Customer-Centric Means Outside In, Not Inside Out

Many sales trainers, marketers, and sales enablement professionals get frustrated with their inability to drive strategic change and transformation. Often, many of them struggle to be vital.

Typically sales enablement professionals know what actions they need to drive to help their reps become more relevant to customers. However, they struggle to gain buy-in and traction due to operational challenges that existed.

One leader said:

We know what needs to happen, and we make plans. But our execution sucks and we can't transform fast enough. We have to get better at fixing the plane while it's flying.

Fixing the plane while it's flying implies speed and focus, while at the same time, it seems a bit crazy (and some might say perilous!). But in all seriousness, it represents precisely what many sales enablement pros need to do. Their companies are moving forward at cruising speed, and they need to work on a variety of critical components without making the plane spin out of control.

In this way, "fixing the plane while it's flying" represents a paradox -- to fix the system, you have to work on its parts over time.

For example, creating new components while at the same time helping the leadership team continue to operate with the least amount of disruption.

This strategy often puts customer-facing, revenue-generating in the middle of the two realities.

  1. On one hand, the reality to drive immediate revenue.

  2. On the other hand, the reality to be more consultative and sell higher (which takes longer).

With both of these realities, inefficiencies occur across training, marketing, and selling organizations, making it complicated and challenging for sellers to be successful. Additionally, executive teams are finding it difficult to identifying and solve issues because there is no real visibility across the sales organization. Also, there is no functional operating model or practice metrics to assess and correct execution strategically.

Fixing the plane while it's flying implies that a new approach to achieving revenue growth is required for success.

Fixing the plane also implies that marketing, training, and operational approaches grounded in the past aren't necessarily adequate to driving success in the future.  

A strategic approach to sales enablement can likely be a key ingredient to bridging the gap between yesterday and today -- to fix the plane while it's flying.

The sales enablement profession is much more than a single technology or approach. The trade offers tremendous potential to drive breakthrough results for businesses. However, the role and scope of the sales enablement function (and the people who lead that function) will likely have to evolve within the organization to create more strategic value. Additionally, it will need to expand its influence to coordinate the work of sales, marketing, and product teams.

Let's face it. There is no "textbook" on Sales Enablement.  

... There are no silver bullets.

In many ways, the principles, processes, skills, and tools necessary to be successful in operating in both the old way and the new way.

So, how can sales enablement professionals gain momentum and create success? In many ways, it starts with their mindset and approach. Here are some principles and strategies for operating in both the "old way" and the "new way" at the same time:


Create white-space:  

  • Many organizations have operations fine-tuned for an old strategy and old buying habits. While progress might be happening, you will likely need to carve off small groups to learn new ways and make incremental improvements. For example, moving people into special projects to give them the flexibility to create new tools and projects within a very well defined scope.

Stay Focused on Customers:

  • Orienting away from an “operations bias” (rooted in a deep go-to-Market mindset) to a “customer problem-solving bias” (an outside-in, go-to-customer mindset) is going to be very difficult.  You will have to proceed with patience and find ways to use customers like the design point.

Manage Expectations:

  • Stakeholder management is the most critical ingredient. We will take the time to coach, educate, and bring people along.  Focus on the “Rule of Thirds”(1/3rd will go with you, 1/3rd will watch, 1/3rd will fight you every step of the way).  Focus on those who want to work with you.

Embrace the 80/20 Rule:

  • Focus on getting some small wins accomplished. Remember, success breeds success. Do not over-engineer things and learn to embrace the concept of "it's good enough for right now." From there, iterate and improve.

Go Fast by Going Slow: 

  • Taking on too much at once overloads the organization and the newly evolving work to drive sales results. Learn to break things down into a variety of particular small projects that each have their value, but can be combined for additive effects.

Focus on the Right Few:

  • Help identify the issues that generate the most waste while ALSO freeing up the most productive work that is vested in helping agents be successful.  We can realize nice gains by focusing on the right pockets while better understanding and preparing the new organization for future changes.

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

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