Why Your Sales Enablement Strategy Isn’t Working

How do your sales reps take sales enablement tools and translate them into conversations a customer would care about? As you think about your sales enablement strategy for the coming year, here are four essential areas to focus on.

By Bruce Wedderburn

Imagine this scenario: You are a new coach of a tennis team comprised of mostly average players. Over the past few seasons, they’ve consistently landed in the middle of the pack, but you see the potential they have to be so much better and win more league matches.

To address this problem, you take a number of steps:

  • Provide them with more strategic analysis of their opponents before games, including data on the other players’ weakest shots over the course of a game, broken down to include factors such as temperature at game time, shot selection under stress and average racquet velocity during each set.
  • Incorporate this analysis into a series of on-demand, video-based online modules that suggest appropriate shot selection to capitalize on the precise moments in a tight match when their opponent exhibits vulnerability.
  • Equip them with the latest racquet and shoe technology to ensure they have the resources necessary to excel. 

Your players are thrilled. They appreciate the investment and tell others that their new coach is the best! But they keep losing tough matches. The ball still seems to find the net too often, and players still seem to be getting to the ball a few seconds too late.

In the end, this performance enablement strategy doesn’t deliver much of a payoff, and here’s why: All of these actions will help the players know more about what’s required to win. But, as is the case with every strategy, the results come down to the execution. It’s not about what they know; it’s about what they can do and, more specifically, what they habitually do under pressure. It’s not what resources they have at their fingertips; it’s how they successfully use those resources in the heat of battle.

In all too many sales organization, this is exactly where the sales enablement strategy starts to fall apart.

What Are the Elements of a Sales Enablement Strategy?

Technology, content development, buyer journeys — these kinds of elements get a lot of attention in the sales enablement space, and to be sure, they play a key role in any effective strategy. But ironically, many organizations emphasize them to such a degree that they miss the vital ingredient that will ensure these investments actually pay off.

For example, here’s what a sales enablement leader from one of the big three telecommunications companies said to me last month:

We’ve trained all of our national account reps on business acumen. They know how to read a P&L statement and how to identify weaknesses in a company’s financial picture. We’ve provided them with the online tools and data to accurately provide ‘commercial insight’ to a client. But it’s been over ten months now and sales haven’t moved.

We see this scenario play out all the time. Sales enablement departments are providing reps with more and more helpful content and data, and that information is more and more accessible. That’s a good thing. But it’s also only part of the strategy.

Information is only valuable if it’s being used — and being used appropriately. Yet most sales enablement strategies fail to consider this critical success factor: How do your reps take this information and translate it into a conversation that a customer would care about?

4 Tips for Improving Your Sales Enablement Strategy

As you think about your enablement strategy for the coming year, here are four essential areas to focus on:

  1. Evaluate the success of your approach to date in terms of its impact on actual performance. Positive feedback, portal utilization rates and data-filled slide decks are all good points to consider. But how has your strategy moved the needle on productivity? If what you’re doing is leading to increased sales, keep doing it! If sales are not where your sales leader needs them to be, it’s time to examine what may be missing and adjust ASAP.
  2. Develop your sales reps’ abilities to translate all of the content, research, data and tools you have provided them with into productive conversations. Make sure that they have the real-time skills to engage potential customers and create value. Can they link their enablement content to actual problems through effective questions during a customer conversation?
  3. Equip your managers to coach your reps. By “coach,” I don’t mean performance reviews or pipeline analysis; I mean building their skills, confidence and belief that they can be successful.
  4. Don’t fall into the trap of hoping and praying that online modules will build hands-on skills! Make sure your sales training is centered around building skills to execute more effectively in front of customers, not just on providing your reps with additional knowledge. To gauge the effectiveness of your training, evaluate it against the factors that are proven to boost performance: time-spaced repetition, application in the real-world, coaching and accountability.

Taking these tips into account, the tennis coach who wants to help her players actually start winning games will add a few essential elements to her team’s practices, such as fitness, stroke accuracy and confidence. Similarly, sales managers who take an honest assessment of the four areas above will be able to take steps to fully leverage the sales enablement investment and translate it into winning sales performance.



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