5 best practices for sales enablement: how to empower managers

Posted September 13, 2021

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By Cari Murray

Senior Editor at Outreach

We hear all too often that sales training programs are too reactive. Luckily, that’s changing.

In a recent fireside chat, Outreach's director of revenue enablement Whitney Sieck and Zoom’s senior manager of sales enablement Anna Vuong explored what it takes to build a modern sales enablement team. They discussed everything from empowering sales managers to building an intentional enablement discipline and being “audible-ready” with technology.

Read on to learn five of their best practices for how sales leadership and enablement can create a programmatic strategy together. 

1. Take stock of the (manager) landscape

Enablement programs tend to over-index on training field sales teams. But sales managers serve as power enablers, who are instrumental in educating the field and operating as an extended part of the enablement team. So, it only makes sense to start by understanding where your managers are coming from.

“If you're rowing in different directions, that leads to chaos,” Whitney said. In any environment, this lack of focus won’t work. But in a hyper-growth environment, it can be a disaster. Her advice to get everyone moving in the same motion? Help your enablement partners learn about your team at scale.

“One thing that I've done when I started at an organization is a leadership landscape survey to really help me understand where the team is coming from,” Whitney said. A survey provides tangible data points that help enablement leaders meet sales managers where they're at, leading to a trusted partnership over time. Ask questions like: 

  • What methodologies have you used in the past?
  • How do you define enablement?
  • How have you worked with enablement in the past?
  • How do you learn independently and develop yourself?
  • Who influences you? Who do you follow on social media?

2. Build partnership in process

For any solid sales leader + enablement partnership to work, you need effective communication and trust. But it doesn’t just happen in an instant. You have to establish the elements of a solid partnership in process.

“Week one on the job, I walked all the sales managers through an enablement process workflow called the ADDIE model,” Whitney said. 

Instead of simply describing what it was, she related it to the sales process. “The A in ADDIE stands for analysis. I related that to discovery and said, ‘You're often going to hear me have a lot of questions before I just dive into doing a training. You would never want your sales rep to get on the call to do a demo without having done their discovery.”

This demonstrated she speaks their same language and understands their processes, driving cohesion right from the start.

3. Bring managers in up front

Right now, sales managers don't have the same level of visibility they might be used to. Ramping, scaling, and leading teams remotely is difficult. There’s a lot of change and noise inherent in that. Plus, many teams are hiring and getting larger. With everything sales leaders are juggling, it’s difficult to get the message across to teams.

So, what can you do to manage some of that?

“We’ve been leveraging a manager-first preview,” Whitney said. “We shouldn’t have the expectation that a manager can coach it if they haven't been through it and had a safe space to explore it.”

Anna agreed: “Giving sales leaders visibility into initiatives and having a feedback loop is instrumental because they're the ones on the front line. 

"I’m always pushing on behalf of the managers to let them see it first, get their buy-in first, or let them launch it first. That way we can wrap our heads around it, we can collectively get a coaching plan around it, and we can communicate it in the right channels.”

4. Be more prescriptive

Getting to a true, good in-market motion with alignment across the entire organization is the goal. That’s difficult when you’re challenged with less visibility. And right now, it’s easier than ever to fall into silos.

One way to overcome this is by asking your enablement team to a bit more prescriptive with managers. Anna's team at Zoom does this by providing sales managers flexible frameworks they can use for stronger coaching.

“For deal qualification calls, I take more of a white-glove approach and say, ‘When you're in this example, these are the questions that you ask,'” Anna said

They know every manager will tweak things to their own approach. But what it comes down to is helping everyone get in a consistent, repeatable, predictable sales motion.

5. Swap change fatigue for new energy

We’re operating in an environment of change. Companies pivot their strategies to adjust. But with that comes a continual rollout of new concepts and messaging. There’s a lot of pressure for B2B sellers to know it all. Change fatigue has hit, and it’s hitting hard.

To bring in new energy, Anna and Whitney argue that it’s unrealistic to expect sellers to know it all, remember it all, and keep up with the changes. You’ve got to give sellers the capability to surface relevant information in real time.

“At Outreach, we call it being audible-ready,” Whitney said. “So, you're expecting that a prospect or customer is going to ask you something that you don't know, and you'll have the answer right at your fingertips using content cards that are surfaced based on conversational intelligence in real time.”

Whether it's questions asked less frequently, tricky competitive questions, or objections, reps know they have access to talk tracks and can be confident in saying the right thing. That’s what real-time enablement is all about.


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