5 Misconceptions about Sales Enablement Plans

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.

8 Things We Learned That Could Move Your Sales Enablement From Yawn to Wow.


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.

Steve Crepeau
Steve Crepeau is CEO of True Sales Results. He’ll be a panelist on the “Challenge Your Company to Think Differently about Sales Enablement” breakout session at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference this October in San Francisco. For a copy of his book, Effective Enterprise Sales Enablement, email him at screpeau@truesalesresults.com.

Managing Sales Team Talent: How to Help Reps at Any Level Sell More

By Nancy Martini

One of the most difficult challenges any manager faces is helping an employee improve performance. Creating a high performance sales team is even more complex. A typical sales team includes a number of top producers (10-20% of the team); these are the folks who crank out the numbers month after month — either with incredible skills, sheer effort, or a combination of brains and brawn. The middle group (60-80%); often includes reps who are adequate but not yet reaching their potential — various reasons get in the way, from confidence, to commitment, to limited skills or motivation. Finally, there is the small group (10-20%) of those struggling with the position and trying to figure it all out — they may or may not make it. Ultimately it’s up to the sales manager to drive the performance of the entire team, fortunately (as I discuss in my new book) science can help determine the exact scenario and who needs what.

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As a manager it’s important to look first at the relationship between the reps’ sales skills and their actual sales results. There are four science-based scenarios that occur to help diagnose and guide you for accurate coaching.

The “Muscle” Scenario: High sales results, Low sales skills.
These are top producers who get the job done, but likely in their own way. Their success may come from years of experience, superb product knowledge, or they’re simply extremely hard workers. The good news is, they get superior results. The bad news is how they do it. A rep with high sales and low skills tends to be highly reliant on a single muscle (for example closing skills, presentation skills or questioning skills). They are most likely working inefficiently. By building other muscles, they could potentially increase their performance and efficiency substantially. Most top producers are all over increasing skills that can help create more sales; managers tend to shy away with a fear of messing with success. Gather the sales skills assessment data and dive in; this effort is well worth the return.

The Execution Scenario: Low sales results, High sales skills
These are the folks who know what to do but have trouble executing on that knowledge. They’ve attended the sales training, they even get it, but they just have a block getting it done. We all know the old adage “the knowing-doing gap” and this the classic issue in this scenario. It may be from lack of confidence, lack of drive, or simply lack of coaching but this rep needs help with the “doing.” In this scenario, a focus one-on-one coaching is ideal. The rep gets to see how his or her judgment and knowledge plays out live with feedback from a skilled coach. When a person has the sales skills assessment needed for the role, it’s also helpful to examine their behavioral assessment to uncover the drive behind their selling.

The Knowledge Scenario: Low sales results, Low sales skills
Your sales reps who score low on the sales skills assessment and have low sales results need one thing — training.  You can hire the best reps in the world, with all the drive necessary to succeed, but if they don’t have core sales skills, they become a rocket without a direction. This one is fairly easy to adjust: start with solid sales training and reinforce with focused skill builders. By increasing a rep’s core sales skills, you are giving them the tools necessary for the role. These reps tend to be sponges and the sales skills training is absorbed and used.

The Leverage Scenario: High sales results, High sales skills
This one is the most complex of all. A terrific rep who emulates all the sales skills you want and creates outstanding sales results. Good as it is, you have two risks to stay on top of: 1) the rep may plateau because of time constraints; and/or, even worse: 2) he/she gets bored when “been there, done that” kicks in. In either case, your top producers need to be kept engaged, challenged, and leveraged. The leverage approach suggests that you examine all aspects of the person’s role to remove obstacles and increase support to give them as much selling time as possible. It may be additional technology or it may be a part time assistant but ultimately your goal is to leverage this talent with more time to sell.

In each of the four scenarios sales analytics help remove the guesswork and provide you with laser sharp focus of what’s needed. Pay attention to the sales skills assessment scores, the behavioral assessment profile, and the reps’ actual sales results — those three data points provide the accurate insight needed to impact the sales performance of every member of your team.

Nancy Martini
Nancy Martini is President & CEO of PI Worldwide, publishers of the Predictive Index (PI) and Selling Skills Assessment Tool (SSAT). She is the author of the newly released Scientific Selling. In October she will present Sales Coaching 2.0: How Using Scientific Data Leads to Better Sales Performance as a keynote  speaker at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.