A dozen years ago, if you asked the average sales leader about their sales enablement strategy, the likely response would’ve been, “Huh?”
It’s not as if companies in years past weren’t training and enabling their sales forces; it’s just that the term “enablement” wasn’t yet a common part of the B2B sales lexicon. (Then again, back then most people didn’t know what YouTube was either.)
Flash forward to the present, and the number of companies with dedicated sales enablement functions has more than tripled since 2013, reports CSO Insights. Thousands of people now have sales enablement in their titles on LinkedIn, and technology solutions have been born specifically to support the enablement function.
In other words, sales enablement is officially a thing.
Of course, just because more companies have now invested in sales enablement (which is good!), doesn’t mean everyone is doing it successfully. We still have a ways to go on that front.
With that in mind, here are three reasons your sales enablement program may fail to reach its full potential.
#1. No enablement for managers
When most people think of sales enablement, their minds most likely go to the knowledge and resources needed for sales reps to do their jobs more effectively. This makes sense, of course. But don’t forget that your sales managers need enablement too.
Think about the most common responsibilities of a front-line sales manager: leadership (executing strategy), forecasting, training, coaching (more on this in a moment), recruiting, and typical “manager” duties (performance reviews, etc.). Sales managers, of course, also work directly with reps in the field or on the phone throughout the selling process.
How many managers are naturally adept at all (or even most) of these areas? After all, in many cases, sales managers were promoted into those roles because they were once successful reps. But the skills required to be a great seller don’t necessarily translate to becoming a good manager. To ensure your reps get the continuous support needed to succeed long-term, developing the skills of your managers should be part of your overall sales enablement strategy.
#2. Plenty of training, not enough readiness
As stated above, every company provides some sort of training to its sales team. Whether that training sticks is another matter.
Ask yourself, what percentage of your customer-facing reps can deliver your pitch consistently and effectively? How adept are they are describing and selling to product features and enhancements as they’re released? Are they all equipped to handle common customer objections in the moment?
Questions like these go beyond whether a salesperson has or hasn’t completed training. They also demonstrate the difference between training and readiness. At a high-level, two things sales enablement programs can emphasize are:
- Commitment to coaching and assessment – Require sellers to not only complete training courses and material, but also demonstrate they’ve absorbed and mastered it. This can include face-to-face roll plays, video-based assessments (“Record yourself giving our new product pitch”), and continuous coaching, practice and feedback.
- Holistic approach to readiness – Key in on the four pillars of sales readiness: foundational (ex: onboarding), continuous (ex: new product launches), transformative (ex: new selling methodology or new market), and reactive (ex: competitor news). Companies are always changing; sales enablement requirements need to be prepared to change with them.
#3. Lack of peer learning and knowledge sharing
Most sales teams exist with a too-often untapped source of information – each other. Chances are, your top-performing reps have valuable stories to tell: how they pitch the product, how they handle objections, and (most important) how they won specific deals.
Great sales enablement strategies foster peer learning by encouraging sellers to share knowledge to improve team-wide performance. It’s sort of like shadowing – something many organizations do with new hires – only on a continuous basis.
Of course, you need to implement a practical and controlled way for this knowledge sharing to take place. Video is a huge help here, as sellers can easily record short clips of themselves describing a recent sales meeting (or some other selling activity) for others to review. The most valuable lessons could even potentially be saved and made part of formal training material for new hire onboarding and the like. The point is, sales enablement programs that aren’t utilizing some form of peer-to-peer learning are missing a big opportunity.
Naturally, there is a lot that goes into a successful sales enablement and readiness strategy, so there’s plenty more to consider beyond what’s mentioned above. But if your sales enablement could use a boost, these three areas may be a good place to start.
This week’s post is by guest author, Brendan Cournoyer, VP of Marketing for Brainshark, a sales enablement and readiness software that equips businesses with the training, coaching, and content solutions to achieve sales mastery. Connect with Brendan on Twitter and LinkedIn.