The three truths of sales enablement

26th July 2021 |   John Moore

Like any change-management programme, effective sales enablement is not rocket science but remains challenging to deliver.

I am constantly amazed by the poor understanding of enablement in the go-to-market space. Many overcomplicate it; others oversimplify and dismiss its value.

I recently delivered a webinar with the Sales Enablement Society, titled “The Only Enablement Operating Model You’ll Ever Need.” In that webinar, I provided an overview of the operating model. In this article, I will focus on the three truths of enablement, as they represent a foundation for the model itself.

If you have not achieved their corresponding requirements, these three truths will represent gaps in your programme that will weaken or destroy your success. I contend that the model needed to run enablement successfully is both easy to understand while remaining challenging to deliver well.

Key terminology

Before we start, let’s level set on a couple of key terms and phrases we should all understand before diving into this.

  • What is enablement? When I speak about enablement, I am talking about the efforts to support buyers in identifying and fixing their business challenges by buying from, and working with, your business. This capability does not require a separate enablement organization but is often best managed through an organizational model where individuals or teams oversee achieving these goals.
  • What do I mean by successful enablement? Any enablement program that delivers positive, measurable outcomes across first order and beyond should be deemed successful.

The three truths of enablement are:

  1. Active executive support is required to drive change.
  2. You must align your efforts to business outcomes and goals.
  3. The customer must always be at the centre.

These probably sound obvious to you; they do to me too. The problem is that too few organizations achieve the total value of enablement due to lacklustre buy-in and support for these truths. Let’s explore.

Active executive support is required to drive change

For the sake of the operating model, an executive sponsor must be someone sitting at the executive table with the CEO or, in large businesses, someone who runs an entire division. The executive must oversee revenue generation, revenue retention, and/or risk mitigation.

When we say active executive support, we mean that it is not enough for the executive to sponsor the programme; they need to have skin in the game. This executive’s ability to achieve their goals, and therefore the business’s goals, must be dependent upon the success of the enablement team in a visible, public manner.

How do you know if you are operating effectively concerning this item? Your enablement projects, at least the strategic ones, are aligned to your executive sponsor’s goals. You meet at least monthly with your executive sponsor to review progress. You are comfortable sitting down with your executive sponsor and asking them for help to remove obstacles because you know they are bought-in and will do what they need to do to make the program successful.

You must align your efforts to business outcomes and goals

We touched upon this above in terms of tying to the goals of your executive sponsor. However, let us step back a moment and identify what we mean by business outcomes. For the sake of the operating model, the business outcomes represent metrics tied to the following areas:

  • Revenue generation. Common examples include:
    – Increase in average contract value.
    – Increase in average deal velocity.
    – Reduction in opportunity revenue tied up in stalled deals.
  • Revenue retention. Common examples include:
    – Reduction in SaaS churn rate.
    – Reduction in the percentage of revenue in returns versus overall sales.
  • Risk reduction. Common examples include:
    – Dollars spent in litigation due to the use of non-compliant presentations.

How do you know if you are operating effectively concerning this item? Is the enablement team reporting metrics aligned to the above KPIs to the executive sponsor? Are the enablement team’s metrics reported to the rest of the go-to-market team regularly with other updates from the executive sponsor? Does the enablement team have a portion of their compensation tied to these business metrics?

The customer must always be at the centre

Let’s be honest: we all claim to put our customers at the centre of our efforts. We use words like customer-centric, customer-focused, and customer-driven. Does it mean anything? For too many businesses, the answer is no.

Many of us speak to our customers in our language, not theirs. We try to control their buying process to align it across our sales cycle versus fitting our processes on top of theirs.

I am constantly amazed by the poor understanding of enablement in the go-to-market space.

How do you know if you are operating effectively concerning this item? How much time do non-salespeople in your business spend with customers and prospects? Are your teams spending time reading articles and insights related to each customer’s business? Too often, your teams focus on becoming experts in their functional areas and invest little to no time in learning about your customers’ needs and challenges.

How much time do your sellers spend with prospects understanding their buying process? Are you performing win and loss deal reviews and explicitly learning about how these customers buy, how they view their challenges, and understanding why you won or lost the deal?

Final thoughts

There is no real magic in any of this. Most of this thinking is what great teams do and what great teams have always done. If there is any, the magic is in recognizing that we need to remain focused on the fundamentals.

Enablement is a form of change management and must be delivered to align with our champions’ business goals. Our customers’ preferences, not ours, must always shape how we do business and how we seek to satisfy their needs.

When we keep these basic principles in mind, we all win.

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John Moore, The Collaborator, partners within Bigtincan to test and refine best practices; meets with practitioners, analysts, and thought leaders; and is focused on increasing the level of adoption of Enablement best practices, processes, and tools across the globe.