The Secret to Perfecting Sales Enablement

*Originally published on

Every high potential sales performer has individual motivators, experiences and development needs to reach greater sales competency and performance.

OK owners and senior managers, we left off last month discussing delivery of clarity when communicating sales expectations, gaining commitment (from sales leadership and the team), defining the “what” with your vision and leaving the “how” to the sales leader and their team.

You are also responsible for removing operational roadblocks and providing training and tools to enable the sales team in their journey. So, what else can you as an owner or senior manager do?

For starters, how much have you invested in your sales leader’s competency training in the last 18 months? Have they received sales process training? Any leadership training? How about coaching training?

If your sales leader was promoted because they were a great salesperson, you need to rethink how they have been developed to reach their next level of career success. If you haven’t invested in them, they won’t be able to effectively develop and lead a sales team.

Now, what are the warning signs that your sales leader is quietly or not so quietly struggling? High sales turnover comes to mind. Arguably your biggest “hidden” cost to bottom line results.

The old adage “hire slow and fire fast” is a great rule of thumb. If you hire more slowly, with a proactive process, you won’t be doing as much firing. Recognize that we get business results through the work of others. The better the quality of their work the better the results. The more motivated and focused they are, the better the bottom line results will usually be.

Think in terms of guiding your sales leader to better develop the sales talent you have provided them with to reach sales goals. How well do they recognize the unique strengths and weaknesses of sales individuals?

How well is the overall sales team chemistry working to encourage, challenge and expect great work from everyone around them? Every high potential sales performer has individual motivators, experiences and development needs to reach greater sales competency and performance.

A leader of a sales team should recognize they have three basic goals … develop the team, point out obstacles in the way (this is not a whine festival) and deliver company results.

A challenge is recognizing and understanding personal sales motivators and removing process speed bumps. This can be achieved by having good coaching skills. Often, we see sales management take a narrower view of their own views, take people personally and make costly decisions that slow progress while disrupting sales team objectives. What is this impact of critical thinking traps to performance?

It’s somewhere around $50-$100K of lost investment and an unmeasureable impact on customers’ perception of your brand. Could it get worse on the downside? Yep, it can. It will stunt your reputation to recruit and hire those high sales performers away from their lucrative position to join your team.

Our industry is tightly knit and back channel communication is key to attracting the right talent. Why would someone want to leave a low-risk and known revenue position to join your opportunity?

I was able to take a seriously underperforming sales team to double sales production in 17 months from $17 million to $32 million without firing a single national account manager.

This involved learning their individual strengths and weaknesses, removing sales roadblocks, setting clear expectations and providing training and tools to remove mental blocks. Was it easy? Nope, it wasn’t.

I had to recognize that my success as a salesperson would not necessarily meet my team’s individual needs. My way was not their highway, and having authority and a title would not deliver the results I wanted. Setting a big picture and a simple goal they could relate to was my first step in turning the sales team around, based on what motivated them and not me. The first mental hurdle was compensation.

Leave your leadership ego in your footlocker. I had to leave my personal sales skills and recognition behind for my team. It was the hardest and most satisfying leadership challenge I ever faced.

It was worth it as my sales team became more confident, knew I had confidence in their strategic sales decisions, and they delivered increased results for the next three years before I left that role. My advice?

Rethink your leadership skillsets, leave your ego behind, revel in your team’s success and grow your career that defines taking company resources to the next level. It will prepare you to lead greater career opportunities in the future. It worked for me and perhaps it will for you as well!