If your organization is looking to save costs, then it is likely that headcount reductions in the customer-facing organization will happen. It is also reasonable that support functions (Revenue Operations, Sales engineer, Management, Enablement etc) will reduce commensurately to keep ratios intact. What should NOT happen is that a support function is wiped out completely.

One example I am seeing is that organizations make the irrational decision to completely eradicate the enablement function without having a way to service the needs of the previously supported teams. Let’s use a metaphor:

You are a truck driver and you make money hauling freight. You can make more profit in the short-term by reducing preventative maintenance. You can also drive faster to complete more jobs and get bonuses for early delivery. The issue is:

  • You increase wear and tear on the vehicle and risk accidents
  • You risk catastrophic failures which will take you off the road
  • Your vehicle becomes increasingly inefficient as the fuel system gets clogged and worn

In the revenue world you can make more short-term profit by increasing quotas with fewer reps (driving faster) and eliminating enablement(reducing maintenance). Here is what I see happening:

  • Burnout: Reps see the company de-investing in their success and have to do more with less. They then leave, which slows you down even more as you need to re-hire and ramp a new rep (Worse: Gartner data shows that it will cost you a 20% increase of OTE to get a successful rep to switch companies and join yours).
  • Escalating inefficiency: ICs who don’t have enablement support do not get better by themselves – With new product releases, new competitors, changing market conditions etc, it is a terrible idea to think that front-line managers can be a proxy for enablement. The sales velocity slows right down.

So here’s what I am seeing right now when an org does a RIF including all of enablement:

The next quarter looks pretty good:

  • Remaining reps have better attainment as their territories increase and they are motivated by the spike in OTE.
  • The EBITDA is looking great as CAC looks good (The pipe being closed was generated from pre-RIF momentum and resources).
  • The company hits the revised plan

The second quarter looks shaky:

  • Reps get nervous because the pipeline build has slowed down (There are less resources being applied post-RIF.
  • The win-rate is declining as people are being stretched to handle more territory with less support.
  • Everyone is looking sideways at the CRO

The third quarter is a bust:

  • Some of the most tenured reps are leaving because “This place has changed”
  • Sales velocity is well down (ASP, sales cycle and win rates have all fallen as the revenue org has failed to adapt and keep up with conditions).

Here is what should happen

If you have a large enablement team that is reduced for ratios:

Review and redefine the role architectures to see where the gaps are (EG Systems/Training/Content/L&D/coaching/process optimization/Comms and collab etc). Identify any gaps and ensure that there is budget for hiring contract enablers (In 2023 there are a ton of fantastic free agents who could deliver on any of these and tactical items like running an SKO or building a certification program etc).

This strategy allows you to have some variable cost in enablement without putting you on the path to sales velocity decline.

If your org removed ALL sales enablement

I wouldn’t want to travel in a plane that wasn’t being maintained, would you? It might make it from L.A. to New York, but I wouldn’t risk taking it to London from there… But that is just me – I live in Vegas and I don’t like playing the odds.