“The Secret Sauce To Sales Enablement

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I recently read a quite interesting blog post entitled, “The Secret Sauce To Sales Enablement–Knowledge Management.” The post was quite interesting, but the title bothered me. I reflected on a lot of what I’ve seen written about sales enablement. There are rich, well thought out architectures, frameworks, tools. They cover everything from soup to nuts.

There are slight differences–if you are a tool vendor, you talk about technology and tools and how they facilitate the effective and efficient delivery of content. Others tend to approach it at a slightly higher level, talking about rich hierarchies of structures, content, systems, tools, and programs. They have endless lists of things that are very valuable and to help enable sales professionals.

But as I look at all of these, somehow something seems missing. Don’t get me wrong, I think these things are very powerful, very thoughtful, and very well done. But somehow, it all seems a little too mechanistic or formulaic.

I know I’m overstating things a little but they all seem to be saying, “Do A, B, C, provide great content, provide these tools, and ‘poof’ you have a high performing sales person.”

I look at the priorities of some “sales enablement managers,” it seems to be the same. Without looking at the sales people or interviewing them, they say, implement these tools, these systems, these processes, these programs, and ‘poof’ we have high performing sales people.

Something seems to be missing.

Somehow, it seems the secret sauce to sales enablement is people. The sales person, the sales manager.

We have rich experience about the problems of not putting the sales person and the sales manager at the center of these things. Think of the billions spent on sales training that have failed to achieve the desired outcomes. It’s not the content of the sales training program or the delivery, but somehow the specific connection to the sales person and the sales manager and their interrelationship is missing. Likewise, billions have been spent on tools, CRM and other systems, with many failures and many more that haven’t failed, but they haven’t gotten to the goal. The tools, in and of themselves are very good, very powerful, but something’s missing.

Somehow when I get into discussions about sales enablement, the conversation focuses on structures, processes, systems, tools, content creation. It seems as though the sales person and the sales manager are on the outside.

I know I being a little unfair. I think most sales enablement professionals, tool and program suppliers would say the sales person and sales manager is implicit in everything they do. But perhaps that’s the problem, it’s implicit, where in needs to be explicit in every conversation.

(It’s kind of like selling–the customer is implicit in everything we do, yet it’s so difficult to be customer focused and customer centric).

Perhaps each discussion about sales enablement needs to start with the people–the sales person and the sales manager. What are we trying to achieve with the sales person? What’s in it for them? What’s the role of the manager? How will we engage the manager in coaching, developing and reinforcing everything that we are doing in our sales enablement programs.

The secret sauce of sales enablement is the people–sales professionals and managers. Everything has to be designed to support them.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great article… I share your viewpoint.

    “Sales Enablement” to me is centered on the Sales Person. What do they need to be more effective, efficient and successful? Some smaller companies don’t use automated tools; rather they leverage some well thought out education, ‘cheat sheets’ and collateral which has a profound effect — especially when the Sales People are involved in the (requirements) process.

    Now, if you want your Sales People to have a change in behaviour, such as implementing a new pricing model/system… This is when I recommend using the ideas from ‘Culture Change Management’ (eg. Prosci’s ADKAR model). ADKAR considers multiple stakeholders and influencers including the Sales Managers. I love this model because it considers everyone involved in the ‘journey’ of change… to your point, the Sales Person needs to be motivated to change… and the Sales Manager needs to encourage, support and reward the new behaviour.

    The challenge becomes who is responsible for ‘Sales Enablement’: Marketing, Sales, Operations?? To me that is the other part of the secret sauce: figuring out WHO should enable… and empowering them to enable.

    Thanks,

    Anne Cauley
    Communications | Sales Enablement | Training

  2. Ann, thanks for the outstanding contribution to the post. I’m actually in the middle of writing an eBook on this. To much of the work on sales enablemment focuses on the content, tools, etc, but less on the process of enablement–at least making it stick. I think sales management plays the pivotal role in sales enablement–setting the priorities for what should be enabled, then coaching and reinforcing to sustain what has been done.

    To my mind there is far to little discussion of this in the sales enablement (and sales management communities). But, as I stated in the article, we have past histories of failed initiatives, precisely because we didn’t define the manager’s role in sustaining the change initiative. Also we haven’t thought of what is the process of enabling the sales manager to enable.

    Thanks for the outstanding comment!

  3. Hi Dave. I totally agree.

    The other thought I had was there is tremendous value in “enabling” all the staff — because EVERYONE SELLS. The front line people are not always Sales folks. Progressive organizations realize this and look to “enabling” the staff at each customer touch point.

    If properly planned and executed: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

    Thanks,

    Anne Cauley
    Communications | Sales Enablement | Training

  4. Anne, you are right on target. We have to have a broader view of enablement than just sales. We never hear discussion of enableing other cusotmer facing people, but it’s as important.

    As we look at the need to more closely integrate marketing and sales in the new cusotmer buying journey, we have to think of enablement very differently.

    I’ll actually be writing more on this in the coming weeks.

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