Carrying on with our Sales Enablement series, I’m going to make a statement that shows how much I disagree with common “wisdom” on the subject. I’m probably shouting into the desert, but I’m going to say it anyway: When first done, sales enablement has nothing to do with people. This may sound contradictory—and taken literally, it is! But stick with me and you’ll see where I’m going.
Over 150 years ago in the U.S., people were coming west to California in droves in search of gold. If they hadn’t been provided with picks, how would they ever have found it? With their bare hands? Hardly!
It’s a similar situation with sales. Most companies, when they engage in sales enablement, focus on the sales manager and pound on them to coach salespeople. But salespeople haven’t been given any path to follow.
What must come before people? Processes!
In our last article, I painted the picture of a holistic customer process with an airline. It begins when the passenger arrives at the airport, then they check-in, check their baggage, get to the lounge, board, have great service during the flight, land, and claim their luggage. These are all individual processes, and each is important to the overall traveler experience.
Establishing processes is vital. Look at the Hurricane Dorian that endangered parts of Florida recently. Several cities had to evacuate, which meant that patients had to be moved from hospitals. Can you imagine the kinds of processes that were in place for that to happen? Where to take the patients, keeping track of their treatments and medications, coordination of ambulances—if these processes had not been precise and clear, it would have been a chaotic disaster.
In a company, there are many individual processes, and they’re all centered around the buyer. There could be all kinds of processes: pre-sales, sales, after-sales, support, accounts receivable—and all of them have to be enabled. In the future, I truly believe that no company will be able to survive without fully examining and enabling their processes. Logistically it would be impossible.
Just in sales, most companies today require more than one sales process. In addition to the ones listed above, there are often separate sales processes for different product lines, as some products would have simple sales cycles while others might be more complex. There would also be different types of sales processes for products versus services.
Once processes have been decided upon, the next question to be answered is: can some processes be self-sustaining and automatic? Can some of them in the customer experience be more or less self-regulated? An example of a well self-regulated process would be a traffic circle (called a roundabout in the U.K. and other parts of the world), in which vehicles come in one side and exit at another, with no traffic lights needed.
Having most processes be manual might have worked well for a company back in 1850, but today it won’t work at all. As each process is defined, the option of automation must be taken into account. For example, obtaining leads: inbound marketing be automated? Can leads be brought in automatically? Can they possibly be distributed automatically, to salespeople or partners? With the lightning speed of commerce today, automation has become extremely important.
As you automate, you must make sure that the tools you are employing can fully integrate with each other—otherwise, there will be manual processes required just to coordinate automation, which is pretty self-defeating.
A company might choose various solutions that seem great at the time, such as sales call recording, email automation or automated proposal software. They’ve heard that such tools can increase sales by 25 percent! But if they only operate independently, they are going to absorb more time than they save. It would be like producing a beautiful steering system for a car—but if it isn’t integrated with the remainder of the car’s components such as the engine and the wheels, that car won’t go anywhere.
Many processes, but especially sales processes, must be dynamic. That means the process has to be able to be changed as needed. This is because market conditions change, buyers change, and technology often forces us to change. The opposite of dynamic is static—and static processes will soon be run over and flattened by competitors with changeable, dynamic processes.
According to renowned economist and management scientist Fredmund Malik, whose management methods we have adopted at Pipeliner, “Change is constant. This seeming paradox points to both the problem and the solution for how professional corporate policy needs to be designed. Change alone is chaos. Constancy alone paralysis. Both together, however, generate a dynamic order for the function of and life in systems.” (From Corporate Policy by Fredmund Malik, Chapter 1, Page 63)
We can simply look at world conditions and see that this statement has never been truer—change is constant. Therefore when we speak about sales enablement, we must have dynamic processes that are easily changed when needed. This flexibility must be reflected in the technology, such as the CRM, being employed by the company.
You can’t automate everything, however, so one final element must be established before you can enable people—and that is policy. That policy wouldn’t just be for salespeople, but for the company as well. Everyone should be clear on their duties, and the methods of performing them. Policy should be created and provided to people no matter how talented they are, how skilled they are, how well they are performing or how well they’re paid. This is the enablement of the company.
Before you enable people, you have to enable the system that they’re going to be part of.
It would be the same thing as drivers of automobiles—they can’t go anywhere unless they have roads to drive on first.
Here’s another example I’m fond of. In the last 50 years, people really wanted to travel—to see the world, take beautiful vacations, see the sights. What did we have to do to enable tourism? We had to build an unbelievable infrastructure around the world, which meant an entire network consisting of thousands of international airports. Building an airport is a tremendous undertaking. Not only do aircraft landing and taking off have to be accounted for, but also the millions of passengers entering and exiting the airport, and the restaurants and shops to take care of them. An airport is almost like a small city—and if you’re going to enable tourism in your country, you have to build this infrastructure.
So sales enablement begins well before people. First, there are processes, then automation, then integration of automation, then policies.
When all that is in place…we can take the next step! Stay tuned!