Effective Sales Enablement Depends On Your Definition Of "Sales"

During the first week of June, we had one of our quarterly Sales Enablement Leadership Council meetings in Barcelona, Spain. (A leadership council is comprised of executives from leading companies who work with us to set the direction for the near-term and long-term role of sales enablement.) For an entire day, we discussed the application of Forrester’s SIMPLE framework, which is a model designed to help combat the random acts of sales support that persist within most B2B companies, to common sales enablement leadership challenges.

The sheer volume of insight, ideas, new research topics, and techniques shared during that session was tremendous – far too much to share in one blog post. So, I am going to pick two issues that came up.

First off, Tamara, I hear you. I was told point blank that I need to participate in the social community more. I’m going to make a more dedicated effort to do this moving forward, but I need your help. Please tell me what you’d like me to share and how. Honestly, I get a little caught up around the axle about the many deliverable formats I’m responsible for (research reports, teleconferences, conference presentations, facilitating council meetings, client deliverables, etc.) so I would love the coaching from the community on what would be the most useful.

Secondly, at the beginning of our council meeting, we had a good discussion about where the sales enablement profession is heading. I’ve written a very detailed document defining the scope and role of sales enablement strategically, but there is an easier way to summarize the trends based on how you define the word “sales.”

The majority of our clients were given sales enablement functions to house a variety of “broken things.” Our clients have been coalescing these various activities into well-functioning organizations and the more successful ones are asked to do more and more. To help understand what’s going on with the maturation of sales enablement functions within organizations – I suggest we take a step back and really think about how you (and your organization) are defining the word “sales.”  Having the opportunity to speak with so many sales enablement professionals in so many different companies, I have the unique opportunity to distill hundreds of data points into patterns and trends.  So, why are some sales enablement functions more successful and strategic than others?

It started with how those leaders define – and then get internal buy in to – what they mean by “sales.”

Here are three common ways sales enablement gets defined (unconsciously) within our client base:

  1. Sales enablement = equipping individual sellers with skills and or tools to do their jobs better. This lens of sales enablement seems simple, but it leaves far too much to interpretation about what a seller needs to be successful. As a result, many different and uncoordinated efforts pop up all over the organization driven by folks trying to help. If there is a sales enablement function in organizations that views the role in this way – they are likely to be understaffed and constantly putting out fires across the organization. 
  2. Sales enablement = making the sales organization more productive. Companies with this perspective are looking at how all of their sales and sales support resources are deployed to drive productivity with less investment. An example would include process-modeling work to document an engagement model and the roles and responsibilities of sales people, sales engineers, consultants, and other subject-matter experts in order to streamline resources to meet clients’ requirements. This might also look like the marketing organization making advances in how it aligns its resources to tie into the strategic plan of the sales organization.
  3. Sales enablement = making the process of growing the sales line item on the income statement more effective and efficient.  Companies and leaders with this perspective are working on a whole new set of metrics, measures, and processes to streamline how they configure their portfolio, modularize their messaging, and arm their sales people with tools to combat the growing complexity of B2B selling. For these companies, sales enablement is an important, strategic function (and leadership role) required to bridge the gap between their strategic vision for the organization and how they manage the execution of that plan across the different functional groups inside their company. A handful of our clients have worked very hard to change their orientation to this perspective and are achieving breakthrough results.

Bottom line: As a sales enablement professional, you should think deeply about how you define “sales” when thinking about your function. Once you center on that, determine if how you define “sales” is similar to the other stakeholders in your organization. In order to move out of the chaotic, highly reactive state that most of our clients are in – you need to invest the time to work on giving your function a very clear identity.  But, you have to remember, just because it’s clear to you a lot of people can have very different perspectives about what to expect when you put those two words “sales” and “enablement” together.    

On July 13, I will be hosting a teleconference to share these findings and others techniques other client are using the SIMPLE framework to move forward on their sales enablement efforts.  Please click on the link for more information.  http://www.forrester.com/rb/teleconference/using_forresters_simple_framework_to_gain_traction/q/id/7952/t/1

Comments

Welcome back!

Scott, you are back on your own blog, excellent, much appreciated!

I really believe that the blog as well as the community and other social networks or platforms like Twitter or Linkedin are important mediums to communicate ideas, visions, approaches, concepts, etc. to a broad audience – to spread the word, and to support your other deliverables as scientific research based documents, corresponding teleconferences, etc.
It's all about honing the leadership discipline "communication" what we also discussed in detail in Barcelona... We all need that strong communication internally in our organizations to be successful, and we need it also externally, for the same reason!

So, what is valuable to be shared here for a broad blog audience? From my view point, the blog is perfect to address a specific aspect of a topic, to share an idea, written in an easy story-telling way, ideally supported by a funny video (remember, you already did that using the „go to eleven“ and „change blindness“ video!), to make people thinking about that, to encourage people! The topic you have chosen here is perfect for a blog! Makes people feel and think like „Good point, how do we actually define sales in our organization? And what does it mean for my initiative?“

Another topic I could imagine to be very valuable for all sales enablement professionals is for instance “account plans”, what's the problem with them and how should tomorrow's account-go-to-market plans look like, to be useful and valuable tools and not only tasks to be done?
Describing such a topic from a different lens could also be useful to encourage eye openers and light bulb moments!

Then, the same topic could be discussed as a next step a bit more detailed in the community. The community audience is also a broad audience from my point of view, but probably a bit smaller than the blog audience.

Finally, your „USP“ as an analyst is – and that's the real added value for the blog's followers - that you see what's going on in different organizations, in different approaches, driven by sales, marketing or portfolio, what's working, what's not, or what's working in which culture or not, what are critical success factors, and, and, and...
Summarizing these observations, create an assumption, encourage people to start thinking and sharing about an idea, a question - that's added value from my view point!

Thoughts?