Sales enablement

Sales enablement...

…or, Show Me the Money and Recession be Damned

CMOs and CSOs have wisened-up. Those that have prioritised sales enablement are now indispensable to organisations facing down the dreaded, and very real recession.

While the concept has been out in the wild forever, only relatively recently has it come to the fore for the mainstream. So, what does it mean?

In brief: make sales happen. More extensively: discover what the bottlenecks are, why the drop-offs occur, and fix them. It’s about greasing the sales channel. It’s about finding the leads.

Sometimes, it’s tech. Sometimes, it’s content. Sometimes it’s advertising, or recommendations. Whatever it is – whatever rock lies in the path to closing the deal – that’s what sales enablement seeks to resolve.

Sales enablement is fast becoming a science… Like any good scientific paradigm, we run the tests, measure the outcomes, rinse and repeat. Measurable, predictable, repeatable results. And that requires strategy and planning. But, because this is digital, an industry that introduces new tools and processes while you’re still downloading the old new tools and processes, you’ve also got to be agile, brave, and willing to fail. And, your team needs to let you take risks, and fail. So, it’s a science, but it is also a wet finger in a breeze.

Key elements, and how to do them right

  1. Information
    Standardised, integrated, and analysed
    We need to know what the business’s greatest risks are – where are people dropping off, or, are they even dropping in? How long is the average sales cycle, and how long should it be? Are there holes in training, or are there holes in the pipeline?
  2. Bite-sized chunks
    Ripple effect. Say no to tsunamis
    Whether you choose to fix your greatest problem first, or start with the quickest win, your strategies need to be scalable, easy to work, repeatable, and measurable. So, take your time, think it through, and implement clean, clear processes before making radical changes. For example, how are you weighting leads? Could a simple fix to this step in the process drastically ease a bottleneck? Could a clear content marketing strategy turn around uptake on a slow product? How will these two parts of the puzzle ultimately fit together? Having analysed the data, choose one or two elements to fix, implement them, then move on to the next bite. Don’t turn the sales process on its head in one go. Not only will this overwhelm the team, but when the small changes start delivering results, buy-in from the crew will be a given.
  3. Money talks
    Tailored suits, chauffeured cars, fine hotels and big cigars…
    Unless and until you’re demonstrating the results, you’re failing. Whether you’re ready for a new CRM system, or if you’re simply updating a sales pack, unless you’re showing your team that the pain of change is delivering results, you’re playing losing odds.  

The cowboy factor


What we’ve learnt is that organisations with a sales enablement strategy outperform those who do not. Read the CSO Insights 5th Annual Sales Enablement Study for the evidence. Companies that have clearly defined their vision, objectives, risks and processes win. Having said that, the best salespeople I’ve ever met are cowboys. They run on instinct, love the challenge of the hunt, and break rules and barriers with equal delight. So, what can we learn from them?

Their first advantage is, I feel, an understanding of people – which is what gives them that instinctive edge. It also fuels the hunt, and gives them the confidence to break rules. They dance on the very edge, and sometimes their wins are huge (sometimes they get bruised, but they’re only human). Which brings us to their second advantage: curiosity and risk-taking. They don’t go in for perfection. They understand that they will make mistakes. But, they do it anyway. How can we “package” these elements that seems, almost, to be innate?

When cowboys and precision waltz

The golden bow on a successful sales enablement strategy is the pure, unadulterated focus on the buyer. We “mimic” this instinct through research. Sure, the outcomes are smoothing the road for the sales team, but the questions being asked at every turn is: Who is our customer? What do they need? Once this is established, the How do we get there? is your playground. This is the space for innovation, risk taking, sometimes failure, and also great reward.

A great salesperson is humble enough to do their homework, and brave enough to take risks. A great sales enablement programme needs to follow a similar philosophy.