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Sales enablement roles are becoming increasingly prevalent, with CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study reporting 46 percent of companies enacting a formal sales enablement vision or charter.
Sales enablement roles are responsible for a variety of initiatives, including improving sales onboarding, training, coaching, content management and engagement analytics. As sales enablement initiatives becomes more widely adopted and formalized, it’s easy to lose track of valuable aspects of the role.
CSO Insights’ report lead analyst Tamara Schenk has some great insight into how organizations can ensure they take the right actions that fit their specific needs. We asked Tamara, do companies truly understand their underlying sales force problems before addressing them with sales enablement initiatives? Here’s what she had to say:
That’s an interesting question and not so easy to answer. As an analyst, you don’t want to say "I believe this or that" if you don’t have the data to make such a statement. So, I cannot offer data on organizations’ understanding of underlying root causes. But, as you can see in the CSO Insights' report, there is an assumption that can be made, based on the lack of effectiveness of enablement services (content, training and coaching). And this is precisely why the Going Forward chapter in the report begins with Albert Einstein’s quote “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
There are two phenomena we observe. One is not to treat the root cause in the first place. As an example: If sales leaders tell us about an enablement challenge on closing techniques, then this is almost never the real problem. You may identify deals that are in the funnel for many weeks or even months without associated activities. You already know what I’m describing here: the symptom of stalled opportunities. But stalled opportunities are also a symptom of another cause. Apparently, the prospects and customers had no reason to change their current state to achieve better results in the future. So, there was probably no shared vision of future success, there was apparently an issue with value messaging, with communicating the relevant value to the right stakeholders to build a shared vision of success with them. Opportunities are actually only leads. So, treating the symptom would lead to training on negotiations or closing techniques. But what should be done is getting value messaging right, and that’s a more complex issue, as it requires the right content and enough training and practice to develop salespeople’s ability to feel comfortable with different value messaging.
The other phenomenon is when enablement leaders are asked to implement new ideas. Too often we hear statements like “I’ve been told to implement playbooks” or “I have to implement a coaching tool. Can you help me with this?” After a few questions to understand the context, we come to the conclusion that somebody heard an idea, loved it and asked someone in enablement to implement it. It depends entirely on the context if a particular idea at this point makes sense or not. Situations like these happen often in organizations without a clear definition and understanding of what the enablement program or function should do and what goals have to be achieved. This is where the need for a structured enablement charter becomes more than obvious. Often, the idea is simply not the right first step but would be appropriate later, after some homework has been done. As always, in sales and elsewhere in life, context matters.
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