Tuesday, 12 April 2016 14:40

Want to Elevate the Sales Enablement Function? Start By Getting Your Charter Right Featured

Written by  Scott Santucci
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If you are a sales enablement leader, I can imagine what your first reactions to that headline might be:

  • “management consulting mumbo jumbo”
  • “my charter is to enable sales, it is in the title of my role – you are trying to make things too complicated”
  • “Ugh, I don’t have time to create a charter. I’ve got too many fires to put out right now”
  • “Management tells me what to do, with clear objectives – there is no need for that”
  • “that’s too theoretical, I am looking for more pragmatic solutions”

If any of these thoughts closely match your initial reaction to the phrase “create a sales enablement charter” bear with me a little bit longer and ask yourself these six questions:

 

  • Do you feel more like a VP/ Director of broken things rather than a leader running a group driving results for your company?
  • Are you running into a lot of friction between your group and {insert which combinations of departments fit your situation} (sales, marketing, business units, HR, IT, finance)?
  • Are you or members of your team working ridiculous hours and on the brink of burning out?
  • Do you need more resources to meet all of the expectations on you but are too afraid to ask for them (have a 'keep your head down' mentality)?
  • Do you struggle to provide tangible metrics that demonstrate your group’s measurable contribution to productivity or revenue growth?
  • Do you feel like the organization doesn’t fully understand how much impact sales enablement could have in your company or that the function is not valued?
Like it or not, if you want to change your situation and be seen in a more valuable or strategic light, you must start that process by creating a charter

If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions, your challenges are directly related to the lack of clarity about the scope of your function, undefined roles and responsibilities across your organization, and irrelevant metrics being used to evaluate your performance.  Like it or not, if you want to change your situation and be seen in a more valuable or strategic light, you must start that process by creating a charter, socializing it internally, and getting it endorsed by executives.

Death by Too Many Different Expectations

The reality is that when you put “sales” and “enablement” together, it means a lot of different things to a lot of people

The reality is that when you put “sales” and “enablement” together, it means a lot of different things to a lot of people.  If you want proof, ask a third party you trust (perhaps a friend in HR) to interview 10 people in your company what sales enablement means to them.  You are likely to get 10 different answers.  Even if you were completely staffed and well-funded, it is virtually impossible to be judged as a "success" with so many different expectations on you.  Just because you have a role and title doesn’t mean the leadership of your company has a common expectation of your function, nor a clue about how much work is required to create results. 

  • Your CFO might look at you to reduce the costs of your old onboarding program while, at the same time, your CMO is expecting you to really boost the quality of it so sales can engage with more senior level buyers. 
  • Your CEO might tell you “you own productivity” but your team is way too small and your remit is too limited to have an impact.  
  • You and your VP of Sales agree that there is way too much noise hitting the sales force, but you lack the authority to manage all of the content and messages that are being bombarded to the sales force.   

Can you relate?  What is common across those situations?  

Each of these problems stem from a lack of organizational understanding of what sales enablement is, what results can be achieved, and what is required to achieve them.   

Your Situation and Opportunity is the Result of a Changed Economy 

The reason there is a growing need for a sales enablement function within your organization is because the buyers have fundamentally changed the expectations they have of their suppliers and a vendor caste system is emerging.  On one end of the spectrum, organizations that perceive your products and services as mostly the same as your competitors are seeking to wring costs from their purchases and would prefer a more transactional relationship with you.  On the other end, those same organizations have executives in them that are trying to tackle very complex business problems they have never addressed before and need knowledge and expertise to pull all of the pieces together to help them drive a business outcome.  

So, metaphorically, your business is organized into little pockets of colored glass but your customers look at your company like its a stained glass window.

Today, your company is likely structured around your products and services and even organized in a matrix.  So, metaphorically, your business is organized into little pockets of colored glass but your customers look at your company like its a stained glass window.  Some want to see a business partner, others want to see a low cost provider.  Either way, you sales force is caught in the middle and your company is probably over investing in your transactional customers and under investing in the clients that want a business partnership with you.  To make matters worse, the types of sellers and what then need to be successfully is dramatically different between these two poles yet too many "one size fits all" strategies are hitting the sales force.  You know you are caught in this mess, but you can't really articulate it, you just sense something is wrong.

In this case, tectonic forces are at work as the buyer plate and the vendor plates are shifting in different directions with seismic implications to traditional approaches to sales and marketing.

Whenever an ecosystem is disrupted (in this case buyer/seller relationships) there is always going to be changes to the status quo.  The magnitude of that disruption to the current state is directly proportional to how big the shift is in the marketplace. In this case, tectonic forces are at work as the buyer plate and the vendor plates are shifting in different directions with seismic implications to traditional approaches to sales and marketing.   When a major disrupting force (such as the changing buyer/seller relationship) fundamentally alters an ecosystem, the organisms who adapt are the ones that thrive and the ones that do not become extinct.  

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying you need to tackle these issues in order for you to be successful - those are problems your executive committee need to address.   What I am telling you is that:

1) You have to accept the reality that because of these macro trends, you will experience a lot of turbulence inside your company as other entities struggle to survive.  In order for you to thrive, you need to accept the reality for what it is and develop a strategy that will allow you to add value what adopting to the world around you.  

2)  The more you can define your niche in this volatile environment, the faster you will be able start adding value.  

 So, you need a way it identify a very specific niche will be inside your company where your group will live and then develop the right strategy to deliver value and evolve to where environment is rather than what it was.   This is why you need to invest the time to create, socialize, and execute a charter.  

Think of Yourself as A Business Within a Business.

I know. Overwhelming.  Metaphysical.  Abstract.  I understand how you feel. Right now, you have a lot of bias.  You run your group based on a budget which is built on expectations.  You are really good at solving problems and running that budget.  Perhaps you are worried about having the right metrics or the ability to speak to the CFO about metrics (those guys can be intimidating).  

Let's put all that aside for right now.Overcoming that is a topic for a different day.

Let me plant a seed and ask you to think about running a  lemonade stand.  You knew (or your kids know) instinctively what to do.  You get more sales when you make good lemonade, are in the right place, on a hot day.  You make more money when you are on top of your supplies and got your process down to meet the demand.  What if you allowed yourself to think like that a little bit.

So, instead of looking at your organization as a traditional department with its own budget and span of control ; look at your group as a business within a business.

Thriving in your environment means driving tangible business results.  To accomplish that in the changed economy your sales enablement efforts need to be cross-functional in nature and drive coordination across: product, business unit, marketing, HR, IT, and sales functions.  So, instead of looking at your organization as a traditional department with its own budget and span of control; look at your group as a business within a business.  

You have internal investors who each want something represented by a chairman of the board (the executive you report to) and a board of directors (people who you’d like to contribute budget to help you fund things).  You have a supply chain of suppliers who provide you key inputs (like content, technology, plans, policies, etc.) that you need to manage.  You create products and services (like a successful onboarding program or a scalable front line sales manager coaching program) that you develop for customers (sales and business unit leaders) to be consumed by end users (customer facing employees).  

What is great about this construct is that businesses are exactly like organisms within an ecosystem - the ones that adapt to their environment thrive, the ones that do not, go out of business.   It's easy to conceptualize (you will need help with some of the details, but who doesn't), its easy to articulate, and it's easy to operate with a business unit construct.  Perhaps more importantly, it will allow your group to differentiate itself more clearly (once you define the niche you will play in) from the myriad of other departments who are generating random acts of sales support. 

The Best Businesses Have A Clear Charter

Investors use a term “raison d’etre” to describe what the purpose of a company is in order to determine how focused it is.  I am dramatically over simplifying the valuation process here but basically, investors want to see a business highly focused on a clearly defined opportunity (niche) – the bigger the opportunity and the more focused, the more valuable that company is compared to other investment opportunities. 

If you could show a clear return on the programs you are driving, the organization will want you to do more.

That same phenomenon happens within companies as executive leadership seeks to get the most value out of internal investments.  Think about it.  If you could show a clear return on the programs you are driving, the organization will want you to do more.  To do more at the same quality level, you will need more resource.  That resource will have to come from somewhere, mostly likely reallocated from another group that cannot show a return on its investment. (This is the beautiful creative destruction process of a free market at work, you should embrace the natural order of things - I know I'm sounding like a hippy capitalist, but its how things work).  

As a sales enablement professional you have to accept the reality that your function is emerging because of a changed economy.  You are competing for mindshare and resources from other groups (like field marketing, product / solutions marketing, learning and development, maybe even IT or sales operations groups) who claim they are “enabling sales.” So, it is very important you clearly define what your focus is (your niche), how you will defend yourself by defining clear hand offs between organizations, etc., and what you are going to produce that your constituents really want.   Keep in mind what Henry Ford once said, "If I asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses".  You are going to need to think about the request coming in and determine if what your VP of Sales is asking for is a mandate or a plea to have you create something to address a problem.   All of those things are defined in a charter and this is why it's so critical for your success. 

Creating a Charter is Easy and Hard at the Same Time

I hope I’ve convinced you that if you want to elevate your sales enablement function and move from a reactive state to a more proactive one; you will need to work on creating, socializing, and operationalizing a charter.    How to go about doing it obviously a lengthier topic, but there is a relatively simple approach you can follow.  The graphic below is a simplified framework we use at Alexander Group to help either establish or relaunch sales enablement functions.  The premise is relatively simple - its about methodically creating organizational awareness about the reality facing your environment, highlighting how past attempts to throw tactics at the problem are only making it worse, putting clear definition around problems that are felt but not well understood, getting buy in to address it and the authority to be successful.  Due to the complexity of the problem, we've found focusing on addressing one big question at a time is the key to success.  Those questions are: 

  • Why should the organization look at sales enablement more strategically?
  • What is a sales enablement function and how will it contribute value?
  • Where should it reside and who should run it?
  • How will the function operate and produce results?

For each question, there are a lot of things that need to happen, deliverables to be created, and techniques to follow which we've captured (at a high level) in the framework above.   

Yes, there are a lot of detailed questions that will follow the process and you will feel tempted to skip phases to just start doing stuff.  However, there is a method to this madness.  By focusing on the bigger questions, it helps you stave off all of the pressures that come with "I get it - go do it".   You might think you've won when you hear that, but you've got to avoid the temptation of getting ahead of yourself.  Permission to do something without authority or budget is not a path to success.  If you don’t help the organization clarity the problem, collaborate across organizational silos on an agreed upon scope (your niche), make sure you get political buy in, define how you are going to get it done, or have agreed upon metrics to measure results against – you are not going to be successful.  On the other hand, clients who follow this approach tend to get whatever they need and have cover from key executive sponsors, are able to easily adapt to a changing environment and thrive inside their ecosystem.

Read 1621 times Last modified on Tuesday, 12 April 2016 14:49