Enablement Leaders: 6 Things to Get Right in Your First 6 Months

Peter Catalano

Congratulations! You’re now a sales enablement leader. Your excitement is in full swing as you prepare for your first day. You’re eager to make a difference and meet the teams that you’ll be supporting. To make an impact quickly, you begin to plan your first moves.

Sales enablement is becoming increasingly important to sales organizations. And as companies recognize the value of sales enablement, strong enablement leadership has become essential. As with all leaders, a solid plan and fast execution is critical.

But new sales enablement leaders usually don’t have the benefit of learning from those that came before them. Many are the first to step into such a role at their company. The current generation of sales enablement leaders is defining the standard for success in real-time.

So, where does a new sales enablement leader start? How can they have the greatest influence in the shortest period of time? What actions should they prioritize? After working side-by-side with new sales enablement leaders across a mix of industries, we believe there are six things new leaders must get right during the first six months:

1. Ground the plan in the sales strategy. One of sales enablement’s central responsibilities is keeping the focus on field execution. The translation of the sales strategy into enablement is often viewed as secondary to running core programs like onboarding or product launch. New leaders must quickly understand their firm's strategic objectives and identify how enablement can best impact them. This becomes the starting point for defining the mindset, skillset, and toolset required for sales success today. As the corporate priorities change, so will the enablement strategy. It’s a sales enablement leader's job to anticipate and influence the changes, always ensuring the sales team is prepared to deliver.

2. Find a platform project early. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression. Find a way to shine early and demonstrate real ROI. Whether it’s refining the sales process, building a sales methodology, or rethinking onboarding, identify a platform opportunity to elevate field effectiveness. The experience leading platform initiatives gives new leaders practical access to the field. From there, they can assess the current gaps and prioritize the best opportunities to improve performance. These insights are the necessary foundation for refining the longer-term sales enablement strategy.

3. Build credibility with the field. Sales teams are naturally resistant to anything new. It’s important for new sales enablement leaders to anticipate a healthy dose of skepticism to their plans. They'll need to quickly articulate their role in a way that translates to value for the field. Beyond words, real credibility comes from action. Building trusting relationships with the field is important to early success. New sales enablement leaders should partner with field leadership in identifying the quick-wins that matter most. Trust comes when the field believes enablement has their back and understands their needs. To make this happen, new leaders must resist the temptation to spend too much time in the corporate 'ivory tower'. The more sales enablement leaders interact with the field, the more they'll learn. And this learning forms the basis of personal credibility.

4. Define the metrics. Establishing a baseline for measuring success is important. New enablement must proactively define the right KPIs for the function and then communicate them to field and executive leadership. Understand the behavioral drivers of sales performance and map how various sales enablement initiatives influence each of the behaviors. These metrics lay the groundwork for tracking the success and ROI of the sales enablement function. Without a clear set of metrics that ultimately tie to sales performance, sales enablement will never move up the maturity curve. New sales enablement leaders should emphasize the importance of accountability and performance with their teams starting from day one.

5. Build demand for enablement services. As awareness of sales enablement's capabilities grows, so will the demand for its services. This can be a double-edge sword. New enablement leaders must stay focused on their strategy without being over-burdened with fire-fighting and demands for tactical activities (think: planning SKO or the next webinar). To build the "right" type of demand, educate the broader business on sales enablement’s objectives, metrics, and success stories. As the function and influence grows, avoid the common enablement growing pains. Prioritizing and taking on the right workflows will help maintain a focus on the most valuable initiatives.

6. Cut the noise. Stay mindful of the sales team’s “enablement experience." Sales enablement leaders should collaborate with marketing, product, and other functions to minimize disruption to the field. This can be a particular challenge for new sales enablement leaders. Sales reps are often the go-to audience for testing new products, services, messages, reporting, and administrative items. A new enablement leader can become a magnet for requests and new ideas from other departments. Forestall these potential field distractions that risk derailing the larger enablement plan. Work directly with your business partners to establish a line of communication and basic governance on field initiatives and touchpoints. Embrace sales enablement's role as the gatekeeper for the field.

The good news is sales enablement is becoming essential to high-performing sales organizations. Life as a sales enablement leader can be a rewarding and influential assignment. But a plan for the first six months is a must. As modern selling continues to evolve, sales enablement will remain at the forefront of driving the skills and behaviors required to win.

Sales organizations need a new mindset, skillset, and toolset. Sales enablement is the key to making these elements a reality. Contact us for more best practices that maximize sales enablement ROI and drive lasting sales results. 

Catch up on last week’s blog about which reps make the best managers, and check out additional blogs here.

Peter Catalano

Peter Catalano

Senior consultant with significant expertise in sales strategy, training, enablement, and transformations. Peter combines his background as a sales practitioner with practical consulting experience to drive successful client engagements.