According to the 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study by CSO Insights, 75 percent of sales enablement projects fail, either because of unclear business objectives, failure to keep the right stakeholders in sync, or poor communication. It will be interesting to see where the 2018 study results are trending when the research is released soon.
Given the pivotal function of sales enablement in helping organizations achieve revenue goals, this is a surprising statistic that needs attention and a solution, fast. It is not all doom and gloom though, there are also many successful programs to learn from.
One issue at the heart of less successful sales enablement programs is they are often designed with unrealistic expectations and unclear metrics. For instance, most programs are measured against lagging performance and productivity indicators, all numbers that are reviewed after the quarter or year end when it is too late to make an impact.
What if sales enablement leaders could marry lagging with leading indicators to influence goal achievement in real-time in the daily flow of work? There is a way, and that is measuring sales proficiency. This will inform sales enablement leaders and management whether reps are equipped with knowledge and critical thinking skills to be successful. By measuring and understanding the sales proficiency of each rep, leaders can ask questions like "do my reps know how to identify and qualify new accounts?", "do they know how to improve win rates through better upfront discovery?", and "do they understand how price elasticity and proposals can lift the average selling price?".
The “right” metrics for each sales enablement program depend on the business goals the program supports and will be different for each organization. But, the key is to only commit to the metrics that you know sales enablement can directly impact. I have heard of a wide range of metrics in place to measure enablement efforts, from reducing time to value for new reps, improving average quota attainment, increasing average sales price, increasing win rates, reducing sales cycles, increasing renewal rates, or it could be all of these as "levers" to improving sales performance. The key is to not overcommit and be sure that specific initiatives will directly impact specific metrics, otherwise there is no way to relate effort to reward.
Here are 5 concepts to ensure sales enablement metrics are clear, achievable and transparent:
- Be data-driven — Move beyond anecdotal or observational evidence and ensure initiatives can be quantitatively assessed from your sales tech stack, not disparate and stagnant spreadsheets.
- Gather feedback — Meet with sales operations to understand weaknesses in the sales process and whether this is a process or proficiency problem. You can directly address the latter, but this intel can inform process change too if it is not working as intended.
- Focus on proficiency — Correlate sales rep proficiency with conversion rate at each pipeline stage, productivity and performance metrics. Analyse and adapt training or do some re-training where there are gaps.
- Commit to a realistic timeframe — Agree to a reasonable timeline for showing program impact. This may be different for each metric and initiative, for example, are indicators of success able to be recognised throughout the sales cycle or only at the end of the quarter/year?
- Report and refine — Report regularly on agreed-upon business outcomes and metrics. Incorporate a 360-degree feedback loop to continually review and tweak the program to ensure sustained success.
Choosing the metrics that matter is one of several strategies for planning a successful sales enablement program, but an ever important one. This needs to be part of a more programmatic approach to sales enablement to be sustainable, measurable, and to continually improve sales outcomes.
For additional planning insights, download our briefing sheet 3 Steps to a Sustainable Sales Enablement Strategy for a step-by-step framework for building a sustainable sales enablement strategy.