Leading analysts and companies we work with agree on the top issues sales leaders struggle with year after year:

  • conversion ratios are falling,
  • fewer sales reps are making quota,sales rep attrition rates are rising,
  • it’s taking longer to effectively ramp up new sales team members,
  • and there is increasing misalignment between sales and marketing.

To overcome these challenges, every sales leader needs a strategy and systematic program to build key sales capabilities and deliver them to the entire team via focused content and iterative training. In other words, they need a sales enablement plan. For each week that you can shave off the time it takes to get a new sales rep to productivity, you can see the benefits in the form of real revenue dollars. It’s really as simple as that.

Yet, when we sit down with clients to build out sales effectiveness content and training, we scratch our heads at their misconceptions about what sales enablement means. Here are the top five misconceptions we hear:
1) “We’re swimming in messaging content … let’s do some more and organize it better!” At the most basic level, sales enablement requires two key things: the right content and effective training to get it into the brains of action oriented sales people. The skew in a lot of organizations, however, is on volume of messaging content rather than a balance of content and training. Worse, the problem is not just volume, it’s also the type of content they make available – most construct “product-out” messaging, when most effective sales people think “customer-in” messaging.

2) “Just give them the value props and they’ll work out how to sell it.” Sure, maybe the top 20% will do that, but the others will simply struggle and pretend that they get it. A good sales enablement program strives to make “the many” as good as the best practices of “the few” based on tribal knowledge from the field, where the real lessons are being learned every day.

3) “Sales enablement is tactical and should be designed and done by marketing or sales ops.” Sure, both make an invaluable contribution, but the one with the quota should own the show. Our strong belief is that the strategy and ownership of sales enablement should not be delegated by sales leadership to others. Bottom line: sales leadership needs to identify the problem in the gap between company strategy and field sales execution, set a strategy and define outcomes aligned to the buyer’s journey, and orchestrate a sales and marketing process that optimizes your ability to sell more effectively.

4) “Why do it at all? It’s not adding to my top line! Let other companies train our sales reps and we’ll just hire them. Then pistol-whip them to perform.” This is very common in the more, shall we say, “traditional” VPs of Sales (aka anachronistic dinosaurs) who view enablement as just another fad sales methodology or generic sales skills training that they did themselves. Yet, in our two decades-plus of B2B enterprise selling, we have never come across anyone who has been able to staff his or her team with a full complement of such highly performing automatons. In 2012, the reality is that your team is constantly in flux: reps are not making quota, customers are harder to engage, and even normal attrition means you are losing a good chunk of your people annually.

5) “Use technology to deliver the right information at the right time in the sales process to the right person.” Technology is an enabling agent, not a panacea. Salespeople don’t learn by downloading, they learn best by doing and practicing against real world or close-to-reality scenarios in a competitive environment. This, in my opinion is a crucial element that is paramount to the success of any good program.