Sales enablement is a multi-billion dollar industry, with more than a third of organizations reporting planned investments this year. Yet if history has anything to teach us about those investments, less than half of those initiatives will achieve most or all of their goals. The problem is that many organizations invest in point solutions without first laying the groundwork that will make their investments pay off.
If you’re planning an initiative for 2018, here are five things you must nail before you implement sales enablement.
One: Understand your buyers
Nearly every organization gives lip service to taking care of buyers, but few of them do it well. If you ask salespeople to tell you about their buyers, they may spout demographic information or tell you the size of the companies they’re trying to reach, but they’re unlikely to know critical information like:
- Which individuas inside the organization are responsible for the purchasing decision?
- What are each buyer’s most critical business drivers?
- What are each buyer’s most critical emotional drivers?
- How many other people will influence the decision? Who are they and how do they prefer to be communicated with?
- Where will they go to find information?
- What is the process by which the buying decision will be made?
- How were similar decisions made in the past?
- What other options will the buyer probably consider (not just competitors)?
- What is the personal cost to the buyer of the problem they are trying to solve?
- What are the biggest perceived obstacles to the buyer’s decision?
Only when you understand your buyers, can you devise systems that will support your salespeople in connecting effectively with them.
Two: Develop an effective sales strategy
It’s astonishing how many sales organizations either have no sales strategy, or have a sales strategy that exists in a binder on a shelf and nowhere else. Many organizations continue to rely on “super star” salespeople to close deals and drive business, rather than establishing a strategy that will help all of their team to be effective. An effective sales strategy is rooted in understanding the buyer, and must be developed at the highest levels of the organization, with the support from everyone involved in the execution of it.
Three: Translate strategy into process into workflows
Strategy that sits in a binder on a shelf is worth less than no strategy at all, since it is usually costly to develop. Once an effective strategy has been established, you must translate it into a sales process in order for it to be executed. Even then, some organizations stick their process documents on a shelf as well, or communicate it via a one-day training and then hope for the best. In order to consistently execute on strategy, the process must be built into the salespeople’s daily workflows. Technology can help with this, but it can’t replace the groundwork needed to make it effective.
Four: Establishing a shared methodology and language
All the technology in the world won’t help a struggling salesperson if they’re engaging in the wrong activities, lack effective skills, or don’t understand coaching feedback. Before you invest in the latest technologies, it’s important to establish a common methodology and terminology for communicating. Choose a methodology that aligns with your strategy and can be practiced inside your process. Then train your salespeople and managers, and reinforce the methodology consistently.
Five: Invest in coaching and management
Mike Weinberg says that the biggest problem with sales coaching today is that we don’t do it. Sales enablement can be powerful, but only if you’re not neglecting the basics of good sales management. That means making time for your managers to coach salespeople, investing in good training for your managers, and developing systems that help them help their salespeople.
Once you’ve invested in these five things, then and only then you can choose sales enablement technologies and tools that support your organization’s growth. For more on developing an effective sales enablement system, download our white paper.