DOES THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!?
You go to a conference.
Then on the flight home, you try and make sense of what just happened.
You try and pull out insights and actions you can take back to your own organization, only to realize that the whole thing is a bit of a blur.
And instead of neatly organizing all these great insights into an action plan, you end up just starting another happy hour for one in despair.
Well, rest easy. We attended the Sales Enablement Soiree in San Francisco last week, and have put together everything we learned in a handy 4-point listicle.
Enablement needs to be much closer to revenue for attribution and correlation. It’s no longer enough to “do” enablement. Now, enablement leaders need to consider the ROI of their enablement programs terms that matter to the business.
According to Mary Shea, principal analyst at Forrester, this is usually going to be top-line growth and/or customer experience.
The challenge, however, is around program attribution.
That is, how do you know and prove that X program generated Y revenue outcome?
A lot of enablers we spoke to were concerned that they were subjecting themselves to a measurement standard beyond their control.
What’s more, some practitioners had reservations about the validity of those causal links, and the impact arguing causality would have on their credibility.
For example, one director we spoke to had a sales cycle that lasted 1-2 years. The lagging indicator of closed / won deal isn’t easy to link back to training that happened so long ago.
However, in spite of these reservations, enablement is fundamentally a revenue function.Therefore, it needs to be pulling towards a top-level revenue outcome as defined by the organization.
We’ve discussed the renaissance of sales enablement before, but this trend continues to be relevant. What's important to remember though is that we've seen something like this before. Sales enablement is following the same trajectory that marketing automation went through 8-10 years ago. By looking back those experiences, we get a good sense of where th sales enablement field is heading.
Quick history lesson
8-10 years ago, marketing automation was just getting started. Marketing was a black box, and the adage of ‘I waste 50% of my marketing, I just don’t know which half” was alarmingly true.
Then along came marketing automation, with promises of mass, trigger-based automation and eventually, inbound marketing and marketing attribution modelling. Marketers finally got a seat at the table because they had data that spoke the language of the board room. With data, marketers could prove their value to the business.
Marketers finally got a seat at the table because they had data that spoke the language of the board room.
Sales enablement is now experiencing the same evolution. The only difference is that organizations have been here before, and are pushing enablement faster along that evolution curve.
Enablement needs to start outcome-first. One panelist on the road to revenue session argued that enablement has three components:
The key, however, is that you start with #3 – what do you want to achieve – and work backwards. Start with what you want to achieve, then build a program to suit that outcome.
The same sentiment was echoed again and again, and we believe that enablers are increasingly being pressured to attach – formally or informally – a revenue impact value for their programs. While this will undoubtedly lead to some growing pains in the industry, it’s ultimately a powerful evolution as it moves enablement from a nice-to-have helper to a standard part of the revenue team.
The labour market continues to tighten for sellers, which means hiring requirements and pickiness must be relaxed to get enough bodies to hit quota targets. However, this also means that organizations must reduce ramp times, and use early indicators to make fast decisions around hiring sellers. Plus, since organizations can't reliably hire superstars every single time, they need to be better at supporting sellers as they get up to speed. Basically, companies need to be able to take unformed clay and fire it into a beautiful, productive rep.
Of course, this trend isn't new. the below graph from The 2018 SDR Metrics Report shows that over the last 10 years, less and less experience is required for new hires.
As a result, Enablement – who is on the hook for cutting ramp time and identifying those patterns to inform those decisions – is left holding the bag. If enablement isn’t involved in choosing the raw materials, it’s very difficult to make an impact.
Sio enablement needs to be involved in the hiring process right from the start. In particular, enablement needs to be the connector between HR and sales leaders, and add value by defining:
If enablement can help decide who makes it in the door, they’re in a much better position to move the dial on those critical early onboarding and training metrics.
We’re laying down the gauntlet here: we believe that within the next 12 months, sales enablement will be seen by most as a strategic function, helping drive the business forward and weighing in on strategic revenue decisions. The same way over the last 12-18 months its really entrenched itself as a specialized function, the next 12 will move enablement from tactical to strategic.
As a consequence, we think that there’s going to be even more resources put into the enablement space, around tooling, hiring, and expertise as it naturally matures.
Sales enablement is doing all the right things. It’s moving to revenue impact, ROI, and outcome-based programs as a default way of working. It’s beginning to prove out the attribution of programs, and even if every enabler isn't there yet, there’s an agreement across practitioners that’s where this train is going.
And finally, the function continues to grow. If the numbers this year at the Sale Enablement Soiree are anything to go by, sales enablement is just going from strength to strength.
Spencer is the product marketing manager at LevelJump. He comes from the world of content and loves helping B2B SaaS companies find exactly the right people who love a product, and figuring out exactly how to tell that product story so it resonates and compels action. You can find him on LinkedIn.