This article is based on Ruben Boom’s talk, ‘Customer-focused enablement programs: From concept to implementation’, at the 2023 Amsterdam Sales Enablement Summit, hosted by our sister community, The Sales Enablement Collective.

Staring at a blank canvas can be daunting for any artist. Where do you begin? How do you turn that vast whiteness into a meaningful work of art?

I found myself facing that same question a few years back when tasked with building a global sales enablement program at ifm electronic

While the blank slate felt overwhelming initially, it soon became clear this represented an exciting opportunity to create something with real impact for our team.

In this article, I'll share the step-by-step journey our team took in going from concept to full implementation in establishing ifm's structured yet flexible enablement program.

Drawing on my firsthand experience leading this initiative, I'll provide a behind-the-scenes look at how we turned that blank canvas into a thriving ecosystem that today equips 8,500+ sales professionals across 55 countries.

Along the way, I'll share key insights and lessons that can help you craft tailored enablement programs for your own team's needs.

So whether you're just starting to envision your enablement "painting" or working to perfect an existing program, I hope this provides a spark of inspiration for the exciting work ahead.

  • Beginning at the beginning
  • Gathering stakeholder expectations
  • Rallying leaders as enablement champs
  • The 4 enablement pillars
  • Creating a structured program
  • Top tips for next steps
  • Final thoughts

Beginning at the beginning

When diving into the creation of customer-focused enablement programs, to continue my art analogy, you can’t just start painting. 

When faced with my challenge, I knew I needed to step back and carefully consider the full vision. Where should I start in developing programs that would resonate across different regions, roles, and experience levels?

So I began at the beginning, reflecting on enablement’s fundamental purpose, support. To me, it boils down to equipping colleagues with the training, coaching, information, and tools they need to successfully engage buyers and customers. 

When our professionals are set up for success, they make our customers successful. Simple as that.

Gathering stakeholder expectations

With a broad mandate but no defined program, I needed to understand stakeholders’ expectations.

First, I had conversations with customers across regions to gather their perspectives. How could ifm better support their needs? What challenges did they face? How could we add more value?

My next stop was chatting with sales leaders across our global footprint. I wanted the inside scoop on what was working and where there was room to grow.

I asked them:

  • What are your teams nailing day-in and day-out?
  • What skills could still use some sharpening?
  • What knowledge and behaviors do you expect from your team?

Getting all those unique perspectives gave me a crystal clear picture of the key mindsets, capabilities, and skills our programs needed to build.

Armed with insights from sales leaders and customers, combined with external research, I had the perfect roadmap to guide our blank canvas ahead.

The directions were laid out - now it was time to start splashing on some color!

Rallying leaders as enablement champs

Once I had a clear vision for our enablement canvas, I was eager to launch new training programs. But first, I needed to ensure we had the right foundation in place.

I knew that even the most compelling curriculum would have little lasting impact if managers didn’t reinforce the concepts consistently. Just as primer helps paint adhere, training needs ongoing coaching and follow-up to truly stick.

I realized a critical first step was getting leaders on board who could actively champion enablement with their teams long-term. Here are a few tips that helped us rally leaders to drive enablement: