Ask Scott Santucci Anything: What are Sales Enablement Practitioners Struggling with Most These Days?



Scott Santucci is Founder and CEO of the Sales Enablement Society. In this new video series, he answers your questions.

So, first let me describe that we have three types of folks that are sales enablement practitioners. All of them, no matter which type of folk you are, resonate with this idea of the VP or the director of broken things. It gets at the genesis of where they start.

Let’s start with scenario number one. Your name is John. You’ve just been tapped on the shoulder to fix this thing. That thing might be, “Boy, we’re really having a tough time with the onboarding program. We’re really having a tough time taking these online leads that we’re generating in the millions off of our website to actually follow up on them.” It might be fixing the demand generation, a failed handoff. There are all of these individual problems that you are probably going to start adding up on your head. Being tapped on the shoulder to fix one of those is where a lot of our members lie. Basically, what happens there is figuring it out can be challenging because you end up touching a lot of folks, whether it’s the demand gen one or the sales issue.

All of them, no matter which type of folk you are, resonate with this idea of the VP or the director of broken things.

Being able to create a process, being able to get people on board, getting people to agree on things, bringing the energy to connect the dots, if you will, of all these broken tentacles around that process. That’s where sales enablement people excel and this type of person gets in there. The challenge with type number one is they tend to do a really good job of fixing broken problem one. Next year, they get two more broken things. You did such a great job, John, with X, Y and Z. Here’s some more.

So, John doesn’t know really how to, like the first answer is yeah, awesome, cool. Then, after accepting, John will reflect, hmm, I just signed up for double the workload and I don’t have any extra people. I’ve got no extra budget. So, what happens is the constraints of time start kicking in. So, the fear of being more on the job, working harder, the team starts to get a little bit frustrated. There are frustrations, etc.

What happens with people like John is if they stay in their roles a little bit, sometimes they’ll want to go and work in the sales organizations and the like and then they look at sales headcount costs. Those groups tend to bloat, and eventually, those positions tend to get eliminated as companies right size their cost.

That’s a scenario number one. It’s a common scenario. We have a lot of people who are in that, that are in our society that are between jobs. And the conversations that I have with them, I mean, who likes to admit they are out looking for a job? Who likes to admit that when they look at the different job applications out there on line that they are all different and they don’t feel like they fit. Well, there’s a reason that they don’t fit, but that’s a different topic.

But that’s a large portion of the members that we’ve got feel very, very, very pressured to produce things, produce results, maybe with some unrealistic expectations, silver bullets and things like that are so over subscribed, the idea of taking a step back and looking at things strategically, they know they should do but your gut reaction is, I just can’t do that. Any talk about changing the production line or what we’re doing, is just going to make me angry. And then, those people when they go either get fed up at their job and go try and find another job, or ultimately get let go and try to find a different job.,

The good news is there’s excitement — that there are more jobs out there. The difficulty? The descriptions of the jobs are so varied.

Scenario two would be somebody that’s figured out how to, or had helped, building out a department. So you go from scenario one to scenario two and maybe what you’ve got is you’re responsible for your customer education, your sales education, maybe some sales operations and the onboarding process. You’re not responsible for all of those things, but you’ve got a gleam of different things. And you have some sizable budgets that you can manage and you have a department to do that.

So what you do is, you spend time working on your charter and positioning and managing expectations. You get pulled into things. You still are doing a lot of fire fighting modes, but you actually have a basis and a budgeted nucleus to work from. What you do is you’ll concentrate maybe on really nailing the onboarding program strategically, using that to parlay maybe 20% more budget extension so you can take the onboarding program and maybe work on sales coaching for the following year. So that tends to be what your viewpoint is.

Now the difficulty there is let’s talk about another client. So these are hypothetical; not hypothetical, these are real people. Every scenario I’ve described are real people, I’m just changing the names. So, Sally had one of those departments and in organizations like we have, many of the different departments inside a company are rapidly changing. So you have a Bain, or a McKinsey or whatever doing a lot of organizational structure or organizational dynamics. A lot of reorgs that have happened in your company GE, or whatever company there is, they are massive.

What’s behind all of those? What’s behind all of those typically is some sort of plan of overall corporate efficiency that has much more a bias to cost reduction. When you go through that process and your budget and your department is evaluated, it’s evaluated in a completely different way. It’s evaluated in a way that is very economical that you probably if you’re Sally, you have no idea what’s happening. So you’re first instinct is, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m not going be visible. If I’m not visible, then I’m not upsetting the apple cart and then maybe I’ll survive.” But that’s the worst possible strategy that you have in a situation like that and what happens is because you’re not being proactive and selling the benefits of what your department is, and actually being aggressive and calling out other departments that you should be accumulating, your department becomes vulnerable.

So, we see a lot of sales enablement leaders get to that point and get replaced or gobbled up or consumed or whatever maybe by more established or more, I don’t want to say politically astute, everybody calls this politics, but unfortunately this is budget reality. It’s not politics, it’s dollars. So, in that vein, to be able to be more proactive and more aware of what’s going to occur to you, those are scenarios, that’s what Sally needs and she’s scenario number two.

Scenario number three is surprisingly, we have a handful of people in the society, or people that I work with that actually have C level positions. Maybe their job isn’t sales enablement, but they think it is. Their titles are sale productivity or actually, tends to be more on the sale productivity side. A lot of these people are really emerging into maybe a counterweight to a CFO. So if a CFO’s metrics, and the source of a lot of these metrics that are coming from tend to be really risk aversion, there isn’t somebody on the other side of the fence with a very metric case to create an argument for growth.

So, these people exist and they are tapped on the shoulder by the CEO. The CEO in those cases tends to be very frustrated with the sales organization and the marketing organization, being far, far, far too tactical. This is more of a strategic, future oriented view of the source of revenue. Set up more of the counterbalance with the finance and the product group and given very, very, very vague mandates. So for example, one guy, we’ll call him Brian, is at a very, very large manufacturing company, was tapped on the shoulder to make our new strategy work and do whatever it takes. Whatever you need from me, go do it. And as exciting as that might sound, that sounds like all the authority that anybody would want, now you actually have to come up with what the plan looks like. It is a total blank check to do whatever the heck he wants but also all of the accountability that goes with it.

So, we have three different members and what I find that I wish we would have more conversations out in the public, is that the situations where people are scared or what their real issues are; they tend to tell me these things in private. I’m just saying that these are situations that all exist and I think the reason that they exist is because we’re making a change over what our economy is. And I think that’s really what our opportunity is as Sales Enablement Society is to illuminate why do we have all of these different patterns emerging? Are they reality or they symptoms of a bigger challenge? How do we clearly identify what that bigger challenge is and where the trajectory of roles and the way people are working and how we grow, what should that look like in the future?

In the immortal words of Wayne Gretzky, “Skate to where the puck will be, rather than wait for the puck to get to you.” That’s really what we’re trying to do in terms of promoting and elevating the role is to first highlight what the amazing successes that a lot of our members are doing, that just aren’t taking victory laps for. 

If you think about scenario number two, when I talked to those people, so if you remember, that’s Sally. One of the things they always tell me is they never, never, never invest nearly enough time to do all the internal selling. If you don’t do the internal selling and bragging on your team, or highlighting what the objectives are, no one’s going to do it for you. And other departments do a great job of it, for some reason, we haven’t don’t that ourselves. So, hopefully, what we can create is out of our society a way to highlight these amazing successes. Jaw dropping, breakthrough performance gains that are difficult to repeat in an income statement because of the distribution of budgets, but they exist in these small pockets.

 Let’s tell those stories and let’s sort of move away from the silver bullet-itis that we’ve gotten to with these prescriptions about what works or doesn’t work for sales. Let’s highlight the awesome examples and start putting these examples together in terms of a roadmap forward about where we can go.  

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