Sales Enablement Maturity for World Class Organizations
You have now laid the foundation for maturing the strategic function of sales enablement by creating a clear definition and developing a plan for implementing your company’s Big Idea.
We’ve seen that as the definition of sales enablement improves so does the sophistication and influence of the discipline. Forrester Research reported that only 25% of organizations have a mature sales enablement function in place.
Maturity doesn’t happen overnight. As skills and capabilities grow, it moves from administrative and tactical functions all the way to C-suite decision-making. According to Natalie Long at SVB, “the speed at which startups need to quickly harness growth in rapid, repeatable ways has helped elevate sales enablement to a strategic function.”
Best in class companies really think differently about sales enablement. They have made the journey toward maturity from one level to the next with increasing sophistication around the customer’s buying cycle. In some cases, world class level is reached because the organization recognizes that sales enablement is the connection between all the critical players that drive revenue growth, so they give them a seat at the table. That mindset changes the way a company’s leaders think about the people in those roles, choosing to up-level their skills to meet strategic expectations.
Maturing Sales Enablement Roles
The table below traces the maturity of sales enablement roles from tactical to highly strategic.
This person is an early or first-time entrant to sales enablement. This person is usually responsible for facilitating training (including new-hire) but often has a limited role, if any, in strategic alignment or design. Typically, responsibilities are passed on to this person.
Manager—Trainer and Facilitator
This person not only facilitates training by organizing the curriculum (including some SMEs), they also conduct some training sessions. They have first-hand sales experience at the current company or a like company and are therefore able to speak to what it’s like to be in the role. They understand key aspects of the sales role including prospecting, opportunity management, sales process and forecasting, and also possess solid platform and communication skills. They are adept at providing feedback to their leaders on the trainees.
Director—Senior Trainer for Sales and New Sales Leaders
This person is an experienced trainer and/or seller. They have developed curriculum for a training organization or have successfully created and conducted training as a sales leader. They know the day-in-the-life of a seller, and also a first-time sales leader. This person is highly thought of internally by the sales team or has been hired with ample experience to quickly develop credibility. This credibility is important because they not only train sellers, but also enable first-time leaders. They have strong cross-functional skills to work closely with Senior Sales Leaders and their teams. Oftentimes this person will assess the curriculum and recommend improvements.
Senior Director Enablement
This person is closely connected with the Senior Team in developing strategy and programs to drive business growth. They have a team reporting to them that creates content and facilitates training at multiple levels within the organization. They are knowledgeable on methodologies, enablement tools and technologies. They also work closely with cross-functional teams in HR, Product and Finance to provide perspective on talent, and provide input to better enable product launches and create budgets. This senior-level leader clearly understands the relationship between enablement, productivity, retention and organizational growth. They have responsibilities that extend beyond the selling teams to all revenue teams including Customer Success, SEs/SCs and other parts of the organization. This knowledge helps them leverage data points to clearly demonstrate successes and opportunities for improvements.
VP/Senior VP Enablement and Strategy
This person is highly strategic and a core member of the leadership team. They are involved in setting the strategy and plan for employee development and are also engaged in assessing high potentials by collaborating on organization succession planning and developing and/or engaging partners for Senior Leader Development. In their role with Senior Leaders, they are responsible for recommendations that drive overall employee and sales productivity that leads to growth. Their responsibilities usually extend beyond the selling teams to all revenue producers including Customer Success, SEs/SCs, and other parts of the organization.
Enablement Career Tip: If your organization has an immature sales enablement function, consider the skills you can proactively add to increase the capabilities and profile of sales enablement.
Measuring Your Success
Companies with world class sales enablement capabilities have a heightened focus on measurement. Developing a way to measure your successes is crucial to making the case for sales enablement having a seat at the table. As a sales enablement professional, you’re in the enviable position of having the potential to tangibly quantify the value of your contributions (which is why the profession is growing, not shrinking like Learning & Development).
Unfortunately, too few sales enablement organizations measure success tied directly to sales and marketing growth initiatives. Your metrics are most effective when tied to specific initiatives—when there is no data as support, your initiatives are at risk.
“But what really turned the tide is when some of the salespeople had successes. I would tout our successes at the highest levels. It was sharing and elevating those success stories that showed this works. Executives started asking, ‘What do we need to do more of that?’”
You have already defined the outcomes you are seeking by implementing your Big Idea. Now, consider how you will measure those outcomes and your success.
Here is an example of how to anchor your metrics with tangible initiatives:
Enablement Career Tip: Don’t take lightly the importance of gaining internal alignment. In companies less-mature in sales enablement, you will likely find yourself selling the function internally and working to expand your budget. Work with your team and partners to create a business case along with key metrics for every major new initiative. Remember that taking a strategic approach sets both you and the sales enablement function up for future success.
If you need help in identifying key elements in driving maturity in your organization’s sales enablement function, use this How-To Guide as your personal workbook.