To Maximize Sales Enablement, Optimize Your Processes
Like its predecessor, sales force automation, sales enablement aims to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of sales organizations. Sales effectiveness focuses on the "what," or determining the best action; sales efficiency focuses on the "how," or using the least amount of resources (people, time/process, technology). Sales enablement is about refining the processes around customer engagement, solutioning, and contracting to increase sales productivity. The evidence for its impact is compelling. In its 2015 Sales Optimization study, CSO Insights (which was acquired by MHI Global) found that companies with a sales enablement function saw an 8 percent increase in sales reps’ hitting their revenue targets, translating into a 10.2 percent revenue increase.
Companies implementing sales enablement should follow the maxim "Get your process straight, then automate." Many sales projects fail because broken processes are automated—and then the processes can't exploit the technology. Below are three sales processes that should be refined to ensure the appropriate infrastructure is in place.
INTERNAL DECISION MAKING
This is most important; it drives all other actions. For sales, there are three kinds of decisions: financial (pricing, revenue, profitability, cashflow), operational (service levels, deliverables), and legal (liability, indemnification, damages). Every deal is unique, but many decisions are common to all deals and can be preapproved. Providing the sales team with a playbook of acceptable decisions or range of solutions for common requests will expedite responses to customers and eliminate a big source of delay: lack of access to decision makers, especially high-level executives. Push complex decisions as far down the chain as possible. This gives managers authority over and responsibility for decisions, and introduces accountability. For cross-functional decisions, schedule a twice-weekly war room where each department is represented and sales provides background info with a recommendation. This ensures consistent access to decision makers and sufficient review time and saves countless hours scheduling and attending meetings.
SALES PROCESS MAP
We've all seen the standard sales cycle that starts with prospecting and ends with a closed sale—rinse, lather, repeat. A sales process map offers a detailed continuum of the sales phases for your business with associated internal and external actions. Ancillary processes, such as business case development, will have their own maps. There should be overlays that tie customer commitment metrics (executive briefing), demo, current/future state analysis, reference site visit, and executive briefing to the sales phases. These internal maps should be accompanied by external maps that match customer value created and decision-making steps to your sales phases. This comparison keeps the team's focus on assimilating with customers, ensuring the defined actions drive value on their terms.
BUSINESS CASE DEVELOPMENT
According to MHI's 2015 Sales Best Practices study, over 60 percent of world-class sales organizations say that their customers require formal ROI calculations before making a decision. This recent statistic underscores the need to document and refine your business justification process, including detailed procedures around the following:
• gaining executive commitment on analysis, resources, and funding support;
• use of customer "actuals," industry data, and previous justifications;
• metrics for direct/indirect benefits; and
• success criteria by stakeholder and associated contract commitment.
There is no better sales tool than a business case that has been jointly developed and validated by the customer with a clearly defined pathway to success.
Devoting the time and resources to refine critical sales processes is a task too often neglected because of a quarterly focus. Companies that do will find reduced sales cycles and increased sales capacity as they move to enable world-class performance.
Paul Harney (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an independent sales process consultant who utilizes his vast sales experience to help companies close the disconnects between sales infrastructure, the opportunity pursuit process, and customer value creation.