What is your sales enablement initiative really enabling?

I have a bit of a confession to make … I am a life-long sales person.  In fact, I was even raised by sales people. So, I have to admit that I was pleased to see Chanin Ballance’s comments about leveraging sales enablement solutions to increase the selling time for sales teams.  After all, as a sales person, I hated administrative tasks. At times I truly believed that my company would rather have me completing reports than selling.  Had anyone asked me, I would happily have told them that the key to me selling more was to eliminate as many administrative tasks as possible!

However, in reality, that wasn’t exactly accurate for me then, and may not be for other sales people now.  A short time back I had a conversation about this very topic with a particularly bright sales enablement leader.  She was reacting to complaints from the sales team that they were so overwhelmed with administrative tasks that they had no time left to sell.  Her response was simple and direct, “The volume of work,” she said, “always expands to fill the available time.” In other words, people weren’t skipping meetings with customers and prospects because of the plethora of administrative tasks; they either didn’t have enough customers and prospects to meet or weren’t adding enough value to justify meetings and therefore a significant amount of time was “filled” with administrative tasks.  

Before you start typing out your comment below about me being a complete idiot, please read a bit further.

Remember my opening, I too am a sales person, and I hate administrative work.  Removing administrative burdens for sales people is absolutely a GOOD THING, it just ISN’T THE ONLY THING that is going to make your enablement initiative a raging success.  In fact, in her article Chanin cites CSO Insights research that validates this point.  Sales enablement initiatives increased 81% from 2016 to 2017 while only 1/3 of the enablement initiatives met or exceeded the company’s expectations.  Chanin advises that improving the impact of our enablement initiatives requires a more holistic approach, and I agree completely.

More time to do the same job in the same way doesn’t produce better results.

If we want our sales teams to produce dramatically better results, we need to enable them to compete more effectively, and we need to think more holistically about what it is that we are really enabling.  In our recent webinar with Sales Management Association, Building a Sales Dynasty, we talk about the four steps companies can take to build a true sales dynasty – we might just as easily have titled it, “The Four Keys to Sale Enablement Excellence.”  We won’t cover all four characteristics here, instead we will focus on what may be the greatest point of leverage for your sales enablement initiative – helping people achieve exceptional execution with your key selling models.


Ideal Selling Models

In order to effectively enable sales success, it is essential the initiative start by defining the ideal selling models.  This generally includes the following (though the final three are not always required):

  1. Customer Conversation Models – without commonly understood models for the five essential customer conversations it is extraordinarily difficult to help sales people improve their performance.  More time to engage customers in the same way rarely produces better results.
  2. Funnel Management Models – most companies measure the wrong metrics and use them in the wrong way.  Every person in the organization should have their own personal sales success plan that defines what they must generate in terms of leading or predictive sales indicators.  Universal funnel standards can actually do more harm than good and should be avoided (see “The Worst Metric in Sales”)
  3. Opportunity Management – for organizations working more complex opportunities with longer sales cycles, a model for analyzing the opportunities, sharing information and building winning strategies is essential.
  4. Account Planning and Management – some organizations earn a tremendous amount of their revenue from existing customers.  Here it is imperative that the company has a model for building and executing account plans that help continually improve the overall health of these key accounts.
  5. Partner Selling – for those companies selling through partners, a model for how to work with and sell through them is an absolute requirement.

Not only does this require considerable effort, it cannot be done by committee or by simply categorizing a few best practices of your top performers.  Top performers can achieve success in a variety of ways, some of which may not be scalable across the organization. These models are clearly defined approaches to executing the behaviors that can be repeated consistently across your team.  Like so many great athletes, your people will thrive when you combine their natural talents with a model or system that affords them a competitive advantage. Their success is then limited only by their commitment to continuous improvement.

Coaching Model

Which leads us to the sixth model, and arguably your most important, the coaching model.  The reality, proven everyday with sales organizations far and wide, is that the interaction your sellers have with their managers will have a greater impact on their execution, and their performance, than anything else you do.  That being the case, a top priority for any sales enablement initiative must be to help your managers become outstanding coaches. However, this is no easy task, as there are a number of obstacles to effective sales coaching. Yet these obstacles present tremendous opportunities for your sales enablement initiative - by removing them and helping transform your seller-manager conversations from feedback to coaching, this model will supercharge every other initiative you launch.

The good news is that sales enablement is growing in importance and influence in progressive sales organizations.  Better still, the early struggles with underperforming initiatives create opportunities for sustainable competitive advantages for organizations that can define and deploy winning sales enablement initiatives.  Focus your enablement initiative on helping your managers become better coaches, and in turn helping your sellers better execute you critical selling behaviors, and see what great returns you achieve.

Want to talk about how you can guarantee the results of your sales enablement initiatives, visit us at www.axiomsfd.com or call us today at 800.933.8503.

Bob Sanders

Bob Sanders has more than 25 years experience in sales, sales management, and marketing. Bob has served as President and CEO of AXIOM Sales Force Development from 2006 to 2018. His passion about sales behavior and coaching helps develop people into their best selves. Since Bob joined AXIOM as a partner in the fall of 1993, he's helped dozens of companies around the world generate hundreds of millions in additional revenue. Bob holds a degree in Marketing from Miami University. He has been a keynote speaker at numerous corporate events and industry conferences. He is a founding underwriter and frequent contributor to the Sales Management Association. He co-authored AXIOM's “Selling Sciences Program™” workbook and audio program, and is a contributor on "A Journey to Sales Transformation". When Bob is not advocating on behalf of buyers and sellers worldwide, he is an avid cyclist, father, and husband.

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