By Elay Cohen
The early Salesforce days were some of the best in my career. As Salesforce’s senior vice president, sales productivity, I saw us come together as a company under strong leadership and with a vision of creating and dominating the market.
Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and the leadership team decided to invest heavily in enablement as a go-to-market priority. As a result, we doubled down on enabling our sales, customer success, and partner teams with training, onboarding, coaching, certifications, and content.
We also did everything possible to get our teams productive faster and closing bigger deals. We built a world-class enablement program to energize and educate our teams. We knew we had to grab market share and we believed the right strategy was increasing the competence and confidence of our teams.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how this targeted focus on adopting sales enablement initiatives spurred Salesforce’s incredible growth and success.
A Winning SaaS Go-to-market Strategy
Beyond Salesforce, look at companies like DocuSign, RingCentral, and Yext to see how they too embrace enablement as a winning growth strategy. Recent IPO DocuSign prioritizes enablement initiatives thanks to sponsorship by company leaders. Social learning fuels global training and certification. RingCentral has seen tremendous growth over the past 18 months – with their stock price increasing more than five times. Yext, another recent IPO, is seeing great growth quarter over quarter and is instituting an enablement-focused business strategy, thanks in part to its hiring of Jim Steele – former president worldwide sales at Salesforce – as president and chief revenue officer.
What Exactly Is Sales Enablement?
I recently finished writing my second book, Enablement Mastery. In it, I cover the people and process of enablement, starting with this definition: “Enablement is the alignment of people, processes, and programs with relevant learning, coaching, and communications delivered at the right time.”
Sales enablement is more than just training and onboarding. Done right, it yields organizational excellence and hyper-growth business results. To make an impact, it needs to be executed with scale and discipline in mind. It needs to be a company-wide initiative sponsored by a CEO and executive team with a vision and passion for sales excellence.
Here are seven must-have enablement strategies for realizing dramatic and predictable business growth:
- Align sales and marketing teams on messaging, motions, and metrics. Get everyone saying the same thing and aligned on the right winning activities. Be clear that your enablement program solves problems and is tied back to the company’s top priorities.
- Train and certify your teams on the latest messaging, product releases, and sales plays – at least biannually. Some companies do quarterly and monthly tracks too. Create a learning and coaching culture and your people will be more productive. Attrition will also drop, protecting your people investments. Build a high-performing culture by having your managers lead by example and complete training and certification first. When you roll out enablement programs, train your managers first so they can reinforce.
- Onboard your teams with structured and team-based paths for your new hires, with coaching, assessments, mentorship, and personalization by role. Create new-hire journeys that span 30/60/90 days. As companies mature beyond IPOs, the one-size-fits-all approach to enablement doesn’t work well. Role-based plans are key to improving productivity and reducing time-to-ramp.
- Coach your teams. Start by enabling your frontline managers to be better equipped to develop their teams. Give them the tools to coach their teams. Hold them accountable for coaching their teams on skills, deals, and performance. Measure achievement and correlate the distribution of quota attainment to manager coaching effectiveness.
- Communicate with your teams using messages based on carrots, not sticks. The old way of compliance-based learning and enablement is not effective for engaging your employees and teams. Make learning a benefit with clear outcomes. Answer the question “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM) with your teams when asking them to invest time to improve by practicing their skills and learning.
- Share content that’s bite-size, compelling, and relevant to your team’s performance and success. Make content easily discoverable and have the right mix of proven marketing content and best-practice user-generated content. Make playbooks and sales-process content available just in time to increase time selling and reduce time spent searching.
- Celebrate successes and learn from losses. Capture success stories and share them broadly and often. Make sharing successes become a leadership imperative and cultural norm.
Enablement serves as one of the most important levers providing repeatable and scalable business outcomes across all teams in all regions. The seven enablement best practices above are the proven way to embrace enablement as a strategy for predictable revenue growth.
Elay Cohen is the CEO and co-founder of SalesHood, formerly the SVP Sales Productivity Salesforce. He is also the author of SalesHood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed and Enablement Mastery, released January 2019.