What’s interesting about this interview (which is excellent), is that Lisa isn’t speaking as an analyst; she’s a seasoned sales enablement specialist who helps lead Gartner’s own enablement strategy. With over 30 years of experience in the space, she has plenty of insight to share. (This is actually her third stint at Gartner, and she more recently led sales enablement at Thomson Reuters. Overall, I’d say she’s seen a thing or two when it comes to increasing sales productivity and effectiveness.)
Here are five things I took away from her interview that should be top of mind for anyone responsible for sales enablement strategy and planning this year.
#1. Sales training doesn’t work in a silo
“Sales training CANNOT be separated from the actual enablement. There has to be a connection between what we’re training salespeople in, to what does a customer-focused conversation look like.”
It’s typical now to automatically fold training into sales enablement, but that’s not always the case for some companies. Greg makes the point that at many places, sales training often sits under Learning & Development, which can naturally create a disconnect between how reps are being trained and what sales enablement is looking to accomplish. That lack of continuity can (and often will) create problems for the sales enablement effort.
According to Lisa, the ideal model involves a specialized sales training function that connects to (or is part of) sales enablement. But if that’s not possible, you still have to partner with L&D to help them understand the sales process and the unique role a salesperson plays – just like you would with a marketer. “If we can do that,” she explains, “then we can re-use some of the [other] training that doesn’t necessarily need to be so specific to the sales process, but we’re building it on top of the unique function that sales provides within an organization.”
#2. When it comes to sales content, less is often more
“I’ve spent a lot of time with marketing and sales organizations where we throw content at salespeople and just hope something sticks. This is time-wasting, lowers productivity, and means extra work for everyone involved.”
This quote from Lisa came in response to a question about the value of sales playbooks, but the term “playbooks” is a bit subjective here (at least in my eyes). It’s really about packaging together the content reps DO use, and getting rid of what they don’t need.
Lisa recommends creating seller profiles in the same way we create buyer profiles. The idea is to identify the tools and resources (content!) reps actually use, when and how they use it in the sales process, internal and external content needs, and so on. By going through this audit process, you’ll likely find that reps need fewer content assets then you expect – assuming it’s the RIGHT types of resources.
#3. Good coaching is important – like, REALLY important
“We spend so much time focusing on the front-line salespeople… we forget about one of the most important change agents we have – the sales managers.”
I’ve seen this topic come up a LOT lately; that front-line sales managers are too often ignored in the sales enablement process. We know that managers play a critical role in coaching and supporting reps throughout the sales cycle. The problem is, just because a manager was a great rep once upon a time, doesn’t mean they’ll automatically be a great sales coach. Many times, they aren’t.
That’s why reps AND managers need to be a focus of the sales enablement strategy. Lisa makes a great analogy – the central sales enablement group is the hand, but the front-line managers are the fingers. If you want to affect change across your sales organization, you need their help. So don’t ignore them! (Per Lisa: “They have to be your partners on this journey with you.”)
#4. CRM integration is a priority (and if it’s not, it should be)
“If there would be a technology I’d recommend, it would be [one] that connects into the CRM… that a salesperson is already using to track their own business.”
I’ve written plenty about how important CRM integration is for any sales enablement solution (see here, here and here). So I’m just going to keep quiet for this part and let Lisa explain it in her own words, as she really nails it.
“We had an intranet that was very clumsy. It was very difficult for salespeople to actually find what they needed. So we simplified and went to a sales content management system that was meant to be a simpler way to deliver content. But it was in isolation of our CRM. If I had it to do over again, I’d probably look at – how do we compliment our CRM, and give salespeople a reason to use the CRM as part of their client management process? And connect in all of the other pieces that really make sense to what we need to do to ultimately help them drive through the sales process.”
#5. Your technology should help measure your success
“If we don’t measure it, then why are we doing it?”
Obviously, you want to track the return on all this sales enablement you’re doing, and lagging indicators like revenue and quota aren’t always the best metrics to target. As Lisa points out, your ability to measure the impact of your strategy likely comes down how well you’ve stitched together the technology piece(s). This, of course, includes training.
“What we tried to do at Thomson Reuters and certainly at Gartner, is we connect very tightly any training and sales enablement we do,” says Lisa. “[We look at] – Who has taken the training? Who has downloaded the documents? Who has accessed the content that we provide? And how does that then relate back to the success of a product launch, or a new market, or a new customer set? [Specifically], what are the tools and training that are associated with a new go-to market strategy?”
Once again, integrating sales enablement and training into your CRM (like Salesforce), is one way to stitch things together and deliver this layer of analytics – and thus make better decisions going forward.
For more sales enablement insights from Lisa, I strongly recommend listening to the full SBI podcast here.