March 27, 2023
5 min read
Organizations are no longer questioning if they need an enablement strategy, and how to justify programs. Instead, it’s about how to enable teams most effectively. Because of this, sales enablement has surged, experiencing a 343% increase in adoption over the last five years .
No matter the scale or method of the strategy, enablement still requires budget and resources like any other business unit.
As enablement continues to grow as a field, and new platforms and analytics become available promising business results like never before, many leaders are trying to figure out: What is an appropriate enablement budget?
Unfortunately, many enablement teams are still reporting successes based on typical TL&D metrics, which are often centered around compliance and employee satisfaction. These metrics don’t hit home for those outside of enablement, especially the C-suite that is setting budget and headcount.
In fact, when leaders are presented with compliance reporting, the natural thought for those looking to trim budgets would simply be, “is there a faster, cheaper way for teams to be compliant?”
Compliance reporting by itself reduces the value that enablement brings. Even if there is high employee satisfaction with the training, there are other levers that leaders can pull to drive employee satisfaction and experience. Sadly, they may see shortening compliance training as one of the ways to do just that.
There is a paradox in that, enablement is recognized as important, but leaders still want to do it as cheaply and quickly as possible. Fast and cheap equates to small budgets.
Enablement teams need to do a better job of telling a bigger-picture story. They need to show that quality training and enablement is the key to driving the success measures of the lines-of-business is enabled.
Enablement should not be treated like one-off projects or initiatives. According to research by Highspot, when organizations structure their enablement team with a formal charter, the likelihood that stakeholders will be satisfied with enablement efforts increases by 44% .
If enablement teams want a bigger seat at the budget table, there needs to be a formal enablement vision and mission tied to business KPIs and financial statements. To make case for more budget and resources, enablement success stories should also be told within the context of those allocating the budget.
For example, if a budget stakeholder cares about increasing revenue to drive cash flow – show that enablement is helping sellers to drive more high-profit sales, in a way that is low cost. If the driver is profit, then enablement can focus programs around, say, customer retention and reducing churn, as a way to contribute to the company’s bottom line.
The same enablement program can hit on multiple KPIs that tie to financials. There is no reason why enablement can’t drive more revenue, higher margins, and customer loyalty at the same time.
Especially if a forecast can show that more enablement can achieve parabolic results (which can often be done with the right scaling strategy).
The question is:
How can enablement connect the dots from content creation all the way to financial results?
One would think that in 2022, with all of the reporting and analytics available, this would be easy, right?
Well, it isn’t. This is why most enablement teams just stick with compliance and employee satisfaction - because it’s easy to report.
Driving real KPIs requires intricate alignment with the lines-of-business and a level of accountability for enablement that is tied to business results. There also needs to be reciprocal commitments for the line-of-business to actually apply the learning. This points everyone towards the same finish line.
Traditionally there have been different finish lines for enablement and the lines-of-business they support. Most of the time, enablement’s work is considered “done” when the content is published, the training is delivered, and the survey results are in. From there, it’s on to the next initiative. That’s why the reporting stops short.
Alignment means that teams are tied to the same goals. If sellers are meeting their goals, and driving the right results (because of the training and enablement they receive) then the enablement machine is doing their job.
So how do you make the connection between enablement and line-of-business KPIs?
A good place to start is actually knowing the KPIs. That may sound obvious, but a lot of enablement content gets created based on requests that don’t always include clear business drivers. Enablement teams get requests to support so many aspects of the business - here are just a few examples:
For each request, enablement leaders need to understand exactly how that request will benefit the direct KPIs, and how those KPIs tie to bigger picture financials. This is referred to as impact analysis.
If the requestors haven’t thought about enablement as a means to drive KPIs, enablement should offer to investigate together as part of the overall needs analysis. It will benefit the requesting team and the enablement team and help to hone in on the right objectives. It’s a good first step to creating alignment.
For example, if the expectation is to support a new partnership, enablement needs to understand the sales, revenue, and growth drivers for it.
It’s important to know if driving profitability is more important than growth. If profitability is the driver and the enablement budget is tied to the partnership cost center, then it’s easy to understand why leaders may want to keep the enablement budget as lean as possible.
In this case, the story that enablement may tell after the enablement activities is how they helped to achieve the top-line revenue goals AND, with a higher budget, they could have driven even more revenue without impacting profitability.
Alignment ensures that requesters and stakeholders know and understand exactly how enablement is going to impact KPIs. Everyone knows exactly what goals are meant to be achieved.
Once the KPIs are established, then teams can work together to identify the behaviors that will drive KPIs. Needs and skills-gap analyses come into play in this stage.
From there, the learning objectives can be crafted around observable and measurable behaviors.
If the behaviors are observable and measurable - then they are also coachable, and employees can be held accountable.
This is why the alignment and commitment between enablement and stakeholders are so key. If there is no commitment from leadership to change behaviors based on the learning, then it is unlikely that teams will do anything differently from what they have been doing, wasting time, and resources and making the justification for budget moot.