Aligning Functions for Enablement

Mike Riksheim

Sales Enablement can be defined as getting the right content, in the right hands, at the right time, with the right message to further the right sales opportunity. A lot of right’s, right? At face value, this seems like a straightforward task. Have a Sales Enablement charter. Build the right sales plays and messaging for the right situations. And then make sure that the field understands and can execute.

But there are so many moving parts to get all of the “rights” lined up in a meaningful way. What the field needs most is content and insight that appeals to their customer. Most importantly reps need to match their actions to fit specific situations. This is where the Sales Enablement leader must engage and align the efforts of multiple functions: Product, Marketing and Sales.

In a perfect world, all of these functions are strategically aligned with complimentary tactical execution. The reality is that most B2B functional strategies are nothing more than a list of tactics. Usually these are created and executed in silos, with little cross-functional coordination. So how do you wrangle and align all of the hard work done to get the field what they need? There are three critical actions you must take:

1. Collaborate on goals and KPIs. Know what each function is looking to do and how they are measured. In coordinating efforts, you likely can’t rely on position power, but rather influence power. Understand the goals and then link field benefit to the metrics of each function. 

2. Clarify roles and responsibilities. First, look for quick wins for the function you are interfacing with. When working with members across multiple functions, roles and responsibilities not only need to be defined, but bought into. A RACI model is very effective here (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed). By understanding each interface’s role in an initiative, you reduce the chance of anything getting dropped. You also are able to include all levels of involvement in the way they need. A RACI should also include commitment dates for each party.

3. Create a feedback loop so all functions receive and benefit from the information they need. Too many organizations have functions that appear to operate well, but in a silo. Often, dependencies aren't explicitly understood. Product needs market and field intel. Marketing needs Product and Field guidance. Sales needs Product and Marketing to be in lockstep. Between the functions, the necessary information is there; it is just not always shared. Find a way to streamline and augment current efforts. A vacuum is great for cleaning floors, but not for business. In Sales Enablement, no one function can be successful without engaging others.

As a Sales Enablement professional, you cannot operate as a separate function. You are the connecting gear that makes Product, Marketing and Sales work together. The end goal of field sales productively is largely in your hands. Without position power over those you need, influence and benefit are your key to success.

As a Sales Leader, your role is to ensure the different functional teams are "playing nice" together. Don't assume they are, because in too many cases, they probably aren't. Proactively engage the functions around what's working and what's not. Force alignment in goal-setting and champion good behaviors with your peer function heads. Your success is most impacted when Sales Enablement fails, so take ownership to address any issues.

Execute on these three key areas and find success for the field, and yourself. Contact us if we can help you align the gears.

Mike Riksheim

Mike Riksheim

Senior consultant with significant expertise in strategic alignment, talent management, sales enablement and sales training. Mike combines his consulting experience with a practical background as a salesperson and sales leader to help his clients drive performance.