The Five Steps to Aligning Sales Enablement and Leadership

By Russel Zack, Head of Revenue, Second Nature
A person climbing up a staircase towards a red flag.

Friction between sales enablement and sales leadership teams can be widespread across organizations. It’s understandable: Each team has its own goals and priorities, and is competing for salespeople’s attention. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Sales enablement and leadership really can work together in harmony, and it’s never been more important to make this leap. The post-COVID sales world needs systems and processes to be more tightly aligned, not less, to support today’s increasingly global, digital, and data-driven sales trends. Friction at the top trickles down and affects seller morale, right when you need every sales employee to be laser focused on the right steps and best methods to close deals in their pipeline.

That’s why we’ve identified these five steps for sales enablement teams to take to achieve the Nirvana of sales enablement-leadership alignment.

1. Speak the Language of Sales

Traditionally, sales enablement teams fell under the marketing umbrella, so sales enablement people are usually used to thinking and talking in marketing-speak. That works great when you’re dealing with marketers, but not so much when you’re talking to sellers.

Sales leaders tend to be results oriented, so sales enablement needs to respond to that by matching their language. Replace marketing jargon with simple descriptions, and tell sales leaders about scenarios instead of promoting features and functions. Describe problems and suggest results-based solutions, like talking about how to handle objections, what to do when a deal gets stuck, and how to respond at each stage of the pipeline.

2. Share Sales Leadership Headaches

Every relationship is a two-way street; so, if you want sales leaders to share your concerns, you’ll need to return the favor and strive to understand their biggest issues. And that’s only possible if you’re present – physically and mentally – when they air their quarterly and yearly challenges and goals.

According to Forrester VP/Research Director Pete Ostrow at the SES Experience conference, there’s a trend of sales enablement teams in high-performing companies moving to report to sales leadership rather than to marketing. Sales enablement must be seated at the table when these challenges and goals are discussed.

However, as Ostrow acknowledges, you have to have enough sales enablement employees to tend both to sales leader concerns and to running sales coaching programs. The same high-performing companies that are bringing enablement into sales leadership meetings also have more sales enablement personnel. In high-performing companies, the enablement-to-seller ratio averages at 1:36, in contrast with low-performing companies where the ratio is 1:49.

3. Stay Up to Date on Sales Leader Needs

Connecting with sales leadership’s concerns and targets is an awesome start, but you also need to stay in sync with their sales cycles each month, quarter, and year, and join them as they track their progress toward their goals. Talk to the CRO on a regular basis to find out which deals are running smoothly and which are getting bogged down.

Go a step beyond sympathetic listening by finding ways to help sales leaders out. For example, sales leaders are often swamped by pitch recordings but, if they don’t listen to them, how will they know what to do to strengthen their sales teams? Lend leaders a helping hand by collecting seller feedback and turning it into actionable insights that sales leaders can use.

One way to make this easy is to use Second Nature, or another sales coaching tool, which gathers leading indicators that shine a light on what’s about to take place in the field. These insights can help sales leaders save time and act proactively.

4. Keep on Top of Evolving Customer Needs

Today’s B2B customers are a long way down the road to fully self-led digital purchase journeys, but they need support from smart sellers familiar with their evolving buyer experiences.

Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Advisory, at Gartner, observed in his talk at the Sales Enablement Soiree that 43% of all B2B buyers, and 54% of millennial buyers, prefer a “rep-free experience” when buying complex solutions. But, he pointed out, buyers still have difficulties identifying the (often subtle) differences between various solutions without the help of a sales employee, which raises the risk that they’ll regret their purchase decision.

As a result, sales enablement teams need more visibility into the customer journey if they’re going to guide sales teams in the right way to meet these complex customer needs. To give one example, sellers today need training in how to talk with a knowledgeable lead whose first contact is an inbound call made because they read a lot of content on your Website, but the prospects still aren’t clear about your solution’s USP.

5. Look Back in Analysis

End the year (or quarter) the way you began it – by sitting with sales leadership as they discuss their challenges, targets, successes, and failures. It’s important to be there when they review progress – and not only that, but to come prepared to contribute your own insights and data analysis.

Be ready to demonstrate the role your department played in each of that period’s KPIs – both the positive and the negative ones – to cement the connection between your two teams. And then be ready to take notes about the sales goals and obstacles for the next year/quarter, and start all over again.

Sales Enablement and Sales Leaders Should Be Arm in Arm 

When your sales enablement and sales leadership teams are allied more closely, everyone wins. Tighter alignment means sales enablement teams can rally assistance for their training programs, while sales leaders gain data insights they need to determine sales strategies. By sharpening insights into customer needs, assisting with regular reviews, and sharing sales leadership’s challenges, language, and process, sales enablement teams can improve experiences for themselves, sales leaders, sellers, and B2B buyers alike.

Learn more about Second Nature and how it can enhance alignment between sales enablement and sales teams.

Russell Zack is head of Revenue at Second Nature, a platform for immersive sales simulations in natural language. By practicing with Second Nature’s AI-powered conversation partners, sales professionals improve their performance and confidence by gaining real-time, personalized feedback.