Most Sales Enablement practitioners we speak with think of Sales Enablement primarily or exclusively as ‘Sales Person Enablement’. The focus is on how to help the salesperson “consistently and systematically have valuable conversations” throughout the sales process. That’s the guidance we’ve received from Forrester and others, so who can blame us.
Our point of view is that this approach is insufficient. We agree that improving conversations is at the core of Sales Enablement, however, there are two other important Sales Enablement stakeholders: frontline Sales Management and VP Sales/Sales Ops, whose conversation quality and consistency in two critical use case scenarios you need to consider and inform in order to drive superior sales results, which after all should be the principal aim of “Sales” Enablement.
From this broader vantage point, the three most important conversations in sales are those between: 1) the sales person and buyer(s) throughout the sales process, 2) the sales manager and each sales person across the team during 1:1 deal reviews, and 3) VP Sales/Sales Ops and executive management during pipeline reviews. The following table reframes Sales Enablement’s focus in the context of each stakeholder’s critical conversation and points to the impact of improving the quality, consistency, and comprehensiveness of these conversations over an extended period.
|Sales Person||With buyers||Sales process||Win rate improvement|
|Sales Management||With salespeople||Deal reviews||Quota attainment|
|VP Sales/Sales Ops||With exec management||Pipeline reviews||Forecast accuracy|
In all cases, the goal is to improve the effectiveness AND productivity of each of these conversations.
Conversation effectiveness. From a ‘conversation effectiveness’ perspective, we want to increase the likelihood that the designated stakeholder will be able to achieve their desired outcome from a particular interaction. As such, we need to start by defining the conversation goals for each stakeholder’s key use case.
- Sales person. Their buyer meeting conversation goal is to continually gauge and generate interest, need, and progress across the buying organization and throughout the sales process and, eventually, close the sale and position the buyer and the seller’s company for a successful implementation and a mutually-beneficial long-term relationship.
- Sales manager. Their deal review conversation goals are to correctly assess key deal progress, risk, and health; coach salespeople on the most advantageous next steps; and formalize the strategy in the form of Call Plans all geared to upping the probability of advancing and closing these strategic opportunities.
- VP Sales/Sales Ops. Their pipeline review conversation goals are to gain better visibility into key deals’ true likelihood of advancement or closing at various stages in the funnel, assess pipeline health, and forecast accurately (BTW, the CEO, executive team, and board also deeply care about this).
To help each party accomplish their respective conversation goals and optimize meeting effectiveness, we need to provide guidance regarding best practices for what needs to happen before, during, and after each “critical sales conversation”.
- Before: Plan key questions to ask, points to make, responses to possible objections, and next steps to suggest; and communicate the agenda.
- During: State and gain agreement on meeting goals and agenda, discuss planned key questions and talking points, identify and address issues, and prioritize and schedule concrete action items/next steps.
- After: Assess meeting effectiveness, update progress in CRM relative to meeting focus (deal, pipeline, forecast), summarize and email next steps, and note key information to uncover/discuss during the next meeting.
Conversation productivity. By ‘conversation productivity’ we mean the ability to obtain and provide all of the targeted information during the conversation in the span of time allocated to the meeting. For example, if there are five key pieces of information you want to uncover and another five you want to put forth, chances are that if you don?t prepare and conduct the meeting adequately that you?ll walk out with only a portion of your ?conversation information goals’ completed. This is both a time and information management issue.
WHAT TO DO: To optimize conversation effectiveness and productivity and help each stakeholder easily and consistently prepare and conduct high quality meetings, we need to equip them with CRM-integrated tools that are customized to their critical conversation use cases. These can include:
- Conversation planning guides and templates
- Meeting agenda templates
- Meeting guides comprised of best practice talking points, questions, and optimal meeting outcomes
- A system to easily and quickly capture and communicate meeting notes
- Email templates to use before the meeting to communicate agenda and after the meeting to communicate action items
- Instruction on what information and activities need to be updated in CRM
Chances are you have already been doing this for your sales folks. But to hit the aggressive growth targets you all are expected to hit, it?s in everyone?s best interest to also focus on Sales Management and Sales Ops “critical conversation” enablement. If you’re a Sales Ops leader, don’t be shy. You can also invite yourself to the Sales Enablement party. After all, you’ve probably been hosting it all along.
Are you taking a holistic approach to “Sales” Enablement?