Help Me, Help You! – Sales Enablement Starts With Sales Manager Enablement

Forrester definition of ?Sales Enablement?:

Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process?that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer?s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.

This definition?has been widely adopted and is consistent with others and as good as any, but it misses a critical point. Namely, that the most important component of Sales Enablement is the frontline sales manager and their essential role in coaching optimal salesperson behavior to drive effectiveness and performance.

Your sales managers are the critical success factor when it comes to Sales Enablement. Before you think about developing tools, training, or technology to enable your salespeople to conduct better conversations or more methodically manage “each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle”, you first need to consider and address how you can enable your sales managers to effectively and consistently coach their salespeople to accomplish these sales effectiveness goals. Like Jerry Maguire you should be telling your sales managers to “Help me, help you!”

So what do Sales Managers need to drive sales enablement?

Let’s break down the Forrester definition of “Sales Enablement” to figure out the different ways you can equip your front-line sales manager to drive sales enablement.

  • “Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process…”? There’s your first clue. Sales enablement starts with sales process. Research shows a very strong correlation between sales process prowess and strong performance across key success metrics, like win rates and quota attainment. Documenting a fully-articulated sales process in the form of a Sales Process Guide that spells out by stage what each salesperson should say, ask, do, and use along with buyer-milestone-based stage exit criteria is job one.
  • “…?that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation…” ?Let’s translate this from the esoteric to the practical. What this phrase means is that sales managers need a way to ensure that their sales rep, Joe or Mary, has a great call with Prospect A this afternoon, and then with Prospect B tomorrow, and so on. To achieve this, your sales managers need a Deal Review Guide to collaborate with their reps to assess and strategize how to win specific deals. Call Planning Guides will help them coach their salespeople to plan the goals, questions, objection-responses, and talking points for the very next call. Ongoing use of these coaching tools by managers will equip the team ?with the ability to consistently and systematically have valuable conversations?.
  • “…with the right set..” ?The manager needs to make sure their reps are speaking with the “right set” or right audience. It’s not up to the manager or salesperson to figure this out. Defining the?target audience most-likely to buy from you is a corporate imperative and initiative. A Target Market and Audience Profile as well as a?Perfect Prospect Profile are tools your managers can use to make sure reps aren’t wasting time hanging out with the wrong crowd.
  • “…of customer stakeholders…”??This snippet recognizes that there are multiple decision-makers and influencers involved in the buying process. So managers need a?Decision Stakeholder Profile?that defines what titles and roles are typically involved in the evaluation, selection, and implementation of your type of solution along with a description of the common goals, issues, and metrics each of these roles/titles?most cares about. This tool will enable your managers to help their reps understand the needs and motivations of their target buying audience. A Player Chart provides a framework to assess and discuss for specific deals the motivations, perceptions, and influence levels of key stakeholders and what to do to strengthen the relationship.
  • “… at each stage of the customer?s problem-solving life cycle?”?This point reinforces the need for a sales process, but, most importantly, calls out the requirement that your sales process definition?needs to be aligned with how your typical customers buy.?Identifying?and incorporating buying process milestones into your Sales Process Guide will help your sales managers discuss and assess the true status and?probability?of a deal. It also gives them a means to coach their reps on what to do to try to move the buyer to THEIR next step on the very next call. Here’s a link to an excellent article from Sirius Decisions on how to develop a buyer-centric sales process.
  • “…to optimize the return of investment of the selling system” Any time you bring up terms like “optimize” and “ROI”, you’re?concerned?about improving efficiency. Also, note that our friends at Forrester point out that it’s?not just any type of system. Specifically, it’s a “selling” system.?So here the questions are, How do you help your sales managers enable a more efficient selling system? How do you help them make it easier for their salespeople to do all the other things we talked about, over and over again, during a given period? The answer is technology. To help your sales managers drive selling efficiency, you need to turn your CRM into a ?selling system?. Easier said than done. Integrating an automated sales playbook application with your CRM along with a host of other cloud-based sales enablement applications, like, for example, sales intelligence, ROI calculator, proposal automation, quoting, and e-signature tools, will transform your salespeople?s CRM experience from database management to opportunity optimization.

But handing your managers a bunch of shiny new coaching tools and expecting them to become the next Jim or John Harbaugh (depending on which coast you?re on) of sales management won?t cut it. You need to help them absorb and apply coaching best practices by providing them with Coaching Guides and training that shows them how and when to utilize each of the coaching tools in the day-to-day management of their reps. Left to their own devices, managers will get too caught up in the daily chaos of putting out fires and chasing the number. Which means the whole collection of tools ends up on a shelf somewhere gathering dust and your sales enablement efforts get, well, disabled.


To recap, here’s your Sales Manager Enablement toolkit:

  • Sales Process Guide (Buyer-Centric)
  • Deal Review Guide
  • Call Planning Guide
  • Player Chart
  • Target Market and Audience Profile
  • Perfect Prospect Profile
  • Decision Stakeholder Profile
  • Sales Enablement Applications
  • Coaching Meeting Guides

When it comes to Sales Enablement, like Jerry Maguire, you should exhort your sales managers to “Help me help you!? In other words, to drive Sales Enablement, you first need to enable the enabler.

Are you enabling your sales managers to enable their reps?

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