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Troubleshooting Enablement Failure – Why do Enablement programs fail?

`70% of Enablement teams fail to move the needle positively and measurably.  While there are a number of reasons for this Enablement failure, most are easy to understand and avoid.70% of Enablement teams fail to move the needle positively and measurably.  While there are many reasons for Enablement failure, most are easy to understand and avoid.

This article will cover the primary reasons Enablement teams fail and provide guidance on correcting the issues.  


70% of Enablement teams fail?

The 5th Annual State of Sales Enablement Report from CSO Insights led to this conclusion.  

The report boiled down to the fact that amongst those surveyed:

  • 19% of the teams surveyed did fantastic work, delivering nearly 18% better win rates and almost 12% better quota attainment.
  • 30% (which included the 19% above) delivered positive results.
  • 50% had a negligible impact
  • The remaining 20% were dragging down performance.

The report is now three years old, and CSO Insights is no longer around.

While we hope performance has improved, we know it hasn’t.

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Debugging Enablement – Most Common Reasons for Failure

While everyone believes they, or their business, is unique, the reasons for Enablement failure are common.

Note:  Whenever you say your situation is unique, stop — you are not that different from others.

No Executive Alignment

Sales Enablement is an exercise in change management requiring high-level support and sponsorship to succeed.

But executive sponsorship is not enough; you need a deeper partnership.

Success in this level of change requires Executive alignment, sponsorship, and partnership.

How do you gain executive sponsorship, alignment, and partnership?

While the exact process will vary from business to business, you will want to identify the potential sponsor and provide them with the following information.

  • Provide them with industry insights demonstrating why this is needed.
  • Clarify the goals of your Enablement program.
  • How Enablement will benefit and work with the Executive sponsor to achieve their goals.
  • What do you need from the executive sponsor in terms of support?

This information will give the sponsor a clear picture of whether they can fully support the program.

Understanding of current business targets

Helping the business deliver more revenue is always the top-level target.

The strategies employed by your business will vary from other companies, and you must be aware of those strategies, the why behind them, and the metrics used to gauge their success.

To increase your odds of delivering positive, measurable business outcomes, align your tactics to help the business achieve these results.

How do you avoid this mistake?

Quarterly business reviews should occur with the enablement team to review how each strategy and tactic aligns with current business strategies and targets.

While I recommend using OKRs for managing goals and corporate alignment, other models work well as long as you incorporate a top-down goal-setting model that focuses on clarity from the top through the bottom layers of the organization.

Note: Learn how to write OKRs for yourself and your organization.

Understanding the buying, sales, customer, and employee journeys

Enablement teams sometimes fall into the trap of throwing training and content at their teams without understanding where it is most needed.

To solve this challenge:
  • For each buyer, customer, and employee role, map out every interaction they have with the company. You could use a spreadsheet or workflow tool.
  • Ask yourself and the buyer/customer/employee for each interaction, is that interaction of value and positive?
  • What platforms, systems, and processes are used for this stage? Are they helping or hurting the progress at this point?
  • What teams are involved, both directly and indirectly?  

The goal is to understand several items, including:

  • Time spent at this stage by all parties.
  • Friction and frustration for buyers or sellers
  • Gaps that result in conflict or frustration later in the journey

For all of the above, can you provide training, content, systems, processes, people, or other solutions and resources to streamline that part of the journey?

Note: Learn how to map the customer journey.

Use of quantitative and qualitative data to guide the process

We must always consider two types of data in our analysis:

  • Quantitative. Numbers from our business intelligence (BI), CRM, Enablement solutions, etc.
  • Qualitative. Surveys and other forms of direct human feedback.

You will find cases where quantitative data indicates performance improvement. Still, qualitative data may demonstrate pain added to the system that will cause problems shortly or if not dealt with promptly in other scenarios.

Always dig into both types of data to build a complete understanding of the impact of your work.

Note: Learn what business metrics matter and how to measure them.

Debugging Enablement – Secondary Reasons for Failure

While the scenarios above are the most common reasons for Enablement failure, many other problems can reduce the benefits of enablement.

No Enablement Strategy

Great tactics executed without great strategy rarely lead to positive, measurable outcomes. Build your Enablement Strategy.

No Enablement Charter

Your charter provides a framework for your program, clarifying what services you offer and whom you support. The Enablement charter should be built within your first 90 days as an Enablement Manager and updated regularly.

Not Focusing on Front-line Managers

When supporting a small team, you can effectively spend time with each person and deliver personalized solutions.

However, if you support more than five to ten people, you quickly lose the ability to scale.  

Partner with front-line managers to deliver information to your customer-facing teams and help drive adoption.

No Formal Coaching Program

The same CSO Insights report I referred to above reported that sales coaching was only effective when formalized. Ad hoc coaching from your managers, or anyone else, generally leads to poorer performance.

Not Reinforcing Training

The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve has derailed many training programs.

The forgetting curve demonstrates how quickly we forget information, with nearly 90% of information forgotten in 30 days (and a large percentage lost in the first hour alone).

Training reinforcement is a critical component of training — without which you are wasting time and money.

Note: Learn about The Surrounded Learner Technique to overcome these challenges.

No Content Governance

I have worked with businesses having 20,000 or more documents available to their sales teams.

Governance allows you to create systems for permission, maintain the content, and generally ensure your investment in content is helpful to your teams.

Failure to Perform Regular Content Audits

Enablement should perform regular content audits to ensure content is up-to-date, on-brand, and legally compliant.

Poor Alignment, Collaboration, and Communication

We have alluded to this above.

Teams need shared goals and objectives, and you should destroy functional silos.

(Video) Effective Collaboration using LOOM

No Champion Program

Champion programs provide:

  • Direct feedback from the field.
  • Support in driving adoption of new programs.

Without this program, your efforts will not scale.

Failure to Iterate and Continuously Improve

Business needs change.

People in the business come and go.

Great programs continue to be great when evaluated and adjusted to match current business needs.

Review all programs regularly.

Note: Dig into the ARC Go-to-Market Strategy for continuous improvement.

Focused on the Wrong Metrics

There are so many possible metrics and KPIs. Teams often focus on either too many metrics or the wrong ones.

Focus on the minimal set of metrics possible and, as with all things, regularly review and adjust to match business needs.

Focused on Sales Only

Few teams can increase overall revenue by focusing purely on their sales teams.

Invest in Revenue Enablement to maximize your Enablement efforts by focusing on the highest priorities.

Expecting Tools to Transform Your Business

Garbage in, garbage out.

Tools are great for automating processes and strategies that are known to work. Unfortunately, too many businesses invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on tools (if not more) only to see a minimal positive impact.

How you decide what tools to buy, deploy them, align them with other solutions, train the team, and so forth will impact how successful the solutions are for your business needs.

Forgetting the humans

Enablement is a human-centered endeavor; humans help humans.  Whether it’s in the hiring process, onboarding, training, sales meetings, or QBRs, it’s all about taking into account the wants and needs of our fellow humans and understanding how to communicate and collaborate.

Problems will arise when you become purely data-driven and forget the people behind the data.

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