I’m privileged to lead sales enablement for HubSpot out of EMEA and as part of my role I get to set the direction, goals and KPIs of the team. Helping our rapidly expanding sales team in Dublin, Ireland to succeed is challenging, rewarding and lots of fun. But selecting the right metrics to gauge the impact of sales enablement is tough.
Before we get into the metrics, let’s back up a little. For those unfamiliar with the concept of sales enablement, it is an increasingly common function among software as a service (SaaS) and enterprise businesses, although still relatively immature. Subsequently, there’s a distinct lack of sales enablement thought leadership or standardised measurement and best practices are few and far between – as a result people often struggle to fully understand the role. This fuels ambiguity around metrics. If you don’t know exactly what a role encompasses, how can you measure it?
Winning hearts and minds
To increase understanding of sales enablement I dedicate much of my time to winning the hearts and minds of colleagues. By this I mean communicating and educating how sales enablement partners with other teams, the scope of our work, as well as building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders, such as sales leadership, managers, reps, operations and training. It’s an ongoing, but valuable process.
While clear and frequent communication is important, the message trumps all else. How we define sales enablement matters. Indeed, my colleagues and I at HubSpot spent considerable time crafting the following definition of sales enablement:
“Sales enablement is a strategic discipline that partners cross-functionally to help the sales organisation succeed. We are advocates of sales reps and support them by providing content, deal support, training, best practices, knowledge, tools and technology throughout the sales process.”
The definition is not 100% perfect, but we’re fine with that. It will inevitably evolve over time, but it offers clarity and importantly, answers the basics of who we are as a sales enablement team, what we do and how we do it. The definition is the foundation on which the team is built, but it’s the plays and tactics which drive results, gain attention and get measured.
At HubSpot I invest my time in the following plays and tactics:
- Sales training – product, sales technique and competitor training
- Deal support – deal strategy, competitive intelligence and customer reference calls
- Sales projects – sales rep productivity and sales and marketing alignment
- Sales content – sales collateral, demo deck and case studies
Although, the plays and tactics are relatively easy to understand, measuring the impact, success and effectiveness of a sales enablement team is less straightforward. On the one hand it can be simple to identify a metric that has high business impact, but often it is challenging to attribute how much influence sales enablement actually had on said metric. And on the other hand you can have metrics that are easily attributable, but often have less impact on the business. It’s for these reasons I believe a blended approach to sales enablement measurement is needed.
Sales Enablement Metrics for SaaS Businesses
With that in mind I want to use this post to examine 10 sales enablement metrics for SaaS businesses:
1. Quota attainment
Let’s face it. Hitting quota is what sales leadership is paid to deliver, and helping the sales organisation to achieve quota attainment will have an extremely high business impact. Subsequently, this metric will likely be aligned with the company and sales strategy and tracking will be easy. That being said, understanding the exact role sales enablement played in quota attainment success (or failure) is tough. Correlation does not imply causation.
2. Number of new customers
This metric has a big impact on the business and ensures strong alignment with company and sales organisation strategy. If your sales reps are hitting quota and bringing the right clients on board, the sales organisation will naturally be happy. Number of new customers as a metric is easy to track, but precise attribution is difficult as numerous factors help close deals.
3. Productivity per rep (PPR)
PPR is the average revenue generated each month by sales reps. It too has the potential to make a significant impact on the business, is aligned with company and sales leadership goals, and is simple to track. However, many factors impact PPR, such as quality of hiring, onboarding and training, so attribution is a challenge. To track PPR effectively you should create separate cohorts based on sales rep tenure or exclude sales reps that are ramping as this will skew the figures.
4. Number of new multi-product customers
Many SaaS businesses sell multiple products as clients that use several products typically get more value, spend more and remain a customer longer. These “sticky” customers are an important segment to identify and sales enablement should support sales reps so they can bring on more multi-product customers.
However, using this as a metric has its faults. While number of new multi-product customers can have high impact and strategic importance, often the number of multi-product customers is relatively low. By focussing too heavily on this metric you could achieve your multi-product sales goals, but not hit quota, so balancing this metric with others is important.
5. % of sales reps over 100% quota attainment
This metric forces you to be strategic and spend resources on the sales reps who will have the biggest impact. In my experience you will typically achieve more by helping sales reps get from 90% to 100% of quota, instead of trying to help someone on a performance plan move from 70% to 80%.
While your A players will always find a way to hit quota and need less sales support, by focussing on B and C players, and helping them you can have an oversized impact on sales performance. Segmenting sales reps in this way can achieve big results, but equally you’re very deliberately not serving some parts of the sales organisation.
6. Average sales rep ramp time
The time it takes for sales reps to fully ramp up is hugely important. Bring this number down and you will start landing deals more quickly. Attribution for this metric is a challenge, but it does give a better indication of sales enablement influence. However, it is completely focussed on new sales reps and excludes tenured ones.
7. Average days to close
For SaaS businesses closing a deal this month, rather than the next is important as you start earning that all important recurring revenue. Trying to reduce average days to close can have a significant impact, but while easy to track, exact attribution is difficult. It’s also important to ensure optimising average days to close doesn’t negatively impact other key metrics, such as PPR or new multi-product customers.
8. Qualification/demo to close rate
Most SaaS businesses have engineered a sequential sales process for their sales reps to follow. At HubSpot the steps are research, prospect, connect, qualify, demo and close and we chose to focus on qualification to close as the metric to optimise (although demo to close would also work).
This metric is easy to track and gives a better indication of the success of sales enablement, rather than something like prospect to close rate, which is likely to have lots of noise. However, it does purposely neglect earlier stages of the sales process and attribution is imprecise.
9. Deal support annual recurring revenue (ARR)
I define deal support as any one-to-one support a sales rep receives from sales enablement. This could be meeting to discuss deal strategy, coaching on a competitive deal or facilitating a customer reference call. It is high impact on a small number or singular deal. Attribution and tracking is easy, and it’s important to be able to report ARR (a key SaaS business metric) back to the business, however it is somewhat limited in scope, as sales enablement does more than deal support.
10. Sales enablement net promoter score (NPS)
Gathering feedback in a structured way can be tough, so a monthly or quarterly survey can offer deep insight in the mood on the sales floor. NPS is a particularly effective way to track the impact sales enablement is making on the sales organisation over time. I find it a helpful barometer to get a sense of what sales reps are feeling.
Measuring the impact of sales enablement is not easy, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I’m comfortable living in a world of imperfect data and have found a blended approach of high impact metrics, such as qualification to close rate or quota attainment, plus clearly attributable metrics like deal support annual recurring revenue or sales enablement NPS is effective. It helps me remain focussed on the most impactful work and is driving alignment between sales and marketing.
To conclude with, I’ll share that I’m hopeful this post will spur discussion about standardised metrics among the sales enablement community and those that support sales reps day in, day out. I want us to get better and think we can, but the question is whether we will.