My last blog post was dedicated to the statement that sales enablement, contrary to what many of my colleagues say, does not begin with people. In actuality, it begins with processes. Once those processes are up and running, then, we get to people.
Which people are we talking about? Well, that would be the sales reps, the people who perform the work. The traditional technological approach of only enabling executives by providing analysis of salespeople—a very top-down approach—has not produced good results. It perhaps worked for a short time, but salespeople became tired of being “driven”, and we’ve seen in the last decade an amazing rate of turnover in sales positions. Salespeople switch jobs about every 18 months or so.
World citizens didn’t much like this approach, either. In a larger example, the totalitarian top-down model of communism was finally blown apart with the dissolution of the USSR in the early 1990s.
What Needs to Change?
It’s not that I don’t believe that perfect metrics and a perfect reporting tool for salespeople aren’t needed; I believe they are. It’s just that leadership needs to take a different approach. That approach is the enablement of the salesperson as opposed to the traditional approach of enabling the executives to ride herd on the sales force.
This line of logic is what led us to evolve the term salespreneur here at Pipeliner. Salespreneurs are “entrepreneurs within the enterprise.” They don’t always feel like entrepreneurs, though, especially when they’re not treated that way, but instead like workers. They must be enabled in the entrepreneurship approach.
Of course, on a very basic level, we’re all entrepreneurs. At some point in our biological existence, we were all sperms in fierce competition to reach the egg. And we won! But then we grew up, encountered resistance and then (some of us) became reluctant to really succeed. The entrepreneurial spirit can carry a person along to a sales position—but that spirit can be seriously dampened or killed in a company by strict rules, regulations, and orders.
In the long run, I think that people who treat salespeople this way are trying to turn them into machines, and in the end, machines will replace them. If that’s the end you’re really going for, great, but in complex sales—such as in B2B—it will never happen, as live salespeople will always be required. Therefore salespeople must be self-aware, have business acumen, and must be empowered to have insight in critical situations. These are far from machines.
One of my colleagues, Tamara Schenk, Research Director at CSO Insights, wrote that “sales enablement orchestrates all enablement services along the customer’s journey, to ensure consistency and effectiveness.”
I don’t disagree with Tamara here, but I would like to amend her statement just a bit. I would say that sales enablement empowers salespeople—it doesn’t orchestrate. Orchestrating is actually management, so first you must empower the salesperson, then you must orchestrate. Empowering is an individual activity, for the person’s spirit, mind and entrepreneurial approach.
Once salespeople have been empowered, freed from being weighed down by the top-down approach and from too many cumbersome rules, and enabled with the right tools, then comes the orchestration of all the other functions in the company.
One common management error that has been traditionally made—and made with sales as well—is that of trying to strengthen weak points. Renowned economist and management scientist Fredmund Malik, who’s methods we follow here at Pipeliner, stated that the only way to create a strong team is to utilize strengths. In other words, you bolster up the strong points, you don’t try and strengthen weak points. You cannot enable people in areas where they’re weak. Find their strengths, though, and make them stronger, and you’ll be far more successful.
Many sales trainers focus on “motivation,” which is basically the same flaw—they’re trying to strengthen weaknesses. Here’s the bottom line: if you have to motivate a salesperson, you might as well get rid of them. Send them home. A person can only motivate themselves. You’re not paying them so you can motivate them. Get someone who is willing, and who motivates themselves to get going.
Laziness is a different thing. If someone is being lazy, you can empower them by showing them that laziness isn’t helping them reach their goals.
But just as you cannot change people, you cannot strengthen their weaknesses, and you can’t motivate them. Don’t waste your time. It’s just like trying to take a swayback nag of a horse and turn it into a champion to compete in the Kentucky Derby—don’t be surprised at the best result you get is finishing next-to-last at some bottom-class race in the Utah desert.
The Right Tools
So what would be the right tools for sales enablement? Certainly we want to enable salespeople, and at the same time provide insights to management and every level of the organization. But it takes a particular kind of tool to do that well; that’s why I created Pipeliner CRM, and why I believe that we are different.
What makes us different? Well, I could name at least 10 features that completely differentiate us, but that’s not what this article is about. So I’ll just name 3 that are very pertinent to enablement.
1. The Archive. In life, do we learn more from success, or from failure? It’s one of the hardest lessons in life, but we tend to learn more when we lose when we don’t succeed. It goes further—when someone is confronted with the same problem over and over again, it means that there’s some lesson they haven’t learned. They’ll keep having that problem until they learn that lesson.
This is why we put the Archive feature into Pipeliner. The Archive, where all lost deals are stored, shows you exactly why you’re losing, when you’re losing, who precisely is losing, and in which stage of the sales process deals are lost. You can turn these “lost reasons” around, and greatly boost your success rate.
2. The Dynamic Target. Another very important feature for enabling the salesperson is Pipeliner’s Dynamic Target. In the primary views within the product, the salesperson’s target is always in view, right in front of the salesperson. To provide complete understanding, there are five different target views:
- Unweighted Sales Target: The value of all opportunities in a pipeline without any closing probability percentages. This can be useful if you have some historical data that says, for example, that a rep closes 10% of all opportunities. You would look for the Unweighted Sales Target to be at least 10x the goal.
- Weighted Sales Target: The Weighted Target is equal to the sum of the total opportunity values in each sales stage, multiplied by the probability of closure for that sales process stage.
- Ranked Target: Each rep has the ability to apply a personal ranking to each of their opportunities, from one to five stars. The Ranked Target shows their level of confidence in their opportunities.
- Balanced Target: The Balanced Target can be looked at as a “worst-case scenario,” because it balances the weighted pipeline and the ranked pipeline.
- Real Target: The Real Target represents the actual closed or won opportunities.
3. Eliminate Specific Opportunities. Another outstanding feature is the ability to eliminate specific opportunities from the target. A salesperson may not be sure of a specific deal will close, and so can eliminate it from the target to see what the target will look like without it.
At the end of the day, sales enablement is certainly about coaching, training, learning to engage the seller, and definitely about having metrics and the right technology. But it’s all for nothing if all these elements to work together in harmony.
Do we need more advanced technology, better systems, better reporting, better metrics, better engagement? Certainly we do, and at Pipeliner we already lead the way in many of these areas and are working constantly to make them better. But technology must be supportive—as I said earlier, it will never replace humans, especially in complex B2B sales.
Yes, I agree with Tamara Schenk that sales enablement makes the difference in selling. But sales enablement, empowerment, should happen first before the orchestration—the management—occurs in a company.