Sales training and sales management approaches are blending into highly reactive and focused on short-term and coordinated activities. The challenge is today’s volatile business markets and competitive landscape call for more long-term solutions. No longer are small adjustments to sales processes or subtle changes to the emphasis on sales compensation structures providing the necessary remedies to stay ahead of the competition.
What are top-performing sales teams doing to stay ahead of the competition?
They're stepping back to define their sales enablement approach into one that combines marketing, sales, operations, technology, and training into a specific "package" or course. Sales enablement is defined as the internal infrastructure, processes, and tools that align with the buying/selling relationship to increase the efficiency of sales team actions. The result is a steady incremental value-add to the customer conversation through more informed decision support, more effective sales communications, and more responsive solutions to customer needs.
When sales enablement activities are identified and adequately rolled out, the results typically fall into three essential areas -- we call them "pillars." These pillars become the solid foundation upon which sales teams are supported to add value at every customer interaction.
The pillars are:
PILLAR 1: ALIGNING ORGANIZATION AND CULTURE
Organizational sales capacity is defined as the ability of the company to support the sales team through the properly aligned organizational structure and culture purposely designed to meet the needs of the target market or buyer. The firm’s ability to determine the target market, decide the size of the sales force, set sales team quotas, and create compensation systems that work are examples of critical support that this pillar enables for its sales teams.
Equally important is the firm’s ability to deliver an appropriate marketing message, determine the proper price for products and services, and conduct relevant market research and support. Due to the nature of an enablement practitioner’s job, some strategic decisions and organizational constraints are not easily influenced; therefore, we recommend focusing on what you can influence. With a sales enablement practitioner’s help, we can identify sales team challenges and overcome organizational roadblocks.
Sales Enablement teams must work to support what management and leadership are identifying as significant organizational limitations while ensuring that the sales team is aware of the best way to work across organizational or department boundaries and silos - to free up and enable sales conversations. This philosophy has a far-reaching impact. For example, it's not about "sales and marketing alignment" so much as it is about "marketing aligned to the buyer" and "sellers aligned to the buyer." Same for sales training (aligned to the buyer) and product (aligned to the buyer), for example.
PILLAR 2: ALIGNING SALES MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
Sales managers provide critical support to sales teams because of their unique relationships with sellers and other internal cross-functional teams. Sales managers also have direct control of overall systems necessary to support sales conversations.
While some sales managers focus on selling and fighting organizational fires, many also work hard to set expectations and goals, identify key performance processes and tools, hold people in training and HR groups accountable for proper support. All of this is done while ensuring their sales teams execute (and report on) the sales process accurately.
It's is also the sales manager's job to enable their salespeople by providing training and meeting their needs through coaching and a well-aligned hiring process that doesn't just bring on any "warm body."
PILLAR 3: ALIGNING SELLERS AND BUYERS
Salespeople are an essential consideration to the attainment of sales results because they keep the pipeline full and are directly responsible for closing deals. Salespeople need to be able to do this with the support of the other two pillars of organizational sales capacity mentioned above.
Salespeople are also accountable to their organization. They must have a plan to reach quota, maintain a high level of activity, follow the company’s sales process, acquire the proper skills and knowledge, and maintain the drive to succeed.
Keeping these three pillars on top-of-mind is important when planning sales enablement initiatives. Just as a 3-legged stool requires all legs to serve its purpose adequately, solid sales enablement requires each pillar to operate in unison. Therefore, the integration of the three pillars around a common goal of improving sales conversations will lead to better sales results and sales team success.
Here are more considerations for each pillar:
Organization and Culture Considerations
A sales organization is a complex system with many moving parts, and the effectiveness of the overall system requires multiple components working together. While some elements are more critical and sensitive than others, each can have an impact on the overall outcome.
An automobile is a great metaphor to use for enabling sales organizations. Just as a car requires a working engine to go forward, an organization requires revenue to support its growth. For many senior leaders, revenue is the engine that powers the company. In this way, revenue can fund growth initiatives, provide the resources to capture more market share, and help garner more investment from essential stakeholders. Which type of revenue engine does your organization currently have? Is it large and complicated or small and streamlined? Much like the automobile engine, the sales organization can be set up for speed, power, or endurance, depending on the company’s goals. For example, the architecture for a sales organization in a Fortune 500 company within a mature market will most likely be different from the sales organization architected by a small start-up within a fast-growing biotech market. Why? Because each has a different set of customers, clients, and market conditions.
Sales enablement professionals must architect and build (or align) a sales organization that best supports these unique customers, clients, and market factors.
Think about it: if you have all of the right tools in place, the right salespeople on board, the right sales strategies, and territory alignment but are not seeing the results you expect, then you need to look at the other two enablement components.
Sales Management Considerations:
Once the sales organization is set up correctly with the right systems, processes, tools, and people, it will still need the right leadership. Much like the driver of a race car, a good sales leader can keep the sales organization pointed in the right direction. How? By paying attention to key metrics, making adjustments as needed, and driving towards the sales goal of the organization. Just like the gauges in an automobile, many sales managers use sales metrics to make sure everything is running well.
Appropriately utilized, sales metrics define critical success factors, measure progress towards the overall sales goals, and identify opportunities for boosting performance. Some companies track sales activity, conversation ratios between stages of the sales pipeline, or the number of deals closed. Other examples include average revenue per sale, days in the sales cycle, the first meeting to proposal ratio, closing ratio, and more obscure ones like upsell or cross-sell revenues and customer satisfaction scores.
No matter the company size or target market, a sales leader needs to set expectations and goals, sales leaders must hold people accountable to key performance indicators and ensure proper execution and movement through the sales process. By providing one-on-one development coaching and by upgrading the sales team by replacing weaker sales reps with stronger ones' sales managers can sure that they are taking the necessary steps in enabling their sales reps.
Think about it: if sales managers are monitoring performance, holding salespeople responsible for their sales process, supervising the sales pipeline, and are providing coaching but not seeing the expected results, they need to re-think some things.
Salesperson and Buyer Considerations
For a sales organization to thrive, salespeople must be supported. Salespeople possess a complicated mix of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Great salespeople are often hard to find, and many could do significantly better if they had proper professional development. While some have built excellent industry expertise, sales organizations must help support, enable, and develop sales talent—and each company has its own unique set of requirements.
There is no “one size fits all” approach that will work in enabling a salesperson's success. Companies should support, facilitate, and develop salespeople with this uniqueness in mind. More importantly, each company should understand the knowledge, skill, and abilities each salesperson should have. Since salespeople must leverage systems, tools, and processes to keep the pipeline full and close more business, sales enablement practitioners can leverage the holistic system’s approach to enable a salesperson's success. Examples of such a method include ensuring salespeople have a plan to reach quota, conducting the right level of activity to keep the pipeline full, following a sales process that qualifies and disqualifies quickly, and acquiring the proper skills and knowledge to move through the sales process.
Think about it: if your salespeople have the right process, are doing the right activities, have the right skills, knowledge, and mindset, but you do not see the results you expect, then look at the other two enablement components.
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 and 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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