Sales enablement is a fairly unique profession in that it is often positioned at the busy intersection where other vital business functions converge to impact the sales organization. As hands-on practitioners, we know all too well the importance of balancing strategy and execution. The challenge comes when the strategy aspect of our role gets eclipsed by the constant demands of being in the “weeds” of implementation.
Often strategy is confined to, at best, a quarterly exercise, but at worst, something that happens predictably in late fall as sales leadership invites us in to prepare for the year ahead. After that comes the familiar rush to go all out and grab the end of Q4 revenue, while a flurry of activity is required to set up the big January or February kick-off meeting. From there, it’s anyone’s guess—the list of tactics and tasks will continue growing until the next “strategic event” is scheduled. After a while, this pattern can set in, and it becomes rinse and repeat each year.
However, what if we broke that cycle? What if we prioritized more focused, strategic activities ourselves throughout the year? One way to start is to take on a more visible, engaging role at that busy intersection—to initiate open-ended conversations with key leaders over these important functions. These dialogues wouldn’t be agenda driven. The goal is simply exploratory and the opportunity to carry any relevant insights back to the sales organization. Marketing, product, and operations are three potential avenues to travel.
Engaging With Marketing LeadershipMost of us know theoretically that strengthening alignment between marketing and sales is important for everything that goes into increasing conversion. There may even be regularly scheduled meetings to discuss marketing KPIs and performance. However, these can also become tactical and routine. Consider scheduling a broader insights and alignment meeting with marketing leadership. Some conversation starters might include:
- Which headlines or content is getting the most interest?
- What does that tell us about what’s on our customer’s mind?
- How can we make the customer’s experience better as they move from marketing to early sales conversations?
Conversing With Product LeadershipCompanies offering technology-based services or other products requiring ongoing investment will have a product group that is focused on both development and ongoing management. Feedback from the front line to product and back is critical for delivering ultimate customer value. With this backdrop in mind, here are some conversation starters to engage product in a strategic conversation:
- What’s on the roadmap?
- What insights are informing these priorities?
- How will our customers benefit?
Dialoguing With Operational LeadershipIt’s easy to overlook the importance of having a strategic conversation with operations. After all, if their planned initiatives will improve or impact sales, chances are you would have heard about it already. However, operations share some of the same concerns as sales enablement: reducing costs, efficiency, productivity, and more. They, of course, look at these things company-wide. This vantage point may provide either new insights for sales enablement or important confirmation that the sales organization is in lock step with the rest of the company.
Here are some ways to steer that discussion:
- Where are the pockets of excellence within this company, and what lessons can sales learn?
- What is your next broad operational initiative? Why?
- How do you see this initiative impacting sales, and how can we support?
While this effort will take time to organize, there are several potential benefits. First, the knowledge gained will likely increase your professional confidence and help you be more effective in your role. Second, your willingness to take this initiative will increase visibility and could improve your brand within the organization. At the very least, your desire to learn will garner more credibility and respect that may come in handy down the road as you seek support for your own needs and priorities.