Do You Need An Enablement Leader Or A Program Manager?

Enablement Leader or Program Manager? What role do I really need to lead my enablement initiative? An enablement leader? Or is an experienced program manager sufficient? Questions I get a lot from executives who care about how to make their enablement initiatives as effective as possible. I wrote a lot about the first question, but rarely about the second one. So let’s focus on that one today.

Whether you need an enablement leader, or a program manager depends on the context, the enablement scope, your expectations, and strategic goals.

Let me explain what that means. Imagine a scenario where an organization gets just started with enablement, focusing on getting the content chaos sorted to improve sales productivity. Let’s also imagine that the sales force won’t grow next year, but the revenue goals will slightly increase.

Now, imagine the second scenario: various enablement content and training initiatives are already underway, but all led by different functions which cause lots of inconsistencies and misalignment. The sales force is supposed to grow significantly next year, as well as the revenue goals, while resources and budgets remain unchanged.

Every enablement challenge–even if it sounds small–requires effective cross-functional orchestration along the buyer/seller journey.

These are two different scenarios with different enablement maturity levels, different business constraints and goals. I assume many of you would suggest that the first scenario would only require a program manager who can successfully implement a content management process on the marketing side and implement a sales enablement content management technology to achieve the desired outcomes.

Sure, you can “program manage” the marketing side of content. However, that’s only a part of the challenge that has to be mastered. Content salespeople need along the buyer journey comes from many sources. Only 40% come from marketing (for details, check out my book Sales Enablement: A World-Class Framework To Engage, Equip, And Empower A World-Class Sales Force). Think about the content product management creates, the content sales operations, legal teams and enablement provide, and what salespeople create on their own.

THAT explains the magnitude of any content challenge from an enablement perspective. Sure, it requires technology. No doubt. However, it requires a shared vision of success across the functions mentioned above, and the implementation of a cross-functional content management framework to make any technology implementation successful. And that requires a business leader rather than a program manager only.

It’s evident that–especially in the second scenario–managing several programs won’t be sufficient to solve the challenges and to achieve the desired business goals.

Six guiding principles for enablement leaders:

#1: Effectiveness comes first:

Doing the right things takes priority over doing things right. Leaders focus on the business impact of their enablement efforts: that means the effect their efforts have on all KPIs along the sales pipeline.  They care about leading indicators such as conversion rates and well-known lagging indicators such as win rates, loss rates, no decisions and average deal size. If their focus is primarily on efficiencies, such as search time or available selling time, then they know the exact reason why and how this KPI is connected to the strategic goals. This is a fine – but essential– line.

#2: Impacting metrics, senior executives care about:

It’s not enough to monitor program management KPIs such as delivery on time, budget and quality, or looking at KPIs such as content consumption or training evaluation. I’m not saying these KPIs are not essential to look at, especially when you get started. But they are not enough. Showing how, for instance, a reduced content search time, that leads to more available selling time and how that positively impacts sales productivity is much better. And here you go: that requires a strategic, joined approach with sales managers who coach along those lines.

#3: Align enablement to other strategic initiatives:

Enablement is always about solving a business problem. Any technology implementation is a means to an end. Therefore, enablement leaders align their enablement strategy to the business strategy and other strategic initiatives.

#4: Scalability: Delivering enablement services and building enablement capabilities:

This is one of the key criteria that separate enablement leaders from enablement program managers: building an efficient and effective discipline. I cannot stress this enough: Your enablement team must be set up in a way that it can grow with the growing business requirements. Program managers often focus on delivering efficient services only. Enablement leaders also build scalable enablement capabilities. Investing in both is mission-critical. You have to build a business within a business.

#5: Set up an enablement charter, not a list of approved activities:

You heard me writing and speaking about this topic a LOT. So, I keep it short and simple: An enablement charter begins with the business strategy and an assessment of the real challenges, not with a list of activities. “Actionitis” is a recipe for failure.

#6: Staying power is required.

People who are used to instant recognition will have a hard time in any enablement role. Why? Because most of your enablement efforts won’t fix the current quarter, only the following one. And because you have to shake things up to create a compelling, shared vision of success.

This article was initially written for Top Sales Magazine, the December 2020 edition.

Photo: Adobe Stock

Executives should aim for hiring and empowering an enablement leader. The enablement leader then can hire the right enablement program managers to create a powerful team of enablement orchestrators. Check out our services page to see how we could help. As an enablement leader, you might also be interested in the Executive’s Guide to Empowering Sales Enablement, based on my blog post series for executives for Showpad.