We’ve all worked at a company that has made the mistake of buying a piece of technology without having an effective way to deploy it. The typical result – half-hearted adoption followed by technology abandonment.
And you know what? A similar thing happens with sales enablement. A company decides they need to hire a sales enablement person, but they don’t really know what they want that person to do. They bring someone on board even though there’s no real plan in place, setting the new hire up for failure before they’ve even begun.
The key to successful sales enablement is really thinking things through before jumping in. You need to take the time to assess your unique situation so you have a really clear understanding of your goals and what your teams need to reach them.
It sounds simple, but plenty of organizations mess it up.
I’m pretty passionate about getting sales enablement right. My years in strategy, analysis, and partnerships have taught me that there are four things that have to happen to really do it well. It’s not rocket science, but these things are overlooked often enough that it’s worth it to spell them out.
4 Steps to Successful Sales Enablement
The objective of sales enablement is to ensure that the sales team is able to access and take full advantage of the tools they need to succeed. This includes information, content, and playbooks; but it also involves the operational side of things in terms of systems, platforms, and workflows.
In both the marketing and operational areas, the key responsibility of sales enablement is to make sure that whatever tools and resources are being implemented, that they’re set up correctly right from the start. Successful sales enablement requires a strong foundation.
Step 1. Have a plan.
Would you invest in a major piece of technology without knowing exactly how it would help your team? Probably not. The same due diligence applies to a sales enablement hire. After all, someone’s salary represents a pretty substantial investment. You want to make sure you know how that investment is going to be put to work and – ultimately – pay off.
Most organizations initially need a Jack-of-all-trades type of person. That’s fine to start, but you still need to get clarity and consensus around where you want them to focus their efforts. Do you need to spin up a boot camp? Are you looking to support the ramp-up of a slew of new hires? Come up with a solid game plan.
Next, get buy-in from all the internal stakeholders. Sales enablement is one of those roles that can fall into a gray area if you’re not definitive about responsibilities. When the lines get blurry, sales enablement can get pulled in unplanned directions (often on the operational side of things), which derails them from their original purpose.
As your organization grows, you may have the opportunity to expand and diversify your sales enablement team by adding specialists. There are many different “flavors” of enablement you can leverage depending on your sales team’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance, you might need someone with an operations background or someone with experience being out in the field.
Whichever kind of person you need, defining exactly what they will be doing will help you identify the specific skills you need to look for when interviewing.
Step 2. Hire the right kind of person.
In addition to role-specific skills, there are three attributes that are mandatory for any sales enablement professional:
To be effective in sales enablement, a person has to have been a salesperson themselves. In fact, I’d say they have to have been a successful salesperson. This isn’t just about experience, it’s about credibility. A good sales enablement pro can speak the language. They’ve been in the trenches and understand the day-to-day challenges. They aren’t going to suggest things that will make the sales team roll their eyes.
Stellar Organizational and Planning Skills
It almost goes without saying, but organization and planning are critical in sales enablement. There are a lot of moving parts, many of which require coordination with people from different functional areas. The person heading up all this activity needs to be able to see ahead and anticipate consequences and ripple effects.
Experience Managing Multiple Priorities
To be successful, a sales enablement person also needs to be able to keep pace with shifting priorities – both their own, and the organization’s. They need to be able to grasp the big picture so they know where to make concessions, trade-offs, and pivots.
Step 3. Use the right metrics.
Measuring sales enablement performance and progress is the only way to be sure you’re getting a good return on your investment. Having established your objectives up-front, you then need to identify which metrics will help you track and assess whether your sales enablement activities are moving the needle in the right direction.
Which metrics you use will vary depending on the objectives you’re pursuing, but a few common ones include:
- Ramp Time — Getting new sales hires to full productivity as quickly as possible is a common goal. Over time, you want to see this going down as you add tools and resources to get new team members up to speed in record time.
- Quota Participation Rate — Getting a high quota participation rate is probably the biggest thing sales enablement can tackle. Each organization will have sales stars who rise to the top and crush it every time. The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is hitting quota on a regular basis. That gives you stability and sustainability for the long term.
- Close Rate — It’s helpful to look at close rates from two different angles – with competition and without. There’s a very different dynamic to these two kinds of deals. Segmenting them offers an opportunity to refine your enablement on both tracks.
Whichever metrics you choose, make sure you’re very clear about how you’re calculating them and how you’re interpreting them. Get geeky about the data. Dig deeper and follow through on what each data point means. That approach will give you everything you need to optimize your sales enablement practice.
Step 4. Go for the long play.
Finally, remember that sales enablement is not a once-and-done thing. There is plenty of front-loaded effort around building systems, creating content, and training salespeople; but there is also a lot of ongoing management and evolution that needs to happen over the long term.
Your customer needs will change. Your product will change. The market will change. Nothing stays static, and neither can your sales enablement tactics.
Successful sales enablement professionals balance in-the-moment insights and initiatives with long-term goals and plans. They start with the end in mind – getting as specific as possible – and then keep themselves (and their team) accountable every day.
That’s how you win at sales enablement: think it through, make your plan, hire the right people, measure your progress, and then rinse and repeat so your efforts evolve with your business.
Ready to help your customers buy? Download the Conversational Sales Handbook here.
Before joining Outreach, Stephen led corporate strategy efforts at an insurance company with a specific focus on enabling the sales team to sell new products and new markets. Stephen took a big leap into technology, landing at Outreach in its very early stages. After some time as their top SDR and SDR Manager, he moved into partnerships. He built, launched, and now manages Outreach Galaxy – Outreach’s partner program.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post. Interested in contributing content to the Drift blog? Email Molly Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.