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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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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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CommercialTribe Case Study | Enabling An Agile Sales Team

How a leading internet technology company enabled an agile sales team using CommercialTribe

A leading internet technology company that has experienced significant customer and product line growth since launching in 2003. While this growth has made the company very successful, it also means that, when they needed to adjust the product messaging strategy, they needed a solution proven to be effective at managing sales transformations and enabling agile sales teams on a global scale.

The Challenge

Business moves quickly and the brand is constantly updating product offerings, challenging the sales enablement team to effectively roll these updates out across a large, global sales team.

In 2017, they realized that they needed to get their sales organization—from business development to account executive—delivering a more comprehensive solution-based narrative. The vision was to drive a high-quality, consistent message across one of their most popular product lines. The enablement team was tasked with ensuring that the commercial team could deliver the message, while also being agile enough to shift the messaging or the process as market demands shifted.

To accomplish this goal, they needed to align on the product’s end goal and set performance expectations. The enablement team worked closely with sales leadership to align change management and communication around what was important and relevant to the sales team. Using this collaborative relationship, they created a certification methodology that was comprehensive and quite forward-thinking.

Before partnering with CommercialTribe, each sales rep would schedule a one hour 1-on-1 meeting with their manager, during which time they would role play various product and messaging narratives.The frontline manager would then assess the rep’s performance by filling out a Google Form scorecard and send it to enablement. Then, the Sales Readiness Team would work to aggregate the data from all submitted scorecards to analyze participation, performance, and readiness.

While the certification methodology was solid, the absence of a dedicated practice and message certification platform made implementation time-consuming. This was particularly true for busy frontline managers, who could spend as much as 8 to 10 hours in 1-on-1 meetings and scoring for each launch initiative. Enablement also became concerned about the consistency and objectivity of the performance data they received from managers. And, critically, the entire process from content creation to sales certification could take up to three months—far too long for a leader in the fast-moving tech space.

The Solution

The company’s enablement leaders found the right tool to complement their process and create greater efficiency in CommercialTribe. Using CommercialTribe, the sales and enablement teams have the ability to standardize messaging and certification processes across a global sales team, along with the flexibility to customize the message by role and region—deploying the right message to the right user base at the right time.

The company is now able to quickly drive high-quality, consistent sales messaging in their product line unit through CommercialTribe and are expanding its use into additional business units. The platform provides sales and enablement leaders with the flexibility to launch large, transformative sales changes or make small, yet critical pivots efficiently and effectively. Enablement can set up practice and roleplay activities to help reps perfect the message in a safe environment. Or, to observe a real seller-to-prospect interaction, they can ask reps to simply submit a live-call recording, saving time by allowing them to certify within their normal daily workflow.

“Highlight reels” are also developed using clips from the best pitch submissions to provide clear visibility into what great messaging looks like to all managers and reps. Using their library of highlight reels, customized for different roles, regions, and products, the sales team can easily tap into the organization’s “tribal knowledge” prior to pitching the new message to a real customer or prospect.

Once their team has submitted practice pitches or live-call recordings, sales managers are able to view these interactions in CommercialTribe from anywhere, at anytime. The sales and enablement organizations worked together to create and assessment and scoring system that allows sales managers to score their reps performance and provide detailed, actionable feedback. This system not only saves sales managers hours of time, it also allows them to observe how well reps are able to adjust and pivot in actual conversations. It also helps sales leaders hold managers accountable for making sure their teams can deliver the message.

The Results

The company’s sales organization was able to move a robust, yet time-consuming launch process into a platform that streamlines efficiency, accountability and consistency. And the speed at which they can pivot and go-to-market shows it. They can now launch a new message and get everyone in the global sales organization certified in six weeks or less.

Measuring engagement by participation, the enablement and sales organization drives alignment on new messaging to a high standard. Their ability to drive a 90 – 96% participation rate in the new message certification program is more than simply compliance-driven participation. The sales and enablement team works very closely to create custom messaging that is relevant to different sales roles and regions, and to deliver the information in a way that is highly relevant to the team.

Better yet, using CommercialTribe has cut out the need for the 1-on-1 meetings busy sales managers were previously using to certify their reps. They are now able to observe, assess, and certify their reps in 80 minutes, on average, compared to the approximately 80 hours they were dedicating previously. The platform also saves sales reps’ time, as they can use their live calls to certify on messaging within their normal, daily workflow.

Saving a significant amount of time and dramatically reducing time to market has had a significant impact on the company’s sales organization and revenue attainment. They have launched and completed four messaging certifications in just two quarters. This speed to market and agility has contributed to the pilot product unit becoming the company’s fastest growing business unit, surpassing even the company’s flagship product.

About CommercialTribe

CommercialTribe is the standard SaaS platform for developing and coaching sales teams to improve performance. We create an environment to unlock the potential of every rep and manager to get better—every quota carrying year—by intelligently observing reps in multiple selling scenarios, constructively assessing their behavior, and providing managers with with clear coaching paths to close rep development gaps—and improve their coaching skills.

Learn More About CommercialTribe

Why the 2014 Dreamforce Expo is the Modern Roman Forum

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The Giants may have been in the NLCS last week, but you would have hardly realized it because their supporters were severely dwarfed by Benioff’s Army, which occupied the entire city of San Francisco. This year’s Dreamforce had a little something different for each of the 130,000 people, with keynotes, product introductions, sessions, parties, and even a wild Beach Boys sighting.

But nowhere was Dreamforce more real and raw than on the Cloud Expo floor. This year, there were more than 350 companies sprawled across Moscone West and North.

The Expo is sales in its most ancient, unadulterated form. Is this what the Roman Forum was like? Reps, managers, marketers and product managers engage in hand-to-hand combat as thousands of prospects walk through and decide where to spend their precious time.

roman forum

I made the mistake of starting my 2.5 hour journey in West, only to realize it was the smaller of the two showcases. There were companies in gamification, email marketing, analytics, quoting, content management, and more – each with a shiny booth, schwag, games to play, video monitors, and willing combatants. Caesar himself would have been overwhelmed at this new Rubicon.

They say that competition makes us stronger. Yet, Hoopla wasn’t just competing against LevelEleven. And Yesware wasn’t just competing against ToutApp – although whoever put them 1 booth apart may have been playing a cruel joke.

No, here’s the insight – in reality all 350 companies were competing against each other in a Benioff-refereed fight-to-the-death, Royal Rumble-style. Here’s why – as I heard one CEO say – “they’re all great, but there’s no way I can do all of this stuff.”

More than fighting each other, each company is fighting the status quo. According to the Sales Benchmark Index, 6 out of 10 deals end in no decision. Prospects elect to do nothing, because they aren’t compelled to act.

So as a prospect, why should I invest in your solution vis-à-vis all the other places I could invest with my scarce dollars? Why will your solution deliver the best ROI? It’s about opportunity cost as much as it is your unique value proposition.

According to Corporate Visions, you need to answer three fundamental questions:

  1. Why Change?
  2. Why (Insert Your Company)?
  3. Why Now?

Were reps thinking this way on the Expo floor? Everyone could answer “Why Your Company” reasonably well enough. Even still, I ran an experiment at one booth, asking two reps the difference between their offering and a competitive one. The messages were definitely different to the untrained prospect ear, and one was not as crisp as the other. And these two reps were standing next to each other!

“Why Change” was the next most common run I heard, which often comes in the form of the problem you solve and why it matters. Still, most reps led with features and benefits and circled back to the problem when prodded.

As expected, though, few if any reps were able to speak to “Why Now.” This in particular has a lasting impact, as reps who can change the nature of the conversation are 75% more likely to win versus competition. When you think about it, most prospects are going to invest in one, maybe two new solutions, but spent the week talking to dozens of vendors. Features and benefits just aren’t good enough.

What if we could simply get your reps to answer these three questions, crisply and concisely? Your company would win more often until everyone else could do the same.

What if?

Until next year, Dreamforce!