How to Select & Prioritize Sales Effectiveness Initiatives for Impact

sales enablement and sales effectiveness

Whether they work in a sales leadership role or a sales support role, everyone agrees that their company’s goal is to improve sales performance. However, they don’t usually agree on how to do that or prioritize the initiatives for improvement.

Research shows the impressive impact of sales enablement done at the formal maturity level with a charter. Both win rates and quota attainment improve. Yet, many sales enablement leaders still struggle with making such an impact.

Start with Gap and Impact Analyses

Needs analysis is a concept of instructional systems design. The ADDIE model is an acronym for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate, and the A is generally a needs or gap analysis. The concept of considering “what is,” “what should be,” and “what will be,” comes straight from the related discipline of performance consulting.

“Begin with the end in mind” has always been great advice for sales performance work.

Performance Consulting

Performance consulting is a systematic and holistic approach to improve workplace performance and achieve business goals. This approach:

  • Is grounded in analytics, diagnostics, and root cause analysis
  • Considers a broad array of organizational and individual factors that influence human performance
  • Includes selection, design, and development of the most appropriate solution to solve the identified performance problem (the right fit between problem and solution)
  • Implements those solutions using proven-effective practices for the selected intervention
  • Incorporates change practices including communication, follow-through, measurement, analysis, evaluation, and adjustment, to ensure results are achieved

The Situation Assessment Framework

To conduct gap and needs analyses for sales performance work, I start with a Situation Assessment. This is a framework we teach in Modern Sales Foundations for discovery, but it has roots in performance consulting and works well for this purpose.  

Start by detailing the current state, with challenges, opportunities, and impacts, and then the desired future state, with outcomes and priorities (shown in Figure 1). That allows you to determine what’s needed to close the gap between the states and determine the effect of resolving the current state impacts and achieving the desired state outcomes.  

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Figure 1 - The Situation Assessment

Avoid the temptation of jumping into problem-solving or solution design. The closest you should get is detailing the needs, and even those should just be factual statements and solution-agnostic.

Upgrade Your Sales Discovery

Understand your buyer’s current state, desired future state and the gaps between that your solution may address.

Use Prioritization Approaches

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Figure 2 - The Sales Reengineering Chart

The next step is to prioritize. Use the Sales Reengineering Chart (Figure 2) to determine the logical order of solutions based on dependencies. Discuss the outcomes/needs from the Situation Assessment and the dependencies with your leadership team to tie initiatives to executive-level strategic objectives. This will help you set priorities and stack rank initiatives.

Review the output of your Situation Assessment. Where on this chart does each need or required action fall?

For maximum effectiveness, work from left to right. You might consider top-to-bottom as well, but that’s not true in all cases – use your best judgment in the context of your company and the issues you’re addressing. It is generally true that addressing any items in this list will not be as effective as possible if you haven’t done the things to the left in an acceptable manner.

Don’t let “perfect be the enemy of good.” Organizations that get many things 80 percent right often win over companies that obsess about perfection. Choose to obsess over only a few key things, such as understanding your market, creating a buyer-centric culture, and delivering an exceptional customer experience (which includes the buying experience).

I didn’t mention this chart above during the Situation Assessment because we’re moving sequentially. But now that you’re aware of it, consider the elements in this chart as you are completing your Situation Assessment.

Apply Force Field Analysis

With the clarity afforded by the Situation Assessment and executive conversations, you can use a force field analysis to analyze the factors that are holding you in stasis and further illuminate how to move from point A to point B (assessing the effort and difficulty).

  1. Document a description of the current state and the desired future state for the top problem you want to address. Use what you captured in the Situation Assessment to detail the states.

  2. Assess the factors influencing progress. Start with a list of the driving forces that are supporting progress or pushing you toward your desired future state.

  3. List the restraining forces and factors that are preventing progress toward your goal. If there is information you need to know but don’t yet (data, someone’s perspective, the outcome of something that’s pending), consider the lack of information a restraining force.

  4. Assign weights to the forces. It’s a subjective exercise but is helpful. I use a 1 to 5 scale with 5 being the heaviest force.

Repeat steps 1 – 4 for the remaining top-prioritized problems.

A force field analysis is only as useful as the accuracy of the driving and restraining forces. Sometimes, it can be helpful to brainstorm “sources of forces” or use other models and frameworks to clarify your thinking.

Sources of Forces to Consider:

  • Economic
  • Market
  • Customer
  • Product/Solution
  • Organization Culture
  • Talent/Expertise
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The other models and frameworks I use can jog the memory or incite thoughts, so I often reference them during the brainstorming of forces, to ensure I don’t miss something.

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Action Planning

Now you plan the tasks in your initiative (action plans). Counterintuitively, this is where many people start, without going through the above work first. It’s no wonder that so many practitioners work reactively, without delivering real business results.

With your completed force field analysis in front of you, detail the tasks and actions you will take to:

  • Uncover the missing information, to make your planning stronger and more valid
  • Minimize or eliminate the restraining forces
  • Strengthen or add to the driving forces

And with that, you have assessed your current situation and desired outcomes, and prioritized in ways that will improve the effectiveness and impact of your efforts. In addition, the developed action plans will help you execute to achieve your desired outcomes, which will be aligned with executive-level strategic objectives. Now, you just need to execute.

Modern Sales Foundations

Use a buyer-centric approach to improve sales results.

What it takes for salespeople to deliver value has changed significantly as the modern buying process has evolved. Modern Sales Foundations™ (MSF) is an end-to-end sales training program that teaches sellers the buyer-centric strategies and approaches needed to excel in today’s marketplace.

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