The rise of sales enablement has been swift in recent years, with analysts buzzing about its significance. Research firms note that venture capitalists and private equity firms now consider sales enablement in their investment evaluations and due diligence, viewing it as a crucial indicator of a company's ability to scale. This has contributed to sales enablement's rapid ascent.
However many sales enablement functions struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of change, buyer behaviour, market conditions and disruptive economic factors. This led to two distinct types of enablement functions emerging:
Focused on training, onboarding and reactive enablement. They’re focused on volume of delivery as opposed to effectiveness and tangible revenue outcomes. They typically report into Revenue Operations, Marketing or HR - which can be seen as a sign that their business devalues the role of enablement.
When companies aren’t hiring sales teams, onboarding becomes less important. And there is no or limited perception of training actually delivering ROI.
They deliver <5% revenue, if that.
From a business leader perspective, in order for their companies to survive, or fulfil their shareholder’s needs, they need to uncover efficiencies and reduce operational costs. If sales enablement does not align with the priorities of business leaders, they are less likely to be used to drive decision-making, and in turn, sales enablement can be perceived as a cost center, and subsequently face a greater risk of being impacted by a reduction in workforce.
They focus on measurable outcomes, are revenue obsessed, fully aligned with key stakeholders, and define programs that position them as strategic business drivers.
These enablers and teams are being retained because they have the ability to demonstrate the correlation of leading and lagging indicators and ROI, think >15% revenue. It is critical for business leaders and specifically CFOs to perceive and realise the value of enablement, and therefore enablement leaders need to speak their language.
As a result, it's crucial for sales enablement leaders to de-risk their function and create a strategy that aligns with the overall business goals. Here are the three steps to do just that:
1 - Align with Sales Velocity Levers
Sales enablement is all about helping sales teams sell more, sell bigger, and sell faster. To achieve this, sales enablement leaders must align their strategy with the sales velocity levers. These are the four levers that drive sales performance:
Number of opportunities
Average deal value
Average win rate
Average length of sales cycle
By aligning with these levers, sales enablement leaders can ensure their efforts are not only focused on the key gaps and priorities as uncovered by sales velocity benchmarks, but they’re having the maximum impact on the sales team's performance, and is quantifiably seen to be doing so by executives,
2 - Obtain Stakeholder Buy-In
To be effective, sales enablement requires the alignment and support of key stakeholders such as company executives, sales leadership, influential individual contributors, sales operations, marketing, and product management. Without appropriate alignment and buy-in, every initiative is an uphill struggle that is destined for failure.
It is therefore important for sales enablement leaders to work closely with these stakeholders to gain their buy-in, justify and secure the investment required, and ensure their efforts are aligned with overall business goals. This can be achieved through a common language: Sales Velocity.
In addition, it is important to communicate and collaborate regularly, as well as present quantifiable outcomes that demonstrate the impact of sales enablement.
3 - Measure Quantifiable Outcomes
Finally, it's essential for sales enablement leaders to measure the outcomes of their efforts. This helps to demonstrate the value of sales enablement and ensures that the strategy is delivering the desired results.
"When enablement effectively uses data to analyse the business impact of its efforts, it is 230% more likely to exceed executive expectations"
- Sales Enablement Pro
Outcomes should be quantifiable, such as increased pipeline, deal values, improved win rates, and reduced time-to-close. By measuring these outcomes and trends, sales enablement leaders can make data-driven decisions and continually improve the sales enablement strategy.
By aligning with sales velocity levers to obtain stakeholder buy-in, and measure quantifiable outcomes, sales enablement leaders can de-risk their role and create a strategy that delivers real value to the business. By doing so, they can help their organisations succeed in a rapidly changing business environment and secure their place as a critical part of the sales organisation.
In 2023 and beyond, the positioning of sales enablement has changed, and all enablers must de-risk their function.