by: Michelle Seger
While you can’t expect a Sales Enablement team to do everything, you should know what the team does, what it doesn’t do, and what it could be doing to drive sales. As obvious as that sounds, we talk with many sales leaders who don’t have these seemingly basic answers. It’s not always their fault. Sometimes the Sales Enablement functions belong to other groups, which can be a problem if the different groups neglect to engage in regular, serious, deep-down conversations about what Sales needs and how Sales Enablement can help.
While Sales Enablement may go by different names—such as Sales Operations or Sales Support—because it resides in different departments and handles different responsibilities across organizations, there’s abundant evidence that Sales Enablement teams with clearly defined missions are more effective, more respected, and more relied upon than groups at organizations with leaders who can’t easily articulate Sales Enablement’s role.
Specifically, where Sales Enablement is most effective there are regular conversations around the Sales organization’s biggest challenges: visibility into accounts; unrealistic quotas; confusion around the sales incentive plan; dashboards that don’t reflect how the sales team is actually performing.
Not every organization faces the same challenges, but it’s surprising how many never even have these conversations. We’ve seen organizations where, for example, Human Resources owns the sales incentive plan. That might not be a bad thing. But does HR know the difference between a bonus program and an incentive program? If not, they need to have a conversation with Sales leaders. Similarly, if IT is in charge of the sales dashboard, how well do the tech leaders know the Sales business? Did someone from IT sit down with Sales for a deep dive into key metrics, goals, and historical sales data? Does the CIO know the challenges salespeople and Sales leaders face? Does IT know which data Sales needs, when they need it, and why?
Conversations should commence with the Sales leader describing the pain points in the context of ROI. Whether speaking with HR, IT, or another business unit, the Sales leader needs to begin with: “If I had X, it would drive revenue like this.” Associating the need with ROI will get Finance’s attention—and it will show the other groups that Sales is part of the team.
If Finance insists on owning quota setting, for example, that may be fine—as long as the CFO is willing to listen to the Sales leader’s explanation of pain points, past challenges, the competitive landscape, and issues salespeople are facing in the field. One reason Finance might own Sales Enablement could be that Finance doesn’t trust the Sales leader. Finance, after all, is looking at margins, while a Sales leader is looking at driving revenues. If neither can understand the other’s perspective, how can Finance provide Sales with meaningful support? These conversations often require persuasion—and as you know, it’s nearly impossible to persuade a CFO of anything unless you come to the table with supporting evidence.
We’ve seen organizations where Sales Enablement is a part of the Training organization. That’s not a bad arrangement either, especially in companies where salespeople require education in products, selling processes, account planning, etc. Again, this structure requires in-depth conversations about the biggest sales challenges Sales Enablement must support.
If your organization’s Sales Enablement resources belong to business units other than Sales, here are a few basic guidelines to improve visibility and drive sales revenue:
• Hold regular cross-functional reviews. On a monthly basis, bring together representatives from each group that owns Sales Enablement functions. If you agree that sales ops is going to own customer relationship management (CRM), quota setting, or pricing, you’d meet monthly with Marketing, Finance, and IT. Each would report on their current status and goals. Finance might say something like, “We need to maintain a 38 percent margin.” When Sales leaders hear that and have it added the dashboard, then all begin to track it as a team and it builds trust. At first, these meetings may look and feel like audits. But eventually, trust and advocacy will develop, and it will begin to feel more like a touch-base session. For example, when Finance sees Sales is staying within the guidelines to hit that 38 percent margin, it builds goodwill and fosters stronger communication and a sense of “we’re in this together.” As we mentioned earlier, every organization is different; there is no one-size-fits-all. Look at the biggest pain points and determine where the pain is coming from. If it’s quota setting and quota is owned by Finance, then Sales should begin by partnering with Finance, reporting jointly and informing each other.
• Give parameters. Ideally, if you are in Sales, you have the opportunity to address these other groups and get their buy-in, explaining, “Here is the problem, here is the solution, here is how we pay for the solution, and here is the ROI.” You have to know what the organization needs and what you can do to fill the need, and you have to be able to state it clearly—and often—to receptive ears in the other groups.
• Be visionary. You need to define what the Sales organization needs and who should own it. It goes back to defining Sales Enablement’s mission. Keep coming back to that: What is the mission? What functions can and should Sales Enablement provide? How can it help Sales function more effectively and efficiently? What should Sales leadership be focused on? Where does Sales need help and support?
There is no single best way to organize a Sales Enablement function. Regardless of where the resources report, the key to success is ongoing communication, advocacy, transparency, and trust. Sales Enablement that asks the right questions, gets answers that can be acted upon, and takes action on what it learns is Sales Enablement that drives the organization’s sales goals.
This article was originally posted October 25, 2019 by Training Magazine.
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