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Selling the C-Suite: Earn Buy-In for Sales Enablement

Thursday, June 7, 2018
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Few audiences are as tough as the one you’ll face in your own organization’s C-suite. Convincing a CEO to loosen the corporate purse strings is not for the faint of heart—even when the funds would be directed to revenue-driving sales organizations. It takes time to build trust and a compelling business case for new sales enablement or training initiatives that the executive team will support.

After all, change is hard, and some leaders may want to stick with status quo programs, especially if the sales force has been successful in the past. But in today’s swiftly evolving business environment, sales organizations must adapt quickly or be left behind—whether it’s improving sales results, staying ahead of competitors, or retaining top sales talent.

The New Sales Economy: Creating Chaos in the Sales Status Quo

Modern business dynamics, technology and cultural changes have converged to create a new sales economy—one that has changed everything about the sales process and influences client buying behaviors. The resulting disruptors are coming from everywhere. Some are industry-specific, and some are much broader. Consider two examples.

The Amazon Effect: While this may seem B2C on the surface, the Amazon Effect is being felt in B2B environments, too. Decision makers expect easy access to research, comparison information, and social proof. According to Forrester, 68 percent of buyers find accessing information online is far better than initially interacting with a sales person. This number has increased by 15 percent in just the last two years. Decision makers are more educated than ever before, armed with reviews, recommendations, and other trusted opinions. Sales teams are being engaged by the prospect much further in the sales cycle than they previously were. That means the sales approach must evolve from basic client education to providing strategic insights that differentiate the product, the service, and the seller.

Decision by Committee: Another trend affecting sales is decision by committee. Research from CEB shows that, on average, 6.8 stakeholders are involved in major B2B buying decisions. The more complex the decision, the more people will likely influence it. This slows the business development cycle. Perhaps more importantly, it can create blind spots when it comes to the sales team’s knowledge of buying roles, influencers, and decision makers. Consequently, they need to build broader and deeper relationships across the client’s business, and even outside of the client’s business, in order to consider all the buyers in the process.

To succeed in the chaotic new sales economy, sales professionals and sales leaders need new mindsets, skillsets, and toolsets. And sales enablement and sales training programs need to evolve to help sellers meet these demands.

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Set the Stage for Success with These Strategies

Sales enablement or sales training leaders seeking CEO support for new initiatives must be prepared to clearly and effectively justify their desired new initiatives. Here are five strategies to build credibility with the CEO.

Create the right culture for sales enablement and sales success. High-performing organizations put a focus on creating a productive sales culture. This starts at the top, with the CEO setting his or her vision of sales culture. It’s executed daily by sales enablement and sales organizations. For an initiative to gain support, the outcomes, strategies, and tactics need to be in clear alignment with the CEO’s vision of the sales culture.

Do the discovery. This will involve an assessment of the benefits, risks, costs, solutions and potential organizational impact. For example, you might conduct interviews across the business or industry-level research. You also may mine other data sources like your CRM, inbound marketing platforms, or learning management systems. Smart discovery should lead to insights that will help you gain support.

Co-create the ROI. Executives expect a speedy return on investment, and they’re not willing to wait six months or a year to see a return. Frequently, they’re looking for tangible progress and results in 90 days. Because speed is now the expectation, it becomes important to include your executives in establishing the ROI. When they work with you to establish the ROI, you improve your odds of gaining support. Additionally, using data to project the return on investment will add to the initiative’s credibility.

Look cross-functionally to gain support with key stakeholders. Just as you would coach your sales teams to build relationships broad and deep, it’s important for sales enablement to do the same. Assess relationships and internal buying roles across the business. This would likely include sales, marketing, and training, but it also could require relationships in HR, finance, and operations. The broader your relationships within the organization, the better your chances are of success with the CEO—because you’ve done your homework on organizational impacts.

Establish ownership. When it comes to sales, we often hear the phrase: "Everyone owns sales enablement, and everyone owns revenue generation." However, if everybody owns it, then nobody owns it. In creating a business case for new sales enablement initiatives, there needs to be a person or a group that owns the leadership and the execution of it, in partnership with other areas of the organization. This approach earns credibility because it creates accountability.

When you’re building the business case for your next sales enablement initiative, these five strategies will provide the insights, ROI, relationships, and accountabilities that will establish your credibility and earn support from the CEO.

About the Author
As a sales leader, Amy Franko built a successful and lucrative B2B sales career with global tech giants IBM and Lenovo. She then took a 180-degree pivot into entrepreneurship in 2007, launching a training company, Impact Instruction Group. She has successfully built and scaled a book of business that includes some of the world’s most recognizable brands.

Known for her dynamic style and practical experience, Amy is a keynote speaker specializing in B2B sales and leadership development. Her firm also offers sales training and leadership programs that blend current research, fresh insights, and real-world application. Amy’s expertise is widely shared on social networks, and in respected publications such as Training Magazine, Selling Power, TD Magazine, and CLO Magazine. She has been interviewed on numerous high-profile sales and leadership podcasts, and featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, and O Magazine. Her new book, The Modern Seller, is due out in 2018. Visit AmyFranko.com to learn more.
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