The sales and revenue enablement space has seen a wildly dynamic 2023, with many casualties of layoffs impacting the profession but also plenty of new opportunities opening up. At the same time, enablement leaders have had to adapt to changing priorities while continuing to deliver tangible, quantifiable value to the C-suite. If you’re a newly hired or recently promoted leader of enablement responsibilities, here’s how to create immediate impact.
Read The Room
Start your immersion by identifying what major change initiatives have recently been attempted, and which ones are planned, that impact your internal “customers” — the sales organization. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote “There is nothing permanent except change,” and most revenue enablement professionals would concur, because quite often, their remit revolves around change management. Change within B2B sales teams is usually necessary, generally worthwhile, often mishandled, and always difficult. A new enablement leader should quickly learn: To what new processes, policies, launches, compensation plans, pricing — the list can be endless — has the revenue team recently been exposed? What changes are currently in the works?
Every change provided to — or inflicted upon — a B2B seller can be boiled down to: What new or different competency are you expecting me to master? Tell me why, tell me my WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”), and tell me what I need to do. If recent or pending changes aren’t executed around best practices in defining and implementing sales competencies, sound the alarm to your new boss, because your organization is committing enablement malpractice … and you’re the one who needs to fix it.
Listen To Your Customers
As soon as possible in your new role, get in front of your customers — the sellers and other “enablees” you support. Within the first few weeks, attend as many external-facing meetings, pipeline reviews, coaching sessions, and especially enablement delivery interactions as is feasible. What are your top performers and key influencers doing, saying, and showing? All of your future initiatives and successes are dependent on authentically understanding the daily grind of your constituents and focusing your efforts on their deals, their needs, and their quota attainment. You’ll also earn quick credibility in serving as an advocate for the revenue team — but don’t forget to close the loop and report back to every stakeholder regarding what you’ve learned and how it informs your plans.
Search For Short-Term Productivity Gains
A little bit of heroism goes a long way, and for any new functional leader, there is a brief grace period during which their “new sheriff in town” status should be leveraged to deliver some quick wins to the corporate citizenry. The listening tour detailed above should yield a shortlist of immediate priorities. If your sellers’ views align with Forrester research, more than one-third don’t “feel my organization is doing as much as possible to keep me engaged and successful,” nor that “the feedback and coaching I receive is effective and helps to improve my performance.” The former issue can quickly begin to be addressed by establishing a sales advisory council; the latter might benefit from implementing more contemporary coaching practices. Another key component of revenue enablement and revenue operations success is deploying a sales activity study for both individual contributors and managers in order to understand and improve upon productivity gaps.
Empower Your FLSMs
The hearts and minds of any B2B sales team are won or lost through the first-line manager role. What does that layer consist of in your new organization? Are they merely super-sellers who were bumped up in altitude to manage or true leaders who legitimately have the competencies required to serve their teams? You should immediately apply all of the priorities above — change management, advocacy, and quick wins — to the frontline sales manager (FLSM) cohort, with a clear eye regarding how effectively or not the organizational culture has historically staffed this layer. There are likely some managers who step in to close their reps’ deals and others who more substantively teach their folks to fish. The former might need more foundational manager enablement, while those who are already effective coaches can help you double down on change management.
Avoid Technology Band-Aids, Even If The Stack Is Flawed
Of all the ways that B2B sellers tell us they feel supported by their leaders, “Our sales technology stack aids my productivity and positively impacts my results” falls into last place. And I get it: We’re Forrester, and we have a clear-eyed focus on B2B technology issues. But if you believe that buying, ripping, or replacing software will earn you short-term seller credibility or measurable, long-term success, think again. Do you really want to be viewed as a peddler of licenses, a pawn of tech vendors, or a promoter of quick fixes, most of which go unadopted or ignored? Or, via the strategies above, as an actual enabler of seller success, engagement, and productivity?
Technology doesn’t fix problems; people do. If your new employer is suffering from poor sales onboarding, product launches, content management, or productivity lags, then enablement leadership means leading, not procuring. Once you’ve begun to fix processes, competencies, and other manageable organization issues, then it’s time to use technology for magic, not mayhem. And don’t forget to white-label every eventual purchase so that you are perceived as someone other than a deployer of tools.
These suggestions are all focused on downstream impact, by design, but don’t ignore politics completely. Your early investment in listening and learning will pay dividends here as you establish yourself as a leader who truly understands your sellers and can enable not just them but also the executives who rely on them to drive business results.