July 3, 2017

How to Implement a Sales Enablement Plan

By Chanin Balance

I’ve always hated the phrase “Don’t Boil the Ocean” to back off overly enthusiastic people and unrealistically ambitious projects. Mostly because I’m usually the one thinking we can take it all on and all at once. So now I’ve learned how to still tackle big projects, but with a gentler approach that breaks them into manageable pieces. And let’s face it – introducing sales enablement is a big project that benefits from a careful rollout.

We know that how you begin is crucial in the ultimate success or failure – especially when implementing a new sales process or CRM system. The whole idea is to make your team more efficient and effective, but the challenge is keeping everyone moving forward as you introduce changes. Sort of like changing a tire while the car is still moving down the road. Changing things too fast can be disastrous and may crash your team.

First things first. Prioritize which sales challenge you want to tackle first – e.g., where is your biggest drain on sales productivity? Some of the key challenges sales enablement can help with are:

  • Aligning sales and marketing
  • Improving sales productivity – reducing the time required for sales reps to find content and training/content management
  • Improving sales conversation effectiveness (skill and coaching)
  • Keeping sellers on message/brand
  • Improving ramp time of new hires

Clearly define the ultimate goal and take time to map a clear path for accomplishing it. Plan the change in course in phases so each step becomes the new normal before introducing the next one. No one wants their entire world flooded with new systems and procedures while they are trying to make sales.

The highest success rates happen when the sales enablement rollout is divided into at least three phases. This creates a smoother transition and allows discovery of bumps and challenges while they are still small ones.

Phase I: Development and Planning
Before you introduce anything to your sales team, first define what you want to accomplish and decide the metrics you will measure. This can’t be overemphasized, yet so many people miss this step!

  • Determine the project scope, your specific goals, and who will participate. Determine the metrics you will measure. Some examples are:
    • Adoption – number of reps who participate and how often
    • Productivity – time spent before and after looking for sales support
    • Content usage – which pieces are being used consistently, when and by won deal.
    • Baseline other key performance indicators such as seller confidence, sales cycle length, opportunity conversion, ramp time of new hires, etc.
  • Decide on the role of technology in the implementation and integration. Be very clear on must-have vs. nice-to-have features – and the business impact of each.

Phase II: Launch
As you roll this out to the team, you’ll want your salespeople to experience instant results instead of frustrations. So, before you introduce this to the whole team, plan a soft launch to have a test phase. As you begin testing the solution with a small group, you’ll find it is easier to tweak things on a modest scale with a small group of sellers.  This also helps create some early adopters and leaders within the sales team who have already tasted success with the system.

By the time the whole team is on board, the kinks are worked out and people can get up and running quickly with early instant success. Make sure you communicate what you are automating and focus the training on those processes/systems. Make it lightweight and show the seller the benefits. Remind the sellers (and show them) that this is designed to help them make additional sales, not create more work.

Phase III: Operate and Maintain
Going forward, have a plan to ensure content is available and up to date. New advancements in machine learning can update the tagging without the administrator doing anything, which will free you up to review the reports.

  • Focus on business impact – measure not just usage or popularity, but how content is moving deals through sales cycles and ultimately closing new business.
  • Maximize the CRM integration to allow for revenue metrics.
  • Use content insights to remove unused content – and develop more pieces and micro-coaching that will have an impact on the business.

The operating and maintaining phase is often the most difficult, but will reap the most rewards. Measuring and adjusting regularly is the key. Your sales enablement mission doesn’t end when you’ve implemented your solution; rather, objectives should continuously evolve for improved use of your strategy.