Presently, the concept of Sales Enablement gets a lot of attention from the sales community. Especially from sales leaders who are struggling to meet their numbers. They initiate sales enablement projects, hoping that a group of external consultants with broad expertise in sales management can get their sales organization back on track. Months and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, the consultants leave. After another couple of months, sales leadership realizes that the adoption of the new initiatives is everything, but a success.
You don’t need consultants to make things worse!
External consultants confuse the sales organization when they bring in methodologies and concepts that are unfamiliar to the sales organization. The consultants often speak a “different language” and as a result they gain very little respect. Traditional consultants are also at a disadvantage because they are analytical and process oriented in their approach. After all, if they weren’t analytical and process oriented they wouldn’t be consultants! Therefore, they invent and introduce forms, templates and concepts that sales reps hate to use because reps are typically not analytical and process oriented. Reps utilize their intuitive instinct and people skills to create results.
Sales enablement projects can make a significant contribution to your sales force, but you must hire someone that the sales team will respect, preferably someone with a lot of sales experience, and give this person a sales leadership role with a clear responsibility to focus on four key things:
1. Demystify the sales enablement concept
Sales enablement is a leadership discipline and the sole objective of sales enablement is to ensure that processes, practices, technologies and tools that improve the performance and the productivity of the sales organization are implemented and fully adopted by employees responsible for selling. In short: make it easy for sales people to sell! Don’t make it harder.
The first order of business for the sales enablement leader is to meet with the sales reps to determine what they feel is preventing them from being productive and effective. Every stone should be turned and the day in the life of the sales rep should be thoroughly mapped.
2. Consolidate and create one system of record
Start by simplifying and “decrapifying” your CRM system and then move on to develop “thought leadership” content to be used by sales teams when selling.
Stop using spreadsheets and complex off-line templates. If support tools and information is not in your CRM system, it is highly unproductive, you have no transparency and most often these tools are never adopted in the long run.
One of my customers had determined that if reps maintain a SWOT analysis on behalf of their prospect, it gives them an advantage during prospect meetings and it helps them prepare and share important prospect information with sales team members. They had evidence that there was a correlation between maintaining a SWOT analysis and winning a deal. Therefore, a consultant made a fancy multi sheet Excel workbook and reps were to use this workbook and keep it updated with SWOT analysis, stakeholder data, white space analysis, account strategy and other things. This approach kills sales rep productivity and management has absolutely no visibility into who is maintaining this report on an on-going basis and who is not.
If you are using a CRM system like Saleforce.com or Microsoft CRM, your CRM admins are able to (or should learn how to!) create these templates and forms inside your CRM system. Find out what tools to use to help reps sell more and build these right into your CRM system or invest in built in apps that help with this. It is super easy to do and it should be super easy for reps to use. Don’t kill their productivity by asking them to maintain a gazillion fields and forms in CRM while also updating off-line templates.
3. Determine your true sales best practice and verifiable outcomes
Companies spent too much time thinking about and designing their sales process. I have seen customers with 8-12 stages in a sales process, each with long lists of things to check off before reps can move it into the next stage. Reps hate checklists and checklists are easy to check off if you want to move something forward!
Either you are Qualifying, Selling or Closing. Those should be your steps and you should be more concerned with determining verifiable outcomes and reporting on those rather than listing a to-do that a sales rep must comply with (yes, yes…the selling stage can be split into a few more stages, but I am trying to make a point).
Sales enablement leaders should focus on making it easy to discuss and determine the status of each deal in the pipeline and the forecast. Today most pipeline reports are just spreadsheets with a sales rep gut-feel close date and a gut-feel close probability for each deal. Too much time is spent discussing the true status of each deal in the pipeline and often reps never get to talk about or get coached on the deals that are not closing this month or this quarter.
Determine the key verifiable outcomes that are specific to the way you sell.
- What relationships should be established within the customer’s stakeholder group?
- What should reps know about the customer’s business before positioning a solution?
- What commitments should reps get from the customer before demoing the solution to them?
- Who should confirm that the business case for the solution is valid before writing a proposal?
- What evidence should reps get from who within the customer’s organization about the acceptance of our solution before we can forecast this deal?
- ...and so on.
Sales enablement leaders should look at all the deals won and determine from those deals what the verifiable outcomes were at the different stages of deal progression. These outcomes should be grouped into categories that you can report on from within the CRM system. These categories and the status of each verifiable outcome now becomes the basis for deal status discussions, sales coaching, pipeline reporting and forecasting.
4. Make it easy for reps to establish your value proposition
Most sales reps can learn to give the corporate pitch and most will quickly learn all the functions, features and benefits of your solution. But simply showing up and pitching your solution will not do the job when selling solutions with a complex value proposition and a big price tag.
Sales enablement leaders should implement tools that help reps establish a prospect’s specific value proposition. This includes helping the reps and sales team members uncover customer challenges and opportunities, getting these documented and helping to get it translated into specific commercial insight. And it includes helping the reps establish a prospect specific business case in a format that can be shared and discussed with all involved buying group members and influencers.
The target customer groups for sales enablement projects are sales leaders and sales reps alike. Make the life of the sales rep as easy as possible, give reps the tools they need to effectively build relationships with all the right people in the customer’s organization and provide them with prospect specific content that helps them position your solutions in such a way they come across as industry leading experts. Built your tools, processes and support templates directly into your CRM system so sales leadership can pull intelligent reports which allow them to conduct meaningful coaching conversations with reps and while accurately understanding the pipeline and the forecast.