Posted by Brian Lambert on October 1, 2010
Have you noticed? A lot of help is heading toward the sales team these days. I've been thinking alot about all the help the sales team gets. I mean, it can come from different areas of the organization like product groups, marketing teams, or sales leadership. And it can come in the form of product or skills training, playbooks, tools, or technology (to name a few).
Over on LinkedIn, I started a list of the "help" that the sales team gets (you can check it out (and add to the list) here)
Have you ever tried to help someone who doesn't need it or want it? It's frustrating isn't it?
I think a lot of Sales Enablement professionals get frustrated with sales teams in the same manner.
I've heard the frustration:
- Why can't the sales team just...
- I wish the managers would...
- I don't know why the reps don't...
Unfortunately, sometimes the help directed at the sales team just isn't that well received.
Initiatives aren't adopted. Value isn't realized. Frustration mounts.
I remember this one guy was venting his frustration to me a few years ago. He actually said, "too bad the sales team isn't just a bunch of robots."
"Why do you say that?" I asked.
"Then I could just upload whatever knowledge I need to and just tell them what they need to do..... and then it would be done."
wow. now, that's not good.
I guess the guy was so frustrated in trying to "help" sales team, that he needed to reduce the human element.
Personally, I think the guy was in the wrong job! But that's a separate blog post.
Anyway, his comment did make me stop and think of all the initiatives designed to "help sales". I mean there are tasks designed to help (e.g., building a business justification), projects designed to help (e.g., product launches), and all-inclusive programs designed to help (e.g., launch of a sales methodology). Each of these ways to "help sales" are supposedly designed to help salespeople achieve specific objectives -- right?
I wonder if in the planning phase, the human element of is reduced much in the same way as the guy I just told you about? So much work goes into creating content or strategies, that at some point, I have to wonder if the people designing, implementing and reinforcing these initaitives sometimes forget that salespeople aren't robots. They are people with a finite ability to "be automated."
So, lest we forget the human side of selling (the customer, sales people, or sales managers) when launching new initiatives designed to "help sales", here's a short checklist to keep ground the efforts:
First, focus sales enablement initiatives on driving enterprise sales outcomes. To ensure focus, make sure you launch purpose-built initiatives to help the sales teams achieve specific objectives. To do that, you will need to organize sales content, skills, and tools in a way that helps salespeople achieve specific actions within the sales team. For more information on focus, you can view our report, Optimize Performance By Driving Enterprise Sales Outcomes.
Second, clearly define the gap. If your sales organizations is transforming (hint: it is!), you need to identify the end state of that transformation. What does it look like? This is crucial to helping your initiatives stick. Even though many sales enablement professionals we talk to admit they're engaged in a sales transformation, they can't clearly explain the end state of that transformation. In fact, I recently asked 35 sales enablement professionals: “If a sales transformation is underway, what are you transforming from? And more importantly, what are you transforming to?" (Or put another way: “From what? To what?”). The answer? Crickets.
Here's a tip. Think about the behavior change required (e.g., from what behavior? To what behavior?) Defining the transformation in terms of the behavior change helps you communicate the transformation in terms of the action and activity. This provides a crucial element of success -- the actual list of the behaviors necessary to change. This type of gap analysis isn't easy, but it helps identify the discrepancy between the current state of performance and desired (future) state of performance in terms of what people need to actually do.
Third, set priorities. How you approach sales enablement really does matter. To some, sales enablement is a task (i.e., sending an email); to others, sales enablement is a project (e.g., launching a new project). But it's really a program level initiative. Sales enablement is emerging as a strategic discipline designed to help you more accurately model your customer, map your company's capabilities to those problems, and help your sales team match your company's capabilities to customer needs through a more valuable sales conversation.
And remember, salespeople aren't robots, and you may have to remind others of this reality too. Sales, marketing, and portfolio groups are all looking for ways to "help sales" too. And they may need some help focusing, defining the gap, and setting priorities as well.