When It's All Hands On Deck – Get The Ship Back On Course

Mike Riksheim

You walk into your monthly leadership meeting and everyone is quieter than usual. First quarter has closed, and results are behind expectations. Your CSO arrives and kicks off the meeting. Top-down pressure has started with him, and now is spreading to the rest of the team. You can hear the proverbial claxons ringing in your head. It’s all hands on deck.

Everyone in this room has a part to play in pushing the rudder to correct course. As the Sales Enablement leader, you're the gear that connects the functional wheels and transfers that energy to the field. You can already picture the typical conversations and blame that will follow this meeting. Marketing points the finger at Sales for not utilizing the tools and messaging they created. Sales points the finger at Marketing for not providing useful, real-world content. The CRM system prevents the rep from following a methodology. And of course, everyone blames HR for the bad incentive plan or hiring the wrong rep.

Sales Enablement is often caught in the middle. As the organizational integrator, you have to work past this noise to met your charter: Getting the right content, in the right hands, at the right time, in front of the right people. To bring this all together, you need a plan. But with functional divide, what can you do? 

Get out in the field. Nothing good is created in a vacuum. Too often Marketing and Sales initiatives are conceived and born in the Ivory tower. Market intelligence and customer satisfaction surveys are important, but only directionally correct. Hearing the voice of the customer, and the related unique deal factors, is the most important thing. A world-class sales approach is something that is done with the customer, not to them. Without hearing and observing actual customer interactions, you're missing the corner piece of the puzzle. Create a cadence for all functions to get out in the field with top customers and your ‘A’ Players. Each function will approach with their own lens, so make the enablement focus easy for them. Create an observation tool that forces focus on the greater rep / prospect picture. Coordinate meetings to discuss observations between the functions so everyone is on the same page. Sales Enablement must lead in building your company's situational awareness at the deal level. Your top reps have this insight intuitively, Sales Enablement can turn individual situational awareness into a cross-functional capability.  

Create an enablement plan to merge current and future initiatives.  All too often, new initiatives, especially in crunch times, are seen as the flavor of the month. Continuity in approach and feel is imperative for long-term adoption. Bring all functions into the plan and establish a RACI model to ensure everyone is working in lockstep. Even if some functions are only consulted and informed, it is imperative that all pertinent parties are continually in the loop. You cannot have success if you are working in a silo. Use your knowledge of the most common selling scenarios as way to build the shared language. With this united deal focus, multiple functions can better align their separate efforts. Organizing efforts around common deal scenarios provides a consistent platform to communicate and train.

Establish measurable milestones and quick wins.  What gets measured, gets paid attention to. In difficult times, everything is scrutinized to the point of over-analysis. Unfortunately, the focus goes from the lagging-indicators to a heavy emphasis on leading.  While leading indicators are important, they can't be directly impacted. Executing correct behaviors is the only way to influence the leading and lagging metrics. Any initiative will take time to gain traction, so having short and long-term measurement is important. Work backwards from the current KPI’s and identify what actions and behaviors are necessary to move those needles. Create a subset of near-term metrics that will show progress towards improved results. This will provide visibility into progress as the rest of the metrics are scrutinized. This approach will also help you adapt in real time as needed.

Sales Enablement as an established function is one of the fastest-growing areas in the sales organization. Over one third of companies report significant increases in investment in this area. But all too often, the tyranny of the urgent takes the place of the well-conceived roadmap. Balancing the big picture with the longer-term plan is essential.

Challenging times represent Sales Enablement's opportunity to shine. Take the lead in coordinating across the functions. All hands, working together with your guidance, will chart the course for success. Talk to us about coordinating your Sales Enablement efforts. We can share our best practice insights and benchmark your Sales Enablement strategies against some of the world's leading sales teams.

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.