Outputs are a tangible sign of progress toward a business outcome. They are measurable, and they are leading indicators of growth or success. In many ways, outputs are a visible external "signal" to business unit leaders (and even the executive team) of the cumulative thinking power, approaches, processes, and tasks within the Sales Enablement function. More importantly, outputs can provide a historical view of the journey you and your team are taking together. Reviewing outputs will help you reflect and learn from where you have been.
Why Outputs Matter
For many Sales Enablement leaders in training, talent, or operating, a focus on outputs isn’t new. But, we have to look at what output is and the role it can play in helping the company sell more.
What Outputs Are We Talking About?
Each function within an organization produces outputs that other functions consume and leverage. Since sales leaders are the internal customer and proxy for end-user customers, the outputs that various groups produce should be used to support this objective:
Marketing/Field Marketing Outputs: The outputs of field marketing need to be usable and relevant to sales leaders and their team in sales conversations. However, since that input comes from product teams, field marketing teams need to add value to support. In this example, the outputs from the product become the inputs to marketing. The outputs of marketing support the sales team conversation. PRODUCT (outputs) ---> MARKETING (outputs) ----> SALES TEAM CONVERSATIONS
Sales Training Outputs: The outputs produced by sales training teams need to reflect the reality that sales teams face with their customers. However, since 60%+ of sales training inputs come from other groups, the outputs of those groups are important. PRODUCT + MARKETING (outputs) ---> SALES TRAINING (outputs) ---> SALES TEAM CONVERSATIONS
Operations Outputs: The outputs of operations and technology teams need to help salespeople be successful with their customers. TECHNOLOGY (outputs) ---> OPERATIONS (outputs) ---> SALES TEAM CONVERSATIONS
Let’s make sure we’re clear on what output is and why each output truly does matter to the sales team:
So, what are Outputs?
The output isn’t the same as a “final deliverable”. Remember, an output is created to help you and your team and your colleagues towards a business outcome. The final deliverable is a summation of the outputs needed to achieve this end. When you think through this view, it’s essential to realize that there are a lot of different outputs that you can create on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The following can be considered outputs: a successful meeting, a clear communication via email, a teleconference, a planning or “architecture” document, or a spreadsheet. I could go on and on. Managing the outputs may seem like “attention to detail,” but it’s not. Changing or improving outputs to better drive business outcomes forces you to rethink how you’re working, and with whom you’re working. More importantly, taking a more output-centric focus forces you to think about the receiver or your audience. It will help you consider how they will use, digest, or internalize your day-to-day work, not just your deliverables. In other words, what if your customer reviewed your outputs? How aligned would those outputs be? "Final Deliverables" are often fully baked, polished, and designed for scale. As such, the idea of changing a deliverable is about the same as rearranging deck chairs when the entire patio needs to be thought of differently. An overly focused push to "fix final deliverables" likely isn't going to help because of the "hard wiring" inside the organization. With that said, the more relevant and impactful outputs are, the better the final deliverable will likely be because of sales teams' ability to collaborate, listen, and build relevance. This application is especially true since most outputs should involve at least one other person.
The output isn’t random. While it may be easy to think I’m suggesting a bunch of activity, We're not. For most people to be successful in changing their outputs, they have to think about “what” they are producing and “why” they are producing those outputs in the first place. For example, if the business outcome is to decrease time to productivity in new hire training, there are thousands of outputs required to produce a final set of deliverables. The easy way out may seem to be to focus on the final deliverables. However, doing so will reinforce a checkbox mentality and create a limited set of options (what if you need to create something new?). When the focus is on the outputs produced along with the impact the outputs have on employee success, sales enablement teams will discover where time is wasted, how priorities are affecting work and the structure of the logic. For example, if someone produces an output that nobody uses, it easier to change it and ask for feedback. If you build a final deliverable nobody uses, you might get fired. Change your outputs to be more customer-centric, Change your professional impact.
An output forces discipline. Focusing on outputs makes us drive toward a process and details that we otherwise might not tackle. We have noticed repeatedly now, that when there is a "scary realization " (like, wow, I produce 400 outputs a week). Then a process and specifics are nailed down on how it will get done. It becomes less scary, more doable, more digestible. Our mentality changes, from “no way!” to, I can put together an outline, and "maybe this is doable."
Outputs improve skills and team. Working to make outputs more relevant and meaningful can impact the opportunity to become more familiar with your team’s abilities and contributions to the company’s growth agenda.
Elevate Your Value, One Output at A Time
Here’s a thought. New outputs can also help you articulate how and why your capabilities are relevant to specific business needs. For example, having something defined and concrete (like a conceptual model) to show your VP of Sales can give you something to “sell.” Often when you have to sell the invisible—like a learning experience or a philosophy about building bench strength. Here is some advice for changing your outputs:
Doing is different from knowing. Outputs focus on the doing. It's easy to get into discussions with people who tell what they know and how they know about it. Sometimes they come across preachy and overly academic. Focus less on what and how, and more on why and when to talk about how the team can produce something.
Do the best you can. Any attempt to create a valuable output is better than no attempt at all. In today’s business world, all outputs could use some improvement, just ask your CEO.
When you get stuck tackling a problem, try a different output. Sometimes it is difficult to figure out how to build a new hire training program that requires about 1500 different outputs a month. Instead of using spreadsheets, try moving to an analog approach and use whiteboards, sticky pads, and drawings to get us unstuck.
To get to simple, you have to tackle complexity head-on. When there is a big goal, strategy, or initiative, outputs help break it down. Outputs force people to get in the weeds together and make it doable -- and more importantly fight for clarity.,
Change professional outputs, change your professional life. In many ways, outputs allow you to become an expert. Why? Because you know nobody else said it before or produced it previously. A very, very small percentage of the population produces deliverables from scratch, and the vast majority of the population consumes outputs regularly. This nugget of information will help you elevate your value contribution since knowledge work should never be about consumption. It should always be about creating something of value. When you change your outputs, you can carve out a niche, or area of expertise, and own it. In other words, you cannot say you are an expert when you have only “someone else’s outputs” to back it up. It would be best if you created it. By changing or improving outputs, you can more freely build new stuff for your internal clients that ultimately drive an outcome. Another reason to think about producing better outputs as it will allow those outputs to serve as the heart of your methodologies. These would need to be built if you are to scale and grow your team and your function. And finally, you can form the foundation for your personal value, as defined by how much Intellectual Property you can create and how relevant it is.
Where can you get started?
Try changing these professional outputs, based on what you provide to others.
First, do it yourself. THEN talk with others about the inputs they are providing you --- remember, to use the customer lens when discussing, so you aren't seen as "attacking a person's output).
A quick "output inventory":
Team meeting outputs
Email, voice mail, and other communication outputs (including texts and IMs)
Meeting note outputs (have 20 people on a meeting, and nobody capturing notes to share? Why is that?)
Web meeting outputs (who's got the content?)
Customer follow-up outputs (what value are they?)
Training needs analysis outputs
Requirements gathering outputs
Process documentation and checklist outputs
Coaching conversations (what's produced?) - the product needs analysis/data collection outputs
About Growth Matters
Growth Matters is an international business founded in 2011. This consulting and services organization focusses on the development and practice of sales management and sales enablement. Our team of world-renowned experts spans the globe enabling businesses to improve sales conversations through services and solutions aligned to sales strategy. Charlotte, NC (USA) is the headquarter of our Americas operation. With dedicated offices in South Africa (EMEA), and Sydney (APAC), we regularly facilitate senior-level workshops in 17+ cities in countries. For more information on equipping sales managers, and aligning to sales leadership, contact the Growth Matters team at http://www.growthmatters.today
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