I have a confession.

Whatever the reason — nay, excuse — in my previous roles for different organizations, I shied away from putting pen to paper and establishing a sales enablement charter.

At first blush, I feel I should be excused for not building a formal charter in my first exposure to sales enablement. After all, the term “sales enablement” didn’t really exist at the time. I was heading up marketing and working closely with sales leadership in developing our new messaging initiative and go-to-market strategies.

There was a huge gap regarding who had accountability for developing internally facing materials and learning curriculum for the sales teams. I offered up my team for the internal content and was very reluctantly pulled into the learning initiatives. My team didn’t have the resources or the competencies for developing learning programs. However, it had to be done, so there we were. In hindsight, this is my first glimpse at seeing a charter’s value.

My next sales enablement role was within a global organization where I had to form the first sales enablement team. At this point, sales enablement was a more commonly used term, but still very new. I was hired for a very specific, somewhat limited purpose within the organization — sales asset management. But when I started digging into what had to be done to align sales assets, there were many pieces missing. There were no clearly defined sales processes and no sales methodology. The sales force automation system had so many customized instances that a consistent approach to alignment — let alone measurement — was going to take some major untangling.

This was all before I could even start to address the tangled web of sales content. My to-do list and roadmap did not compensate for lack of direction, sponsorship, and stakeholder alignment. My team’s efforts were heroic. Still, I developed no charter. A nervous tic, yes. A sales enablement charter, no.

It seems I’m not alone when it comes to neglecting to commit to a charter. Oddly enough, that need came to the forefront when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the phrase “new normal” crept into our vernacular. The new normal began to test how B2B sales team members engage with clients virtually, and many sales enablement leaders were getting tasked with solving high-level, crisis-related issues that were often outside their scope and team competencies to fix in very quick timeframes. Like me, they had no charter to turn to.

So, what exactly is a sales enablement charter and why is it so important?

A charter establishes guiding principles for why the function exits. It’s different from a plan, which defines how sales enablement is executed in the short term to meet more immediate goals. The charter defines the overall scope of the sales enablement function and identifies the sponsor of the function, key stakeholders, the audience, considerations for success and dependencies. And, unfortunately, it’s a step many sales enablement leaders find themselves skipping, thinking it wasn’t needed. Until they see why it is needed. This includes me.

Because sales enablement is a relatively new function in organizations, stakeholders can often get confused about their own roles and responsibilities. Without a charter, sales enablement leaders risk being in the position of solving problems as they arise with no real scope, strategy, or sense of priority.

By establishing a sales enablement charter, practitioners can put a stake firmly in the ground as to the vision of what their sales enablement team is going to be, who they are going to support, and how they are going to support them. And because of sales enablement’s high degree of interdependence on cross-functional contributions, a charter helps define where sales enablement’s role starts and where it ends.

With a charter, sales enablement leaders literally map out the vision, mission, and scope of their teams; align it to an organization’s top priorities so that they can determine their function’s critical success factors and how they’ll measure against them; and, equally importantly, detail risks and constraints that could cause their sales enablement efforts to fail.

Seems so straightforward, right? So, why didn’t I create a charter as a practitioner? Naiveté? Hindsight is 20/20? I thrive on chaos?

Whatever the reason, learn from my battle stories of exhausting late nights, frustrated teams, and inadvertently stepping on people’s toes. All of these could have been avoided if I had put pen to paper and, along with my 30-, 60-, and 90-day plans that I started every new position with, included a charter to share as well.

We’re heading into a new year. Dust off an existing charter if you have one, or start a new one — give it a go!