4 Reasons Enablement Should Have a Seat at the Executive Table
Meet Stephanie Middaugh, Director of Enablement at WorkRamp. Each month, Stephanie will share her expertise, from fresh ideas on new enablement strategies to actionable tips to implement at your organization. In this month’s post, Stephanie explains why Enablement must have a seat at the executive table.
Enablement is critical to the success of your organization. In fact, research shows that organizations with a sales enablement function have way higher win rates than organizations that don’t — 49% compared with 42.5% — and 76% of organizations see an increase in sales of 6-20%. So why don’t we always have a seat at the executive table?
A solid Enablement process equips Sales reps with the training and materials they need to close deals and hit their targets, but so often, Enablement leaders are not included in executive-level conversations that allow them to create one.
Prior to joining WorkRamp, I encountered this problem frequently. I would ask to be included and be met with confusion about why I wanted to have a say when executive leadership was discussing headcount, sales rep compensation plans, and other initiatives that would impact the Revenue organization. If you’re up against the same issue, here are four areas to focus on when you’re explaining why Enablement should sit at the executive table and be included in conversations about initiatives that will impact the enablement process and the Sales organization as a whole:
1. Setting and meeting C-suite expectations: Organizations add customer-facing reps when they need to boost revenue, but too often, hiring doesn’t take place early enough for new reps to be properly trained. Without sufficient ramp-up time, it’s less likely they’ll hit their sales quotas in the expected timeframe. If the goal is to fill the pipeline, it won’t happen overnight.
Enablement professionals understand that completing the enablement process and ramping up reps requires significant lead time. However, the C-suite may not have visibility into the activities required to onboard and train new reps. For example, they may think that hitting their revenue target for the coming quarter means putting butts in seats a month before, but that’s usually not how it works. An effective enablement process for onboarding and training can take six weeks or more, and if it’s rushed, reps won’t have the knowledge and tools they need to successfully close deals. If we’re present for those conversations, we can raise our hand and ensure sufficient ramp-up time is built into the schedule, so the executive team gets the results they expect.
2. Allocating headcount to maximize impact: Speaking of ramp-up time, new reps means greater demands on the Enablement team. The C-suite knows that adding a bunch of new reps puts more power behind filling the pipeline, but they won’t be successful without an adequate enablement process for support and training.
When Enablement is involved in conversations around headcount, not only can we set realistic expectations for onboarding and ramp-up time, we can influence where resources are allocated. For example, if there are six open reqs for the Sales organization, convincing leadership to allocate one to the Sales Enablement function will enable us to complete the enablement process and train new reps faster, so they can get out there and start winning and closing deals.
3. Focusing our efforts to help reps succeed: With a seat at the table, Enablement will understand the direction of the business and key initiatives, and can use that information to hone our efforts. For example, if the goal is to convert net-new logos, it’s likely new Sales reps will join the team and need to be onboarded and trained. If deals aren’t moving through the pipeline, we can work with the team to determine where they’re getting stuck, and focus on an enablement process that helps reps overcome those challenges. If customers aren’t renewing their contracts, we can provide reps with the information they need to address objections and avoid potential churn risks. These examples illustrate how critical it is for Enablement to understand the high-level business objectives and goals early, so we can focus our efforts on helping the Revenue organization achieve them.
4. Communicating and managing change effectively: When organizations change Sales rep compensation plans, for example, involving Enablement is of paramount importance. In most cases, we are the ones tasked with presenting and managing compensation changes across the sales organization, and explaining it in a way that minimizes panic and gets everyone on-board.
However, in many companies, we’re left out of the initial conversations about compensation changes, which makes it difficult to roll out an effective change management and communication plan. Imagine a sales rep’s reaction to being blindsided by a change in their compensation in an email or by a colleague! Making sure all of the communication logistics are covered is essential.
With a seat at the table, we can gather all the important information and formulate a communication plan that covers all the bases, answers all the objectives, and positions change in a way that will be welcomed by the reps.
Driving Change Is a Team Effort
Years ago, a peer implemented a Communication Matrix that categorized different types of communications into three tiers. Bottom-tier and middle-tier communications can be spun out in a matter of days, but top-tier initiatives about changes that may require reps to alter their behavior — for example adopting a new process or application — can take weeks or months of planning as we think through all the variables and pitfalls, and determine how to convey the information in the most effective way. Those are the topics typically discussed in executive meetings — which is why it’s so critical for Enablement to be present.
It boils down to this: Executives want results, and they want them fast. If Enablement is absent from top-tier discussions, we will lose the opportunity to have maximum impact. If we’re brought into conversions early, we can set expectations, understand the drive behind the initiatives, and take the necessary steps to affect change with a sound enablement process. That’s why we need a seat at the table. Enablement typically has a finger on the pulse of the Revenue organization, and when we’re in the know from the get-go, we’re empowered to course-correct if needed, ensure the executive team understands the best path to success, and help the business achieve its sales and revenue goals.
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