Services Sales Enablement Organization Development

Establishment Alignment Optimization

The sales enablement organization (SEO) can be characterized as a specialized learning and development. As such, the two share much in their mission and operations; and that is reflected in the similarities in their model of development. It must be noted that there are some important differences to a sales enablement organization, some of which is covered in this section on development and some in the SEO overview information. You may find it benefical to also review the information on learning and development organization processes and structure, and development.

A key difference of an SEO is that it is most often a coalition of personnel from other departments, although in some enterprises it can be a formal department. If it is a coaltion, many of the establishment components are even more important and potenitally more difficult. As usual, the overall goal of the establishment phase is to lay a foundation that will be subsequently built on. This involves establishing core processes and the skills to execute them so that you have consistency; and developing tracking systems that provide visibility and insight. If the SEO is a coalition, there may not be a designated funding source and/or necessary resources may be difficult to acquire. From our perspective, that provides an even stronger argument for running the SEO as an internal business. That would mean getting the components in place so that you can implement service level management processes, including a chargeback system with the customer departments.

The key establishment components include:

Designated Sales Enablement Officer:

Whether a formal department or a coalition, someone has to be responsible for the organization and its activities. We refer to that person as the Sales Enablement Officer. No matter the actual job title, their function is to lead the sales enablement organization and promote a culture of enablement throughout the revenue organization. Their skillset should include the standard management expertise, and an understanding of learning and development. It is not necessary that the person have a background in sales, par se. But, they will need to have credibility with the sales organization - who will be the major, but not exclusive, constituency served. So, experience in some field role in the sales process is often helpful. The mental stamina to work with the strong personalities that are typically part of sales is essential. Strong negotiation skills are also often valuable, if not necessary, as it is likely to be a key component of the position.

Sales Enablement advisory and planning committee:

By the nature of its mission, sales enablement will be working with many different groups, either as customers or resources. There will certainly be many different enablement activites ocurring concurrently. Given all of that, we have found that a cross-departmental sales enablement advisory and planning committee is extremely useful. The composition of the committee is dependent on the size and structure of your overall revenue organization. But if possible, all key revenue generating functions should have representation and caution should be exercised in making certain the committee is not dominated by the functions (e.g., sales) that often have strong influence in such settings. The committtee make-up and dynamics again highlight the important characteristics of the Sales Enablement Officer, how will play a leadership role on the committee. 

Having an advisory and planning committee will help coordinate strategy, resources, and activities. Other intangible benefits include building team cohesion and a shared sense of purpose. It can also be useful in employee lifecycle talent management (see Optimization) as departments are more likely to become familiar with each other and learn of staffing needs, better facilitating the transfer of personnel from one department to anoher when appropriate.

Dedicated resources:

Although sales enablement will collaborate with and draw on resources from other departments, they should have resources of their own. The exact nature and amount of the resources will depend on the size of the revenue organization it serves. Resources are typically some combination of staff, technologies, and space. Because some of what the content they will be working with may be confidential and staff sensitivities should be considered in seeking assistance, we strongly recommend that the SEO have some private designated meenting space for individual coaching and training sessions.

Defined development and delivery processes:

As detailed in the general information section describing a sales enablement organization, the services offered by the SEO will be broader than a standard learning and development organization. Because of the nature of the services in sales enablement and the constituencies it serves, the importance of assessments and evaluations can not be over-emphasized. Without comprehensive assessments, services will be misaligned with needs. If that happens, the organization will not be effective and its credibility will quickly erode. Evaluations and other feedback mechanisms are critical to know that services are aligned and well received; and they will provide information for ongoing improvement, and useful data for subsequent negotiations and requests for resources.

Best practices for any organization providing enablement services is to have established processes for creating materials and programs, and for all the functions related to delivering services. We refer you to the following for more information on some of the services the SEO provides:

In addition to those listed above, other key services include individual consultations and coaching. Those development and delivery processes will also need to be defined. For a number of reasons (e.g., demand is likely to exceed service resources, colleagues can bring additional expertise and may have greater credibility in some instances, etc.) and as illustrated in our developmental model, the SEO is likely to progress toward more peer-to-peer programs in some of these areas. The SEO role in those programs is typically to one management and quality control by providing structure, materials, and oversight. Experience in directly providing coaching and consultations, or in developing and managing train-the-trainer programs may be an important consideration in the considering the mix of SEO staff.

Sales Enablement Management Database:

Like learning and development, the SEO will need technology for data storage and some ervice delivery functions. It may be most beneficial to have the SEO to share the learning and development learning management system (LMS) for many of those functions and we refer you to that infomation. We will emphasize again that the management database is a set of processes for operational and serve management functions. Technology is an enabler of those processes, not the process itself. Define the processes and design the technology to fit it - not the reverse.

The SEO may have some data that they may not want in the LMS. Certain factors (the nature of the business, the security and access rights in the LMS, the possession of confidential business information, services that have a more personal component, the type evaluation and feedback data collected, etc.) may further justify that caution. If that is the case, then the SEO may need it's own management database. Many SEOs find the best system to be a combination, wherein the LMS is used for most functions and a separate - and usually much simpler system - is set up to handle the exceptions that need a higher level of protection.

Reaction reporting:

Like the learning organization, the SEO may initially conduct the most basic form of evaluation - soliciting participant's reaction to the service. These evaluations are easy to conduct and produce reports that detail subjective, and typically immediate or short-term, perceptions. This type of evaluation is likely to always be a part of the mix of evaluation items, but the SEO should move quickly to gathering data on what was learned and what behavior was changed. That is the foundation for getting to the ultimate goal of demonstrating the impact on performance and the benefits realized by the business.

Once the core processes and functions have been established, the SEO can further align services to the needs of its consituents and enhance their effectiveness. That alignment comes about through deeper collaboration with consituent groups that allows additional sharing of resources and further informs the needs of those groups.

Role-based knowledge and skills requirements defined:

Before you can fully enable the revenue organization personnel, you have to understand the knowledge and skills required to successfully perform the function. A comprehensive analysis of each function should be conducted. This, coupled with the program analysis detailed in the next section, is likely to be a significant effort, but one that will provide substantial benefits to each department and manager. Like most assessments, it should start with a review of all the existing job descriptions and any other departmental materials (e.g., job handbooks, etc.) that describe how staff should conduct a specific function. The SEO should also draw on the outputs of the revenue organization development efforts (e.g., identification of revenue organization members, definition of processes and milestones, etc.) to further identify requirements.

Role-based programs and job aids:

Once the knowledge and skills requirements are defined, the SEO should do a similar review and analysis of the knowledge and skills addressed in the existing learning and development programs, handbooks and manuals, job aids, tools, etc. It's important that this analysis include formal training programs, informal (both invidual and group) programs, and all resources provided or made available to staff. The next step is to map the requirements to the programs. The maps will highlight any immediate gaps, and provide insight into how programs can be made more effective or efficient through integration, restructuring, etc. Once the mapping is finished, programs and job aids can be created or made available through external resources to address any additional gaps.

Co-development and co-delivery across the revenue organization:

Developing and delivering programs collaboratively has many benefits. The obvious advantage is the additional expertise and perspective different people can bring. Far too often, functions are siloed - operating with limited understanding of the needs of those who receive and work with their output, or appreciation for what goes into creating the output they receive from others. Collaboration helps foster understanding and appreciation among co-workers. For a variety of reasons, a lot of workplace training occurs one-to-one, whether with peers or supervisors. By definition, those are co-delivered enablement programs. Formalizing those, by adding components such as train-the-trainer programs and tracking systems, can make them more effective and creating new peer-to-peer programs can be a good option to address unmet needs. Lastly, collaboartion across the revenue organization will contribute to talent management, as staff will learn more about other functions that may be a better fit for them and departments will get direct exposure to personnel that they can recruit for positions.

Change management:

Change management is the process for controlling the lifecycle of all changes, enabling beneficial changes to be made with minimum disruption to services. A change is an addition, modification, or removal of anything that could have an effect on the enablement services. The scope should be defined to include include changes to all instructor and participant materials, instructor delivery, scheduling, resources, processes, and technology. A schedule and related documentation, with metrics or milestones to track the change, should be established.

Some requests may be for what are categorized as a standard change. Standard changes are pre-authorized because they are low risk, relatively common, typically not resource intensive, and follow a well-defined procedure. For non-standard changes, the change management process is initiated by a formalized request for change. The change request includes a high level description of the new service or significant change to an existing service, along with a corresponding business case and an expected implementation schedule. Change requests are reviewed by the change management team or designee for its potential impact on other services, on resources, and on the overall change schedule. The request may be authorized, denied, or modified and returned to the requestor for approval.

Resource management:

This is the process responsible for ensuring that the internal and external assets required to deliver enablement services are properly controlled, and available when and where they are needed. Assets include service (i.e., development, delivery, and event management) staff, technology, materials, and facilities. The management process also includes accurate and reliable information (e.g., staff professional profiles, instructional manuals, etc.) about the assets. Given the inherent degree of colalboration entailed in sales enablement and the breadth of the constituency served, resource management is critical to the success of the SEO.

Learning and behavior change reporting:

At this stage, evaluations focus on participants' improvements in their knowledge, skills, or attitudes as a result of the learning and development activities; and reporting always follows the data gathered. This is a significant advance from the reaction data and reporting previously conducted, as it demonstrates a measurable impact that can be tied to the initial objectives for the activity. Such data is the foundation for making the business case for learning activities, and will significantly elevate the stature of the sales enablement organization.

Of the three, skills can be the more difficult to evaluate because they require either testing or tracking of work behavior. Skills testing is often resource and time intensive, and there is frequently resistence to it. Depending on the skill in question, tracking work behavior may be more practical - assuming there is a tracking system already in place. Caution should be exercised though to assure that the measure is a relatively pure indicator of the behavior. That is especially true in the revenue organization, where the focus is intensely on revenue. Too often there are a myriad of factors that affect whether a sale closes and for what amount. A far more direct measure of behavior should be found whenever possible.

Now that core compoents have been established and aligned, further refinements and enhancements can be made that allow the SEO to help the revenue organization be even more productive. Optimization occurs through: 

Knowledge management:

The process responsible for sharing perspectives, ideas, experience, and information. It includes processes for capturing that data, and for ensuring that these are available in the right place and at the right time. The knowledge management process enables informed decisions, and improves efficiency by reducing the need to rediscover knowledge.

Knowledge management will be a key function of the SEO and could be its single greatest hallmark. It implementation should be treated with that in mind, great attention paid to its details. The most high performing revenue organizations are noted for their effective knowledge management. It will produce profound benefits to the revenue organization, not the least of which will be to help maintain consistency in the revenue stream during transitions. Many of the foundational components of knowledge management have been established in earlier development activities, but the full process could not be implemented until this stage.

Employee lifecycle talent management:

Ongoing professional development should be promoted by the revenue organization and practiced by all employees. Doing so helps improve performance, reduce turnover, and maintain motivation. It also allows the revenue organization to develop internal talent for promotion. The SEO will play a critical, if not leading, role in talent management for the revenue organization. Some of the activities likely to be conducted are:

  • Working with staff and their supervisors to assess needs and determine goals

  • Developing professional development plans with staff and their supervisors

  • Directly providing some of the development services

  • Establishing and managing contracts with external service providers

  • Tracking and reporting development activities and outcomes

Service level management:

The service level management (SLM) process is responsible for negotiating achievable service level agreements and ensuring that they are met. SLM analyses all other service processes and the underpinning agreements to determine whether they are adequate for meeting the agreed upon objectives and other service level targets. Service level management monitors and reports on service outcomes, holds regular service reviews with customers, and identifies required improvements.

The SLM process starts with a service request, which is a formal request from a customer for something to be provided. Service requests may come through a standard, possibly automated, process or be made directly to a service provider. Service requests may be linked to a request for change. If a standard - meaning pre-authorized - request, they are transferred directly to the fulfillment process. If it is not a standard request, it must be approved before being assigned to a service provider for fulfillment.

Once the request is approved and transferred for fulfillment, a service level agreement (SLA) is established between the SEO service provider and the customer. A service level agreement describes the service, documents the objectives, describes the service, and specifies the responsibilities of the learning and development service provider and the customer. The SLA should also include service level requirements, which are determined by the customer's business objectives and used to negotiate measurable service outcomes. The service valuation, which is a measurement of the total cost of delivering the service, should also be calculated and included in the SLA.

Availability management:

Availability management is the process for ensuring that the existing enablement services can meet the current needs in a cost-effective and manner. It considers all the resources required to deliver services. Then an analysis is conducted to determine whether staff skillsets, staffing levels, processes, facilities, technology, tools, and other resources are appropriate to meet the service level agreements. Given the collaborative nature of sales enablement services and the broad range of resources involved, availability management is likely to be a complex and intensive process; but the challenges it presents should not be cause to ignore or downplay it. If established service level agreements are not be met because of poor management, then the revenue organization will either be less productive or will seek the services elsewhere; both have significant consequences, including a loss of SEO credibility.

Continuity management:

This process is responsible for ensuring that the enablement organization can always provide the minimum agreed upon services. It does so by managing the risks that could seriously affect the provision of services and planning for how services can be quickly recovered when there is a disruption. Some of the factors to be considered in continuity management include: staff turnover and any other loss (temporary or permanent) of resources, maintaining adequate funding, safeguarding the interests and needs of key stakeholders, the reputation and brand of the SEO, and prioritizing the value of activities.

Business impact reporting:

The business impact of enablement services boils down to three questions:

  1. What performance improvements have been gained from the service?

  2. What was the impact of the improvements on revenue and profits?

  3. What was the cost of the service?

Integrating the learning and behavior change reporting previously enacted with the learning objectives and service valuations in the SLAs, those questions can be addressed and a true ROI for the sales enablement organization services can be calculated.

We use this developmental model to help you establish sales enablement services and run a sales enablement organization as a business unit. It is important to note that this model is a guide, not a presciption. You can read more about our developmental model and the benefits of using it.

We can help you develop and implement any of these specific functions or assist you in developing a plan for the development of your sales enablement organization. WIn adition to organizational development services, we also offer specific enablement services (e.g., sales rep skills training, sales process definition, development of sales tools and job aids, etc.) to expand or supplement your exisiting service offerings. 



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