I had an interesting conversation recently with a Sales Enablement Manager at a large global technology company, where he made me reflect on the profession.
He said something along the lines of:
“Sales Enablement is a made up profession to fix a gap between sales and marketing. If everyone did their jobs properly, then maybe enablement wouldn’t need to exist.”
We had an animated back-and-forth around this topic for at least a half an hour, with decent arguments being made on both sides.
In the end, I don’t think I agree with him.
Think of a sales organization like a symphony orchestra. You have different musicians playing different notes, melodies, and instruments. They all follow the sheet music. But they also have an eye on the conductor.
The conductor, to me, is sales enablement; making sure that everyone’s timing is perfect. Making sure that certain sections play louder at times. That the harmonies are in sync. And the song plays beautifully.
The conductor has a very important role in the orchestra. The symphony really wouldn’t work without them.
But, from the conversations I’ve had with sales enablers and leaders, it’s clear that reps are given too much information, too quickly, when they first start a new role or a new job.
Often, we don’t do a good enough job conducting the orchestra as enablers.
Information Overload Is A Reality
The sales rep needs to be buyer-centric. They’re being asked for information every day from prospects and customers, some which often conflicts with the information your company is teaching them.
Then, you have the different departments that are jumping to share as much information as they can about how things work:
- Sales Operations: Here are all the awesome tools you need to use.
- Sales Management: Here are all the steps in the sales process.
- Marketing: Here are the latest asset/event we want you to push.
- Product: Here are all the cool functions and features we have.
- HR: Here are all the things you need to read and fill out so the company doesn’t get sued.
Sales reps operate on a need-to-know-basis. As sales enablers, your objective is to determine what the rep needs to know, and when, so they can deliver the best possible experience to the customer
If enablement is the filter between all the interested departments and the new sales rep, then why do we still have so many challenges with ramping new sales hires?
The consequences of information overload during onboarding
When it comes time to sales onboarding programs, companies are surprised when an information-intense one-week bootcamp doesn’t produce quota-crushing reps.
The Bridge Group, in their SaaS AE 2017 Metrics and Compensation Research Report, identified top challenges in sales:
- Productivity and performance (49%)
- Recruiting and hiring (30%)
- Ramping new hires (26%)
- Forecast activity (19%)
- And on-going training (17%)
Digging further into the research, the same study found 41% of respondents say their average ramp time is over five months. Which means the sales bootcamp, on its own, doesn’t work!
When we dissect some of the best onboarding programs we’ve seen, they have three commonalities:
- They require a lot of time: Onboarding is not an event. It’s not a one- to two-week bootcamp. It requires far more time to be effective.
- They’re highly engaging: You don’t want to bore new people in classrooms the first couple weeks on the job. They need to be actively involved, doing meaningful activities as soon as the second day.
- They show clear ROI: You need to be able to prove to upper management your programs are showing a return on the metrics you want to drive the most. It’s not just checking boxes off a list of things to learn about the company.
Yet, research shows that most companies ignore the above best practices for onboarding:
- 60% of companies fail to set milestones or goals for new hires. This means onboarding is treated more as a checkbox where you went to bootcamp.
- Only 37% of companies extend their onboarding programs beyond the first month. This is mind-boggling, especially when you look at the statistics of how long it takes for new reps to ramp. This means after the first month, there’s no support left for reps.
We can do better than this.
Reps don’t need to know every single detail about closing a deal on the first day. Not even the first week.
By being better conductors, we can prioritize the information flow and timing over the entire ramp period of a new sales hire to make sure they get the right results.
By doing so, we might even be able to ramp them faster?
If you want to learn more about onboarding programs and ramp time, you should download our ebook “How to Design a Sales Onboarding Program for Faster Ramp.”