You've spent hours evaluating different sales enablement vendors and have finally decided on the one you will roll-out to your team. You know it's going to be a hit with both your subject matter experts (subject matter experts) and your reps (knowledge consumers). But it's not as easy as blasting out an email to your team and saying your new solution is live. Think about this for a second: according a study of 551 organizations using Microsoft Sharepoint (a knowledge repository like your sales enablement solution), only half (51%) of them saw adoption of 75% or more. To ensure adoption, you must have a deployment plan ready so that you can roll-out your sales enablement solution in a way that maximizes adoption. Those early days are crucial in creating trust for your solution and for establishing habits that drive users back to it. If your sales reps don't trust the knowledge in your solution and aren't seeing value immediately, they are less likely to go back to it again, leading to low adoption. Finally, you quickly need to prove your solution's value to the organization by showing upper management analytics around adoption and metrics that show a tangible improvement to business outcomes.
Without a proper plan to roll-out your chosen sales enablement solution you are setting yourself and your team up for failure. 3 crucial steps should be completed in the planning phase: 1) identify one use case to start and populate (migrate) content for that one use case 2) identify a pilot team with sufficient subject matter experts & consumers in it 3) define what "success" means for the pilot.
Many categories of sales tools are easy to "kick the tires" with and have a low investment, but sales enablement solutions are not one of these categories. The switching costs are high for many reasons. For one, they will be used horizontally across the different groups your sales team typically engages with, so once a solution becomes adopted by a majority of the organization it becomes harder and harder to switch, even if better solutions arise. You will also be storing tons of internal company knowledge and sales assets inside your sales enablement tool. Switching to another tool will come with headaches in terms of exporting content, cleaning it up and migrating it to a new solution. For these reasons, we highly suggest that you run a pilot with your chosen sales enablement solution with a small number of your team members, so that you can actually have a chance to test out if it's the right solution for your organization.
Pilots are usually one to two month trials of the product that allows a portion of your team to experience how the solution works while on the job, and gives you sufficient amount of time to see if it adds enough value to your business to roll it out team-wide. One caveat to this may be for smaller start-ups who have yet to document a lot of their sales processes and have yet to find a repeatable sales motion. For these companies, it may make more sense to invite your whole team and begin the process of building knowledge organically through Q&A.
Pilots that are focused on one use case tend to be the most successful. For example, imagine communicating to your team that "anything you want to know about our competitors is now in our sales enablement solution, verified by our product experts". It's a great way to begin associating your solution with a valuable source of knowledge that is now available to your team. The only caveat here is that the use case you choose should be content that your sales reps are using frequently so that you can sufficiently test the solution you trial.
By limiting the amount of content you initially populate in your sales enablement solution you can minimize the scope of your pilot project, keep switching costs lower, and get started sooner. Once you have chosen what that focus area will be, invite your subject matter experts to the chosen solution and ensure they cover that one topic thoroughly by either migrating existing content or creating new content in your sales enablement solution. Since the tool is new for them, it may make sense for you to do a short ‘lunch and learn' to walk through the content creation process with them. When migrating existing content, make sure to audit it and update any information that has gone stale. Do not invite your knowledge consumers to try using the product until content has been put inside your solution. The quickest way for a pilot to fail is to invite your whole team to an empty repository. Remember, like in life, first impressions are everything.
For your pilot we recommend starting with an initial team of five to ten members, and a good mix of both subject matter experts and knowledge consumers. We include both personas because you want to get a good sense of how the workflows of creating and consuming knowledge fit into your team's daily routines. Request that they commit to trying out the solution for a full week around the topic you have set-up for them to see how it fits into their daily routine. An example communication might be:
"We are using [insert solution here] to centralize our sales knowledge and assets. Initially we have setup all competitive intel in [insert solution here]. By using it, we will be able to quickly access expert verified knowledge about all of our competitors, and as this information changes we will notify you via [insert solution here].
If you want to know something about a competitor that has not yet been covered in [insert solution here], you can easily create a new question and ask your team to answer it for you."
Finally, you can't determine whether or not your pilot has been successful, unless you have tangible goals coming into it. Those goals can be both quantitative or qualitative, but ensure they are written down before your team starts using your solution. At a bare minimum, there should be goals around team adoption of the tool and the ability to determine whether the solution has positively impacted your business. It may be hard to make a quantitative case while your piloting the solution, so qualitative feedback from your team will be crucial. Here are some questions to gather feedback that can help determine whether the solution you chose is making your team more productive and making their work lives easier.
For subject matter experts:
For knowledge consumers:
For yourself and other decision makers:
Now that you have set your team up for success, it's time for your solution to prove its value to your organization. The first step is to invite your knowledge consumers to your solution now that subject matter experts have filled it with knowledge and content around your chosen use case. Once you invite your users give an in-depth walkthrough of the product either by yourself or with someone from your solution's customer success team. During this meeting is a good time to discuss your goals and best practices with your team, to establish proper protocols around giving feedback, and standardize workflows around proper usage of the solution.
Once the pilot team has been given the full tour of the product and how to use it, it's time to start evaluating its effectiveness. Start to schedule some feedback interviews with users (both subject matter expert and consumer personas) and ask them the questions we pointed out in the last section. Be sure to also monitor adoption statistics, identify any red flags, and start to gather metrics that could point towards how your solution is adding value to the business. Finally, when your pilot is halfway complete, it's probably a good idea to reconvene with the whole team again for a feedback session, and also educate your team on any power user features that can help them accomplish what they want even faster.
Here's a quick recap and roundup of some other do's and dont's while you are in the pilot phase:
Once the pilot is nearing it's end, it's time to closely examine the results and determine whether or not you move on to roll-out your solution team-wide. Adoption is the broadest, most easily definable measure of success and should serve as a good benchmark for how your team perceives its usefulness. While a high adoption doesn't guarantee a successful pilot, a low adoption definitely guarantees an unsuccessful one. Once you determine that the solution was sufficiently adopted and used by the pilot team, you should closely examine the quantitative and qualitative metrics you gathered. If your pilot period was long enough to gather significant quantitative results, that's a great signal to gauge how effective your solution is and how it impacts the business. If not, make sure you know what you can and cannot analyze with your solution (a more in-depth discussion of analytics is at the end of this chapter). However, in all likelihood, you will mostly have to rely on qualitative feedback from your pilot team. Try to identify common themes in positive and negative feedback expressed by each persona. Focus on teasing out the reasons why users adopted or did not adopt the solution. Identify any major roadblocks that could derail a full roll-out to your team. If there are any major feature requests from your team, try to tease out from their customer success team where those features fit in their roadmap. Once you do your due diligence, it's time to roll it out to your whole team.
If your pilot went smoothly, it's now time to roll out your solution to the whole team. Luckily, if you followed our tips for the planning and pilot phases, a lot of the hard work is already done. Much like in the planning phase, the first thing you need to do before launching to your team, is to populate or migrate the rest of your content over to your solution. If you are migrating content like marketing assets, or product documentation make sure there are designated owners from those teams who can ensure the content they migrate is up-to-date.
Once content is populated, send out an email to all of the users who will be invited to your chosen solution (much like the one in the pilot phase). In that email emphasize why your team chose to move forward with the solution and maybe include some of the feedback your pilot team gave and adoption analytics to combat potential skepticism you might face from your team. Make sure to set up a future date for a lunch and learn (or webinar if remote) so that you can more fully go over the feature set, talk about transition plans, establish proper protocols, and gather initial feedback from users.
One aspect not to overlook is the transition plan. All of your sales knowledge and assets will now be in at least two places (your new solution and the old one), so it's important that you inform your team of key dates during the transition period. If you are transitioning from a paid solution, then you will need to inform your team of when that access will be shut off. If you are transitioning from free tools like Google Drive then you will need to decide whether you want to restrict access to that content or continue to allow access for reps. For maximum adoption of your solution, we recommend restricting access simply because changing habits is difficult. If you give your reps the opportunity to continue doing things the "old way" they probably will continue to do so even if it's less productive because they are used to it.
Once you invite all of your team members, it's not time to sit back just yet. There are sure to be some installation hiccups for some team members and you should be making yourself available as a resource when anyone has questions. If your rollout is 100 users or more, it may make sense to have a designated resource per department to help ease the amount of requests you may receive. After everyone has installed successfully, you can begin the process of transitioning fully to your solution and begin training your team.
Lunch and learns are a great, interactive way for you to train your team. We recommend splitting these up by persona: one for subject matter experts and one for knowledge consumers. By doing so, you can dive into the details about the specific workflows of each persona and discuss the proper protocols. For example, with subject matter experts you will want a protocol around how often content should be updated so that consumers always trust that knowledge is up-to-date. For knowledge consumers, you want a proper protocol established around how they can get answers to questions not currently found in your solution's repository to eliminate shoulder taps to your experts. Effectively, you are trying to eliminate behavior that became a habit when you were using the "old way" of doing things.
Once these training sessions are complete, hopefully you will be able to be less hands-on and start to optimize and refine how you use your solution. Regularly schedule feedback sessions with both personas to get a sense of their thoughts on the solution. Take a look at adoption stats and ensure you talk to power users as well as users who haven't adopted the tool as much as others. In this way, you can hear both sides and begin to understand what is working well and what might not be working as well. A few months after you implement the solution, it's time to start analyzing the data to see if it made a positive impact on your key sales metrics.
After you have launched your solution and gained healthy adoption for it, your attention should turn towards analyzing the metrics that prove your solution has a positive outcome on your sales organization. But what are those metrics you should be looking at? Here are a few quantitative and qualitative metrics we think are important to examine when determining the ultimate success of your enablement solution.
Remember the trust workflow we discussed as vital to any sales enablement platform you adopt? Here is where it directly impacts your business in a positive way. If reps trust the content they are using is accurate, they don't have to wait to get an answer from your experts. In doing so, they answer prospect's question while they are on the phone with them, not in a follow-up email after. In addition, if your enablement solution is not a destination and you have integrated it with tools like your CRM, Email and Slack, you will also see a reduction in time spent searching for information. These small gains add up quickly across your team and any opportunity to reduce the "back and forth" time it takes to close a deal increases the velocity of your sales team. The best sales enablement solutions will be able to tell a story here.
What would it mean to your company's revenue numbers if new sales reps started closing deals in half the time it used to take? For any growing sales team, onboarding is extremely important. The faster your new hires can start selling and reach quota, the more likely it is you can hit your plan. In order to measure this effectively you need to make sure you compare cohorts of reps who were hired at the same time before you rolled out your enablement solution and after. If your new classes or reps aren't improving on average as a group, it's impossible to separate the impact your solution made vs. the difference in skill level of each individual rep. While there are a number of variables that would impact each class' ability to ramp up, the cumulative average of this success metric should be trending upward as you implement your sales enablement solution.
Every sales team has their A-players who consistently beat quota and always seem to make it look easy. There are many reasons they perform well, but one of them is to understand what they are saying to your prospects to get them to buy. With your enablement solution you should be able to capture and track all content usage by rep so you no longer have to guess at this. Turn this insight into action by reinforcing this effective content with the rest of the sales team to help them up their game.
Inconsistencies in messaging amongst your sales team can cripple a deal. Even worse, it can create unrealistic expectations for new customers which cause them to quickly churn, wasting precious time your team has invested in trying to make them succeed. By making your sales enablement solution the "single source of truth" for your team, you can keep your team consistent and on-message when talking to prospects. For example, you've analyzed the data and found a particular industry case study resonating extremely well with prospects. Since your solution is integrated directly into your CRM, the case study surfaces for your team when they open the opportunity record. Now, all members of your team are sending the assets proven to resonate well with prospects.
Sales enablement never stops. Due to the ever-changing nature of your product, industry, and competition there will always be new gaps that emerge in your enablement strategy. Hopefully, once you choose and deploy your sales enablement solution you will be equipped to handle the changing dynamics of your organization and its competitive environment.
As your team and organization grows, your sales enablement team will begin to specialize. You might bring on a sales trainer internally and have specific people focused on just competitive positioning, product FAQ's, or sales process documentation respectively. You might even expand your enablement team to support your customer success or product support teams. The scope of sales enablement continues to change and expand every year. But even as your team grows and the definition of enablement get more broad, the way you enable your team should stay the same. The focus is providing knowledge consumers with trusted, accurate content directly in their workflow.
Sales enablement cannot be overlooked. Growing startups need a sales enablement team in order to grow their sales teams and organizations effectively. The rise in prominence of sales enablement is just beginning, and companies are quickly starting to realize the tangible business value best in-class enablement teams provide. That's why the time is now for your organization to create a sustainable sales enablement program.
We can't choose a sales enablement solution for you, or tell you who to hire, but we hope the frameworks and resources we have provided can help you get closer to those decisions. We'd be delighted to hear what's worked and what hasn't for your team. If you want more great content on sales enablement, sales strategy, and a whole bunch of other SaaS startup related topics, then make sure to check out our blog where we post our thoughts and share tactical advice. You can also follow us on either Twitter or Facebook to receive updates.