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Sales Enablement: Bridging the gaps
The concept of Sales Enablement has become a basic principle among competitive sales organizations. Companies spend some $12bn annually on sales enablement tools, according to Harvard Business Review. And the term continues to evolve, as it encompasses a growing list of tools and functions.
In short, Sales Enablement aims to supply sales organizations and sales reps with the tools and information needed to perform more efficiently. This grew out of the realization nearly two decades ago that large consumer products companies’ sales performance was often hindered by their own organizational structures and business practices.
Sales Enablement strategies initially sought to streamline communications between marketing, which creates customer-facing assets, and sales, which leverage these materials to sell more successfully. Sales Enablement software mechanized the publishing of sales assets, as well as their maintenance and their analysis. This allowed marketing to produce content that sales reps were more likely to use in a range of sales scenarios.
Now, Sales Enablement primarily encompasses marketing, sales, and customer support. Best-in-class companies are twice as likely to implement Sales Enablement tools, according to Aberdeen Group.
Broadly, there are two categories of Sales Enablement tools: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and communications technologies. CRM largely focuses on enabling the sales reps to track accounts and opportunities, while providing sales teams information for forecasting revenue and tracking activity. Communications technologies enable sales teams with point solutions that include web conferencing, screen sharing, voice conferencing, video, and email tracking.
Sales Enablement toolbox
Sales Enablement currently features several common tools. These are:
- Content Management – Marketing collateral and sales content include an array of slides, animation, GIFs, web content, video and other tools to influence customer engagement. However, 65% of companies’ marketing content is never used by their sales reps, according to SiriusDecisions. Sales Enablement automation allows organizations to improve marketing effectiveness by monitoring usage and invest in more productive materials.
- Sales Coaching – These tools should help sales leadership to harness and focus sales reps’ talents. Thirty-four percent of sales leaders have insufficient coaching tools to identify best practices and tactics to win, according to Accenture. Sales Enablement software allows sales managers to be more data and analysis driven by measuring sales reps’ key performance metrics—before and after coaching sessions.
- Rep Onboarding – Around 71% of companies need six months or more to ramp up new sales reps to productivity, according to CSO Insights. Sales Enablement teams can expedite bringing newly hired sales reps up to speed by defining, managing and measuring the onboarding process. SiriusDecisions says the onboarding process can be structured around knowledge, skills and process, for instance. By continually assessing these, managers can give ongoing advice tailored to individual reps.
- Sales Forecasting – Sales teams’ performance typically falls short of their forecasts. Indeed, 90% of companies close less than 25% of sales opportunities “forecasted to close”, says CSO Insights. Sales Enablement software enables sales reps to quantify insights they gather on prospects into more realistic predictions. High-performing sales teams are 10.5 times more likely than underperformers to experience a major positive impact on forecast accuracy when using intelligent capabilities, according to a recent Salesforce report.
- Guided Selling – Sales Enablement tools allow marketing and sales materials relevant to the individual buyer to surface for sales reps so that they can be as effective as possible at all steps in the sales cycle. High-performing sales teams are 2.3 times more likely than underperforming teams to use guided selling, according to Salesforce.
- Communications – Sales reps use a growing number of tools such as email, videos, online presentations and web conferencing, and mobile apps to sell and interface with prospects and customers. These can be linked with software that tracks usage and produces real-time analytics–or insights–to be used for more informed interactions.
Sales Enablement’s ongoing evolution
Sales Enablement has evolved from a chiefly sales support function to include training, onboarding and guided selling. It is increasingly strategic to large companies. Indeed, 74% of organizations with an enablement function plan to invest more in enablement in the coming year, says SiriusDecisions.
Nevertheless, Sales Enablement’s continued development has muddled its meaning, as it is now involves countless tools. Many of these tools are single-purpose and disconnected, having been added to address one-off needs as they arose. Fifty-nine percent of sales reps say they have too many sales tools, according to Accenture. Managing this fragmentation, along with a lack of integrated technologies, is costly and compromises sales reps’ productivity.
Meanwhile, customers have gained more control of the buying process. They are often well more than half way through the sales cycle before they speak with sales reps. Simply enabling sales reps is no longer sufficient.
Sales Engagement: Getting it together
The emergence of new technology allows companies to reduce Sales Enablement’s complexity. Software introducing tracking and analytics tools that are integrated into sales processes allow marketing and sales teams to measure how engaged customers are throughout the sales cycle and how likely they are to buy.
Thus, while Sales Enablement focus on creation and management of marketing and sales materials and processes, the newer term, Sales Engagement, measures the efficacy of materials, processes and sales reps in customer interactions.
Sales Engagement Platforms combine traditional Sales Enablement tools and CRM with engagement data into an integrated platform, providing sales teams with content, guided selling, actionable insights and communications throughout the sales process. The market in Sales Engagement Platforms will grow to $5bn by 2021, according to Aragon Research.
Gauging prospect and customer interest
Going beyond Sales Enablement, Sales Engagement technology allows sales reps—and marketing—to see how interested prospects and customers are in sales collateral and communications. These include presentations as well as individual slides, emails, phone calls and meeting attendance and participation, among other metrics. At present, 70% of sales reps do not validate prospect interest during the sales cycle, according to CSO Insights.
Best-in-class companies are 1.4 times more likely to align content with sales stages.
With this ongoing analysis and customer insights, Sales Engagement Platforms allow sales reps to have contextually determined content embedded in the applications they use to interact with customers. Recommended content derived from analytics can help guide reps to the appropriate next step. Conversations, presentations and slides can be modified to suit the customer or contact in real time.
In addition to boosting sales automation, Sales Engagement Platforms keep sales content, marketing collateral, tools, and customer-facing materials current and housed in a single place that supports all file types. Analytics and centralization improves marketers’ ROI and shortens sales cycles. Comcast Spotlight, for instance, reports a 65% reduction in its sales cycle using Sales Engagement tools.
A comprehensive system of Engagement diminishes uncertainty, as well. Fifty-four percent of sales leaders say they do not have accurate sales metrics, and 46% do not have enough data on deals in the pipeline, according to Accenture and Aberdeen Group.
Better Data, More Accurate Sales Forecasting
Sales Engagement data and analysis give sales leaders greater confidence in their activity data and promotes more accurate sales forecasting. For instance, deal size can be mapped against engagement to manage pipelines and allow resources to be focused on deals at risk. Analytics also track sales reps’ performance and help set performance benchmarks.
A best-in-class Sales Engagement Platform will link with CRM systems, automatically capturing and logging activity and engagement data across all communications channels. Consequently, CRM data quality and timeliness improve overall.
The concept of Sales Enablement has grown beyond being a collection of separate components to a robust, integrated system of Sales Engagement. Sales organizations’ growing embrace of Sales Engagement–where technology continues to evolve–will continue to advance the sales process over the next several years.