Category Archives for "Personal effectiveness"

Sales enablement best practices, #3 – How to NOT prioritize

This week, I am tackling one of the absolute best leadership principles that I know – which also happens to apply to sales enablement QUITE nicely.

The topic is prioritization.

And – wow – talk about a hot mess.

Sales enablement, as a whole, will always have a gigantic list of “to do’s” waiting to be worked on. But, as with ANY strategic endeavor, there is a very short list of what should actually be done now.

Why is this?

Let me give you three very important reasons.

First, consider the Pareto Principle – 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. In other words, on that gigantic list of “to do’s” (like update the CRM, fix onboarding, get new marketing automation, train the team on new skills, get managers to coach more, etc.), there are only a few things that will actually drive the bulk of the outcome you are looking for. Yes, it may “all be important” – but the reality is that it is not all equally important.

And yet, this is the trap that we have all experienced in our hyper-busy, non-stop, do-it-all lives. We deceive ourselves (and our team mates) into believing that everything should stay on the “priority” list until we can get to it. Sure, we tell ourselves that some priorities are more important than others, but we are often only giving lip service.

As a result, we overcommit our people/time/energy/resources to do things that will only contribute to the bottom 20% of results. And take away from the strength of the top 80% of results. This kind of thinking both creates waste and limits the potential of what we could actually do.

(Truth be told, the Pareto Principle has evolved for today’s digital age. It’s called 5/67 Thinking – but that’s another post.)

Second, consider wicked problems. Yes, that is an actual term (read about it here). The key principle that I want to focus on is this: there are problems that are so complex that introducing a solution will make the problem’s complexity WORSE.

Go back and reread that last sentence.

In our well-intentioned efforts to lead and drive execution, we accidentally inject complexity into our hyper-busy, non-stop, do-it-all lives. Think over the last couple of years and how often “other priorities” made success harder to attain. Sure, it’s easy to blame other groups/functions, but the reality is that we often don’t truly understand the complexity that we are trying to navigate ourselves and struggle to explain that well enough to our team mates. Without this insight, prioritization suffers. We attempt one step forward and wind up taking three steps backward. Our “doing too much” becomes a self-inflicted wound.

Third, consider the actual outcome we are driving toward. In a client conversation that I had today (and had the exact same discussion with a client last week, and another client the week before…), we often prioritize based on “success.” Frankly, that is a poor definition of the actual outcome.

If I want to optimize my business, I will prioritize VERY differently than if I want to transform my business. The paths are different. The disruptions are different. The use of people/time/energy/resources is different.

Unfortunately, most leaders lose track of what outcome they are actually pursuing (admit it – it’s easy for all of us to do). They simply want “success.” But when the disruption of a transformational initiative (like fundamentally changing customer interactions) starts to create disruption for an optimization initiative (like sales forecasting), we get a conflict in priorities. The resulting confusion, complaints, and turf wars end up generating local mini-strategies. Just to get around the bigger business strategy that is suddenly unclear.

And if you live in a siloed organization… look out.

Now, are there other ways to define the actual outcome? Sure. But I find that getting clarity on optimization versus transformation is the fastest, most efficient way to create clarity and build alignment – and get everyone prioritizing better.

With all of that said, here is the bottom line. I hope you can see the title of this blog explained – how to NOT prioritize.

  • Don’t treat every priority as valuable. They all have different impacts – and if they don’t fit in the small percentage of what really matters…
  • Don’t ignore the complexity of the problem(s) you are trying to solve. Instead of trying to fix the whole problem, just make it better than it was yesterday.
  • Don’t leave the prime outcome(s) open to interpretation. Give very clear definition to the overall impact you want: to optimize or to transform.

Let’s close with a mirror moment: How well do you prioritize? What do you do well, what do you do poorly, and what could you do to get better?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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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 danger of “good enough”

There’s a saying out here in Silicon Valley (though I’m sure it’s more international than that). It goes like this:

Ideas are worth a dollar. All the money is in the execution.

In other words, the true money is found in how the idea is brought to life.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that one of the tenets of the startup mentality is to get the idea going, to get a minimum viable product out the door.

And if this is where you are as a startup or innovator, then good enough sits squarely in your sweet spot.

But I have seen a nasty habit form from this mindset – in more than just tech companies.

I call it “good enough” thinking.

As in the revenue coming in is good enough. And the service going out the door is good enough. And the people, resources, and processes are good enough.

This isn’t necessarily bad/wrong, but it often leads to a problem that will actually stall the company – or worse.

You see, when “good enough” is the target, people get sloppy. They get complacent. They don’t invest in their own continuous improvement. Because people are – well – people. It’s in our nature to tune out the fringes and just focus on what is right in front of us. Our brains are literally wired to think this way, unless we force it to behave differently.

Consequently, we don’t truly invest in what it takes to reach the next level.

And once “good enough” thinking settles in as the norm, the entire organization is at risk.


Because people won’t know what they need to know. They will become so hyper-focused on what is in front of them that they will exclude paying attention to what they need to learn next. They will literally build a business engine that cannot scale or evolve.

And this is particularly painful when it comes to the Sales function.

As long as sales results are “good enough,” the risk of people not keeping their own continuous improvement up to date increases. People will not stay on top of how to reach the next level – because everyone is operating with “good enough” as the target. They simply aren’t looking at how to take things to the next level. They are not seeking new resources nor learning the skills that go with those resources. They are not challenging processes that limit performance. They are literally creating their own blind spots.

Mirror moment: Has your team been lulled into a state of “good enough”? Have you looked at how well your sales content, tools, and behaviors can scale?

If you see tension in cross-functional alignment, you have a “good enough” problem.

If you have a massive goal to reach and you have zero confidence that your current team can get there, you have a “good enough” problem.

Take time now, as the year wraps up, to do some proper evaluation of your sales health. Look to see where “good enough” thinking has created weakness. I recommend that you look at the following areas:

  • How do we recruit – do we hire well?
  • How do we onboard and develop – do we get people up to speed quickly and effectively?
  • How do we sell – do we ensure that our sellers are relevant to the customers they serve?
  • How do we manage – do we build high-performing teams with genuine bench strength?

Every one of these workstreams can stall your sales engine.

And when you see something that you know is broken, call it out. Do it now – before your customers evolve or your competitors surge or the market tanks or… You get the picture.

Because, as the old saying goes, what got you here won’t get you there.

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.

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