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Focus on the Enablement Quadrant

November 08, 2013 | By Jim Ninivaggi

Looking to increase sales productivity in your organization? Improve sales representative efficiency by focusing on the Sales Enablement Quadrant of the SiriusDecisions Sales Activity Matrix.

For those who may not know, Vince Lombardi was a legendary American football coach for the Green Bay Packers. At the risk of using yet another analogy comparing sports with sales, I’d like to share a passage from the book Run to Win: Vince Lombardi on Coaching and Leadership by Donald T. Phillips:

“At the end of the day, Vince Lombardi realized that once the players were in a game and on the playing field, there wasn’t very much that he, as their coach and leader, could do to affect the outcome. And, not surprisingly, the football players on his team realized it, too. In fact, the Green Bay Packers had a running joke about it. “We have the greatest coach in the world,” it went, “but once the game gets started, Lombardi is the most useless guy on the sidelines.”

The essential meaning of this passage holds true for other occupations: The job of a director is done when the actors hit the stage, and the job of the choreographer is done when the dancers begin the performance. And the job of sales enablement is done when your reps hit “send,” pick up the phone or open their mouths.

In an earlier blog, I discussed our Sales Activity Matrix, which is used to assess the productivity of salespeople by tracking their activity against four quadrants. The upper left quadrant represents behind-the-scenes core selling activities that help reps get into a deal or advance an existing one. These include opportunity strategy, account planning, pre-call preparation, training (e.g. skills, methodology, product), knowledge transfer, proposal writing, presentation building and responding to RFPs. You can refer to this quadrant as the Enablement Quadrant, because the amount of time reps spend in this quadrant, and the way they spend it, will have a direct impact on their ability to execute upper right quadrant activities, which include core selling activities that directly engage buyers via email, phone, social media or face-to-face meetings.

Here are some observations we’ve made:

  • When shifting reps’ time from the bottom two quadrants (non-core-selling activities), don't focus solely on shifting all of their activities to direct engagement; move some time into the Enablement Quadrant as well. Our research shows that top-performing reps spend an average of 15 percent more time in the Enablement Quadrant than lower-performing reps.
  • It’s not just the time spent in this quadrant that matters, but what is being done. While completing a proposal or RFP will help a rep move a deal down the pipeline, by making those processes more efficient (e.g. by deploying RFP and proposal automation software) more time is freed up for higher-value enablement activities, like sales training. Our research indicates that higher-performing reps spend 18.5 percent of their time in this quadrant on skills development, vs. 15.8 percent for lesser-performing reps.
  • Teach first-line managers, who often believe they can only coach during a sales call (which falls in the upper right quadrant), that their true job is to ensure their reps are prepared to work on Enablement Quadrant activities.
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    Maximizing sales productivity must include a focus on improving rep efficiency. But it also must include a relentless focus on improving rep effectiveness. Make sure your reps are ready to take the field – and the game – by ensuring they focus time and effort in the Enablement Quadrant.

    Jim Ninivaggi

    Jim Ninivaggi is Service Director, Sales Enablement Strategies, at SiriusDecisions. Jim’s focus is on helping to deliver data, knowledge and insight that our clients need to improve sales performance and drive ROI. Follow Jim on Twitter @jninivaggi.
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