Getting a Handle on your Sales Enablement Crisis

 Craig Nelson – VP Global Sales Enablement, SAP


Getting a Handle on your Sales Enablement Crisis

Sales is in panic! They need content now or deals will die – but they can’t get it. Marketing rushes to generate what sales needs, but by the time they do sales is working different deals with different content needs. It’s a state of perpetual hysteria – and it prevents sales and marketing from working strategically to solve the problem.suit wrench

Sales enablement (SE) has been in crisis mode for as long as I can remember. Why? Simple: a lack of discipline. To be more specific, sales doesn’t need more content, tools or today’s newest mobile gadget. They need the people overseeing SE to take a disciplined approach that the organization (starting with marketing and sales) agrees with to enable consistent and repeatable sales success.

To make the first step toward moving away from reactive and random sales enablement, start by identifying high value SE use cases that address high-priority business needs. Examples of these needs include enabling an expanding sales force to drive growth, supporting a new channel sales organization, or promoting and enabling selling a new product shortly after an acquisition. Each had the attention of key members of the organization, and with success quickly demonstrated the value of sales enablement. Sales enablement done right became a “pull” initiative and others wanted in.

4 elementsNow, let’s break down the ingredients for success. With the organization behind it, attacking sales enablement is done in a more holistic way by addressing four key elements: people, process, content and technology. In successful enablement initiatives, organizations were able to introduce the four elements while delivering on quarterly revenue expectations mainly because they had a game plan and alignment.

Let’s start with a high level overview of the people element.

Alignment: connect the dots

Roles respIt all starts with people, or in some cases that one person within the organization who understands the reactive and random sales enablement crisis. Once this person digs in, he or she most likely has come to the conclusion that SE activities such as one-time sales “boot camps” provide marginal returns. The SE champion quickly aligns with others like them in the departments that also support sales. In many cases, SE doesn’t require new staff; it simply needs someone to look at the SE crisis in a more holistic way. And so begins the steady climb up the Sales Enablement Maturity Model® we will discuss later.

Repeatable and high value

process The next step is the introduction of new SE processes – preferably, small repeatable processes that provide the highest value to not just sales but the organization. There are a few, high-value use cases, that when done right have an immediate value and will build momentum for doing SE in a more disciplined way. Example uses include on-boarding and product launches. Once defined, each is tested in the field subject to the way your buyers buy from you. And, as part of the introduction, specific skills are packaged in to elevate the reps’ game as they sell.

Less is more

contentIf you want sales to leverage the content you develop, it must help sellers and buyers advance through the buyer journey. More is not more when it comes to content. High-value content aligns to repeatable use cases. To really gain mindshare with sales, know that sales people learn best while selling. Thus, content they can use immediately before, during and after a sales call will get used. Sales reps and partners are hyper-focused on addressing the buyer’s needs to advance the sale. The content that helps them do that is the content they need and will use.

While sales reps would prefer to not be in the content business, some cases demand that they create materials for their prospects. Rather than have them start from scratch, provide snippets of content they can quickly assemble into the right content based on the buyer’s needs.

Content, tools and coaching delivered when needed

technologyThe goal is for sales reps and partners to find exactly the right enablement content, tools and coaching at exactly the right time. Intelligent content management requires technology, and when we talk enablement technology we aren’t talking about a content warehouse where content goes to die. Instead it’s a highly collaborative platform that delivers value every hour of every day. How can sales leverage the company-sanctioned and proven content if they can’t find it or understand it?

The best way to explain what technology is needed is visually, and a great way to get started is to perform a quick assessment of what’s in place today by filling in each of the boxes in the following Sales Enablement Blueprint.
Callidus Cloud Sales Enablement blueprint  
From this, determine and analyze gaps as you consider if the entire buyer process is covered and the four elements are in place, starting with one of your high-value SE use cases.

Want to prevent gridlock for resolving the SE crisis? Avoid debating the meaning of SE, which only causes walls to be built up across the organization. You will find that vendors and industry experts have meanings that vary widely. Don’t worry about their definitions; the only definition that matters is your own, one based on your organization’s discrete needs.

A final tip: Your company will need support for activities such as on-boarding sales staff, recruiting and on-boarding partners, and introducing new products and messaging on an ongoing basis. Each requires enablement and if done in a disciplined, consistent and effective way, sales reps and partners will line up for more.

However, today few do it in a disciplined and repeatable way that can be improved on. Pick one of these SE activities, create a disciplined approach, measure the effectiveness, then improve and repeat. Do this across groups with templates and guidelines to ensure effectiveness and consistency, and involve the field to provide critical feedback, then refine. I’ve seen organizations take this approach and reduce the content they deliver by 92 percent by focusing on what makes a difference for sales.

Craig Nelson

Craig specializes in enabling companies to more effectively market and sell. His experience is based on a variety of leadership roles including the growth of several start-ups that became successful public software companies. In 1998, Nelson's passion for enabling marketing and sales led him to register and subsequently co-found iCentera in 2003. Today, the iCentera sales enablement platform service is delivered over the internet to over 350,000 subscribers and in 2011, iCentera became part of CallidusCloud.