By: Susan Mahoney
What you sell, whom you sell it to, how you sell it, and even who sells it, will all undergo a massive transformation in the coming years. There are changes underway in the world of buying and selling that will only multiply. When I talk to organizations about their current sales challenges, I am amazed that so many leaders don’t see the urgency to change as quickly as they should. There are so many challenges facing organizations, and it’s understandable that prioritizing where to invest is difficult. The diagnostic questions that leaders need to be asking themselves often aren’t getting asked, or the answers are unknown or confusing. Many of today’s senior leaders didn’t come from a sales background and are too far removed from the sales function. In addition, there are competing functional voices all vying for priorities and budgets.
For the past two months, I’ve carefully studied the latest book on sales enablement from Miller Heiman Group and CSO Insights: Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip, and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. I believe this book holds the answers that many organizations and senior leaders want. Written by Byron Matthews, CEO of the Miller Heiman Group, and Tamara Schenk, Research Director of CSO Insights, this book builds from the work of CSO Insights, the independent research arm within Miller Heiman Group, and offers a practical introduction to sales enablement best practices and step-by-step approaches for implementation alongside expert advice.
“Sales people spend less than 30% of their time selling” – CSO Insights World Class Sales Best Practices Study, 2017
Sales Enablement’s premise is that no one can predict the future with certainty, but organizations that take a broad view of enablement as an alignment of sales, marketing, operational and technology processes will be better prepared to anticipate and navigate the future. The role of sales enablement professionals is to orchestrate across functions to prepare the organization. Sales enablement professionals understand:
- The end goal of technology better than IT
- The needs of the sellers better than marketing
- What makes a successful seller better than HR
- The value of artificial intelligence augmented selling better than senior leadership
The Future Is Now
Some of the current and future changes that sales enablement can help organizations to navigate include:
Sales as a job function will fundamentally change.
Research shows that salespeople only spend 35% of their time actually selling. In the future, (and in some cases in the present), the sales cycle will be guided by artificial intelligence, which will take the guesswork out of selling and out of buying. Improved efficiencies brought by AI will eliminate the need for low value, tedious selling activities, allowing more time for salespeople to deliver more value to the customer. Results will include more creative solution configuration, additional value and expertise toward the customer, which in turn can increase deal size, lifetime value of the customer, and account expansion.
The kind of salespeople who will be successful will change.
Selling will become more of a science than an art. The future salesperson will need to be comfortable with technology and data analytics to interpret trends to add value to customers and their buying processes.
A Few Changes Leaders Can Anticipate
The authors suggest a common definition for sales force enablement.
“A strategic, collaborative discipline designed to increase predictable sales results by proving consistent, scalable enablement services that allow customer-facing professionals and their managers to add value in every customer interaction.”
The successful sales organizations of the future will be best served by:
- Defining a successful talent profile
- Selecting an adaptable sales methodology
- Establishing a dynamic sales process
- Building out an enablement roadmap
The book provides some immediate actions for a sales organization to start their enablement journey, including:
- Estimate with honesty and clarity where your organization is today on the Sales Force Enablement Maturity Model and select a point of departure. Plan to shore up your gaps at this level.
- Determine your ideal Enablement Maturity level, which will help to prioritize actions going forward.
- The movement forward on the Maturity Model is evolutionary, not revolutionary. As a result, organizations should build formalized cross-functional collaboration processes with accountability, integrate enablement technology, build effective enablement services and secure efficient enablement operations.
With insights such as those above, this book clarifies the sales enablement space and defines its practices. Sales Enablement‘s guidance covers training, content, and coaching using a holistic approach that ensures optimal implementation with measurable results. Throughout the book, Matthews and Schenk reinforce the idea that companies must speak to customers on their own terms and use sales enablement to keep the customer front-and-center by providing salespeople with the resources buyers want. Sales Enablement offers a scalable, sales-boosting framework to do this with proven results.