As we approach the fourth quarter – that last push of the year – there’s some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is it’s probably too late to start anything new. You’re not going to launch a major program in September or October. January is right around the corner and much more suitable for new initiative roll-outs tied to the SKO.
Which brings us to the good news. This is planning and budgeting season, when you and fellow leaders set priorities for next year. It’s often a lost time in sales enablement. The big-bang initiatives have been rolled-out and are now running (hopefully!) like well-oiled machines. But there are still four months left in the year. That’s a lot of time.
So how do you continue to be a critical part of the sales organization?
In our work across industries, we’ve found the most effective leaders balance their time during this part of the year across three areas:
1. Planning for next year. As a sales enablement leader, a major part of your job is big picture planning. But a big picture plan is not the same thing as a wish list. Eventually, finance will have to sign off on the budget for these strategic projects. If they can't connect your list to the priorities of the business, the plan goes down the tubes (along with your influence).
Use this strategic planning time to not only consider next year's major initiatives, but to create a business case for each of those initiatives. How do your projects tie to the priorities of the business? What problems are you solving for your sales organization? What are the KPIs (and have you already established a baseline)? What value will your CFO see in these projects?
Determining a solid strategic plan that will impact sales results can't be done by sitting behind a desk. You have to get out in the field. Without spending time with your reps and front-line managers, you won't have an accurate picture of the critical gaps and opportunities. These gaps drive your priorities for next year. Quantitative data is a great start, but it isn't enough. Supplement hard data with rich qualitative intel that only comes from watching your team in action. Get on the road and experience things first-hand. Your perspective will always be clearer (and give you credibility with the sales organization). And you’ll likely build some beneficial relationships along the way.
2. Executing surgical strikes where needed. Spending time in the field gives you the insight needed to plan next year’s program strategy. But there’s another, equally important focus. In fact, in this time of year it’s arguably even more critical than the 30,000-foot perspective. Because it’s too late to roll out any organization-wide programs, it’s precisely the right time to lean in to specific teams that might be falling short. Quickly assess their needs and then deliver the targeted support that can make a real difference. (Yes, you can still make a difference this late in the game.)
Get in the weeds with the micro data – at the geo, product, and vertical levels. Cut performance by specific roles and other variables relevant for your sales organization. Where are the performance gaps? Identify those areas and determine the help they need. What can you do to offer targeted interventions with these discreet teams? Perhaps the reps need better coaching. Perhaps the managers need refreshers on how to be better coaches. Or maybe a majority of the reps in one vertical are fresh from onboarding and need some reinforcement or refresher training. Are there product knowledge gaps with the new folks? Again, these practical tactics are not for the whole organization, but at the team and individual level.
The KPIs for these activities are more immediate. Continue to monitor performance. See if these teams improve over the next weeks and the next month. Whatever you do, do not give up in the fourth quarter.
3. Keeping the trains running. Finally, one-third of a sales enablement leader's time this time of the year still needs to be devoted to day-to-day operations: onboarding, sales messaging, training, etc. In fact, the end of the year can be a great time for training reps and managers who are reluctant to leave the field earlier in the year. Customer demands are typically down, and unless a deal is already in a rep’s pipeline, it’s probably not going to close before January. Take advantage of the lull and schedule any necessary training.
Because sales enablement is still a new function – especially because sales enablement is a new function – you must continue to prove yourself each day. In addition to strategic planning and tactical rescue missions, don’t forget to keep a steady eye on the basics of blocking and tackling this time of the year. And not just your own activities, but those of the broader team.
The best sales enablement leaders divide their time with the right mix of strategic thinking, practical execution, and the general responsibilities of their function.
There’s still a lot of time left in the year. Contact us to make the most of it and drive the sales results you need to end the year strong.