blog article
Sales Enablement
Tony J. Hughes
Tony J. Hughes
min read

There I was, standing in a large corner office on the 42nd floor of a city high-rise waiting for my first Monday morning ‘proctology examination,’ euphemistically described by the CEO as the ‘forecast review.’ Armed with reports, summaries and notes, I felt ready to discuss any number of issues within the sales operation. But as I looked out the window at the city below I reflected on what my flying instructor taught me: confidence is “the feeling you have just before you understand the situation.”

I had recently been hired as Sales Director at this public corporation, to 'sort out’ the sales operation. The CEO, typical of others in his role, was frustrated with the black box sales machine. In his opinion, no one really knew how it worked. He poured huge sums of money into it, and out came unpredictable results, crapshoot forecast dates, and slippery high-value deals.

By contrast, the finance department ran with predictability. So too did support, service, marketing, and operations. Even manufacturing could navigate the complex the supply chain and stay on plan. What was going in sales?

We sold high-end complex software solutions to large enterprise and government markets. The sales team was beset by long sales cycles, marginal business cases anchored on compliance and productivity, complex procurement processes, multiple stakeholders, and a rapidly commoditizing market. In our meeting, the CEO shared his insight on steadying the ship: “instead of employing sales magicians, build a great machine. Good execution is usually the best strategy.” He was right.

The Four Key Pillars of Successful B2B Sales Enablement

Across my three decades as a salesperson, leader, and executive professional selling evolved at an ever-increasing pace. As cycles of change eroded and rebuilt complex B2B sales, the operations that succeeded always had four clear commonalities. These universal and timeless foundations are the holy grail framework for sales enablement: methodology, process, technology, and leadership.

1: Processes to execute the optimal timing and sequence for strategised activities

Working cohesively with methodologies, process align sales operations on when key activities should happen. Specifically, a sales process tells sales teams around the optimal time and sequence to perform key activities for maximum impact. This clarity ensures teams execute consistently, and that operations can easily identify and improve on inefficiencies in the process.

Typically, the sales process follows your sales funnel to define an optimal prospect-to-customer journey, covering key milestones like prospecting, qualification, discovery, proposal, and close. Tools and training are essential to support the consistent execution of the sales process. Examples include call planners, qualification tools, discovery questionnaires, proposal templates, win/loss review forms, and account plans.

2: Methodology that allows you to scale excellence

Methodology gives structure to the sales process, providing consistent frameworks for what to do and how to do it. Ensuring the whole team executes alike, frameworks are particularly valuable to companies that are looking to scale, improve their sales performance, or be more resilient to change.

Methodologies exist for almost every sales tactic and strategy, including engaging with customers, identifying needs, managing risk, presenting solutions, managing time and resources, and winning deals. Success with methodology does not depend on which ones you select, but on them meeting the company’s need and goals, and how well they are introduced and supported. Well-proven methodologies you’ve likely heard of include TAS, RSVPselling, Miller Heiman, and P6 Risk.

3: Technology to provide support and transparency

Although technology has undergone significant transformation over the decades, this pillar’s fundamental function–to provide transparency and support–has remained unchanged. Successful modern sales operations achieve this using a customer-centric CRM system that is a single source of truth for accounts, opportunities, pipeline, and forecasting. When totally aligned with their sales process and methodologies, sales teams are set up for success by operationalizing the ideal sales process and methodologies.

CRM systems do this using features including qualification scoring, action tracking, automation, reminders, and templates. Integrating with other parts of the tech stack further enables teams, providing efficiencies like just-in-time learning and AI assistance. For sales manager, insightful reporting is key to pinpointing exactly where coaching, support, or management is needed, and the as-it-happens impact of their mitigation strategies. Selecting and implementing a CRM is a challenging process, but essential for organizations looking to better enable their sales teams.

4: Leadership to engineer, manage, coach, and inspire.

Sales leadership is the final pillar and catalyst in successful sales operations. Responsible for selecting the right strategy, they then engineer the methodology, process and technology pillars to unite under it. They also ensure a positive customer journey by aligning the sales operation with the wider revenue function and organization.

With the structure sound, the right leaders then focus on enabling the sales operation to succeed with it. They guide teams to focus on the activities needed, coach them to successfully execute, mentor them to develop, use insightful reporting to manage and overcome problems, and inspire a positive culture of excellence.

Quote: "The holy grail of successful sales enablement is: a disciplined execution of methodologies within a strategic process, seamlessly enabled by technology, and catalyzed by the right leadership." - Tony J. Hughes

The four components key to enabling a successful B2B sales machine are methodology, process, technology, and leadership. Time and time again, this framework has enabled sales teams to deliver consistent, predictable, scalable, and resilient success–no magicians necessary.

About the author

Tony J. Hughes
Tony J. Hughes

Tony is a co-founder of Sales IQ, committed to elevating professional selling and sales leadership for a Better Business World.

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