Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sales Enablement Best Practices and Challenges

Sales enablement has been one of the hottest topics in B2B marketing and sales for the past few years. Last year, CSO Insights launched a new research study devoted specifically to sales enablement, and last month, the firm published the results of the 2016 edition of its study.

The 2016 CSO Insights Sales Enablement Optimization Study provides valuable insights regarding how companies are implementing sales enablement and how well it is working. The 2016 study is based on input from 400 survey respondents, a majority of which (58.9%) are based in North America. Most of the respondents were affiliated with small and mid-size companies. Nearly three-fourths (73.6%) were with companies having $250 million or less in annual revenue, and 42.5% were with companies having less than $10 million in annual revenue.

(Note:  This research focuses primarily on sales enablement best practices, so I think we can assume that all of the survey respondents had implemented sales enablement in some form. In other research, CSO Insights has found that a growing number of companies are implementing a dedicated sales enablement function. In the 2016 Sales Performance Optimization Study, 32.7% of survey respondents said they had a dedicated sales enablement function. That was up from 25.5% of respondents in the 2015 SPO study and 22.6% in the 2014 SPO study.)

Here is a quick summary of three of the major findings of the 2016 sales enablement study.

Sales Enablement is Still a Work in Progress

CSO Insights asked survey participants to assess the effectiveness of the sales enablement initiatives they had implemented during the past two years. Only 31.3% of respondents said their sales enablement programs had met all, or at least a majority, of their original expectations. Another 44.8% said that their sales enablement efforts had met at least some of their expectations.

Formal Planning Matters

In the 2016 study, 9.6% of respondents said they treat sales enablement as a series of one-off projects, 39.5% said they have an informal sales enablement vision, 35.7% said they have a formal sales enablement vision, and 15.3% said they have a full-blown sales enablement strategy (charter).

The study found that formal planning increases the odds of sales enablement success. Over half (51.3%) of the respondents with a formal vision or a formal strategy said their sales enablement initiatives met all or a majority of their expectations, compared to only 34.7% of respondents who had an informal vision or who treated sales enablement as one-off projects.

Sales Enablement is a Multi-Faceted Function

Most companies that have implemented sales enablement treat it as a  multi-faceted business function that encompasses a diverse set of services. CSO Insights asked its survey participants what services for salespeople were part of their sales enablement function, and the table below shows how they responded.

The CSO Insights study contains far more insights than I can discuss in a blog post. I encourage you to take the time to review the full study.

Top image courtesy of Tomas Sobek via Flickr CC.

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