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Sales Enablement – It May Not Be What You Think!

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Sales Enablement
Editors Note:
 This is a guest post written by Malcolm Peak –an expert on sales enablement and client relationship management. His opinions are his own.

Let me ask you … What is sales enablement? Is it training? Is it coaching? Is it research? Is it gadgets? Is it big data?

It’s all of these things and more. But one thing it is not is sales training alone.

I’d like to put forward 3 tenets of sales enablement:

1. It’s about the relationship … stupid!

Selling is about relationships and there is broad acceptance in industry that ongoing business success is built on strong relationships.

Miller Heiman in their 2013 Sales Best Practices Study highlight that relationships matter, and world class sales organisations put customers at the core of everything they do. The Corporate Executive Board also references anecdotal evidence that traditional sales training has short-lived results, and a change in the ‘cultural’ foundation of the organisation is required to achieve sales success and growth.

Without relationships, you might make one sale but you won’t make another. In the current economy it’s important to have annuity income to smooth over the typically bumpy ride experienced by most SMEs.

Relationships also need to be across multiple planes. You can’t run a successful organisation with what I call ‘single-point-sensitivity’ where one account manager has responsibility for all correspondence and interaction with the client. Relationships need to be ‘many to many’ so that both organisations stick better to each other in good times and bad meaning lots of people in your business need to know lots of people in your client’s business.

2. It’s about readily available useful information – not just reams of data

I was speaking with an industry contact recently, and they were lamenting that they have a great sales team but they don’t know how to use the information provided to them.

My first thought was about the incomprehensible instruction manuals that often accompany furniture/electrical equipment and wondered if my contact’s sales team was provided with too much confusing information.

My second was George Miller’s “Magical Number Seven – plus or minus two” referring to his 1956 article in the Psychological Review where he argued that people can remember seven things (plus or minus two).

How many things was my contact asking his salespeople to remember?

Information overload is a common issue in business, whether it be the number of emails you receive, the number of key points you need to get across in a conversation/presentation, or various passwords. Our brains are struggling with perspective and balance and this is where we should be focusing our attention.

We don’t have to remember the information. We just need to know how to get it when we need it.

Modern Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) have the capacity to store huge amounts of customer/client data but it needs to be translated into information before it is useful.

The guide for what is useful information is context. If you enable the people that speak with your customer to readily access information that’s relevant to the context of their discussions, then you have provided them with good information – not just data. This is what will enable your sales organisation/teams to work more closely with their customers/clients and give them information that they see as really valuable.

3. It’s about the whole organisation – not just the pointy end.

One key component of enabling your business to be successful from a sales perspective is to remember that it’s not just your sales people that are your sales people.

Your website is your new reception, and the social media posts (both your corporate ones and those by your employees) are the conversations your customers hear and listen to. The person chasing unpaid bills could be speaking to a consumer of your products and the customer service representative could do great damage if a dissatisfied customer takes to the online world to vent their frustration.

Whether people actively acknowledge it or not, in one way or another, in the modern economy every person in your business is in sales whether they like it or not. So you have to enable them to understand this in a way that resonates comfortably with them.

Everyone in your organisation needs to understand how what they do impacts the enablement of the business to achieve its goals. In a recent post, Trudy MacDonald (a colleague at Talent Code) introduced the concept of ‘Great’ and how everyone in a business needs to understand what ‘Great’ means for them.

This concept is central to sales enablement in your business as it helps people understanding what they need to do, how they need to do it, and what success looks like. Without line of sight to what the business is aiming for people can’t make judgement calls as to what they should be focusing on first.

Before you think about spending money on that sales training course to help your sales team close more business, take a moment to think about whether the mechanisms and processes that support the sales team are aligned with the direction this training will take them. If it’s not, you might get a short-term lift in sales numbers but your relationships (both internal and external) may suffer.

A few quick points to take away:

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of relationships, particularly in this economy;
  • Provide useful information and not data to your people who interact with customers and make it easy for them to find all the information they need; and
  • Don’t forget that your sales people are not your only sales people.

Guest blogger

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