How do you build an effective sales enablement program?

An effective sales enablement program does not happen by magic.

Successful Enablement projects are not only completed on time and budget; they must also drive real change for the business that ultimately leads to influencing key enablement metrics and then; as a result, business KPIs, metrics, and goals.

Fortunately, running successful Enablement projects is not different from running other projects successfully, and we have outlined the key steps below. Note also that we have incorporated insights from interviews with people like Mat Singer as he spoke about the approach he takes to create real change via Enablement.

Steps to running successful Enablement projects

  • Analyze business needs
  • Collaborate and communicate to build alignment
    • Prioritize based upon business impact
  • Execute to meet strategic and tactical needs
  • Facilitate cross-team efforts
  • Drive Adoption
  • Measure business Impact
  • Refine approaches based upon data and user feedback
  • Repeat

Simple, right? Fortunately, throughout the series of interviews we do as part of this effort as well as my experiences at Bigtincan, and my 30 years of experience overall, these steps prove time and again to be keys for success.

Through this document, I’ll break out each section and, over time, come back and point to key interviews that demonstrate the importance of each area.

Steps to running successful Enablement projects

Analyze Business Needs

If Enablement is to be seen as strategic, it must tie its efforts to driving business outcomes such as creating new revenue, reducing churn in the customer base, and reducing risk for the business. It is in these efforts, and the projects associated with them, where Enablement can demonstrate the importance of their work, align with other teams, and ultimately achieve strategic status.

Collaborate and communicate to build alignment

The easiest method for identifying key business priorities is to sit down with your senior executives and get their feedback.

How can you support these goals?

Do the same with each level of management in the revenue team. Sit with leaders in sales, marketing, customer success, and so on. What are their business goals? Their biggest challenges?

Again, how can you assist them in meeting these goals?

Your goal is to identify a set of projects that will positively impact these business goals.

Prioritize based upon business impact

Enablement teams can often fall into the trap of simply being busy “being busy”. There are always a million requests that the team could be working on but you must focus on moving strategic projects forward as well as those critical tactical requests that come into the team daily.

How do you move strategic and tactical priorities forward?

Schedule time for both types of activities.  Depending on the size of your team and the stage of your business, you may need to schedule an hour for tactical activities or you may need to schedule a few hours.  Either way, also make sure that you are setting aside time to move forward the strategic efforts that are critical for long-term business success.

Define at least one strategic project a quarter that you will complete

Whether you are a team of one, or one hundred, you need to commit to your leadership team to complete at least one strategic project. Meet with the key leaders to review the strategic projects you want to complete, get their feedback, and commit to completing this/these projects.

Strategic projects must also be tied to business metrics. Define which leading and lagging indicators the strategic project(s) will impact.

Key points include:

  • Set aside a block of time every day where you focus on ONLY the strategic commitment(s). I set aside 3 hours each day to focus exclusively on my strategic commitment for the quarter, but the right amount of time will vary based upon team size, stage of business growth, your level of enablement maturity, and so forth.
  • Note: Even if you are a team of one, set aside this time. At minimum, set aside 30 minutes for strategic thinking and activities.

Work on the right priorities

I’m not sure about you, but my backlog is filled with literally hundreds of possible tasks and requests. How do you best prioritize the work you are going to focus on?

Much like Matt Scheitle discussed with us on his session on Agile Revenue Enablement, we use an agile approach to define our work commitments for the next week, prioritizing with key members of the team, regularly review progress during the week, and then, at the end of the week, review progress.

Remember to prioritize these against the impact to business, understand the WHY it is needed, WHO it will help, and HOW this will align with business goals.

Schedule time for interrupts

It is rare for a day to go by without an urgent request coming across the desk of your Enablement team. While Enablement teams should ask WHY these requests are important so as to deliver the right thing, to understand the true timing needs for the requests, you will have unplanned work every day.

Based upon your team’s historical data, how much time does your team spend each week on unplanned work?

If you don’t have enough data, ensure you at least set aside an hour or two a day to work on unplanned requests. If you don’t have any unplanned work on a given day, use it to focus on your weekly commits or quarterly strategic projects.

Using the working model you have set up to balance strategic, tactical, and ad hoc work, you are able to best understand the amount of work your team can handle as you move forward into the next stage of this journey – Prioritizing efforts to maximize business impact.

Build an advisory council

Working with the senior team, identify a group of individuals from across the business who have been given decision-making authority for their teams.  These individuals must have a solid understanding of their teams goals and how these goals align with what the business is seeking to accomplish.

This team will meet regularly and review the potential projects the Enablement team should focus upon.  While this team agrees on the priorities based upon business impact, the Enablement team weighs in with the level of effort for each project.  This information is brought together and, through the lens of this one working team, decisions are made about where the team focuses it’s efforts.

Create a project plan

Map out the level of effort, dependencies, risks, and mitigation strategies being put in place to take this idea from inception through delivery, into full adoption, and ultimately towards creating results.

Create a communication plan

This team must ensure that the reasons for their decisions, as well as the decisions themselves, are communicated with clarity vertically and horizontally across their teams.  Important points to consider as you build out this plan.

  • You will need your executives to explain, and reinforce, the why behind the work you are doing.    You will need this as you seek to get support from across the business as well as for driving adoption of changes that result from your project.
  • Plan to over-communicate.   For most people receiving your message, you can’t possibly over-communicate.
  • Communicate across multiple channels.  In addition to managers reinforcing in person, use email, Slack messages, and any other channel you have available to you.

Consider using this Sales Enablement Communication Framework which was Initially developed and shared by Stephanie Middaugh and Fiamma Jean-Baptiste.

Create a training plan

Your training plan should complement your communications plan and ensure your team has the skills, the tools, and the knowledge required to implement any changes resulting from this project.

Baseline Metrics

This Enablement project is intended to impact specific metrics — what are the current numbers before the project begins?

How will you measure and report the numbers going forward?

Execute to meet strategic and tactical needs

You know why you are doing this project.

You have a project plan in place. 

Communication plan, check.

Training plan, that too.

As so many of our Collaborators have shared with us throughout 2020, it’s time to execute, and you need to keep the following in mind.

  • You will want to pilot your changes with a small group of well respected people who will be taking advantage of what you are creating as a result of this project.  This group will not only test and provide feedback, but they need to also become your champions as you roll this out to the broader team.
  • Follow the project plan but remember its a living document.  Update it based upon risk, new circumstances, and so forth.  
  • Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more.  Your stakeholders need to know how the project is progressing.
  • Create an adoption plan.  The project you are working upon is only of value if you complete the work and drive adoption.  What is your plan for accomplishing long term adoption of the changes you are creating?

Remember the importance of facilitating cross-team collaboration.  This will provide you with an influx of ideas and support as you drive adoption throughout the business.

As your launch the project, remember the following areas which we have already alluded to above.

Drive Adoption

You did build that adoption plan, right?

Measure business impact

You created your baselines and a plan for who you would update and how often.  Go execute.

Refine approaches based upon data and user feedback

No project goes perfectly.  The changes you expected to occur as a result of this project may not happen, or may not happen to the expected level.

Ensure you are using the data above, as well as user surveys of those impacted by this project, to refine what this project delivered upon.

Very few projects should be considered done at time of initial release.  Refine, iterate, measure.

Good luck out there!

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