Enablement as a Creative Production Function

Creative Production

Sales Enablement teams typically create a LOT of outputs. Outputs are a tangible sign of progress toward a business outcome. Outputs are measurable, and they are indicators of the productivity of a function.

In many ways, outputs are a visible external “signal” to business unit leaders (and even the executive team) of the cumulative thinking power, approaches, processes, and tasks within the Sales Enablement function. Additionally, outputs can provide a historical view of the progress a team is making. As a sales enablement orchestrator, outputs help you reflect and learn from where you have been. For all these reasons it’s important for sales enablement leaders to take stock of the creative production skills, processes, and measures in use by their team. To do that, they have to understand how to improve the speed and quality of outputs.

Why Outputs Matter
For many Sales Enablement leaders in training, talent, or operating, a focus on outputs isn’t new. But, we have to look at what output is and the role it can play in helping the company sell more.

What Kind of Outputs Are We Talking About?
Each function within an organization produces outputs that other functions consume and utilize. It’s like a hidden economy inside your organization, where one team’s outputs become another team’s inputs and so on. Sometimes called a “value chain,” this view of handoffs from one group to another often culminates with sales leaders and salespeople as the internal customer and proxy for end-user customers. The outputs that various groups produce should be used to support sales as an internal customer, but often aren’t.

For example:

Marketing/Field Marketing Outputs: The outputs of field marketing are usable and relevant to sales leaders and their team for use in sales conversations. However, since that input comes from product teams, field marketing teams need to add value to support sales conversations. In this example, the outputs from the product become the inputs to marketing. The outputs of marketing become the input into the sales team’s conversation.

PRODUCT TEAM (outputs) + MARKETING TEAM (outputs) —-> SALES TEAM INPUTS

Sales Training Outputs: The outputs produced by sales training teams are often supposed to reflect the “reality” that sales teams face with their customers. However, since 60%+ of sales training inputs come from other groups, the outputs of those groups are important to sales training team members.

PRODUCT + MARKETING (outputs) + SALES TRAINING (outputs) —> SALES TEAM INPUTS

Operations Outputs: The outputs of operations and technology teams are important to help salespeople be successful with their customers by providing process details and other information that sales teams can use in their customer conversations.

TECHNOLOGY (outputs) + OPERATIONS (outputs) —> SALES TEAM INPUTS

This chain is so critical, that the concept of orchestration has really taken off and become a critical capability inside of some of the most progressive tech companies in the space.

It’s important to be clear on what an output is and why each output really does matter to the sales team.

So, what are Outputs?

A output isn’t the same as a “final deliverable”.

Remember, an output is a tangible item created to help a team make progress towards a business outcome. This item can be a visual, a document, an email, a conceptual drawing, a video, a PowerPoint. Anything that a team member can utilize for his/her work.

A final deliverable is a summation of the outputs needed to achieve this end. When you think through this view, it’s essential to realize that there are a lot of different outputs that teams can create on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Other examples of outputs include a successful meeting, a clear communication via email, a teleconference, a zoom meeting, a planning or “architecture” document, or a spreadsheet. The list can go on and on. Focusing on outputs may seem like “attention to detail,” but it’s not. Especially since most outputs are created for individual team members or teams, and not others (the harsh reality is, most content created by teams is irrelevant to another team, because they can’t digest or even make sense out of it because it’s “internal” to that team).

Changing or improving outputs to better drive business outcomes creates a “leading” approach to help team members rethink how they’re working, and with whom they’re working. More importantly, taking a more output-centric focus forces them to think about the receiver or their audience. And how they will digest or consume it. Most teams have never considered how others will use, improve, or internalize the outputs created in the day-to-day.

What if your company’s customer reviewed your outputs?
How aligned would those outputs be to their success?

“Final deliverables” are often fully baked, polished, and designed for scale. They are what people view as final and most client-facing. As such, the idea of improving a deliverable is difficult to impact, because so many groups are often involved (“outputting to each other”) that it isn’t clear which group does what. That means an internal focus on “improving final deliverables” isn’t going to help because of the “hard wiring” people have to achieve status-quo.

With that said, the more relevant and impactful the outputs are, the better the final deliverable will likely become. This is especially true since most groups consider their work to be “cross-functional.”

Stop producing random outputs

While it may be easy to think sales teams want to see a flurry of deliverables and demand sales enablement teams become highly active and “busy.” That’s usually not required. Most sales enablement teams are able to improve teh quality of what they produce by changing their outputs, and more importantly setting expectations for the inputs they receive from other groups.

When sales enablement teams do that, they have to think about “what” they are producing and “why” they are producing those outputs in the first place. For example, if the business outcome is to decrease time to productivity in new hire training, there are thousands of outputs required to produce a final set of deliverables for the sales new hires to interact with.

When the focus is on the outputs produced along with the impact the outputs have on employee success, sales enablement teams will discover where time is wasted, how priorities are affecting work and the structure of the logic. For example, if someone produces an output that nobody uses, it easier to change it and ask for feedback. If you build a final deliverable nobody uses, you might get fired.

Improve the quality of outputs to elevate your impact

Focusing on the quality of outputs creates a collective discipline, especially in cross functional team work. Focusing on outputs helps the sales enablement team drive deeper to understand a process and dig into the details that they otherwise might not tackle. This helps salespeople immensely.

There is a lot of work happening already. Might as well make sure it’s valuable work.

Often there is a “scary realization that happens; something like; “Wow! our teams produce 1400 outputs a week that other teams see and use to do their jobs.” When that realization occurs, it’s easier to create a process where the specifics get nailed down to improve quality of what’s produced. It becomes less scary, more doable, more digestible. Our mentality changes, from “no way!” to, I can put together an outline, and “maybe this is doable.”

Outputs improve skills and team. Working to make outputs more relevant and meaningful can impact the opportunity to become more familiar with your team’s abilities and contributions to the company’s growth agenda.

Elevate Your Team’s Value, One Output at A Time

Here’s a thought. New outputs can also help sales enablement teams show how and why their capabilities are relevant to support and achieve specific business outcomes. For example, having something defined and concrete (like a conceptual model) to show a VP of Sales can give sales enablement teams something to “sell.” Often when sales enablement orchestrators have to sell the invisible—like a learning experience or a philosophy about building bench strength, they need to produce a picture. That picture can become the team’s most valuable output to the busienss

Here is some advice for changing your outputs:

1 – Doing is different from knowing.

Outputs focus on the doing. It’s easy to get into discussions with people who tell what they know and how they know about it. Sometimes they come across preachy and overly academic. Focus less on what and how, and more on why and when to talk about how the team can produce something.

2- Any improvement is better than none.

Any attempt to create a valuable output is better than no attempt at all. In today’s business world, all outputs could use some improvement, just ask your CEO.

3. When the team gets stuck tackling a problem, get creative

Sometimes it is difficult to figure out how to build a new hire training program that requires about 1500 different outputs a month. Instead of using spreadsheets, try moving to an analog approach and use whiteboards, sticky pads, and drawings to get unstuck.

4. To get to simple, you have to do the tedious work.

When there is a big goal, strategy, or initiative, outputs help break it down. Outputs force people to get in the weeds together and make it doable — and more importantly fight for clarity.,

5. If not you, then who?

In many ways, outputs allow the sales enablement team to become an expert in their domain. Why? Because you know nobody else said it before or produced it previously. A very, very small percentage of the population produces deliverables from scratch, and the vast majority of the population consumes outputs regularly. This nugget of information will help you elevate your value contribution since knowledge work should never be about consumption. It should always be about creating something of value.

When the sales enablement team elevates their outputs, they very often carve out a niche, or area of expertise, and own it. In other words, sales enablement orchestrators cannot say they are an expert when they have only “someone else’s outputs” to back it up. It would be best if they created it with their team. By changing or improving outputs, sales enablement orchestrators can more freely build new stuff for internal clients that ultimately drives an outcome.

6. Create leverage by building as you go

Another reason to think about producing better outputs is this. It will allow those outputs to becomes the foundation of future approaches and methodologies. These approaches need to be built if sales enablement team is going to scale and grow. The team and function needs structure. That structure comes from the outputs built over time. And finally, sales enablement orchestrators can form the foundation for their own personal value, as defined by how much Intellectual Property they personally can create and how relevant it is.

7. Get started with something small

Try changing these professional outputs, based on what you provide to others.

First, do it yourself. THEN talk with others about the inputs they are providing you — remember, to use the customer lens when discussing, so you aren’t seen as “attacking a person’s output).

Here is a quick “output inventory” you can use to get started changing your outputs.

  • Team meeting notes
  • Email, voice mail, and other communication outputs (including texts and IMs)
  • Meeting note outputs (have 20 people on a meeting, and nobody capturing notes to share? Why is that?)
  • Planning outputs
  • One-on-One outputs
  • Web meeting outputs (who’s got the content?)
  • Customer follow-up outputs (what value are they?)
  • Training needs analysis outputs
  • Requirements gathering outputs
  • Process documentation and checklist outputs
  • Coaching conversations (what’s produced?) – the product needs analysis/data collection outputs

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