your efforts are meant to help sales become more effective, efficient, and productive, you have very little visibility into if or how sales enablement initiatives are being implemented. You may report on initiative successes based on engagement and survey ratings, but it is extremely difficult to prove real progress or return for what you create. This is where more progressive organizations have begun to implement an observational element to training.

Often referred to a “message certification”, sellers submit a practice pitch to certify that they are ready to go-to-market. Traditional options for observing salespeople at scale are quite limited for this approach:

  1. Webinars: While scale can be achieved, you can not typically see your audience and sellers are prone to multi-tasking. Webinars also don’t give sellers the opportunity to practice the pitch and make it their own.
  2. In-person training: These events are typically very expensive and require a good amount of travel, taking your sales team out of the field where they would otherwise be working toward making their goal. Sales training is increasingly including role-playing, which is great, but it is really tough to see everyone demonstrate the content in this environment.
  3. Ride-alongs: Perhaps the best of the three, the ride along allows the frontline manager to observe a seller in action. One must ask, though, how effective that manager is at not only not hijacking the call but transferring observation into impactful coaching. Not to mention that this approach is anything but scalable in a practical sense.

Newer sales enablement platforms are taking the best of all worlds and allowing enablement and sales leadership to observe sellers in-action at scale. This can be done in a simulated environment to allow sellers to practice and perfect their pitch before going to market. They can also give leaders a window into actual, live conversations by recording sales calls and meetings.

The point here is that, after providing the knowledge sellers need, observation is the critical next step to changing the behavior of a global sales team. You cannot reinforce the training, message, or content that sellers are expected to start using without gaining a window into how (or if) they are applying it in the field.

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Assessment At Scale: Reinforce Training By Spotlighting Performance

sales transformation certificationMany corporate readiness initiatives I have witnessed will merely stop after the observation portion. Sellers record their practice pitch, ship it to enablement, and enablement checks a box that the seller has “certified”.

That’s simply not good enough. Do you think NBC would have kept The More You Know running for 30 years (and counting) without ever assessing the show’s performance? Even public service announcements need to show value to have that kind of staying power.

When you have the right tools available to observe your sales team, assessment becomes easier but it doesn’t happen on its own. You have to start by coming to a consensus with the sales leadership team on what specific behaviors are desired. Do you want to see your sellers asking specific questions? Tell a story? Build a vision of use? These and more are the things that your team needs to map out to make assessment practical and scalable.

This sales assessment map makes assessment at scale practical for your organization. With a minor amount of training, others within your enablement and sales organizations can assess submitted sales calls (or pitch practices) relatively consistently and without bias because they are all using the same criteria. In my experience, sellers are also more likely to trust and appreciate feedback when they know that their performance is being rated on an established, well-thought-out, and consistent criteria.

Coach: Changing Behaviors Through Coaching & Development

Why is all this important in the end? What does it mean for your sales team, and how is this information going to be used? It is used to effectively activate your frontline managers as force multipliers in improving the performance of your sales organization.

A CSO Insights study found that 47% of managers spend less than 30 minutes a week developing their teams. And yet, the same study found that organizations that use a formal sales coaching process enjoy a 61.5% quota attainment rate (compared to the study’s average quota attainment of 55.8%). Formal coaching was also found to increase forecasted win rates by 11%.

These stats are difficult to ignore, and yet so many leaders do just that! You leave coaching up to your frontline managers without giving them the proper tools, training, or coaching themselves to have any real impact on the outcomes. I know from personal experience that observation and assessment help fill this gap by providing your frontline sales managers with the knowledge they need to effectively coach their sellers.

Rather than leaving coaching up to them without any information, assessments provide sales managers with distilled information that allows them to quickly pinpoint the specific areas that their sellers need to improve. In other words, observation and assessment at scale allow frontline managers to personalize coaching, making coaching effective, relevant, and just-in-time to help them get more of their sellers to goal.

“The More You Know” has become so much more than a public service announcement in our world. Apart from the fun memes and pop culture references, it has become an axiom for those of us who have dedicated our lives and professions to knowledge, training, and improving performance. Learn how you can build a “The More You Know” culture in your sales organization with CommercialTribe.

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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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3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan

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A successful launch plan creates better alignment by engaging sales team stakeholders.

Do you have a busy sales team that you need to get quickly up to speed on new products, messages, or processes? Time for a launch initiative! Creating a successful launch plan will provide you and your team with the framework to improve participation and drive engagement.

A launch initiative typically occurs anytime we need to get new information to existing people in the commercial organization. This happens during a new product launch, a rebrand or new messaging initiative, a merger or acquisition transition, a transformation of the sales process, and during sales kick-off.

Make sure all the hard work you put into your next launch initiative isn’t simply ignored by sales by applying these three simple secrets to creating a successful launch plan.

Knowledge

Knowledge & Information Delivery | 3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan | CommercialTribeEvery launch initiative must include an information delivery, or knowledge, component. In a typical launch plan, this will usually include a “required” global webinar. Depending on the size and complexity of the new launch initiative, it may include a live meeting or a sales kick-off event.

Often, the person or people who own the initiative are the ones who deliver the communication of the change. Unless that person is already a solid influencer within the organization, this is a mistake.

Furthermore, the content of the webinar or live event will be characterized as a “PowerPoint Parade” by attendees because it is heavily focused on the “feature dump” method and is rarely very relevant to the sales organization.

The secret to success in delivering the message is to establish “change agents” or “change ambassadors” who can help deliver the message to the sales team. These people can help make sure that your launch plan is delivering relevant information from the perspective of the people who are tasked with bringing that message to the market.

Also involve your change agents in the communications by recruiting one or more of them to present the content during the live event, and by scheduling emails or intranet posts to come directly from them. This way, the sales team sees that it is coming directly from their leadership, rather than “outside” of the team.

Skills

Sales Skills Development | 3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan | CommercialTribeSadly, the most common mistake in launch initiatives is that they tend to stop at the “knowledge” stage. This may be due to a lack of a mechanism to change behaviors and “certify” that the sales team has internalized the new message and can deliver it to the market.

But this is perhaps the most critical secret to a successful launch plan! People are busy, and even if they are really excited about a new product or message initiative, the reality is that they will forget about its core elements within hours or days of receiving the message.

Create a program through which sales managers and reps can easily develop the desired messaging and then certify that they can deliver it to effectively change the behaviors of your sales organization.

Results & Retrospective

Sales Results & Retrospective | 3 Secrets To Engage Your Sales Team in a Successful Launch Plan | CommercialTribeThe results of launch initiatives are historically difficult to measure and vary depending on the type of launch you are initiating. For example, you may measure the results of your launch initiative by the number of new product units being sold over a number of months.

No matter how you measure the results of your launch plan, the secret to launch success is to make sure you are always performing a retrospective. What worked well? What did not work as well? How can your next launch be improved? Always ask these questions and include your change agents and, if possible, other stakeholders in answering those questions and planning for the next launch.

 

Sales Webinar: 5 Secrets to Sales Enablement Launches That Salespeople Love | CommercialTribe

How Growing Companies Create Sales and Enablement Alignment

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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

Creating Sales and Enablement Alignment | How Growing Companies Create Sales and Enablement Alignment | CommercialTribe Sales Enablement SolutionSales 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

Sales and Enablement Alignment Goals | How Growing Companies Create Sales and Enablement Alignment | CommercialTribe Sales Enablement SolutionWhat 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 bootcamp? 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.

 

Sales Webinar: 5 Secrets to Sales Enablement Launches That Salespeople Love | CommercialTribe

 

Launch Your Enablement Initiative With Surgical Precision

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Bring the launch of your next sales enablement initiative into the 21st Century.

When a business creates a new product, evolves their message, or has critical business information to impart, it relies on the sales team to deliver that info to the marketplace. But the sales team’s ability to present that message is only as good as enablement’s ability to deliver it to them effectively.

When you need to introduce a new product or message to the world, enablement’s launch initiative acts as the central nervous system of your commercial organization to push information from the brain to the mouth.

The problem is that there is no mechanism to determine if sales really understands that information and can deliver it well. When enablement (or product development, or marketing) wants to deliver a new message or product to sales, they are frankly relying on very crude, blunt instruments to do the work.

It’s time to move into the 21st century in launching sales enablement initiatives by ditching the “spray and pray” method. By following a proven template to plan and execute your sales enablement initiative, your next new product introduction, messaging re-vamp, or M&A transition can be launched with surgical precision.

Free Launch Plan - Enablement Initiative Launch Calendar | CommercialTribe's Sales Enablement Tools

Plan

As the old adage goes: failing to plan is planning to fail. A comprehensive launch plan will not just include deliverables and dates. You should begin well before that by recruiting “change ambassadors” from stakeholder departments who can help you make sure the message is relevant to their needs. Think about who would be affected by your initiative, such as customer success, distribution, marketing, and certainly sales.

Because they are the mouthpiece of your organization, you need your sales team to get behind your launch initiative in order for it to be successful. The best way to align your launch initiative with sale’s needs is to include at least one representative from the sales leadership or management side to help you craft and deliver the new message.

Your launch plan should look much like a change management plan, in that you need to state the objective, define the relevance for stakeholders (WIIFM), include plenty of communication touch points, and identify a mechanism to enable behavior change.

Start Planning Your Next Enablement Initiative Using Our FREE Launch Plan Template >>

Knowledge

The next element of launching an enablement initiative with surgical precision involves delivering the information to the sales team, so they know what it is they are being asked to do. What is it that you want them to say? How are they to position it?

The knowledge component of the launch should include more than just an informational webinar where the initiative owner is simply putting on a “PowerPoint Parade” that few will pay much attention to, nevertheless internalize and use.

Use your e-Learning and quizzing program to help the sales team get a bit more interactive with the information. We use programs that include more than simply watching a video and then taking a test. Sellers are instructed to watch and respond in some way—it may be to try the pitch themselves or to practice a role play scenario with a colleague. The more interactive and “real life” you can make the knowledge portion of your launch plan, the better.

Your program should allow you to see who participated in this activity and how well they performed. This will inform your future communications to the team, providing you with insights on what areas are not resonating with the team very well and what aspects are really exciting them.

Event

Depending on the size of your organization and the complexity of the enablement initiative, you will likely hold either a webinar or a live event, such as a sales kick-off event, or perhaps both.

This is the keystone communication platform that stabilizes and supports all pre and post-communication. Include your “change ambassadors” in the communication of the “Why” and the “How” of your enablement initiative.

Since your team completed the knowledge component of your launch plan prior to the event, your sales team, and the rest of the commercial organization, already have the foundation of the message they are expected to convey and at least a basic understanding of what is expected of them. The event is meant to pull everyone together and create some energy and excitement around the initiative.

It gives your team the chance to address common questions and concerns, and provide further clarity on how the launch plan will be executed cross-functionally to the entire commercial organization.

Certification

Certification is the most overlooked, yet critical part of launching a successful enablement initiative. Most enablement organizations stop the communication to the sales organization after the event—they may send a follow-up email with a list of resources, but that’s about it.

But, as the brain of the organization, how are you receiving signals that the mouth understands what it’s supposed to do?

Message certification—or “Certify to Fly”, as we like to call it, allows sales reps the opportunity to play the with the message and make it their own in a safe environment. It also provides a platform to ensure that everyone has received the information, understands it, and has internalized it so they can effectively bring it to the field.

Learn How Veritas Used CommercialTribe to “Certify to Fly” >>

Retrospective

Any big change initiative needs a retrospective. Gather your team to discuss what went well, what could be improved, and what needs to take place before launching your next enablement initiative to make it better. Look back at your launch plan and consider your objectives—have those objectives been met? Are they on the right path to being met? In hindsight, were they the right objectives in the first place? Could they be defined better?

Give your launch initiative an unbiased score on a scale of 1 to 100. Did it do what your team had set out to do?

It is the 21st century and we have very precise tools for every aspect of the business. From marketing automation to inventory control to payroll, every functional area of your business has embraced new technologies to make their jobs easier and their outcomes better. Isn’t it time that the enablement organization finally starts using a sales enablement solution that allows everyone in the commercial organization to align and start singing from the same song sheet?

 

Find Out How To Launch Your Next Enablement Initiative With CommercialTribe's Sales Enablement Tools. Request A Free Demo Today!

Who Should You Blame For Your Failed Product Launch?

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Is a failed product launch sales’ or sales enablement’s fault?

The weeks since your big product launch initiative have turned to months. As the one-year mark looms ever closer reality begins to sink in. Sales are flat, revenue is sluggish, and your worst fears are being realized—you’re looking at another failed product launch.

As your team dives into the postmortem, the inevitable blame game begins: whose fault was it?

While there are several functions that typically take part in a product launch, the relationship (or lack thereof) between sales and sales enablement is often tumultuous. The personalities that exist in each camp are quite different and conflict often arises between the two when a product launch falls flat.

FREE TEMPLATE: Launch a New Product With Our Proven Launch Plan Template >>

Blaming Sales for a Failed Product Launch

The sales team is an easy target for enablement and product managers to point their fingers at for a failed product launch. After all, if they had just taken the training seriously; if they had bothered to introduce the new product to their accounts and prospects; if only they had practiced the messaging…

Think about product launches from the sales team’s perspective. These guys and gals have a day job. They come to work every day and doggedly drive to meet their quarterly sales quota targets. They are being hounded by upper management and sales leadership to hit their number each day, all day. When the end of the quarter arrives, a new one begins. The counter is reset to zero and the sales team starts all over again.

The real reason sales didn’t pitch your product is two-fold. First, a product launch takes them out of their normal, everyday workflow. They have to stop what they are doing (making sales calls and prospecting) and attend either a webinar or a training class (time is money, folks!) And that is it—We’ve built it, now you go forth and sell it. They don’t receive the comprehensive training and structured practicing they need to effectively sell the new product. It’s just dropped on them.

The second issue is that you are asking them to change in some way without properly applying any real change management techniques. When you introduce a new product to the mix, your sales team has to make changes to their process, messaging, and well-practiced conversations. This change doesn’t just happen automatically once you’ve given them a product features and materials dump. They need to be able to practice the new messaging and work out talk tracks.

Blaming Enablement for a Failed Product Launch

Sales management, on the other hand, likes to blame enablement for the failed product launch. After all, if enablement had bothered to present a product that people actually cared about; if only they had provided them with more scripts and materials they really needed to close sales; if they had just thought through the messaging better…

Sales leaders and managers need to take a moment to pause and think about it in broader terms. The reality is that many new products, messaging, and other change initiatives can in fact help them reach their quota goals. How well have you dedicated time and resources to helping your enablement colleagues understand what your sales team needs to be successful in selling a new product?

The issue really boils down to a lack of alignment between the sales and enablement functions, and sales management needs to take a reality check to realize that they are complicit in the issue.

Product launches require a coordinated effort among various stakeholders. Depending on the size of the launch and the organization, this may include product development, enablement, marketing, operations, and sales. While it is true that the job of a sales manager is simply untenable, sales managers do need to provide their colleagues on the other side of the “wall” with their perspectives, expertise, and influence.

While enablement is trying to create a great product launch, they can not do it without the engagement and input of sales managers who have the necessary insights and influence to make change happen on the front lines.

Building Sales and Enablement Alignment for Successful Product Launches

Build Your FREE Launch Plan >>

The keys to avoiding yet another failed product launch are to build sales and enablement alignment within your organization and treat it as a change management initiative.

Start by identifying those sales managers who are naturally engaged in affecting change on their team. In many cases, these are the people who brought the market issue to product development’s attention in the first place. Perhaps they’d had several calls from accounts that did not go well, or their conversations with a customer uncovered market needs. Form a coalition with these people to help build a communication and development plan.

Also, don’t let your product launch training be a one-time event. Most organizations will do a big webinar where the product manager will discuss features in great detail, and then enablement will send out an email with a sales packet and call it a launch.

Create a comprehensive communication plan around the launch that includes “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM) messaging for your sales team. Include your sales management coalition partners in the webinar or launch event. Let the message come from sales. Then, make sure everyone understands, practices, and certifies on the new message using a well-planned launch blueprint.

Your product launch review should be more than a blame game. Look at the inputs to the revenue generation engine and think about how you can change or adjust those inputs to improve product launches going forward. Engage with a coalition of stakeholders that can become your champions on the sales team, and always make sure your team can certify that your sales managers and reps can demonstrate the new pitch and messaging behaviors that your product needs to be successful.

Learn how CommercialTribe’s sales enablement tools can help you make your next product launch a success. Request a free demo today!

Launch Your Next Product With CommercialTribe's Sales Enablement Tools. Request A Free Demo Today!