Sunday, January 31, 2016

Effective Sales Enablement Requires More Than Technology

As I wrote in an earlier post, sales enablement was one of the hottest topics among B2B marketing and sales professionals during 2015. The growing interest in sales enablement is evidenced by the amount of research the topic has attracted.

During 2015, several firms conducted research studies regarding sales enablement. Many of these studies were produced by companies that offer sales enablement software, and these studies naturally focus on the benefits provided by sales enablement technology. However, there are some studies that examine sales enablement from a broader perspective, and what is clear from these broader studies is that companies with the most successful programs treat sales enablement as a distinct and multi-faceted business function.

The Power of Enablement:  Bridging the Sales Productivity Gap by Forbes Insights (in association with Brainshark) is based on a survey of 216 top executives in US-based companies. This research identified several key characteristics of companies that excel at sales productivity.

  • 59% of top-performing companies have a defined sales enablement role (versus only 30% of under-performing companies).
  • Three out of four (74%) of top-performing companies report good alignment between their marketing and sales functions, compared with only half (49%) of other firms. Forbes also found that companies with a defined sales enablement function say they they have better alignment between marketing and sales (61% vs. 42%).
  • Top-performing companies recognize the importance of providing sales reps effective coaching and training. When asked how they are investing in skills development to improve sales productivity, 74% of top performers cite training and reinforcement (vs. 50% of other companies).
The 2015 Sales Enablement Optimization Study by CSO Insights is a benchmarking study that examines how companies are actually implementing sales enablement. Here are some of the more interesting findings in the CSO Insights research:
  • 25.5% of survey respondents said they have personnel dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of the sales organization (i.e. a sales enablement function).
  • In over half (52.5%) of the companies that participated in the study, the sales enablement function reports to the chief sales officer, and in another one quarter (25.3%) of companies, sales enablement reports to sales operations.
  • A large majority (72.8%) of companies have fewer than four employees dedicated to sales enablement.
  • The top four goals of sales enablement programs are increasing sales efficiency (81.8% of study respondents), increasing revenues (75.8%), increasing new account acquisition (68.7%), and increasing the win rates of forecast deals (64.6%).
  • The top four services provided by the sales enablement function are sales training (74.7% of study participants), sales process improvements (67.7%), sales tools (66.7%), and CRM/technology management (59.6%).
Both of these studies provide more valuable insights than I can cover in a single blog post. For example, both studies discuss the importance of good content and the role of technology in effective sales enablement. 

I omitted any discussion of technology in this post because there is a tendency to view sales enablement as something that can be "solved" with a software application. The reality is, a successful sales enablement effort needs clear goals and objectives, the right mix of human skills, and a clear understanding of what services the sales enablement function will provide and what methods and processes it will use. With this foundation in place, the right sales enablement technology can be a powerful enabler of effective sales enablement and a potent "accelerant" of sales enablement success.

Illustration courtesy of iphonedigital via Flickr CC.

1 comment:

  1. We know b2b marketing but b2b branding is different from B2C in some crucial ways, including the need to closely align corporate brands, divisional brands and product/service brands and to apply your brand standards to material often considered “informal” such as email and other electronic correspondence.