I always hate starting a post with a pile of disclaimers. In some of my recent posts, I seem to be bashing sales enablement. I don’t mean to be doing that. Sales enablement is a vital function in organizations, it has a hugely important mission that can only be fulfilled with talented professionals. Many of our best clients and my closest friends are sales enablement professionals (And I hope they remain so after reading this post.)
However, I often wonder if we might increase the impact of sales enablement by making it a “temp job” or “rotational assignment.”
What if we rotated, as a development assignment, some of our best salespeople and managers into sales enablement roles?
Some of the issue, and it’s human nature, is that many sales enablement professionals have not been a salesperson for years. Some never have been. It’s hard to understand the reality, particularly in today’s fast-changing world, of sales people’s lives if it’s been a long time since you’ve done the job itself.
Intellectually, one can understand the issues. Data provides a lot of insight into the issues. Studying best practices and sharing views with other sales enablement professionals is important.
But great sales enablement is as much EQ as it is IQ. Too often, we see sales enablement programs that are technically and intellectually right, fail to achieve their potential because they are insensitive to the reality of how salespeople work and what they need to do to be successful.
Imagine the power of leveraging that. Take a high performing salesperson and assign that person to work in developing/delivering sales enablement programs for two years. They bring the pragmatism and real-world experience to sales enablement, and can help develop and the programs that are most impactful in a way that will be accepted by the organization.
These people can become Sales Enablement’s “voice of/to the customer.”
Then think at the end of those two years, that salesperson moves back to the field, perhaps as a front-line sales manager, or as a senior manager. They become active advocates and provide constant reinforcement of the sales enablement programs.
When I first started as a salesperson and went to sales training, the people doing the training were people who had been top salespeople. They brought a reality to the experience that a training professional might not have done. At the same time they learned new skills that enabled them to step back into field roles at much higher levels and with much greater impact.
Perhaps it’s time to re-look at this.
Afterword: The same applies to consultants and outside trainers. If they haven’t done the “job” or haven’t done it for some time–one might question how relevant and connected they can be.