As a sales enablement professional, you may be feeling pressure to prove your value to the organization. While it’s not as serious as defending your life, it can certainly feel like you’re on trial.
Around 2000, sales enablement was what the Sales Benchmark Index called a “fringe term.” Just a few years later, it was one of the hottest positions within sales organizations. Now that it’s well entrenched, one wonders if sales enablement is reaching the “peak of inflated expectations.”
When the hype cools (and it will), companies will demand to see quantifiable results from their investments. You’ll have to defend your work.
“If we are not measuring ourselves on revenue impact, we are missing the boat,” says Billy Bob Brigmon, senior principal, emerging sales talent and innovation at Workday. “The easier it is to understand what you are accountable for, the more valuable you are [to your business].”
Based on the perspectives of dozens of sales enablement leaders (many of which are active leaders in the Sales Enablement Society), we offer a few thoughts here on how to make a compelling case that justifies your existence.
Getting Clear on Your Role
Sales enablement is a noble profession. In fact, Forrester views it as the key linchpin helping B2B companies bridge the gap between their business strategies and how they execute in the field.
According to Forrester, 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.”
The challenge is to increase the effectiveness of every sales interaction with prospects and customers. You do that by executing on and contributing to the sales strategy.
For many, this comes down to driving more revenues. In other words, help sales reps close more deals. To defend your role, you must first be clear about the sales organization’s strategy and show how you are helping it succeed. Then you can determine how to demonstrate your impact.
Barbara Mazziotti, global sales enablement leader at GE Digital, focuses on demonstrating an impact on sales productivity, but also an ability to drive results around key strategic sales initiatives. She encourages peers to track sales team indicators such as 1) readiness to execute the role as defined; 2) performance in relation to expectations; and 3) results of a given program (Is it working?). “You measure your impact on sales results,” she says.
Carol Sustala, vice president of sales productivity at Trinet, pays particular attention to the performance of each new sales class at her company. “I look at the success of new hires as my greatest opportunity to impact success going into the future,” she says. Working with her sales ops partners, she has created a “control book” designed to help clarify performance metrics.
Sustala tracks pipeline produced by each new class and then, compares results over time against the larger population of sales personnel. When new hires are outperforming existing personnel on such metrics, she knows that her work on new hire onboarding and development is paying off.
Focusing on Meaningful Metrics
So, what metrics matter to you? Your ability to free up sales reps for strategic activities and performance is where you drive the most value. But the C-suite doesn’t care if each sales rep spends two hours less per week on administrative tasks. You show your influence/impact on the strategic outcome by correlating this to revenues.
Here are three metrics that matter to top sales and revenue leaders:
- Quota attainment: According to Aberdeen Research, companies that adopt best practices across their sales teams achieved double the quota of their peers. Track how many reps are hitting quota – and how this number is improving over time.
- Time to quota: According to Sales Performance International, 84% of sales training learnings are lost within 90 days. Since one of your goals is getting new reps up and productive as fast as possible, time to quota is a key metric. Showing that new reps are quickly hitting quota and on par with the entire team speaks volumes about the quality of your onboarding.
- Pipeline conversion: Your executive team wants to see quality leads move quickly through the pipeline. Sales enablement can help here by streamlining processes and communications within the sales team. Perhaps you’ve tweaked a process so that sales development reps can more readily identify the hottest opportunities. Or maybe you’ve enabled the sales team with targeted messages and content mapped to buying stages, roles and industries – and the tools to easily access and share these with prospects. Correlate these improvements to faster pipeline conversions to demonstrate your impact.
Associating strategic metrics to your sales enablement efforts helps make a strong case for your program. And once you justify your existence, you’re on your way to also justifying more budget.