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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Is Sales Enablement really ‘Disabling’ Sales?

I have expressed concern over the use of Sales Force Automation (SFA), which are de-skilling salespeople. Today, I want to express deep concern over a Non-Sales ‘conspiracy’ to disable salespeople by making Salespeople use “sales enablement”.

arm lock
The practice of Sales Enablement developed by Non-salespeople is simple:

Selling is an activity, like walking.

Selling like walking requires no skill, have a route planned then go.

Sales Enablement is “routes” prepared previously by Non-Salespeople to make Salespeople sell more often and sell more effectively.

BMAC Consultants have just finished an audit of “Sales Enablement” for a blue chip, Hi Tech Company. My initial analysis was straightforward. Sales results before the adoption of Sales Enablement, compared to Sales results after the adoption of Sales Enablement. Since the claimed benefit of Sales Enablement was to sell more and to sell faster. Clear Order intake and Revenue improvement were the expected results.

The actual result was a performance dip, about -12 % on average.

Sales sold 12% less after being ‘enabled’.

I asked for a third group, the control group, which had not adopted Enablement.
There was not one I was told, Enablement is compulsory. It is our new way of working!
I conducted semi-structured interviews with more than 40 sales staff, salespeople and sales management. I found a group of people who had ignored Sales Enablement. They were, in the main, Top Performers, with a few average performers. Their Sales figures had improved slightly or remained the same. I interviewed at length several Top Performers who had experienced performance dip after adopting sales enablement. “Difficult to use”, “not fit for purpose”, and “cumbersome” were the criticisms, while “good in specific situations”, “saved me time” and “it really helped me” were the compliments.
1. Content Creation
a. Customer Intelligence: this was often story board based, based on previous “wins
The Sales consensus was it didn’t work
b. Product Content: Sales complained about a lack of Product Training, instead they were being giving mini aide memoirs and Product stories.  The Sales consensus was Buyers now knew as much or more about products than Sales knew.
c. Vertical Marketing Content: There was universal appreciation of this. There was particular praise for events which had Customers talk about Key issues and Market Sector drivers in Customer Engagement Workshops
d. Solution Content: There was universal criticism of this. Out of Date materials, irrelevant materials, Issues with Customer Confidentiality (unapproved Case studies) and simply not working or useless content.
Buyers had also stated these were not fit for purpose especially as
RTT (Response to Tender) or RFI (Request for Information) responses.
2. Content Management: is poor or very poor; everyone, yet no one, was responsible, it had become a potpourri. Initially Top Marketing Management had been responsible, but the ownership had dropped to Marketing Operations Executives. The current content owners, were inexperienced, had had little or no Customer contact and were being used for their PC skills (Data Base Management) Storage not ‘Content’ creation, development or distribution.
3. Content Governance: this was the most worrying area. Senior Management had made substantial investment in Sales Enablement; they expected to see two things; usage of the new systems and sales results. Sales managers were enforcing usage with ‘Enablement Police’ ensuring compliance. The use of materials was being checked during sales calls, the use of Knowledge Data bases were being reported automatically by the system with details on access frequency by individual salespeople, by groups and as a whole. IT is driving sales!
Sales ‘Propositions’ were being checked for content and “Standardization” against ‘winning’ models. The whole area of governance was being abused. Some salespeople were going to extreme s in appearing to use the system, while in fact defeating the checks and measures. Other salespeople were in complete compliance, but were seeing their sales results dropping; this dissonance was causing a great deal of stress.
4. Content Delivery: This was an area of innovation. Many Corporate Presentations had been remodelled into Video, Storyboards, White boarding, Podcasts and state of the art Interactive Websites etc. Attempts are being made to use social media, Facebook, Blogs and Twitter and there was a willingness to explore all of this on the part of salespeople. Sales major complaint was lack of Training and no Coaching on these innovations. Buyers had also complained about some of these innovations when inappropriately used, and had rated poor content delivery as a major factor in Lost Business Reviews.


If you really want to ENABLE your salespeople, then listen to them.

  • Customer Engagement workshops with Sales, Marketing, and IT in conversation together with Customers is the most productive source of Sales Enablement Material. What Content do Customers value? How do Buyers want in delivered, where and when do Buyers want it.
  • Sales Enablement appears to work best when it is specific, build an Ideal Customer Profile then work through a Competitive strategy.
  • If you value Selling Time, a repeated criticism by Buyers of Salespeople is that they do not have time! Consider reintroducing some of the Sales Administration Support that was ‘Cost Cut’ in order to pay for Sales Enablement.
  • The cheapest way of increasing selling time and gaining sales results is Sales Admin. If you are short of expense, then fire the Senior Marketing Manager who introduced, then abandoned, Sales Enablement.
BMAC Consultants audit Sales Enablement and make recommendations putting enablement to work. We also have a unique Customer Engagement Workshop process that puts the Buyer’s Voice right to your ear!



    •$135,262 is spent, on average, in support costs per year for each salesperson.
    •7 hours per week is what the average salesperson spends looking for relevant information to prepare for sales calls.
    •50 percent of the information is pushed through email.
    •10 percent is “made available in a useful format.”
    Source: Forrester Research & IDC Sales Advisory Service“

    Have a look?