Sales Enablement – CRO’s Magic Wand

Magic happens when Sales, Marketing and Product teams are aligned and operate like a well-oiled machine – it is the CRO’s ultimate mission. But as the company and teams grow, product capability expands, multiple Business and Product teams thrive to position themselves against competition in a buyer-centric world, aligning customer-facing teams becomes a major challenge.

That’s why leading organizations are moving towards a model of Sales Enablement where continuous learning, reinforcement and visibility into performance metrics across functions are embraced to generate repeatable, predictable and scalable outcomes. It is a shift from a culture of knowing to a system of fast learning, iteration and execution – as a team.

Core Capabilities

So, what do Sales Enablement teams actually do?

Gartner defines sales enablement platforms as tools that unite sales enablement functions with customer-facing sales execution. They predominantly support native content, sales training delivery and reinforcement, and sales coaching.

Content, training and coaching – are the three pillars of Sales Enablement.

Gartner also defines eight use cases organizations are using sales enablement platforms for.

  1. Customer-facing selling: Sales content is used to educate prospects and customers to encourage purchases. As John Hsieh elaborates in his medium article – successful buyer engagement is answering 3 why’s – “Why Change or do anything”, “Why Now” and “Why Us”.
  2. Relationship selling: Sales content is used to educate and build relationships with buyers. Up-sell and cross-sell depends on relationship building.
  3. Seller onboarding: Initial 4-6 weeks training provided to SDRs, AEs, Account Managers, PreSales and Customer Success new hires.
  4. Continuous training and seller skills/proficiency testing – both to test product knowledge and selling knowledge
  5. Sales coaching – Practice pitches, as well as live calls, are recorded and used for peer-to-peer, manager-to-seller and seller-to-manager coaching
  6. Partner/Channel enablement: Sales content, such as product specific training and partner-specific training is distributed to partners.
  7. Inside Sales Development processes: SDR up-skilling for better prospecting and lead qualification processes.
  8. Sales manager processes: Train the trainers – coaching and content for managers to improve skills and enable sellers.

But, wait – these are Sales Enablement Platform capabilities.

How about the capabilities of Sales Enablement team members?

They are the trainers, coaches, marketers, relationship builders, course correctors, reinforcers – they are the heroes behind the curtain.

In post-pandemic world, where sustainable revenue growth becomes CRO’s mantra (read Jeff Ignacio’s brilliant post here), Enablement team becomes a key ingredient to continued success.

Resource constraints

Given the wide spectrum of activities Sales Enablement teams perform, in most organizations, they are resource-constraint. There are always more things to do.

On average, there is a ratio of 50:1 – 50 customer-facing staff to 1 enabler. In high-growth businesses, there could be dedicated enablement pros based on function (specific to Customer success or Sales Development or PreSales) or based on geo/region/language. Some organizations run as lean as 75:1 where Enablement pro is practically a one-person army. Some organizations have Enablement teams running enablement for both internal sales reps and channel sales reps. With deep-tech and tech-heavy product portfolio (say, cybersecurity, infrastructure verticals) with technical sellers and partners, ratio could be 35:1.

With shorter software release cycles and constant update in contents, running revenue team enablement with limited resources becomes a challenge.

Seat at the table – measuring Sales Effectiveness

Gartner’s definition of Sales Enablement describes the functions that Enablement professionals perform. How do we know the effectiveness of these functions? Effectiveness measures how successful something is producing the desired result.

So, what are the metrics for measuring a Sales Enablement program?

The number of trainings completed, certifications delivered, cohorts trained – these are essential, but they measure output, not outcome.

Outcomes could be qualitative and quantitative as well.

Enablement, by definition has a long-term strategic aspect. Coaching the Sales Managers to train their own team members, enabling them to set a culture of sharing best practices – these are qualitative outcomes. Developing a winning culture, setting up visible mobility paths from SDR to AE to AM – are needed for sustainable revenue growth.

On LinkedIn’s 10th anniversary year, Reid Hoffman published an HBR article – Tour of duty: The New Employer-Employee Compact, where he talked about the changing reciprocal relationship between employer and employee in new agile enterprise where it begins with trust. Employees invest in the company’s adaptability. And the company invests in employees’ employability.

If the company invests in building an environment where professionals can grow to be at their best, that’s a win-win for all. Sales Enablement with the blessing from CRO plays a significant role in shifting behavior of a revenue organization.

Quantitative outcomes are measuring time to second deal, time to first full quarter of quota achievement, monitoring who needs that extra help and who earns an accelerated path.

Sales cycle velocity, closed won rates, conversion rates, new deals, ACV (annual contract value) – these are also indirect indicators of a successful Enablement program.

In addition to looking at past performances (lagging indicators), examples of leading indicators are reduction in time sellers are searching for documents, getting access to always fresh content, buyer engagement, time it takes to establish a training program, and the time it takes to receive feedback/suggestions from the field.

Effort needed to extract quantitative data is a hindrance for Sales Enablement teams, given they already are resource constraint. According to the 4th Annual Sales Enablement Report from CSO Insights, less than one-fifth of organizations use any kind of indicators (leading or lagging) to understand the ROI of their enablement investments.

Successful Enablement teams, who gets a seat at the table with CRO and RevOps/SalesOps are the ones who track the metrics revenue leaders care for.