08 Feb Lifting the lid on ‘sales enablement’ in professional services

8 February 2021

The discipline of ‘sales enablement’ is enjoying a rapid rise in prevalence and prominence in professional services marketing. Everywhere we look roles are being created, reshaped or contemplated – as firms seek to exploit technology and data, build sales capability and better align sales and marketing.

But what exactly is sales enablement? Does your firm need this capability? Is sales enablement a potential career path for you? To answer these questions, we spoke with James Fielding, Head of Sales Enablement at Grant Thornton Australia.

Here’s the transcript.


OK, let’s jump straight into it. You’re part of a growing cohort of sales enablement specialists. What is sales enablement?

As it says on the tin – sales enablement is about enabling people to sell. Operationally, it’s about continuously improving your people, processes, tools and technologies to improve sales efficiency and effectiveness. Conceptually, and the way I like to think about it, sales enablement is about developing and nurturing a high-performing sales culture.

That’s quite a broad remit. What does a regular week look like for you?

I know it sounds cliche, but there’s no such thing as a regular week. On any given day you could find me working on enhancements to Salesforce, coaching, training, analysing data, developing resources and project managing initiatives. There’s also plenty of time listening to the business, swapping ideas, sharing success stories, communicating developments and answering queries.

You mentioned project management initiatives. What initiatives are you working on or have on the cards for the year ahead?

The initiatives we run continuously evolve. At the moment we’re focused on Salesforce adoption, CX-focused technology enhancements, pipeline management, and insight-led social selling. We’re also investing heavily in enriching data and simplifying reporting, as we look to create a culture of data-driven decision making.

How do you decide on which initiatives to undertake?

Whoever screams the loudest. No, not true. A few years back we isolated the traits of a high-performing sales culture and then assessed our position against these traits using a 4-stage maturity model. This assessment, which we revisit regularly, enables us to see what’s working, what’s not and where improvements can be made. This assessment can see us drop, add or adjust initiatives – as we look to move up the maturity curve.

The initiatives we choose also depends on engagement by the business. Our approach is to work with people who are seeking change and want to partner with us. In these situations we respond quickly and mobilise resources. We’re very conscious of not pushing initiatives on people or creating box-ticking exercises.

Data-driven decision-making. What does this mean?

From a sales enablement perspective it’s about using data to inform your sales approach. This includes using data to inform market segmentation, prospecting, go-no-go decisions, coaching requirements, and so on. In recent years my colleague Ben Scott and his team have done some amazing work on lead scoring, which is using data to isolate and prioritise leads. I can’t steal his thunder on this, but it’s very impressive.

Speaking of your colleagues – how does sales enablement fit in within your marketing and business development team?

Sales enablement sits alongside our BD and marketing, digital and comms and CX teams. But to be honest this structure means little day-to-day, as almost everything we do is done in collaboration or consultation with each other. I’m fortunate that we have amazing team at Grant Thornton that genuinely respect, support and challenge each other.

In sales enablement you also work closely with technology, people and culture, risk and finance. For example, we work with technology on Salesforce enhancements, people and culture on training, risk on privacy, and finance on odd bout of number crunching. A big part of sales enablement is bringing groups and ideas together.

What’s the biggest challenge for you in your role?

Creating change. Whether it’s the adoption of a technology or running disciplined sales meetings, you’re asking people to change. And change is not easy. We focus a lot of energy on change management and winning hearts and minds. A huge amount of time is spent on communications, sharing success stories, coaching and embedding behaviours.

What does success look like for sales enablement?

Success depends on your starting point and where you move the needle to. For example, if you’re not running sales meetings and you start, that’s a success. If you’re running sales meeting and see collaboration for pipeline creation, that’s a success. And if you’re collaborating for pipeline creation and start using data to shape your sales activity and coaching, that’s a success. Success is about improvement.

How do you keep up with all things sales enablement?

I have time booked out every Friday for professional development. During this time I attend webinars, listen to podcasts, read articles and take on short courses. I’m also a big user of LinkedIn, where I follow sales and marketing leaders, technology vendors and consultants like Rain Group. In recent times I’ve become very fond of on-demand video and webinars, including those by ICON and some US-based sales enablement associations.

Thinking about sales enablement from a career point of view – what do you think makes someone suited to this type of role?

If I was writing a job advertisement – I’d be looking for someone with a broad sales and marketing background. Ideally, they’d have experience or an interest in change management, process design, technology, data and training. But most importantly, I’d want someone who’s collaborative, energetic and free from ego. And plenty of grit.

Okay, last question. What advice would you give people looking to move into sales enablement?

Don’t wait. You don’t need a sales enablement title to be recommending and taking on initiatives. I certainty didn’t. If you like the idea of sales enablement, put up your hand. And if a role is available, jump at it. However, be careful that the firm you’re going to has a collaborative culture, that there’s quality tools and technologies available – or the budget to invest, and that the firm’s leadership are up for challenging the status quo.

It’s been great speaking with you James. Thanks for sharing your experiences. 

No, thank you. Enjoyed it.

If you would like to learn more about career development paths, opportunities we are currently working on or to simply understand more about the market and current trends, a member of the Dalton Handley team for a confidential discussion and expert advice. Email: australia@daltonhandley.com Phone: +61 2 8042 7970