When they were little, my kids were great salespeople. If they wanted something and they knew it was going to be a hard sell, they’d establish rapport by doing something nice for us, look for an angle on how their desired decision would benefit us, and carefully select the right “decision maker” (mom or dad?) and optimal timing for their pitch.
Complete naturals. Sometimes, more often than I like to admit, it even worked :)
To nobody’s surprise, however, during that time I hired not even one of them to sell my company’s products.
Just because a kid is great at selling the benefits of buying a smartphone or adopting a puppy doesn’t mean they understand and can execute on the intricacies of a professional sales-related job. They simply don’t have the skill set or the standing to do it.
Yet in many cases, companies are doing something very similar when it comes to establishing and filling the sales enablement role. Here’s how.
Are you making one of these 5 mistakes?
Organizations with a dedicated sales enablement function consistently outperform those without. It’s certainly not a mistake to invest in establishing this role, but too many companies are going about it a reactive way.
Thinking that the role is mostly about technology, or mostly about content, or mostly about administration, they hire or promote someone from one of these roles to fill the position:
- A technical expert
- An operations professional
- A marketing professional
- A content developer
- An administrative professional
Unfortunately for these companies and the people they saddle with this role, the job is about much more than just one thing. In fact, when it’s done right, it’s a highly complex job with enormous responsibilities, and is best treated as an executive or junior executive function. Here’s why.
Why the sales enablement role is bigger than you think
The sales enablement role isn’t just about content, or tools. To be successful, the role requires substantial orchestration across multiple departments, and a clear, working understanding of many different functions. Here are a few.
- Strategy. This is the most often overlooked aspect of the sales enablement role. It’s why many organizations who promote someone in an administrative support role into sales enablement are surprised when their investment doesn’t work out. In order to effectively enable sales, the person in this role needs to understand the strategy that’s driving sales in their organization.
- Sales. In order to enable it, the person in this role must truly understand sales of the complexity that your sales teams are involved in. The role should be filled with someone who has relevant front-line sales experience and sales management experience, so that they have an in-depth understanding of what is needed in order to enable those roles.
- Process and methodology. It’s not enough to have a gut understanding of sales. The person in this role needs to understand process and methodology and how to apply it, modify it, and reinforce it to serve the entire sales force.
- Technology. Today’s sales technologies make possible what would have been fantasy even a short few years ago. Process-based milestones, checklists, intelligent analytics, searchable digital content libraries, context-based training resources, automated call recording. All of these functions can be important to sales enablement, and the person in charge of choosing and implementing sales enablement technology must be able to understand and navigate the constantly changing, complex technology landscape.
- Orchestration. In addition to understanding each of the above functions, the person in this role must be skilled and driven in working across organizational functions and departments to coordinate all the many aspects of sales enablement. They must be skilled in navigating organizational politics and winning buy-in and understanding the needs and limitations of all stakeholders.
Avoiding the disablement of enablement
Finally, and critically important, the person in this role must have organizational standing. It’s an extremely common mistake to promote someone into this role from a support role, treat them like a mid-level employee, and expect them to establish relationships across the organization and drive change that impacts almost everyone in the company.
This approach ought to be called “disablement of enablement.” It’s when you promote a person with a limited skill set to the enablement role and disempower them by giving the role standing as a support position rather than a leadership position.
So, who should be in charge of the sales enablement role? Someone with standing in your organization (or the skills and position to gain it), a wealth of cross-departmental knowledge and skills, and the ability to orchestrate it all with strength and finesse.
Sound tough? It is. That’s why so many organizations struggle with it, and why this position needs a lot more attention from executives and organization leaders than it currently gets.
For more on how to establish effective sales enablement in your organization, download our white paper here.
Of course I’d love to tell you that you can simply buy our software and it will solve all your sales enablement problems, but that would be a lie. We do believe, however, that Membrain is the best tool available to support a strategic sales enablement initiative. I’d love to show your sales enablement team what it can do.