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Sales Strategy
Sep 21, 2010 | SiriusDecisions lock

A formal effort to better enable a sales force must be paired with formal measurement of the effort; how complete is your organization’s?

Sports fans always remember the buzzer-beating shot or extra-inning home run that wins the game. Championship coaches know, however, that an earlier free throw missed or an error made, were as – or even more – important to the outcome.

In sales, everyone talks about getting the close, the b-to-b equivalent of highlight-reel material. High-performance teams also recognize the importance of each of the activities that laid the groundwork for the close, many of which were driven or facilitated by enablement-related functions, processes and strategies. In this paper, we will examine the importance of establishing a scoreboard, if you will, for the day-to-day operations of sales enablement and explore how enablement can be optimized by incorporating productivity metrics.

A Measurement Framework

Transferring knowledge to sales reps, and then helping these reps more effectively share this knowledge with customers and prospects is the mission of sales enablement. Sales productivity is enhanced, as the amount of time and effort it takes a rep to find what they need is reduced, and the quality of interactions improved.

The first pillar of a measurement framework for enablement is to define and quantify baseline metrics of usage and activity for its deliverables. The number of document downloads from presentations to playbooks can be a clear value indicator, as can participation in webinars and product training sessions, and the regular access of specialists or subject matter experts(SMEs) at a rep’s disposal. Combining activity with feedback – our second framework pillar – adds a dimension of quality to quantity.

By creating a set of traditional performance metrics – our third framework pillar – including sales cycle length, average deal size and close rates, you set a group of baselines to begin to measure specific enablement initiatives against. Peeling these macro metrics back to measure length and conversion rates by sales cycle phase, along with how different sources of net new opportunities enter the pipeline and move, provides the best opportunity to understand sales productivity, our fourth framework pillar.

What to Measure: Initiatives

Sales enablement teams are constantly looking for ways to enhance the day-to-day activities of a wide variety of reps. With a measurement framework in place, they can begin to ascertain the value of initiatives they undertake to improve performance and productivity. Examples of enablement-specific initiatives that should be measured include:

. Playbook development. Sales playbooks aggregate various elements of content focused on a product, vertical market, buying center or sales cycle phase. By preassembling customer-facing content and focusing value messages, reps are better able to quickly engage in high-quality interactions. Measuring the impact of playbooks on productivity would include usage data for downloads, sales feedback for applicability and an increase in net new opportunities for the product or increased conversion rates within the applicable sales cycle phase.

. Content access improvement. Improving a salesperson’s ability to access the right content or resource enables him or her to manage more opportunities and devote more time to customer and prospect interactions. Usage data for the sales information portal should show an increase in activity with a corresponding decrease in the actual time spent logged into the site.

. Collaboration increase. As opportunities move deeper into the buying/selling cycle, buyer requests become more granular and customized; as a result, access to SMEs and/or specialists becomes more important. Deploying internal social media capabilities including SME web pages or blogs, newsfeeds or interactive chat speeds sales’ ability to access these resources and get answers. Activity metrics, blog comments or forum participation measure adoption, but actual value must be measured through feedback and a corresponding uptick in the total number of opportunities and conversions for associated product groups.

What to Measure: Strategic Enablement

Sales enablement also must be responsive to the strategic initiatives of the organization; these often require significant resources, and are prioritized over day-to-day sales support. Examples of broader-based initiatives that enablement will impact and thus must measure value include:

. Product launch. The creation of training, certification, various forms of collateral and tools, and buyer messages must accompany any new product launch. Measuring pre-launch activities for sales attendance and certification help set the stage for formal go-to-market activities, while tracking subsequent activities such as new product sales calls and sales participation demonstrate the effectiveness of the prelaunch program. Once buyers engage, opportunities begin to enter the pipeline; measuring their conversion rates and velocity will be important indicators of the launch’s success. Finally, careful monitoring of successful deals should help demonstrate which messages, collateral and tools are most effective in contributing to a win.

. Sales expansion. When sales organizations add headcount, enablement must be ready to feed new hires product, market and competitive knowledge. In addition to traditional training completion/certification metrics, measuring access and usage of tools will demonstrate that new hires have the competency to leverage the tools provided. The critical metric will be new hire time to productivity, determined as the time it takes a new hire to close a first order or meet requirements for revenue run rates over a month or quarter.

. Coverage model innovation. The addition of new sales channels (e.g. inside sales, major accounts or vertical territories) requires enablement ramp-up with dedicated collateral and messages that will resonate both with the sales rep and the targeted audience. Measuring channel segmentation activity, opportunities and growth will show the impact of launch; monitoring the impact of new or different messages and tools as the channel matures helps to retire ineffective content and target the development of new collateral based on field feedback.

Replacing perceptions with facts not only allows sales enablement teams to better prioritize and target their efforts, but also document their impact to sales performance through impacting sales productivity. While there is certainly more to a successful rep than the use of an enablement resource, comparing the results of reps that take full advantage vs. those who don’t will be a sure first step to increasing enablement adoption throughout the organization. It’s hard to sway often skeptical sales reps when it comes to trusting anything other than their gut; without the data to help prove results, you have no chance.

About the Author:

SiriusDecisions, a leading source for business-to-business sales and marketing best-practice research and data. SiriusDecisions Executive Advisory Services, Consulting Services, Benchmark Assessment Services, Learning and Events provide senior-level executives with the sales and marketing operational intelligence required to maximize top line growth and performance. 

©Sirius Decisions, 2010. Reproduced with permission.




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