But, ambition aside, without a proven system to give them the tools and information they need to succeed, the percentage of new products and new sales hires and partners that perform as you would hope will be abysmally low. But it doesn’t have to be if you can develop a more disciplined and successful program of proven, effective sales enablement activities.
This blog targets Sales Enablement professionals and Marketing, Sales and Training managers who want to move away from hit-or-miss random acts of sales enablement to establish a repeatable system that focuses on what matters most to your sales channels and which gets better with use. We’re going to outline steps towards the creation of a “selling machine” for your company to replicate success, reduce wasted effort and focus on what matters to sales and your buyers.
Preparing to Enable Revenue Growth
Peter Drucker is credited with first saying, "you can't manage what you can't measure and if you can’t define and measure it, you can’t improve it”. At the core of a repeatable selling machine is a defined way to execute and track activities that enable sales success.
If everyone in your organization has a different idea of how to execute sales enablement, you don’t have a definition and you won’t be successful. Consensus on a defined approach for executing enablement activities is key, and this is made possible through alignment of the organization. That makes the creation of a cross-functional team that to starts with marketing, sales and training an all-important first step. This team can bring varied viewpoints together, develop a defined process that makes sense for all constituents and carry that definition back to the rest of the organization. This straightforward exercise, conducted with serious reflection on what really matters to sales success, will directly contribute to reducing the effort, frustration and cost of enablement and training.
Assess Maturity and Determine High Value Enablement Use Cases
Before getting you start modifying or implementing some form of sales enablement, perform an assessment of your organization’s sales enablement maturity. This will provide the organization with a clear understanding of the activities and resources needed to successfully sell your products and service, and will get that cross-functional team on the same page. Another benefit of this exercise is that it can lay a foundation to introduce the right amount of discipline behind proven sales enablement activities over time to ensure that results will not be negatively impacted as the organization evolves.
To perform the maturity assessment, we use a five-level model that shows the goal for each level that, once achieved, serves as the foundation to advance to the next level.
With the cross-functional team in place, select at least two high value sales enablement use cases that will get the attention of the organization by quickly impacting revenue in a positive manner. When building mindshare to support these use cases, make sure you emphasize to all stakeholders that if you pay a dime now to get this right, you will earn $10 later. The statistics don’t lie: companies can reduce training and enablement content by up to 90% within the first year and reduce sales staff time away from the field by 50-75%.
Not sure of what use cases to consider? Here are a few examples:
- Onboard new sales staff and partners
- Launch new products, new messaging and campaigns
- Promote cross sell and up sell
- Move from product to solution selling
- Improve buyer experience, foster team deal collaboration and social selling
Based on our experience, the first two use cases consistently deliver quick results and generate mindshare for enablement initiatives.
#1 On-boarding Staff and Partners
It’s time to get beyond the traditional one time, multi-week sales "boot camp." Start to think about what’s truly required to sell, and break it down into time increments. For example, what does the new hire need week by week during the first month, the next 60 days and the next 90 days. Go beyond traditional customer-facing content; consider what subject matter experts can arm salespeople with knowledge that can them sell, what tools and processes they can leverage to be productive, and examples of effective tactics currently used by proven sales people. Some organizations map out what’s required for reps during their entire first year to ensure that the reps are as effective at selling their complex and costly solutions as possible - as fast as possible.
Putting in place a more disciplined approach for delivering sales enablement activities isn’t just an effective plan for new sales talent. It’s also a great tool to recruit top talent – as well as channel partners - because they want to know the sophistication and completeness of an organization’s sales enablement. Many see it – quite rightly – as a gauge of the organization’s commitment and belief in sales. In a future blog I will discuss the creation of a sales enablement blueprint to determine the 4 key elements required to deliver and improve your sales enablement activities, but for now get start with defining and gaining agreement on the high impact sales enablement use cases.
#2 Launch Products and New Messaging
When done right, on-demand sales guidance delivered through sales kits (aka playbooks) drives learning at the point when salespeople and partners are most engaged: when interacting with buyers on real deals.
I often get asked about the contents of an effective sales kit from a sales person’s perspective. Think about a sales kit as providing sales with a starting point for their buyer conversations. For example:
- Top 5 discovery questions to understand the buyer’s needs
- Top 3 things that make your solution unique and set the buyer’s vision
- Email/social content templates to pique the buyer’s interest to take a meeting
- One-liner customer testimonials for each of the verticals you target to gain credibility
- Top 5 things that analysts and your partners are saying to engage buyers
When sellers and partners know there is value in attending your product launch/training calls as it prepares them to engage buyers, they show up. Customers have shared examples where the attendance of product launch/training sessions went from less than 40 percent to over 80 percent. When preparing, think about what a salesperson would need to have in mind after the product launch or training session in order to immediately get on the phone with a buyer as a trusted advisor.
Also, develop methods to learn and promote what’s working in the field. I’ve seen organizations where the field sales and services groups provide over 50 percent of the content used in daily selling activities. The phrase from the movie Jerry Maguire – “help me help you” – comes to mind; with this model in place, the enablement team quickly gleans proven content as a by-product of selling. Sales is a great source of information about strategic inflection points, and the selling machine tracks their behavior and that of the client through the buyer’s journey.
As you build content and tools, consider whether each item you create will decrease selling time, and ensure it can be delivered in a way that the salesperson can best use it. Give sales what the buyers need, and deliver it so it can easily be shared via email, portals, social media and other methods in a way that is trackable.
Let’s say I’m a sales rep making a call in New York, and it’s been weeks since the product launch and training. I’m meeting with an insurance company that has one of the common problems the solution I represent solves. I enter information about the opportunity into the selling machine, and in return it presents me the right questions to ask, customer success stories to share for this vertical, and the top three differentiators for my solutions. Then, it provides a quick way to deliver a business case for the solution. Deliver all this using mobile devices and not only will you drive adoption, but input from the field will allow you to know within weeks of a product launch/training session what’s working and what’s not.
Get Started – and Avoid Stopping
The process of assessing sales enablement maturity and identifying high value sales enablement use cases takes as little as a few hours. You don’t need to immediately fix every gap you uncover with the sales enablement assessment – in fact, many organizations are overwhelmed by the gaps they uncover and then lose momentum for change. Avoid that by eating the elephant one bite at a time. For example, start with the high-impact use cases mentioned here for the next product release and sales boot camp. Then, once executed, tie the work back to business outcomes to communicate the value of sales enablement to all the stakeholders in the organization – and then stake out your next area of improvement.