Sales Enablement: The General Manager of Your Championship Sales Team

November 10, 2016 | Jim Ninivaggi
Sales Enablement: The General Manager of Your Championship Sales Team

Sales Enablement: The General Manager of Your Championship Sales Team

At the risk of alienating those of you who are not fans of sports, sports analogies, or either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians – I submit to you yet another sports analogy.

Collective groan.  I can hear you now – “not another ’sales as sports’ analogy!”

But this one is good.  We think.

In 2004, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series championship after an 86-season drought. This year, the Chicago Cubs won their first championship in 108 years. 

These teams had one thing in common: Theo Epstein was their General Manager (GM). 

He contributed to ending two of the most storied championship droughts in professional sports, and that has folks talking about the Hall of Fame for Epstein. It also begs the questions: what exactly does a GM do? And why is the role considered important enough to warrant talk of sending Theo to Cooperstown, NY (the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame for the uninitiated).

According to How Baseball Works, a general manager “is responsible for looking after the wider player-personnel issues.” It is the GM who is typically responsible for recruiting, hiring, trading, firing and helping monitor the overall development of the talent that makes up the team.

And as Epstein has shown, the right talent can win championships.

But GMs can’t do it alone. They need to work closely with the team’s manager, who actively oversees day-to-day team activities: running practice, making position decisions, deciding who will pitch on what day, and, working with a team of other coaches to develop each individual ball player. If the manager needs a new pitcher, it will be the GM who makes the decision of who to trade for or bring up from the minor leagues. To break it down: the manager focuses on the day-to-day, while the GM worries about the long-term big picture.

So my question (and analogy – finally!) is this: Why don’t sales organizations have a GM?

After all, a sales team can only win if they have recruited, hired, onboarded and continually developed and coached the right talent, letting sales leadership worry about the day-to-day and focus on the long-term talent needs of the sales organization. Sales teams need a GM. The question is: Who should play that role?

Your Sales General Manager is Your Sales Enablement Leader

Who would argue that finding the right talent, convincing that talent to work for you, onboarding that talent and keeping that talent productive should be job one of a sales organization?

Yet all too often, it’s no one’s job. For progressive sales organizations who truly get that talent is one of the most – if not THE most – important ingredient to success, they are giving that job to sales enablement. They’re recognizing the importance of the role and raising it in strategic importance.

That means sales enablement should own the entire sales talent lifecycle – recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and continuous development. Here’s what that can look like:

  • Recruiting and hiring: Just like a GM works with a team of scouts to find the next pitching star, sales enablement should partner with HR and sales management to build and execute a strong recruiting process. Sales enablement needs to lead and coordinate the hiring process, ensuring that candidates are assessed for ability and fit.
     
  • Training and onboarding: Building out and implementing a rigorous assessment-based onboarding process is the next step. This includes working with sales operations to ensure compensation is competitive and that the right performance data is being captured and analyzed to carefully track rep performance. Related: B2B Sales Has Changed - Why Your Training Should Too 
     
  • Coaching and continuous learning: This means working with first-line sales managers and their critical roles of coach, trainer and recruiter. Sales enablement needs to provide what is needed to ensure that everyone on the sales team is continuously getting better (and most importantly, better than the competition).

Admittedly, for most sales organizations, the sales enablement function is still so new that the concept of a GM-like role is likely years away. But for those sales organizations farther along the sales enablement maturity model, the time has come for holding sales enablement accountable for ensuring that the team fielded has the best talent. This allows sales leadership to focus on the short-term while enablement keeps an eye on the long-term. This role truly is as important to the sales organization as Theo Epstein’s is to the Chicago Cubs.

The sales enablement leader as GM.  Maybe not a bad sports analogy after all.

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