The Panel of Sales Leader Experts: The Future of Sales Enablement
An expert panel of sales experts joined Scott and Brian on the 34th Episode of the Inside: Sales Enablement Podcast. This panel focused on sales leaders who have been in the profession for at least 15 years.
Skip Miller, CEO of M3 Learning
Bob Apollo, CEO of Inflexion Point Strategy Partners
Steve Crepeau, CEO of True Sales Results
There seem to be elements of performance, non -performance, schizophrenia, and immaturity in the answers -- almost implying there is a quest for purpose and a yearning for respect by the sales enablement community. - Bob Apollo
The Current State: According to Sales Leadership
All the panelists believe sales enablement is needed, but they aren't exactly sure what "good" sales enablement looks like in practice. While sales enablement is looking for its voice, sales leaders are faced with COVID 19 and under a lot of revenue pressure. Their teams are struggling and their people are looking for help and advice. According to the guest analysts on the show, there are three themes they saw in the data:
THEME 1: FOLLOW YOUR OWN SALES PROCESS! Selling is complex, hard, and getting harder. There is value is sales enablement, and sales enablement leaders need to sell that value to sales leadership. But, it's really hard to sell to sales leaders when you're not sure of what you're selling. As a sales enablement leader, take the advice you're giving to own sales teams. How do you capture market share and how do you penetrate your account? If you treat your organization as an account, and sales leadership as a customer or "buyer" of sales enablement, think about:
What is your account plan?
What’s your account strategy?
What opportunities do you have to capture more value from your sales leadership team?
How do you sell them?
Make sure you do your homework, ask open-ended questions, build out the path forward, and negotiate with your sales leadership team to do what’s right for sellers. Sound familiar?
THEME 2: FOCUS ON FEW "RIGHT THINGS" AND DO THEM WELL! Sales enablement is about building strategy and executing well. When the panelists looked at the data there wasn't much unity on the types of strategies and tactics to employ.
Strategy without tactics is slow. But, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu
Sales enablement needs to do both the strategic AND the tactical well. If sales and marketing leaders are tactical, sales enablement leaders need to be strategic to ensure the sales team is getting what they need to close the gap with their customers. SE leaders need to be proactive while focusing on both the fundamentals and on innovating to help guide sales leadership and stay ahead of the curve. In times like COVID-19, this is more critical than ever.
The panelists talked a lot about bringing a plan to sales leadership based on data points and what sales enablement leaders have synthesized across the team. Identify the patterns, explain what is going on to sales leadership, and make a recommendation. Drive outcomes to help sales teams be successful and have the tough discussions you need to have. A strong sales enablement leader can shine by managing up well and that means understanding the VP of Sales Perspective. Be confident. Be calm. And Have a plan to do the right things well.
THEME 3: THE OPPORTUNITY IS THERE. GRAB IT!
The panel gave the Sales Enablement leaders a pep-talk around the opportunity. For example, how do Sales Enablement leaders take advantage of the massive opportunity to add the value needed? If sales leaders believe they have 16 percent of the talent they need that means Sales Enablement teams have an 84% opportunity to help. Sales enablement leaders can help sales leaders re-tool and upgrade the sales team to tackle root cause talent gaps. They’re in a great position to help drive the right analytical decisions to move the bell-shaped curve to the right. Sales Enablement leaders can do that by focusing on the 80/20 and modernizing the approach to talent.
RESULTS OF ANALYSIS:
SALES LEADERS WANT & NEED HELP
The panelists shared their views of the data and what they were seeing within the responses. When they did that, they believed sales enablement leaders range from passive to active in helping sales leadership. In other words, some answers were waiting for sales leaders to give them direction, and others were bringing solutions to sales leadership and making recommendations. With that in mind, sales leaders very often need and want help but struggle to have the exact words to say. They suggested creating the space in a conversation and becoming a partner to sales leadership by helping them communicate what they are seeing. The panelists also suggested focusing on the 80/20 to start building momentum with sales management and leadership.
Everyone seems to agree sales is complex and getting more complex, but why sales enablement is on the rise isn't clear to the respondent data. I also don't understand why product teams aren't listed as "competitors" to sales enablement given the power struggles I have witnessed. - Steve Crepeau
The panelists also built out an engagement approach for sales enablement leaders to engage with sales leadership. Here's what they pointed out as the help sales leaders are looking for from sales enablement leaders and SE teams:
Have a plan: Don’t show up and ask me what I want
Clarify your role: How are you different from the product group? How are you different from sales training? How are you different from marketing? What’s your remit?
Practice what you preach: Follow your own advice and do what you are teaching our salespeople. Do your homework on sales leaders and the team to formulate a point of view. Build an account plan for opportunities to engage with sales leaders and managers. Get on message and get clear on your value. Don't waste my time.
Manage me: Manage my expectations. Tell me what you need. Tell me what I should focus on to help you be successful in helping the team.
Focus on the specifics: Stop over-generalizing to all sales teams and people. You need to have acumen and specifics talk in my language and view the sales team as I do.
Point me in the right direction: What do you think should be our top priority and why? Tell me what data you’ve collected and why we need to prioritize based on that data. If you can't stand these questions (they should be easy) then don't bother.
There is bell-shaped curve that sales leaders need help with. Many sales leaders need ideas to move the productivity curve to the right. Sales Emblement leaders can't sit back and just wonder what the organization is doing. Someone needs to stand up for outcomes. - Skip Miller
What it means To Sales Enablement:
The partnership With Sales is Earned, Not Just Given.
Know my world, and get into the trenches with me. If you get into the trenches with sales team leaders, they’ll likely fight to keep you on their team.
Your value contribution matters. Make sure you can explain the value you’re providing and how you’re helping. Minimize the how-to approaches and focus on the “why” and “what” of the work you’re doing.
You Can Co-Own Sales Productivity with Sales Leadership
We have too many choices. There are so many choices and so many initiatives, sales leaders want and need the help to sort through what to focus on and what to ask of their sales teams.
Shift the curve. Think in terms of moving the bell-shaped curve of productivity and help me build out the management team that can ensure we’re successful.