Last week, I read a pretty compelling post from Adrian Davis (@thesalesoracle) on the Salesforce blog titled, Three Reasons Why Your Sales Enablement Efforts Will Fail. I recommend checking out the post for yourself, but for those eager to get to the meat, it makes a good case for why automation will ultimately destroy the very necessary human elements that lead to closed business.
But while Adrian’s post focused on ways your sales enablement efforts could fail, it got me thinking about what it really takes to make them succeed. Here are three quotes from Adrian’s post that I think lend themselves to some important lessons.
“Much of the sales automation on the market today, at best, discounts the intelligence and judgment of salespeople, and at worst, overrides it.”
I totally buy this. The goal of sales enablement really shouldn’t be automation. Sure, you can certainly automate certain things; but automation on its own is hardly a measure of success. A more appropriate vision is having a good way to give your reps the right resources in a timely and contextual way. The goal here should be to empower your reps to use their judgment if not improve it, by giving them the appropriate tools at the appropriate moment to have the best conversation possible, rather than just dictate that conversation.
“The concept of a playbook is taken from football, where everyone on the team understands what the next play is going to be. What many sales enablement efforts are missing is the fact that it’s the quarterback’s responsibility to call the play.”
I don’t necessarily have anything against playbooks – in fact, I believe an effective playbook solution is designed to let the quarterback (salesperson in this metaphor) call the right shots. But the heart of the matter is really ensuring that they know how to make the right call. Experience and intuition is certainly a factor here, but another important one is providing your salespeople with an effective and flexible learning environment.
This may or may not be possible with a playbook. Ideally, you should look for a system that offers both formal and informal learning and design a clear path to not just understanding the “plays,” but also the circumstances in which other salespeople have run them (and been successful or unsuccessful). This way the quarterback can walk on the field with the right combination of book smarts and field experience.
“The true value is what happens in the field, when one human being is talking with another. Much of the content of those interactions will never be captured… focus on developing the key competencies, rather than prematurely automating a process.”
We hear this from our clients all the time. Whenever we talk to a sales leader, they always know that hundreds of productive conversations are happening, but they never know what’s being said. Yes, I think building competencies is an appropriate strategy, but how? Which ones do you focus on? This problem is all about visibility. While we may not have the necessary technology to purely automate based on every word uttered, it certainly is possible to glean some best practices and make inferences from things being done in the field.
Understanding the content your best reps are using, where in the sales cycle they’re using it, as well as how they’re moving along in their onboarding and continuous learning curriculum can definitely give you a good picture of how to turn your “B” and “C” players into your “A” players. The key is setting up a system and/or process that gives managers this consistent insight. As Adrian suggests, shift the focus from automation. I say focus on the right content, context, and measurement to make your sales enablement efforts succeed.