CEO Blog Nation: Don’t Call Them Benefits–The New Sales Enablement Landscape


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By Michelle Seger

When you think of sales enablement, what is the first thing that comes to mind? It could be CRM and how it’s supporting your people. Or you might think about training, collateral and other tangibles that support the customer sales journey. But as the selling landscape continues to evolve, sales enablement encompasses far more, including elements you may have once considered employee value proposition perks.

Recently, SalesGlobe surveyed more than 1,000 salespeople with an international technology company about tangible and intangible benefits. Working from home and flexible working hours tied as the second most important factors in job satisfaction, just behind compensation. Respondents expressed dismay that a flexible working model would even be considered a “benefit” anymore. The ability to telecommute and flexible hours may be considered a benefit for non-selling positions, but are considered key sales enablement for success by your sales team.

As we look beyond this survey and focus on trends in sales organizations across multiple industries, we find that flexible work models, true PTO, and a blend of tech-assisted and in-person connections are becoming key to effective sales enablement.

Flexible Work Environments and Schedules

Sales teams, which are motivated primarily by incentive pay and winning the deal at all costs, are expressing that flexible working hours and the ability to work from anywhere are table stakes for any selling role. Because of the demands of the jobs, company leaders need to realize that these are no longer differentiators, but instead are requirements. If such flexibility is not part of your culture now, it’s time to take steps in this direction.

What to do?

While the debate blazes about working from home versus in-office presence for salespeople, we find a blended model works best. Flexibility in work time and place enables salespeople to produce effectively, but nothing can replace the sense of community and team camaraderie that comes from in-person connections. Create opportunities for team members to share updates, best practices and problem solve with one another in weekly hands-on calls or meetings. Bring the sales team together a few times a year and change the tone of such meetings to include storytelling and sharing of what works. As well, sending out sales leaders or product experts to provide hands-on training helps remote sales team members feel more confident about their product lines. These connection points are critical to unifying salespeople in achieving goals together, no matter where they work daily.

Be mindful of the professionals you have working for you and let them hold the keys to flex work balance. At the end of the day, performance tells the story.

True PTO

We’re all familiar with Paid Time Off. But how often do you require salespeople on vacation to call in, check email, or attend a meeting for “just an hour?” While it’s reasonable to expect salespeople to check email/voicemail for emergencies – and some will do it to clean slate their in-box before returning – expecting on-vacation team members to be accessible defeats the purpose of vacation.

What to do?

A strong leader should enforce the message that time off is time off; not “out-of-office-but –available.” If a salesperson is submitting requests ahead of time, a plan should be in place for account coverage. Initiate a team system that allows management of one salesperson’s book to be taken care of by another rep while they’re on vacation.

Some companies have expanded PTO opportunities for staff members to promote longevity. Intel and General Mills, for example, each offer lengthy sabbatical programs for employees who have been with the companies for seven years or longer, encouraging them to recharge and refresh. Not every company needs to initiate a program like this. But showing employees that their personal interests are worthy of pursuit and that they deserve extended time off cements company loyalty and energizes their approach when they return.

At times when demand for PTO is high, like the week between Christmas and New Year’s), consider a full office closure. Yes, it’s bold. Evaluate how much work is done during that time. Are most accounts quiet? Is there benefit to having sales teams active during this period? Many companies are experimenting with this approach, and finding it doesn’t impact sales negatively. Before putting such a practice into place, notify customers that your team will respond to emergencies, but general activities will wrap up before the closed period.

Ultimately, the goal is to respect PTO and enable salespeople to truly be off. When brain and body are relaxed and refreshed, exceptional thinking and boosted productivity are the results.

Remote Collaboration and Unified Communications

Do you think you have a platform to support remote collaboration and communications? Let’s check. Can salespeople be truly remote? Can they update the CRM from a mobile device? Can they conduct a customer demo via web conference? Can they see where they stand with quota achievement and incentive pay? Are your sales leaders conducting weekly meetings via video conference?  Many organizations may say that they enable remote collaboration and communications within the sales organization, but they really don’t.  Developing a seamless communications experience with increasingly mainstream and reliable technology means increasing salesperson productivity significantly. That translates to both company revenues and sales incentive compensation – a winning proposition for all.

What to do?

Web and video conferencing, just one dimension of unified communications, allows salespeople to spend less time on the road and provides more frequent touchpoints with clients and each other.  Spending less time on planes or cars means reps have more time to build business, sales capacity and, most importantly, focus on the deal. To quote the EVP of Global Sales for a leading unified communications company, “In today’s selling environment, speed wins the game.” Providing your sales organization with real-time information and connectivity at any point in time is a differentiator today, and the name of the game for tomorrow.  The ability for internal sales teams to meet via video conferencing brings camaraderie and sharing to a new level that is difficult to quantify in ROI. What we do know is that sales teams are collaborating and sharing their knowledge, and we expect shared knowledge makes any sales organization better in the long run.  Many organizations who’ve begun to adapt this technology and empower salespeople to use it are seeing positive results quickly.

The CRM Connection

For salespeople, the biggest questions are: How big is my pipeline? How am I doing against quota? What’s the status of my deal? If you’re not providing answers, the sales team is spending time figuring it out instead of producing more sales.

Access to a CRM mapped to the sales process is one of the most effective sales enablement tools available. The CRM needs to provide what the sales team needs, not just be a reporting function for top leadership. Make sure work flow is set up so that when one event occurs, the next automatically follows. For example, if a salesperson enters a customer opportunity, the next step could be to email all team members who would participate in this customer’s needs analysis meeting. This accomplishes two tasks at once, making it easier and more efficient for salespeople, while at the same time giving managers insight into sales progress. To drive CRM usage, consider the pain points and needs of your sales organization. Include a plan calculator to give direct visibility of deal impact and payout progress.

When the CRM is providing information that sales needs, adoption and regular usage increases, leading to more transparent sales cycles and more effective time usage.

Hire Right

All the support in the world won’t help a salesperson who isn’t right for the job. Remember that training and ramping up a new salesperson is very expensive. Each one you lose costs you 2 to 2.5 times the cost of maintaining salary of the original one. Successful sales organizations always start with hiring correctly.

What to do?

Develop descriptive role profiles instead of simple job descriptions detailing tasks. Think about the traits that your top 10% performers have in the roles like ones you’re looking to fill.  Do you need creative problem-solving? Are verbal skills important? Should this person be an initiative-taker who can price packages independently? The recommended approach is to consider an objective assessment of your top performers to use as a baseline for the rest of the organization. The assessment should include the key areas of quantitative, qualitative and behavioral requirements needed for the job.

Beyond interviewing and checking off basic skills, put candidates through the same top performer assessment to determine their percentage of fit and, therefore, ability to succeed in the role. Asking prescriptive questions and strategically assessing talent results in well-matched hires. This automatically brings down sales churn numbers and confirms your new hires are poised to succeed.

Focusing on just a few key measurable sales enablement practices like these and continuing to monitor your sales team needs can significantly impact the effectiveness of your team and company revenue.

This article originally appeared in Rescue a CEO–A CEO Blog Nation community.