Maybe you have a winning strategy built out. You might even have the best technology and processes available to support the strategy. But without the right individuals, roles and team in place, sales enablement success is flat out impossible. Building the right sales enablement team can be challenging, in part because formal sales enablement roles are relatively new and are evolving every day. But take it from someone who has been there throughout this evolution: building the right sales enablement team is work, but it’s absolutely worth it. Daniel West, our most recent guest on the Sales Enablement Shift podcast, is no stranger to sales enablement team development. Over twelve years ago, Daniel started at Mercury Interactive as the Director of Partner Enablement, and since then he’s held a number of enablement and go-to-market leadership positions at enterprise organizations like HP, Informatica, SAVO, and currently Infoblox. In this podcast episode, Daniel shares with us how changes in technology, buyer knowledge, and business strategy have helped sales enablement evolve into the strategic role it is today, and his experience assembling unstoppable enablement teams. Here are six tips for building your own successful sales enablement team, fresh from our podcast conversation with Daniel.

  1. Operate as a business within a business. The foundation of any great sales enablement team is its consultancy mindset, its ability to serve internal customers. For this reason, Daniel recommends running sales enablement as a business within a business. This means that understanding salespeople’s needs is at the forefront of all goals, metrics and processes, and that enablement teams are expected to deliver. [Sneak peek: we’ll be taking a deeper look at sales enablement as a business within a business in a future episode with Jen Marie Jacober. Stay tuned!]
  2. Look for the right individual qualities. On an individual level, Daniel says he’s found success in hiring empathetic people who clearly understand the audiences they serve. Often, this empathy comes from previously working in a sales, presales, or channel role, because these individuals have experienced the pains, needs and enablement requirements firsthand. Enablement individuals need to be results-driven, able to manage programs and stakeholder expectations, and deliver in a way that the field can effectively consume.
  3. Embrace subject matter experts. For content creators specifically, Daniel recommends hiring subject matter experts with a deep understanding of the market, buyers, and technical audiences. This helps the enablement team develop the right content required to serve to internal customers at each stage of the sales process.
  4. Build for change and scalability. The maturity of a sales enablement function varies from one organization to another, but change is inevitable within every one. Daniel says that all enablement teams should include a group focused on infrastructure and operations, which will help ensure end-user satisfaction as growth and change occur. Sales enablement leaders should be building for future growth, not the current state. This requires individuals that are dedicated to setting and tracking the right metrics that are reported to executive stakeholders, and that are set on improving those over time.
  5. Focus on stakeholder alignment. Sales enablement cannot succeed without alignment with stakeholder goals. The best way to do this, according to Daniel, is gaining an understanding of the current state by speaking with all stakeholders to get every possible point-of-view. “I think in the first three or four weeks [at Infoblox], I had 90 meetings with sales reps, pre-salespeople, the partner community, the product marketing and management organizations, and more,” Daniel shared. The main objective of these meetings is to uncover the gaps preventing the organization from the heightened level of sales productivity. After so many of these conversations, patterns emerge, and Daniel says a “vision for the future state” becomes clear. Sales enablement leaders should share the findings from these conversations with executive stakeholders, along with the future vision, to properly illustrate goals and the high-level plan of action. This process leads to stakeholder alignment, support, headcount, and ultimately funding for enablement.
  6. Measure enablement success by intended change in behavior. According to Daniel, the Holy Grail of enablement is being able to directly correlate salespeople’s (and other internal customers’) consumption of enablement programs to an intended change in behavior. Start with a single metric that relates to a goal derived through your stakeholder meetings, and build your enablement program around this goal. This ties enablement success directly to the things that matter to stakeholders, ensuring the benefits of support, funding and headcount discussed above.

“Every company in the market today is trying to accelerate growth, and many need to do that in a more profitable way,” Daniel shared. You may remember Jill Rowley sharing with us on a previous episode of the Sales Enablement Shift podcast that simply increasing sales rep headcount is no way to address sales enablement issues. But building the right team, a team that’s dedicated to the strategic elevation of the sales enablement organization, will. Many thanks to Daniel for joining us for the Sales Enablement Shift podcast and for sharing these valuable insights! You can listen to the full episode, and learn more about Daniel’s experience of building unstoppable enablement teams, below. You can follow Daniel on Twitter @DJWest75.