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9 min read

The dark arts of data: From sales training to sales productivity

Membership content | Sales Enablement | Metrics & OKRs

Have you ever requested a training tool that’s been denied? Have you ever been in an organization where every failure is a sales enablement fault, but you never get enough resources to fix it? Or you bring up a concern or a complaint and later on you find out the concern wasn’t even communicated properly?

What I’m hoping to bring to you in this article is some practical tips and tricks for you to boost the credibility of sales training within your company. We need to get ourselves in a more practical, strategic role, rather than just a training role. It can’t just be all about theory, we’re here to boost productivity.  So, let’s get started.

Here’s a breakdown of our main talking points:

  • Why does sales enablement matter?
  • The evolution of sales enablement.
  • Proving the worth of sales enablement.
  • Baseline metrics.
  • ROI metrics.
  • Building a reputation.

But first, here’s a little more background on myself…

About me

I fell into sales enablement, and I’ll be honest, it's the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. I was working at an accounting firm during tax season and I quickly realized I didn’t want to do accounting anymore.

At the end of tax season, I took my bonus and hitchhiked through Central America for four months! Shortly after coming back, I got an email from my university about a local company that was looking for international training interns. Someone was actually going to pay me to travel around - I couldn't turn that offer down.

I decided to take a shot at this. I started out at the bottom as an intern, and that was the start of my journey in sales enablement and sales training.

Why does sales enablement matter?

The truth is, I truly feel that sales enablement can have a higher impact on a company's revenue and growth than any sales ops role. You can change comp, for example, and that might try to motivate behavior, but if the reps don't know how to execute on it... it's pretty much useless.

A graphic image of an arrow pointing up and a few coins around it. The background is purple.

The real benefits of sales enablement

When thinking about maximizing productivity, we want to avoid time-wasting as much as possible. Being able to educate your reps, and have a higher impact will not only help you to advance your career, but it'll also help you to prioritize and strategize the initiatives that you're driving.

It’ll help you to figure out where to spend your time to benefit the company as a whole, but also to grow your personal career. Our aim in this article is to look at how sales enablement can move from theory to practice. How can it have a tangible impact on your organization?

The evolution of sales enablement

The truth is, there’s a major paradigm shift occurring now in sales enablement. The time has come for sales enablement to move from a training function to a function inextricably tied to efficiency, productivity, and the execution of a company.

A 'Sale' sign in a shop window.

The timeline

In 2013, according to CSO insights, fewer than 20% of companies had a dedicated resource that was specific to sales enablement. By the end of 2017, almost 60% of organizations focus on this critical business function.

Now, fast forward to the present day, and you see conferences spring up that are focused on the practical benefits of sales enablement. There are sales enablement people who are focused on the operations of their company.

There are people who are not only focused on their title and their own success, but they're focused on the impact and influence they can have on their company’s success.

Proving the worth of sales enablement

It’s difficult to get your C-Suite or your senior stakeholders behind any initiative unless you can prove its worth. And how do we persuade senior authority figures to really invest in anything? Through hard data.

There’s an old corporate saying that goes like this: “with opinion versus data, data always wins.”  I knew that if I wanted to pitch an idea to my president of sales to do something, he’d shrug it off and avoid doing anything about it.  

It would just be his opinion versus mine, and with him being the more senior of the two of us, his opinion was going to win out every time.  

A generic image of a graph on a computer screen.

Come in armed with data

If I go in with data, if I can show metrics for where we’re headed and where we can go, I'm going to be more likely to grab his attention. But it’s all good and well to say that we should be focused on metrics. The real question is, what metrics should I be watching?

Now, let’s get really granular with this data and split them into two different categories.

The baseline metrics are going to be things that I'm tracking from the get-go. If, however, I want to try to justify tools, headcount, or a specific training initiative I want them to buy into, I might focus on ROI metrics.

There’s a lot of overlap between these, but you need to be using them and messaging them in different ways. Let’s look at them one by one.

Baseline metrics

Here are some examples of some of the baseline metrics you’re going to be focused on:

  • Time to first deal.
  • The number of opportunities.
  • Average deal size.
  • Average conversion rate.
  • Average sales cycle.

In the end, it really depends on what your objectives are as a company. I was brought in to solve and drive revenue growth. If, for example, you’re in a very quick growth stage at your company, you’re going to be looking to maintain the company size and reduce the churn rate.

I’ve shown you the baseline metrics for what I needed to do at my company, but the point is that your baseline metrics are determined by the present fundamental needs of your organization.

Visualizing metrics

Now metrics might be convincing, but if you don’t have a visually compelling way to present them to your C-Suite then you might as well not have them at all.  Also, you need to have a place to collate this data so that your team can stay united under them and feel like they’re headed towards a common goal.  

You want to be looking at:

  • How is my sales cycle doing?
  • How's my average deal size?
  • What does my pipeline look like?

Once we have these baselines set, we can start to dive into them deeper, and look for opportunities for prioritization and opportunities of impact.

What do these metrics tell you?

Once we start to really dig into that data, we start to pinpoint the things that are falling apart along the way. This is the great thing about measuring metrics. We can notice that things are going wrong as we’re moving, and we can act to fix them quickly.

Let’s say, for example, the team isn't doing well in their procurement management and their negotiation phase. By looking at our metrics chart, we might realize that our SMB team was experiencing some great growth, but then we changed our pricing model, and that was when it dropped off. This is the kind of accurate problem identification that metrics provide.

Let’s say we have one particular team that's performing very badly. By looking at how our data is trending over time, we could see why we’re losing so much of our sales funnel.

Acting on data

By digging into this data, we can really start to spot opportunities for impact and opportunities to influence our ROI. We can also compare the projects and determine which one of them can have a bigger impact.

The fact is, we have limited bandwidth and we can only focus on so much. Having a visualization of metrics allows us to see which key metrics are the most important and prioritize accordingly.

ROI metrics

Now, this is where things start to get a little tricky. Sure, you can show correlation and you can show causation. But how do I justify, for example, a new headcount or a new tool? Well, here's how I went about it.

Showing correlation and causation

One of the ways I was able to accomplish this was by overlaying our learning management system (LMS) with data from our CRM. Looking at our learning management system or coaching tool, we found that even with the limited content there, there was a distinct correlation between the videos watched, the activities performed, and the revenue that's generated on a rep-by-rep basis.

This tells me that the LMS was a good investment because there's a correlation there. I can then bring that to my leadership and say, for example, “okay, so that’s working, but there's not a lot of content in there, let's maybe devote another headcount to it. Let's certainly not cancel the LMS when it comes up for renewal, at the very least.”

Metrics allow us to have conversations

We can start to have conversations that justify the things we're spending money on. So, at the very least, you can maintain good investments that you already have in place. And, at best, it can point the way to new opportunities. It can justify spending money on new investments.  

Having these conversations points this way towards growth, which is obviously the main goal of any organization.

Time for the first and second deal

Tracking the data can really help us to streamline the process between the first and second deals to improve this process. Having an ongoing tracker identifies the fine-tuning that can alter the process for better or worse.

Maybe we see that, yes, it might take a lot of time between that first and second deal, but each time we make a change and evolve it, it’s getting slightly better. Ideally, we’re getting that time to break even on the investment in hiring new reps down lower and lower.

Justifying demos and training

This really takes us to the heart of what we’re talking about here. We want to prove that sales enablement actually leads to tangible results, but we want to get really granular about this and show exactly which training methods are working.

Again, when we’re thinking about which methodologies are having a positive impact on sales goals, we’re going to be looking really closely at whether, for example, the time it takes to close a deal is reduced, on average, once we introduce a certain initiative to our program. Or, we might see that there’s a positive correlation between success and a new training video we’ve added to our LMS.

Of course, causation doesn’t always equal correlation. But causation can be a starting point to exploring and possibly locating correlation.

People sat in a board room having a meeting.

Building that relationship with sales and different teams

The fact is, enablement sits over so many different departments. But if senior authority figures can’t see the positive impact that they have, sales enablement can become a kind of BlackBox where no one’s really paying attention to what they’re doing for the organization.

We have to act as the channel negotiator, or as the arm of diplomacy that bounces between all the different departments to build relationships.

Putting a spotlight on sales enablement within the organization can really act as a great motivator for teams. It gives them a great reputation to live up to, which makes them feel valued and can lead to great partnerships cross-functionally.

It really helps to build their credibility within the organization as well. If this enablement process is truly going to evolve, this boost to credibility is essential.

Building a reputation over time

Let’s be real, you're never going to build a reputation with one report or one positive turnaround. This is why consistent performance over time is absolutely essential for cementing a particular function’s place in an organization.

We need to be able to show a history of successes. We have to be able to tell a long story of our success over time, from initiative to initiative, from project to project. We have to be able to prove that we're involved in driving the change.

It’s all about partnerships

It all comes down to the fact that good partnerships are absolutely critical, not only to actioning success but, to prove success. This is especially true of a function that is inextricable with training like sales enablement. There can be a tendency in organizations to look at any function that’s tied in with training as being superfluous, as not being worth investing in.

That’s why it’s essential that we’re always communicating across teams about the value of sales enablement. As their successes are arising, we need to be communicating that across the organization.

A green speech bubble made out of yellow scrap paper.

To wrap up: communication is key

But of course, there are many different ways of communicating, and when dealing with sales in an organization, it’s not going to be sufficient simply to communicate value. Metrics and data are really the languages of choice when persuading the C-Suite to invest in a particular tool or function.

Don’t sell your sales enablement function short. Make the effort of establishing a system where you’re continually collating the data, and the results will speak for themselves.

Written by:

Kyle Doerflein

Kyle Doerflein

Kyle is the Director of Sales Enablement and Productivity at LogicMonitor.

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The dark arts of data: From sales training to sales productivity