Most sales leaders wish that C-level executives would view sales enablement as a necessity, not just an amenity for teams; but to get buy-in from the top can take some work. In a perfect world, enablement would just be a standard line-item on the go-to-market spreadsheet.
But we don’t live in a perfect world.
It’s often a grueling uphill battle for sales leaders trying to make a case for sales enablement to hard-nosed CFOs and other execs.
All too often, sales leaders are forced to build their case for enablement from scratch — articulate its value, paint a picture of the enablement function, and present evidence why hiring one enabler is better than just pouring that money into even more BDRs.
If you don't have enablement as part of your current system (but you know it's a good idea - because it IS a good idea), here's how you build a business case for sales enablement so that you can get buy-in from your CFO.
Take the lipstick off the pig
Getting buy-in from the CFO requires a deep dive into where you stand today. Be sure to include evidence and metrics beyond the surface. What story do the metrics beyond your pipeline and quota tell, or not tell?
Starting at the bottom, go through your sales funnel and look at each conversion point:
- What’s the conversion rate for every stage of your opportunity flow from closed won back to opportunity creation?
- How many meetings do you need to hold to create an opportunity?
- How many meetings do you need to book to hold that number of meetings?
- How many calls / emails / activities do you need to make to book those meetings?
Looking at the full sales funnel from the standpoint of attributing every activity to top-line revenue creates a visual of specific sales activity with a correlating figure. It will also help you tailor your critical points to the CFO in the next step, and (down the line) actually help you work out what enablement should be doing.
Beyond your conversion rates, you’ll also want to look at the other variables in the sales velocity equation – namely, cycle length, deal size, and sales productivity (e.g. how many opps they can work at one time).
You’ll likely have different challenges from other sales leaders, so deeply analyzing your benchmarks will put you in a strong position to demonstrate the ROI of hiring an enabler.
Nail down one metric that enablement can move forward
Next, you must understand where the friction is and intimately grasp where your sales cycle isn't running smoothly. Now that you've laid the foundation of where things are today in the first step, you can use that data to find the stage or the conversion point that's missing the mark. It can be tempting to try to solve numerous problems when you identify them. To influence the CFO's decision for enablement, start with solving just one problem.
Alternatively, look at your sales funnel overall and pull out the single most important metric you need to move in order to hit your target. Is it giving fewer discounts? Is it shortening the time between two specific stages? Again, each company will be different, but it is critical to identify the one big issue to present.
Present alternative solutions
While this step may seem counterintuitive, it's an important one, so do not skip it. You'll want to present two alternatives to the CFO—the cost of doing nothing and the price of problem-solving without using sales enablement solutions.
Now that you've identified your Achilles heel, calculate the expense if nothing gets done to improve it. If you stay exactly where you are now, show the CFO how that inaction affects everyone's KPIs. You're more likely to get a CFO to cosign your initiative if you can show the impact on metrics that matter to them.
You will also want to calculate the cost of hiring enough sales reps to close the gap you've uncovered. Throwing bodies at problems is the standard solution, so make sure you demonstrate the cost of that solution.
For example, say you’ve found that your ACV is 20% lower than where you thought it would be due to reps discounting more to close deals faster.
You’d want to present two versions of that reality:
- How much revenue you’ll have at the end of the year if you don’t do anything and keep hiring at your current plan.
- How many more sellers you’ll need to hire (and how much that’s going to cost) to offset the lower ACV with more deals.
You will want to show that you've found a significant revenue problem to solve, and your current way of solving it is expensive or impossible. Compelling numbers influence CFO buy-in.
Tie enablement objectives to the specific problem
Finally, it’s time for the big reveal - how enablement can help, and what impact it’s going to have on your revenue goals.
Calculate the benefit of improving your one friction spot in the sales cycle or improving a single conversion rate you identified above. That’s your enablement impact.
Basically, you’re saying to your leadership that there’s another way, that other way is to invest in enablement and make what you have better, and if you do that, you’ll end up in a financially better position.
It’s also worth outlining what exactly you think an enabler can do, or evidence that you might have of sales enablement solving a similar problem before.
For example, if you were struggling with your ACV, you might share our case study about how the enablement team at TouchBistro improved the ACV by 34%.
Lastly, be sure to include the tracking and recordkeeping you will implement to measure the success or failure of your enablement function, and outline clear steps for what to do in either case.
For instance, you might say “if our metric hasn’t been improved within 6 months, then we need to revisit the role of the function.”
Most importantly, you will want to drive home the point that enablement isn't some superfluous hire focused on an abstract notion of training and development. Everyone should see enablement as a revenue role, and it's success needs to be tied to driving revenue outcomes. When you can marry the enablement role to revenue, a CFO is much more likely to buy in.