Category Archives for "Building alignment"


Sales enablement best practices, #1 – Don’t follow the wrong map

I can’t get this idea out of my head…

If you do sales enablement incorrectly, you will hurt your business (CSO Insights 2018 Sales Enablement Report).

Running a successful business is hard enough. But trying to grow it is one of the toughest challenges we can take on.

And if any of us were to find out that our efforts were actually hurting our businesses, we’d be sick.

So, I want to share some of the best practices that I know of for ensuring that your business does sales enablement well.

And while there are certainly some obvious practices that everyone knows (like embedding sales coaching into your culture), I will share the not-so-obvious and not-so-common things that I have seen make a major difference in both short-term and long-term success.

The first one that I will share is this: Don’t follow the wrong map.

If you rely on your GPS as religiously as I do, you probably have a favorite app. And an app that you hate. The app that has earned my disdain did so because it constantly gives me signals to turn AFTER I have passed the off ramp/through the intersection. It’s incredibly frustrating – especially when it adds unwanted and unnecessary time to my journey.

The very same thing can be said about how we define the buyer’s journey.

Unfortunately, many people don’t talk enough about the buyer’s journey. But worse yet, when they do, they define it incorrectly.

Side note: they have already injected bias into the definition because they are calling it a buying journey. The fallacy of that definition is anchored to the customer actually buying something. Yet we all know that many decisions end with no sale. No action at all. Just the continuation of the status quo. That’s not a buying journey.

If you want to truly define the map correctly, it needs to be the buyer’s problem-solving journey.

Dave Brock wrote a recent blog that challenged us to pull out a blank sheet of paper and simply draw how we generate and grow revenue without copying and pasting what we do already (BTW, it’s a great blog and I recommend it highly). Imagine taking the same approach to defining how customers solve their problems – not how they buy.

You will very likely have a different starting point: does the buyer even have a problem?

Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. But don’t assume that they already have a problem because then you will have just injected bias – bias that will create mountains of waste later on.

(Remember: if there is no problem, there is no sale. How many sales people waste time, energy, and resources on pursuing deals that don’t have a problem to solve? It’s like consistently missing your turns on a 30-day journey…)

Stay focused on how a problem gets solved. Define how the customer discovers whether a problem exists, then what they do once a problem is identified, then how it gets prioritized, and so forth.

Then – and this is essential – define how your business can serve at each point of that buyer’s problem-solving journey. And I mean serve – not sell. Think of how to go that extra mile in helping that buyer make a great decision, not simply buy your product/service.

At each stage of the journey, there will be milestones that the buyer needs to get to. Define those milestones, and define what your business can do to help reach each milestone. Notice that I am not saying “define what Sales can do.” I am calling this out because Marketing may need to do something, Finance may need to do something, and so forth. And many functions may actually need to collaborate to deliver that help. I find it very rare that the content, tools, and behaviors of selling are “owned” by just one function.

Mirror moment: If you drew this all out, then compared what you are actually doing today as a side-by-side comparison, what would you see? You may need to pull your leadership team together and do this very exercise. That is, only if revenue growth is a goal.

The bottom line: Growing your revenue is a team sport and requires everyone to align around the buyer’s problem-solving journey.

That’s not just good sales enablement. That’s good business.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

Why your sales enablement may be broken

I get it. I really do. The term “sales enablement” is growing in popularity and usage.

But not in understanding.

In other words, too many people are using the term sales enablement and have no clue what it actually means.

And that frustrates me. It should also frustrate you.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, great sales enablement looks at how all the bits of your business work together to get the right people into the right conversations in the right way.

Yes, that’s a bit overly simplistic – but most people don’t even have that kind of clarity.

They often use “enablement” when they really mean:

  • Training
  • Onboarding
  • CRM
  • New pitch decks
  • Etc.

Consequently, they want to hire “enablement leads” who only have expertise in one area to run sales enablement. Because they believe sales enablement is not that complex.

But that isn’t sales enablement. It’s not even close.

And how do I know?

Look around. How many companies are stagnating, stumbling, and basically undoing their own revenue growth efforts? How many companies have a bad case of initiative overload, all in the name of “helping Sales?”

If forecast accuracy, percentage of reps hitting target, and key customer growth numbers are any indication (which they are), then the number of companies who aren’t doing enablement right is huge.

And if I had any way of helping them, this is how I would do it.

First, redefine sales enablement as something that REQUIRES alignment between the content, tools, and behaviors required to get the right people into the right conversations in the right way. There is no magic solution that – by itself – will provide success. But if the content, tools, and behaviors are aligned (yes, this means that everything reflects what works best from the customer’s perspective), then real results will actually happen.

Bottom line: EVERY sales enablement solution tackles content, tools, and behaviors simultaneously. No more one-off initiatives.

Second, ensure the levels of strategic clarity and employee engagement are superior to the level of sales enablement solutions. This is tricky, because many leaders don’t want to tackle their gaps in strategic clarity and/or employee engagement. They would rather implement new technology, new processes, or even launch new products and hope that the goodness will flow upstream. That is backwards thinking. Rather, their clarity and engagement must be superior to the solutions being implemented. It is impossible for people to do the right work if they aren’t first hyper-clear on what needs to be done while also being motivated AND empowered to do it.

Bottom line: EVERY sales enablement strategy relies on the human needs of clarity and engagement. No more strategies that try to navigate past this.

Third, drive purpose into everything that is done. Both company purpose and personal purpose. The answer to “why” must be legitimate and inspiring – not just anchored to a market share or revenue growth target. It must be robust enough to endure when targeted results aren’t achieved, so that the team presses onward and won’t give up. Purpose is the purest fuel for rising above the struggle.

Bottom line: EVERY sales enablement vision will be anchored to real purpose – both organizationally and personally. No more “hit a number” visions.

Mirror moment: If you looked at your business and evaluated it with these three lenses, what would you see?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

Are you really a “customer first” kind of person?

I have been doing a lot of networking lately. You can probably picture some of the exchanges I am experiencing. A friendly introduction, some mild chit chat/attempts at humor, then working toward an explanation of what each of us does.

And I am amazed at how often I hear nothing about the customers involved.

In other words, I always hear things like, “I work for a B2B technology company selling X.”


Doesn’t that strike you as odd?

It’s crazy to me. Especially when I consider how the customer is rarely mentioned. And considering how much we hear about customer first, customer focus, etc., I wonder if people are genuinely committed to their customers.

Consider this easy alternative: “I help other businesses figure out how to scale their growth with technology.” (Or whatever describes your customers.)

Can you see the advantages of this approach?

First, it obviously puts the customer(s) being served in the center of your mindset. You really do think “customer first” when you inject them into the front part of your dialogue. And you probably already know the benefits of this kind of thinking. But have you and your team embedded it into everything that is done and said? More importantly, would your customers agree?

Second, it opens the door to new business. Talking about how you help your customers allows the other person to potentially say that they have the same challenge/desired outcome. At the very least, they may know someone else who you should be talking with. And that door to new business appears on its own.

Third, it allows you to collect information from people who might not be a customer but certainly represent your target audience. I cannot tell you how many times I have talked with people on airplanes and gotten incredible insights about their company’s leadership, strategies, and so forth. It’s like a mini-focus group where the transparency is paramount. You really do get to hear all about the junk that your target market is dealing with – even if they don’t want to admit it.

But if you are going to get really serious about injecting customer focus, you know you have to get beyond introductory conversations and give a very intentional look into how your organization anchors its efforts to customer outcomes.

  • Has your company defined the specific customer outcomes that everyone can impact? Do you talk about those impacts – or just how much money each customer is worth? Everyone’s goals should be anchored to customer outcomes in some way.
  • How do your team mates describe what they do? Are they truly customer first? Everyone’s role should be anchored to how they support the customer experience.
  • Has your company defined the processes that affect customer interactions? Do they show respect for the outcomes you promised to deliver to your customers – or do they get in the way of delivering those outcomes? Every process should at least be analyzed for customer impact. Yes, that includes HR, Finance, and other “non-customer facing” groups because they have the greatest potential of competing with the customer.

You may not have the authority to change each of these areas, but you do have influence. Start with where you can personally make an impact and create customer focus that’s just “different” from everyone else. Then change your team. Then your group. Then who knows? You may even change your company.

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.