Change is a constant in the selling environment. Change shows up externally with customer expectations, the marketplace and the competitive landscape. Internally, change shows up with new product launches, new strategic directions, and new markets. To maintain and evolve sales performance means sales reps need to continuously adapt in step with change.
Yet most don’t.
Sales enablement hasn’t fulfilled its promise; to provide content, technology and tools that help sales reps sell more effectively and efficiently. However, the way companies are selling is not working. The technology companies buy is being used to digitize and automate traditional sales practices. Sticking with selling processes that were best practices, but now fail to proactively address today’s buying and selling environment is not helping companies align with what their buyers want.
Change means adopting a new mindset and focus. Selling must start with the customer and their buying process, not the products or the sales process. Sellers need to flip from a company orientation to a customer orientation. For companies that have always been product-led, this reset can be challenging.
Sales enablement must orchestrate the moving parts that contribute to making this shift. This includes enhanced discovery, just-in-time coaching and learning, personalization, collaboration, and lead gen. You need tools that facilitate better meetings and orchestrate buyer engagement across the course of buying. Sales enablement must simplify what it takes to engage buyers from status quo to purchase decision—and beyond.
Buyer expectations have grown way beyond product information, which most can find on their own. Now they expect salespeople to create value by bringing information they can’t find so readily to conversations. Sales reps need to understand their customers’ business, the outcomes they’re trying to achieve, and provide insights about how to strategically solve their problems so they can gain an advantage in the marketplace. Yet, when buyers are asked to rank the most valuable resources they rely on for buying, salespeople aren’t where buyers turn first—or even in the top five.
Sales Enablement is Broken
The economy is growing; sales performance isn’t keeping pace. Research shows that for companies with a sales enablement function, only 34.4% of them say their expectations are being met.
Sales enablement, used strategically, can truly impact business growth. But for the most part sales enablement hasn’t closed the gap between buyers and sellers, as the following statistics from CSO Insights research find…
- Win rates of forecasted deals remain at 47.3% (source)
- Only 53% of sales reps are making quota – the 5th straight year of decline (source)
- Salespeople only spend 32% of their time selling (source)
- Less than 32% of B2B buyers say sellers exceed their expectations (source)
- Only 23% of buyers chose sales reps as a top-three resource to solve business problems (source)
The fact is, this same research found that 90% of buyers are willing to engage with sellers earlier in the buying process—if they provide value. Yet, for years, buyers have been asking sellers to understand them and their business, bring excellent communication skills to the table and give them insights and perspective. Sales enablement was supposed to bring this shift. Yet, the statistics above show that the gap between buyers and sellers remains wide.
Part of the issue is the failure to arrive at an accepted definition of sales enablement. If you do a simple search, you’ll find definitions that vary from analysts, consultants, and vendors across the board. Definitions aside, the real challenge sales enablement must answer today is what it takes to help buyers buy which will result in helping sellers get sales done.
This issue is exacerbated by the reality that only 46% of companies formally align their sales process to their customers’ journey. But those who orient selling to their customers—rather than to ineffective sales methodology—report quota attainment rates of 23% greater than average.
It’s Time for a Reinvention!
Sales enablement isn’t increasing sales for more than a scant percentage of top performers. The opportunity is to truly reinvent the way we approach sales enablement.
It’s time to reinvent sales enablement to be a true function of buyer enablement. This is what buyers are demanding. This is what it will take to boost buyer engagement, get sales reps in conversations that count and will result in increasing win rates for customer acquisition and expansion.
There are a number of ways to go about reinventing sales enablement. We’d like to start with three that will help to impact your sales reps’ performance in short order:
- Refocus sales reps on buyer-driven insights and perspectives
Understanding your customers’ businesses is table stakes. Your reps must be conversant in the challenges they face and the problems they need to solve. Buyers don’t want to be grilled about information your reps can find with a simple search. But they do want to participate in compelling and concise conversations that bring them insights and perspective. In fact, this is the biggest opportunity sales reps have for differentiation.
You can help sales reps understand buyer perspective by activating the information in your buyer personas, customer use cases and debriefs through microlearning videos. Providing snippets of insights that arm reps to apply perspective to the buyer’s context will help them deliver the information buyers are in search of beyond your products and solutions. Short quizzes will help ensure sales reps know how to use the information and when it’s appropriate. Referencing which content speaks to and provides perspective on a specific issue quickly arms your reps with what they need to be relevant in different circumstances.
- Rearm your sales reps with relevant content
You may have a vast library of content, but it’s likely your sales reps have no idea what’s there or how to use it. Instead of your sales reps wasting more than one day of every week creating their own content, marketers must ensure that the content they provide to sales reps is usable in support of sales conversations and that they understand how to use it.
This means content must be tagged by persona, sales/buying stage, industry, problem, product, and more. But it also means that you need to provide guidance for using the content. What question does it answer for the buyer? What are the key points made and what is the main takeaway? Armed with this information, your sales reps will know what content to use in which circumstances—even if a buyer pivots during an onsite meeting. Your sales enablement platform should surface this information upon a simple search so that your reps can respond or engage buyers in near real-time.
- Rebuild your system for sales engagement
Part of the problem with sales enablement systems is the complexity of using the technology. Many systems have so many bells and whistles that onboarding reps becomes a herculean task that detracts from selling, rather than empowering it. Simplifying your approach with a platform focused on enabling sales conversations and engagement across the buying process should be the end goal for reinventing sales enablement.
You want a system that’s built for sales reps, not an activity monitor, but an engagement facilitator. This means content that’s easily findable, shareable, and usable; just-in-time learning for specific buying conversations; sales readiness tools that prepare reps to have compelling, crisp and concise conversations that orchestrate momentum for buying decisions in your favor.
Get Aligned with What Buyers Want
Buyers will continue to evolve and change. Their expectations of sellers will continue to grow. The way we’ve been approaching sales enablement obviously hasn’t fulfilled on its promise. But you can change this. By taking steps to rethink sales enablement, you can help your reps get back to focusing on what you hired them for—to get sales done.
It is possible to provide the right content and conversations to the right buyer at the right time and in the right context. That’s how sales enablement will drive improvements to effectiveness and efficiency.