Sales Enablement: The Most Important Role in Your Business

Today’s businesses are filled with processes: IT, accounting, manufacturing, supply chain, operations, security, etc. Department heads are responsible for documenting and managing the steps in their units, constantly striving to increase efficiency and productivity while decreasing inherent system waste.

If CFOs determine they’re unable to close the books in a timely manner due to lacking accurate data from the warehouse, the process of counting and reconciling inventory is analyzed and improved. When VPs of Supply Chain realize their work-in-process numbers are understated by 3-5% every quarter, they’ll spend time with the sourcing and assembly team to determine the factors causing the bottleneck, correcting each inefficient step along the way.

In both cases, a uniquely qualified team is in place, tasked with executing, monitoring and adjusting processes on a regular basis. From the Accounting Assistant and Project Manager to the Warehouse Manager and Controller, a clear understanding exists of the contributions made by each function, and their impact on the entire company. The leadership team carefully designs and documents the various components of their procedures, including the creation of an organizational chart that includes a designated support person who may also act as the liaison between departments, ensuring ongoing and effective communication across the company.

Any process that lacks these systematic actions, or includes ambiguous roles, is doomed to inefficiency and underperformance, rendering it nearly impossible to replicate.

Any process that lacks these systematic actions, or includes ambiguous roles, is doomed to inefficiency and underperformance, rendering it nearly impossible to replicate. It can’t be analyzed for deficiencies, nor can it be enhanced with new tools or methods. Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to hold anyone accountable if department heads lack the information to identify where the problems reside. It’s akin to “managing by gut.”

The Issue with Sales

At first glance, this may seem remedial; “Of course I can’t measure success or make improvements without a defined process!” exclaims the CEO. “That’s why we document every process in our business.”

Every process? Not always. While most companies spend a great deal of time documenting and tracking their operational and technical procedures, assigning tasks and creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for their accounting, legal, engineering, and software development teams, in many cases the sales process receives very little attention.

Sales has always been considered more of an art than a science. “Either you’re born with the ability to sell, or you’re not” is the typical mantra. Moreover, it’s expected that sales and marketing just won’t get along, so why bother trying to build a bridge and create synergies? It’s a relationship doomed to fail! It’s precisely these myths that contribute to the absence of an effective SOP and dedicated sales support, ultimately fostering an environment of inconsistent accountability and a lack of lead transparency.

The Missing Link

Clearly, companies that attempt to operate within this dysfunctional culture will experience inconsistent, unpredictable, and low-performing results. According to the “State of Sales Enablement 2020”, the results show that 79% of leading companies have a defined sales enablement role. Even more telling, 72% of companies that consistently exceed their quotas by 25% maintain this same role. That begs the question: What exactly does a “sales enablement” professional do?

“Sales enablement is the bridge between product marketing and sales,” says Dionne Mischler, CEO and founder of Inside Sales by Design and President of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AAISP) Orange County chapter. “Effective sales enablement transcends industry and company size, ensuring the content and messaging created by the marketing and product marketing teams can be absorbed, understood and effectively delivered by the sales team.” The most effective sales enablement professionals possess a background in sales and marketing, equipping them with the language used by both constituencies. Their role is to work with both groups to dissect, analyze, and remediate each step of the sales process, providing real-time feedback from the marketplace and creating a sales message that resonates with prospects and customers.

Among our clients at TurningPoint, we see a noticeable increase in the demand for sales and marketing leaders who have a proven ability to communicate with their counterparts. This is especially true within small to mid-size start-ups and early-stage and private companies, where a more collaborative dynamic exists between sales and marketing. These smaller, more progressive, and nimble organizations don’t have to worry about the embedded rivalries prevalent in many large, legacy businesses.

“Sales and marketing can no longer afford to live in their silos, blaming one another for failed campaigns and lost sales,” explains Niloo Bushweller, Commercial Operations Executive. With more than 15 years of experience in sales and marketing operations and enablement at name brand companies such as Bank of America, Dell, Owens & Minor, and General Electric, Bushweller describes her view of a highly effective sales organization. “Sales must be seen as a process, rather than a transaction. Transactions are static and fully automated, whereas the sales process is a living and breathing system. Many steps can and should be encapsulated in a repeatable formula, while a few must remain fluid to allow the salespeople to react to each customer’s buying style and the changing marketplace.” Issues arise when the sales team is allowed to be completely ad hoc, adhering to nothing more than a subjective list of action items that lack a consistent, validated and company-wide process.

“Our CEO and executive team believe wholeheartedly in building a bridge between sales and marketing. Our teams were on the same floor, we interact daily, and we worked together to consistently ….. to ensure every activity is funnel-relevant.”
– Ryan Campbell, former VP Sales, Dealstruck

Ryan Campbell, former VP Sales for FinTech firm Dealstruck, has seen his share of adversarial relationships between sales and marketing. “I have certainly experienced the traditional blame game whereby sales blames marketing for sending worthless leads, and marketing constantly blames sales for squandering all of the good leads they generate,” he notes. After nearly one year with Dealstruck, Campbell had seen the impact the right tone at the top can have. “At Dealstruck, the CEO and executive team believed wholeheartedly in building a bridge between sales and marketing,” he explains. “Our teams were on the same floor, we interacted daily, and we worked together to consistently analyze the effects of each marketing campaign, incorporating feedback from the sales team to ensure every activity is funnel-relevant.” Thanks to this highly collaborative approach, Dealstruck reached its goal of granting $100M in loans, ahead of schedule, and under budget.

“If Only I Had a Better CRM”

Campbell describes sales enablement as “the confluence of relevant and accurate data and technology, with an effective and streamlined process that guarantees no sales rep will ever ask ‘what do I do next?’” However, he does not see technology as a crutch, rather a tool to enhance an already effective go-to market strategy for generating leads and closing deals.

Automating a broken process, or making it available via mobile device, will do nothing to address the deficiencies in the core sales operation.

The key to the effective adoption of sales enablement technology is the strength of the underlying process. Technology will not enhance or “fix” weak practices. Automating a broken process, or making it available via mobile device, will do nothing to address the deficiencies in the core sales operation. While it’s time-consuming initially, prior to adopting a new CRM or other sales enablement tool, senior management must invest the time to fully map out the current sales process, identifying any variances and impediments to closing sales. Nothing should be off the table, including quality control issues, participating in the RFP process, the time it takes for contracts to be approved by legal, the sales reps’ understanding of a value-based rather than price-based sale and their need to receive more training on products’ technical aspects, or the bias inherent in the commission structure that rewards selling to “low hanging fruit.”

Once a sound sales process is developed, a strong CRM tool should then be layered on top of it to accelerate its effectiveness. “At a former employer, after spending a great deal of time enhancing our sales process, we decided the best way to ensure a high adoption rate with our internal CRM was to build a dashboard for each sales rep that provided information about their commissions, sales trends, stack ranking and pipeline,” describes Bushweller. “As the sales enablement team, we also built a customer dashboard that allowed each sales rep to quickly and easily see all relevant notes, upcoming renewals or ongoing concerns on a per-customer basis. This data provided an incentive for the reps to sign in, and once they were in, the system helped to accelerate their training and onboarding while boosting their engagement and equipping them with real-time market intelligence.” The company’s ability to rely on its sales enablement team to build a system and process that enhances the interaction between the sales team and the end customer radically improved their close rate and increased revenues.

Where Do I Go From Here?

“One of the biggest challenges to the development of a sales enablement team is the willingness by senior management to invest in a non-producing sales professional,” says Trindl Reeves, Principal & CSO for Marsh & McLennan Agency. “At Marsh & McLennan, our marketing team is focused on traditional branding and creating visibility for the firm; our producers are responsible for lead generation and my role is to support and enhance both sides. Mine is the first role in the sales group without a direct quota, and it required a leap of faith by our CEO to make the investment. The addition of this role has certainly contributed to our ability to exceed our revenue and profit projections for three consecutive years.” The dictionary defines “enabling” as the ability to make (something) possible or easy. In today’s hyper-competitive market, it’s imperative that companies equip their sales teams with the tools that enable them to secure more qualified leads and ultimately close more deals. The sole purpose of incorporating an effective process and sales enablement role into your organization is to “make more sales in the least amount of time and with minimal wasted effort,” according to Bushweller. Considering that most prospects have gathered 50-70% of the information they need to make a buying decision before contacting a seller, today’s sales organizations need to develop and follow a consistent, market-driven, and repeatable process.

Every step in the sales process must be identified, blown up, analyzed, tested, and reconstructed on a regular basis to remain relevant and effective. And the best group to conduct this internal research, mapping the results to a consistent and reality-based process, is the sales enablement team. The job description for this role must include an expectation that the sales enablement team will be personally responsible for aligning the sales and marketing departments, will ensure continuous collection and sharing of market data, will analyze and score all leads, and will confirm that all new campaigns are “funnel-relevant,” as Campbell described. Additionally, this documentation must include the steps taken to assess the results post-sale, to increase the number of positive outcomes in the future.

An effective sales enablement team will ultimately touch every aspect of the sales process. All sales should be examined to determine the factors that led to the final close, from the initial source and the number of steps to the language used and the message and collateral delivered — down to the rep who closed or lost the deal. Likewise, top-performing sales reps should be studied and benchmarked to determine what traits and strategies contribute to their success. Once this data has been collected, a new, more streamlined sales process should be constructed and rolled out to the sales team — and shared with the marketing team. According to the Forbes/Brainshark report, 69% of sales enablement jobs reside within the sales department. However, ultimately, “sales enablement should report to whoever is going to give it the attention it deserves,” says Mischler. “This position is far too important in today’s global, 24/7, social media, and experience-driven economy to be left unattended. The right blend of sales and marketing interaction, combined with highly efficient, well-documented activities, can truly drive revenues to new heights.”

Sales Enablement: The Most Important Role In Your Business

Originally published 08 2015
Updated 07 2020