Sales enablement needs to sell. However, perhaps this isn't how you might think about it. Sales enablement professionals sell their services internally to their organisation rather than selling a solution, service, or product to external buyers. As a result, these professionals must build relationships with all relevant internal stakeholders, understand their needs and challenges, and prove the impact of sales enablement to gain trust and support.
When most practitioners discuss getting buy-in for sales enablement, it's often from the perspective of enlisting the support of executive leaders. While this is necessary, executives are not the only stakeholders that need to buy in on the concept of sales enablement.
Many critical partnerships can deepen the business impact that sales enablement can have, including stakeholders in human resources, legal services, marketing, customer support, after-sales, and more. But especially within the sales organisation, it is essential to seek buy-in from the top and down.
The buy-in is needed across all people within the sales organisation – including the executives, sales managers, and sales reps. It would help if you succeeded in transforming these internal customers into champions of sales enablement. To sell sales enablement to each group, you should consider these tips on what they need to know and how to gain their trust.
When presenting sales enablement initiatives to executives and decision-makers, data is critical. They must see evidence and proof to understand why it is worth the investment and the needed change.
Any time you're asking for some investment of time or resources, you have to be able to say what the potential ROI is. If you try to request resources without backup from relevant data, I will shoot you down if I were the CEO. But, on the other hand, you're asking me to deviate from our normal process and our regular budget, so I have to see compelling proof as to why this will achieve the desired results.
Sales enablement practitioners earn trust faster when demonstrating the business impact because they show value rather than asking for attention. In doing so, it's essential to meet them where they are and speak in their language. Then, before sitting down with them to ask for support, know their vision for the organisation and map impact to that.
You need to understand your exec team's long-term vision fully. So, you need to know what they hope to achieve in their one, two and five-year mark. And you want to invest your cycles in programs that will support that vision.
Sales managers will enforce sales enablement initiatives, and practitioners need them all-in to champion the sales enablement cause.
However, your sales managers are typically responsible for their quota on top of their managerial duties, and thus they are often spread thin and weary of things that will take up more of their time. Therefore, to effectively gain their attention, it's essential to prove that your sales enablement won't just turn out to become yet another thing on their to-do list but will save them time and help them close deals.
It's most critical to be sensitive and aware of the seasonality of their time. So, what weeks are entirely off-limits, what months are completely off-limits, when are you more likely to get their attention?
Then, you must understand what aspects of the business the sales managers want to impact – e.g., increased revenue, decreased ramp time, or deal sizes, and what that means in terms of the activity they want to see from their sales reps.
We're usually very good at creating the micro-skills that produce activity. However, we can't design a program until we've got a commitment from the sales leaders and sales managers that they will hold their sales teams accountable for those activities.
In some form, most sales managers understand sales enablement. Nevertheless, it is more natural for them to understand sales rep performance in delivering results. Thus, sales enablement needs to engage with sales leaders to understand the results they expect from their reps and design programs to demonstrate impact and earn support.
It's a symbiotic relationship, you need your sales managers to hold their sales reps accountable to those specific activities that have the potential to drive revenue, and then you hold enablement responsible if the skills we're developing create a spike in inactivity.
Sales reps are the direct users and customers of sales enablement. However, most sales enablement programs don't get off the ground without their support and buy-in. Thus, sales enablement practitioners need to take the time to understand sales needs consistently. What motivates sales? What are the common challenges they face? What do they not enjoy about their job tasks?
Be transparent with sales reps and listen to what they say. You can build trust by demonstrating that you care about their opinions and are available for their feedback. Consequently, they will trust they can come to you with needs, ideas and thoughts on how sales enablement impact their day-to-day business and way of working.
Ask sales reps what they dislike about their tasks, job, and their work, what's impacting them negatively.
Discuss what could make things better. For example, salespeople usually have the answers to problems that sales enablement is looking for because they engage with enablement programs and processes every day.
Until you've spent time with your field organisation, you don't understand the receptivity you will get from your major enablement initiatives.
Creating an environment where sales reps feel empowered to share their efforts and achievements with you will help sales enablement better understand the barriers and programs that can address them. In addition, this will create a positive perception of sales enablement among the field and ensure that enablement activities are creating value.
Steps to build and maintain organisational support
Each stakeholder has unique needs and has different sales enablement expectations. Thus, it's essential to set expectations with each one and report on progress often, to build and maintain buy-in for sales enablement. Then, with the stakeholders in mind, apply the following steps to achieve support:
Create a mission and plan to guide
Without your own goals and expectations for your team, maintaining consistency in the design of sales enablement programs will be challenging. Know your definition of success before you ask for support from stakeholders and decision-makers.
Ask for stakeholder input on sales enablement initiatives; you must identify their challenges and craft proposals around those.
Start small and expand
Show the impact sales enablement can have on a small scale to earn trust before embarking on large, ambitious projects that need more time or resources.
The stakeholders are sales enablement's customers and need to be treated the same way external customers would be treated by marketing, sales or customer service.
It's a massive advantage if you point to the tangible value sales enablement creates to keep the trust. Know the metrics you need to show each stakeholder and track it consistently.
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about what and how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B. Asks a lot of questions, and knows what to do with the answers.