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The Evolution of Sales Enablement: 4 Takeaways from the Sales Enablement Society

Nov 13th, 2017

Three months ago, I was a salesperson carrying a quota and relying on my sales enablement manager to ensure that I had the knowledge and ability to articulate our message. A few weeks ago, I attended the National Sales Enablement Society Meeting in my new role as sales enablement manager at Brainshark. 

Over the course of the meeting, it became apparent that sales enablement is a space that continues to evolve. What we do, who we report to and how our success is being defined varies greatly from one organization to the next.  There were many different companies represented at various sales enablement maturity points.  But the one thing everyone had in common was the passion for the space and the motivation to be successful in their role.  

Here are some key points I learned from the National Sales Enablement Society Meeting.

Sales enablement should align content with the buyer’s journey and persona

Jeff Ernst, CEO and co-founder of SlapFive, led a discussion on aligning your sales content with the buyer’s journey.  Today’s buyers are savvy and think independently. They often research intensely before even getting a vendor involved. Ernst’s data demonstrated that even when a buyer is halfway through the sales cycle, they still believe a referral’s point of view over the sales rep’s. Because of buyers’ skepticism of sellers, it’s critical to have customer testimonials at this point in the buyer’s journey.  

But it’s important to keep in mind the buyer persona as well. The person defining the scope of the project and the purchasing criteria would prefer to hear from others with similar pain points, rather than an executive whose experience with the solution is hard to relate to.  When I was in sales, I was always thinking of what I could be doing to move my deal forward. In my current role, I know that if I can provide content that easily connects the dots for buyers, the quicker I can help them reach their decision.

How sales enablement efforts should be measured

If sales enablement wants to have a seat at the executive table, they need to have some skin in the game. In other words, they have to establish key performance indicators that clearly demonstrate the impact of their efforts. From there, sales enablement should be able to show a correlation between their efforts and sellers’ output.

For example, our sales enablement team put a lot of focus on the discovery phase and training the sales team on qualification techniques.  This resulted in sellers being better equipped to qualify opportunities and build a stronger pipeline of early stage deals. Because we were able to establish a direct correlation,  we were comfortable setting quarterly objectives that aligned to pipeline activity. 

For organizations who aren’t yet comfortable setting sales enablement key performance indicators,  it’s critical to work with sales operations and sales leadership to get a consensus on appropriate measurement.

Enable managers and ‘A’ players to enable your sellers

Many sales enablement professionals are spread thin in their roles, often consisting of a team of one or two people responsible for enabling hundreds of sales reps. Because of this reality, enablement is constantly thinking about ways to be more efficient in their roles.  One question we spent time discussing at the meeting was, “Would we be more effective in our roles by enabling managers or should we be putting all of our energy into enabling our sales reps?”

The answer to this question is to include a healthy mix of both. Sales manager enablement is critical because they can help amplify and reinforce your training and coaching initiatives.  But reinforcement doesn’t have to be left up to sales managers alone.

Sales reps that are ‘A’ players are often the earliest and quickest adopters of new training. In fact, many ‘A’ players request even more supplemental training to make them more efficient. Peers have a strong influence on what we choose to learn and which behaviors we embrace. Enablement can utilize key players within the organization to be a voice and multiply their efforts, creating an army of “sales enablement mentors.”

Don’t be afraid of the gray area in sales enablement

If you fear blurry lines or constant change, sales enablement is not the right career for you.  As the role gains more visibility in the coming year, it’s likely the gray areas will become smaller. In the interim, the Sales Enablement Society, with its national and local chapters, provide members the opportunity to leverage their experiences to help each other navigate these waters.

Instead of fearing the gray areas, take this opportunity to be creative and explore new avenues in helping your sales team become more productive.

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