Sales Leadership and Partner Enablement - Part 1

Sellers have a really hard job. They have to stay on top of a lot of information, find the right customers to share that information with, make a value proposition and get a deal over the finish line.

In complex partner ecosystem sales, the difficulty is multiplied.

Just keeping track of the partner offerings can be enough to make a sales rep's head spin. And most partner enablement programs don't cut through the noise of everything in front of a seller to be memorable enough to incorporate and grow deal size.

One complaint that I hear from sellers everywhere is that they don't get any support from their leaders. Yet when you talk with sales leaders, they can list countless, conversations, systems and trainings to support sellers.

So where is the disconnect? One party says I get no support, the other says all I do is support you.

Infrastructure and metrics

The disconnect starts in the infrastructure. When it comes to traditional go to market, the infrastructure is crumbling. And when systems begin to fail, leaders turn to metrics. They’re desperately grasping at any number that continues the narrative that inbound sales, as it has traditionally been structured, is still working.

In the era of the ecosystem, where trust is the new data, traditional sales is becoming harder and harder to execute on. I don’t answer phone calls from numbers I don’t know. In the weird situation where I do pick up, there is a literal physical agitation when the person on the other end of the line wants to sell me something, without knowing me at all.

I don’t trust them. And their attempts to conjure relationship out of nothing makes me trust them even less.

When sales organizations are focused entirely on KPIs of their stand-alone product, the enablement of those sellers focuses only on increasing those metrics. Because sales leaders’ literal lives are bound to these metrics, they focus conversations around reporting and compliance - and they believe that talking about reporting is supporting sellers in their efforts.

Support vs lip-service

An email reminding everyone to complete a training that popped up in everyone’s LMS does not feel like support to a seller. Asking if they looked at the one-pager about a new partner service doesn’t feel like support either. Team meetings reviewing sales activity reporting is not support either.

This leads to seller behaviors like making more cold calls, sending more cold email, finding and honing psychological tricks to skirt trust, and spending hours researching leads through non-partner channels.

Nearly all of the top 18 sales KPIs that Klipfolio has tracked can and should be influenced by ecosystem. A small tweak in the wording of a KPI changes the enablement function entirely. And it changes a leader’s view of enablement as well.

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Leader support of partner enablement starts with a redefinition of Sales KPIs to include ecosystem metrics.

It starts at the top

Trust is built by behavior. Behavior is heavily influenced by mindset. Mindset is influenced by culture. And culture is set by leadership.

Ecosystem and partnerships can no longer be a silo next to sales. It’s a culture that should envelop and permeate all sales behavior and metrics.

Once the work has been done to reset metrics that focus on ecosystem led growth, then it becomes imperative that a sales leader be supporting ecosystem behaviors by reinforcing the importance of partner enablement.

Support is crucial throughout the sales cycle but especially for training and enablement. its during enablement that sellers are setup to be successful. It is where the seeds of motivation are first planted.

The best way for sales leaders to support their sellers is to take action in the moments where they are most valuable during training and enablement.

Check back next week for some practical tips on how sales leaders can support sellers to reinforce partner enablement.

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