Monthly Archives: January 2019

The MOST important thing to know about sales enablement (and I’m not exaggerating)

It’s not often that a piece of research comes out that really shakes the sales game. This month, I believe that CSO Insights did just that.

In their 2018 Sales Enablement Report, a number of really important data points were shared (download it here – and thanks to Brainshark for making it available for free).

Some of these proved what I have been seeing in our consulting practice for years (I will share some of those thoughts in a moment). But the absolute, most impactful data points were this:

Part 1: If you “do” sales enablement correctly, your quota attainment will outperform companies doing nothing at all by 23%.

Part 2: If you “do” sales enablement INCORRECTLY, your quota attainment  will UNDER-PEFORM companies doing nothing at all by 11%.

Go back and reread those stats for a moment. Because they blow my mind.

This means that:

  • Being committed to sales enablement – but doing it poorly – will LOWER your performance.
  • If you competitor is doing it well – and you are not – you now have a 34% performance chasm to overcome (which also means less money to reinvest in your company compared to what the competitor is doing).
  • An increasing number of companies now have dedicated, in-house sales enablement (61% of all companies surveyed) – and some of those in-house teams might actually be doing harm to their own companies.

This is astounding to me.

I have been an advocate for great sales enablement since before it was called sales enablement. And I am passionate about not only helping customers have great sales experiences, but also sellers having meaningful, productive careers. But this data says that, unless you are one of the companies doing it well, sales enablement still has a long way to go.

In other words, too many organizations have just re-labeled their training/sales ops/marketing players as “sales enablement” and are not seeing expected results. The data clearly shows that doing sales enablement in the right way will drive win rates and quota attainment.

We have to change the narrative, folks. The most important thing to know about sales enablement is that you MUST do it correctly – because doing it incorrectly will hurt your business.

So, what does “doing it” correctly look like?

Here are some of the insights from the report that answer this question:

  • Get your executives involved. Companies that have sales enablement set up with a formal approach and charter experience have 30% better win rate. I believe this is because true enablement requires the kind of functional integration that only executives can drive.
  • Align enablement to the customer’s path. We have long advocated that this is a fundamental requirement for successful sales enablement, and I was delighted to see this point validated by the data. Again, quota attainment grows significantly from 44.9% (customer’s path not considered) up to 58.5% (an actual increase of 30%).
  • Sales coaching is still your best way to make an impact. There is a 25% difference in win rate (from 43.9% up to 54.7%) just by making sure that sales coaching is formally defined and monitored (as opposed to allowing managers do what they want randomly). But more importantly, consider how sales coaching will make every sales enablement effort that much more effective. Everything from rolling out new tools and messaging to onboarding new sellers can be improved by ensuring that your sales managers are coaching their people.

There really is much more to say about how to “do” sales enablement correctly, but I’ll let you read the report before going any further.

Let me leave you with this: Selling is a constantly evolving – and increasingly complex – business. As a result, it requires a new approach to making it both effective and efficient. Please don’t leave it to happen organically. Make it a strategic priority to embed sales enablement in your overall strategic planning – because how you execute is as critical as what you execute.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS Want to make sure you are getting the most out of your sales enablement efforts? Schedule a conversation with me now and let’s take 15 minutes to see if we should be working together.

The number one thing that you can do to increase sales in 2019

Let me begin by saying that there is no magical silver bullet for slaying whatever monsters are eating your sales. You will ALWAYS have to deal with:

  • Evolving customer expectations
  • The need to innovate
  • The competition
  • The skillset and mindset of your team
  • Emerging technology
  • And so on…

So, while there is no single solution that will fix everything, there is one thing that will absolutely lift your sales: sales coaching.

Look, is it an old solution? Yep. I actually prefer to call it timeless. But I have to keep talking about it – because IT ISN”T GETTING DONE ENOUGH.

Exhibit A: Look at how sports teams that changed coaches went from middling to excellence. Consider the LA Rams, the Chicago Bears, and my favorite this year – the Cleveland Browns. Coaches matter. They change the culture and get the best out of their players. Even when their players are struggling (Jared Goff), their overall performance is in decline (the Bears), and there is drama in both the locker room and the head office (Cleveland). Is sales that much different than sports? I don’t think so.

Exhibit B: Research consistently shows how much coaching makes a difference. From the formal, academic stuff posted in HBR to the findings of organizations like CSO Insights, the conclusion is always the same: sales coaching matters. Is your company somehow immune to the benefits? Again, I don’t think so.

I could go on with more talking points, but let’s get to the bottom line: What is holding your sales coaching efforts back from driving the surge you need in performance?

Here are the four most common reasons that I see.

First, you don’t coach. You (and your team) do something else. But if you are not (a) observing live, uninterrupted sales interactions (i.e. you are not talking– at all), (b) aggressively tackling the de-motivators that affect your team, AND (c) providing meaningful, developmental feedback to the sales person in a fresh and digestible way, you are not coaching. You need all three of these elements (observation, motivation, and feedback) to be a coach. You may have great human beings in the manager seats, but getting the best out of their people is not happening.

Second, you didn’t promote coaches. You (and your team) have put “super sellers” in charge – and there was little to no attention put into recruiting and promoting great coaches into that role. The impact is pretty obvious – a pedal-to-the-floor mentality about achieving results – and high employee turnover. With inconsistent sales results. This only works if you sell the hottest innovation in your industry. And that’s a short-term win, because even the mighty eventually stumble.

Third, you don’t hold people accountable for coaching. Want to test yourself? How much of a manager’s bonus is attached to sales coaching metrics? If the answer is “uhhhh…”, you should immediately know that you have an opportunity. Because VERY few people do what they are supposed to do without some form of compensation. I know far too many great human beings who will cancel their coaching activities in the name of getting “other priorities” done – because that other stuff has a dollar amount attached to it. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on how the recruiting/promotion/retention cycle of sales managers is affected.

Fourth, you don’t equip your managers to be coaches. By far, the most common complaint I hear (and observe) from sales managers is the lack of training and support they receive to be better coaches. They may or may not be given good training. They may or may not be given good coaching tools and technology. But the greatest asset they need is TIME. And they simply don’t have it. This could be their fault for not prioritizing well, but let’s be honest – go back to point #3. Are they paid to create time? Are they held accountable for it? Sadly, I see many businesses ignore point #3 simply because they don’t want to give their managers time. And if they don’t give the time… it becomes a vicious circle.

So, what is your situation?

Do you have a role that can impact how sales coaching is done – or not done – in 2019?

If you were to diagnose your situation, where is it going well and where is it struggling?

But the real question is not “what do you need to do?” Rather, it is “are you going to do anything about it?”

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

Good metrics vs. worthless ones, part two

In my last post, I hammered on the idea that a metric is not a goal. I got a little bit of pushback on that, so let me briefly reiterate my point.

If I wasn’t clear enough (which is entirely possible) on the idea that metrics are important, well… Goodness. They’re critical. As Drucker famously pointed out, what gets measured gets done. (Which by the way, is not actually what he said. Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” But then again, the idea of “what gets measured gets done” might actually go back to a dude named Rheticus – the sole pupil of Copernicus. But I digress.)

The key idea is that metrics have a secondary value, at best. The primary value lies with the actual goal – the desired outcome that the metrics are trying to serve.

So, if we can agree on that, then it’s time to move into some metrics-related best practices that I have uncovered over the years.

Let me begin by saying that all of the classic concepts are still valid/true. Great metrics are accurate, on time, benchmarked, strategic, credible, used, shared, blah blah blah. Not that I want to make fun of it, but I hate to drone on about what (I hope) is obvious to you.

So, here is my first best practice: great metrics validate the goal.

What do I mean by that? Picture something like measuring how many demonstrations a sales person gives to potential clients. Sadly, I see this metric all of the time. If it was a great metric, it would show the value of giving a demo. But it doesn’t. Not at all. It simply measures if something that the salesperson called a demo (and maybe even the customer called it a demo) occurred.


Here’s why.

The purpose of a demo is NOT to simply show your product off. It’s to explore and validate the requirements of the potential customer. It’s to create a 2-way dialogue between that customer and your sales person. Maybe even pull in other folks from both sides of the table. But you aren’t measuring that. You’re measuring the number of times a rep scheduled a demo – which often turns into a monotonous, painful “watch me show you every feature/benefit possible” demo.

Which is not the behavior that was originally wanted.

Which actually invalidates your goal.

See what I mean?

A great metric will validate the goal, speaking to the heart of the desired outcome. Instead of measuring the number of demos, measure the number of times that the demo worked. Measure the number of times that requirements were validated with a demo or the number of times that a demo opened the door to the next stage. Use the metric to reinforce the goal, to illuminate it. Not hijack it.

My second best practice is this: great metrics provide an insight that leads to action.

Nothing is more worthless that a piece of information that you can do nothing with.

Days without a safety incident, anyone?

Seriously, I jumped on this last time, but it is such a classic example of what I am talking about. Beyond trying to achieve new records, there is nothing that I can gather from a metric like days without an accident. Are we safe? I have no idea. Are we at risk of something bad happening? I couldn’t tell you. Are people engaged and looking out for each other? Maybe, maybe not.

And we see it in other parts of our business all of the time.

Like, what is our current revenue when compared to last year at this time? Tell me – what insight do you get from that? And more specifically, what action do you want me to take? If you say “work harder…”

Great metrics will drive toward an insight.

And this is where it gets a bit trickier. Because getting insight from a metric requires that you are measuring the right thing. Which implies that your goal is the right goal. That you have actually taken the time to diagnose what the problem is – and that your solution to that problem is getting measured. And that you made a legitimate goal out of it.

But if you are not actually measuring the solution to a problem, what are you measuring? Why is the metric so important? And please don’t say because we have measured that very thing for decades.

Which is why we have metrics overload. We have dashboards full of metrics where EVERYTHING is important – so none of it is. We overwhelmed any and all possible insight that could have been identified. Because the goal was not to generate insight. It was to collect and report numbers.

My third best practice is this: great metrics collect lagging, leading, and leadership data.

Let me explain.

Let’s say you want your sale people to sell to the C-suite more. Lagging data (what is produced at the end of the process) would be the overall number of C-suite sales. You could also go after C-Suite revenue or profit. Leading data (what is produced during the process and leads directly to the lagging outputs) could be the number of C-suite interactions. Or perhaps the percentage of overall sales in a rep’s pipeline that are C-suite interactions. Leadership data (what is done by the leaders of the people being measured) would be what the sales managers are doing to ensure that the sales reps are producing the right outcomes in the right way. You could measure the number of times reps are coached on C-Suite interactions. Or maybe the number of joint sales interactions with C-Suite buyers (be careful with this – you could be guilty of invalidating the goal by making the manager hijack the sales conversation to hit a different metric).

The essential principle is that you are layering the role of leaders into your measurement equation – which isn’t done often enough.

Look at it this way, what would you think if you saw that C-suite revenue was low and C-suite interactions were up? You could think a lot of things. But what if you also saw that sales manager coaching was non-existent? I think you’d be a bit more equipped to get things on track. Fast.

Adding in a leadership metric makes a massive difference in both the level of insight you are getting on performance, but also in the very energy that drives performance to begin with. You create accountability and emphasis on teaming – even if the teaming is one-to-one, manager and player.

And yet, too often, we have no idea (beyond simple anecdote) if our leaders are the root cause of the problem – or the key to success. Unless having engaged leaders is not a goal of your organization…

So, there you have it. Three of the best darn best practices I know of. Let your metrics:

  • Validate the goal
  • Provide an insight that leads to action
  • Collect lagging, leading, and leadership data

What metrics-related best practices do you have that I may have missed?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

(Originally posted 4/29/16 on