Every successful sports coach will tell you that games aren’t just won on the field or court. They’re won during planning and practice.
The same can be said for sales enablement.
Earlier in my career, I helped build a global sales enablement team at Oracle Marketing Cloud that designed, deployed, and measured a sales onboarding program integral to a business unit responsible for $675M in annual recurring revenue. From that, and many other experiences, I’ve learned a thing or two about the planning that goes into a successful sales enablement program.
So, today, we’re going to look at the five important aspects to building a high-performing sales enablement program through planning and preparation:
- Talent Assessment and Acquisition
- Sales Onboarding
- Role Specific Business Acumen
- Sales Leadership Coaching
The strategy below is an excerpt from my new book, Sales Enablement 3.0 (The Blueprint to Sales Enablement Excellence).
Talent Assessment and Acquisition
The first step to creating a sales enablement program is to ensure you have the right talent in the right place. You need to define or redefine your ideal employee profile (IEP).
There are four steps to this.
- Understanding the current and future demands of the position
- Creating a clear job description
- Making a list of characteristics you want to see in your ideal employee
- Developing actionable evaluation criteria
This will help you evaluate your current sales team’s strengths and fine-tune your search for new hires.
Without a focus on talent assessment and acquisition, the next six details won’t make sense. So, take your time on this step, and make sure you maximize the talent you have.
If you don’t have the right onboarding process to back up your new hires, you’re leaving revenue on the table and making it very difficult for them to succeed.
It’s critical that you align your sales onboarding program with your company’s new hire orientation.
Your sales onboarding program should feel like a funnel, starting with a general company overview and progressively getting closer to the ground by transitioning into sales-specific content.
Let’s take a closer look at the four parts of the onboarding funnel:
Company Overview: This is a high-level overview of the company, touching on points such as department structure, management team, and mission statement.
Company Culture: Focus on the internal beliefs and behaviors that set your company apart from others. Creating a high-performing sales culture can establish the groundwork for success.
Employee Benefits: This includes but isn’t limited to insurance, retirement, and expense accounts.
Sales Acumen: Talk to employees about target prospects, how to find them, and the general sales cycle.
Your number one goal here should be to reinforce to your employee that they’ve joined the right company and that you’ll position them for a long, successful career.
If you can successfully do this, you’ll win long-term employee loyalty that will pay off big.
Audit your current program
Before you begin implementing your onboarding program,ask yourself these five questions to make sure you’re not missing anything:
How will your sales onboarding program prioritize teaching about addressing your customer’s needs versus selling your company’s products or services?
Is your sales onboarding program based on mastering sales conversations while simultaneously listening, talking, and utilizing technology?
Does your sales onboarding program enable a blend of structured and self-paced learning?
Does your sales onboarding program include role-specific, on-the-job, and peer mentoring throughout the learning experience?
Does your sales onboarding program continue once the course or workshop experience is complete?
These questions will give you a good base to know where the focus of your onboarding program should be.
Remember, this isn’t the time to design a sales onboarding program in a vacuum. Don’t give your sales team what you think they need. Talk with your top-performers. Find out what is actually important to their success, and make sure you’re training your new hires to fill those gaps.
Role-Specific Business Acumen
The next step is to build role-specific content, tools, and learning plans for inclusion in your sales enablement program.
Content that’s too technical for one sales role may not be technical enough for another. This is why role-specific content plays such a big part in your sales enablement program.
Take, for example, BDR (business development representative) and SDR (sales development representative) roles. The primary responsibility of each is to qualify or disqualify leads at the initial stage of the sales cycle. So, the majority of your sales enablement activities should focus on sharpening their discovery and qualification skills.
This is content like…
- The top priority questions for your company’s ideal customer profile
- Tools and platforms to automate and scale the search for contact information
- The components of the prospect’s website that will yield the most value prior to making the first contact
Focus on format
Giving your team the right information is only half the battle. It also needs to be delivered in a way that’s clear, concise, consistent, and easily accessible so they can use it effectively in the middle of a deal.
So, rather than ask them to sit through a 60-minute module, share knowledge bites with them. These are short, three to five-minute assets, such as podcasts and blog posts, that focus on how other BDRs/SDRs have achieved success.
Approach your enablement content for every role with a clean slate. Every sales position has unique needs and problems to solve. Even if they need the same information, they may need it delivered in a different way.
Here’s a saying I often repeat — you train animals, but you enable people.
It’s simple to train someone to do a task once, but that’s not what sales enablement is all about.
Instead, you want to focus on continuous improvement to ensure practical application of what has been learned.
You need to provide a roadmap around how their position and industry will continually change.
Who owns reinforcement
The difficulty here is that while you’re responsible for the framework, strategy, and metrics, the reinforcement process can’t be owned by the sales enablement team. It should be owned, adopted, and modeled by the first and second-line managers (FLMs).
You can provide the best sales enablement program, but if FLMs don’t model it on a daily basis, it’ll die a slow and painful death.
The most direct route to success is in the partnership between your sales enablement organization and sales leaders. When the two align, the result is a deployment of revenue impacting processes, programs, platforms, and tools.
Sales Leadership Coaching
The biggest mistake I’ve witnessed in my career (and there are many) is neglecting sales leaders when it comes to coaching.
Too many times, sales enablement practitioners assume that sales leaders have all the knowledge required to be a good coach. Or at the very least, they’ll take the time to learn how to guide their team.
I’ve come to realize that nothing could be further from the truth.
Think about it this way — some of the best athletes of all time failed when they retired from the playing field and moved to the sideline. They were unable to translate why they were successful as a player into a scalable and repeatable process as a coach.
I don’t believe most sales managers think they’re inept coaches. In fact, most of them probably believe the opposite.
The issue is that most don’t understand what coaching really entails. They don’t understand how to coach.
Take the time to harness the best practices of each manager, working with them to create a scalable and repeatable process that will benefit their team.
I’ll leave you with a word of advice that I heard early in my sales enablement career:
“The net worth of any sales leader is their belief that their team is successful based upon their coaching advice, previous experience and drive to succeed.
If you want to gain the respect and support of a sales leader, you must show them why they need to change the way that they are doing things today, not just how you’re going to show them how changing will yield different and sometimes stronger results.”
Put Your Team in Position to Win
Just the same as sales leaders, sales enablement practitioners wear a number of hats.
Because of that, much of your success will depend on how well you plan, prepare, and design your enablement program.
When you design it properly, you put yourself and the rest of your team in a position to achieve success.