Within just a few weeks, we find ourselves in a totally changed world without any comfort zones and safe havens except, maybe, your sofa at home. The COVID19 pandemic forces most of us to radically change in a very short amount of time how we live, how we work, how we run businesses, how we sell and ultimately, how we treat our planet.
COVID19 taught us one critical lesson, a universal law: everything is connected to everything.
Every action we do in one area, impacts another area. As we are working from home now, commuting rush hours don’t happen anymore and the number of flights that do take place is very small. I live half an hour away from Frankfurt International Airport, and I can easily count the small number of airplanes I see taking off and landing. While we are self-isolating and focused on flattening the curve, planet Earth is taking a breath in parallel.
The way we have lived, worked and operated so far came to a full stop. Full stops are tough for all involved, as they force us to adjust many areas of our lives at the same time. This is what happened over the last few weeks. And you could clearly observe how different organizations, especially sales teams, responded to the challenge.
Sales enablement: the time is NOW to set it up in an effective way that creates results
Before COVID19, only one quarter of sales enablement teams moved the needle, whereas the majority invested in sales enablement but did NOT improve results.
We could already see in the research over the last couple of years that sales enablement was rapidly growing, but its impact on business results was not growing in the same way. While most organizations invested in one way or another in sales enablement (61.3% on average), and more than 75% in organizations that are bigger than $250M in annual revenues, only a smaller percentage could move the performance needle. To be precise, according to the CSO Insights Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study, only 27.5% of organizations with sales enablement were able to meet their stakeholders’ expectations and achieved two-digit improvements.
Triggered by the COVID19 crisis, sales enablement challenges and opportunities become more apparent than ever.
Embedded in a good economic climate, those teams could still survive. In a crisis like COVID19, unheard of, they have no chance. These sales enablement teams must change fundamentally as fast as possible.
I will share more about all critical success factors to make sales enablement effective in critical times over the next couple of weeks.
Today, let’s begin with integration, because the lack of integration is mission critical to engage, enable and empower a remote sales force and should be fixed right away.
Integration in sales enablement covers several aspects. It begins with the strategy integration, then the customer journey integration, and continues with the integration of your sales enablement services, and it also covers the integration of your sales enablement solutions. Now, let’s look at each single aspect.
#1: Sales enablement has to be integrated in the digital transformation strategy
Sales enablement is most effective if it follows a formal and strategic approach that connects the dots between the business, sales and sales enablement strategies. Ideally, the sales enablement strategy is derived based on a thorough assessment of the specific challenges and hurdles that have to be tackled to implement the business strategy successfully.
In 2020, we should assume that every business strategy is linked to a digital transformation strategy. If that’s not the case right now, this gap should be addressed right away. There are no comfort zones after COVID19 anymore.
This is the most important aspect where sales enablement leaders cannot succeed without the support of their senior executives. Sales enablement is designed to solve business problems. That requires that sales enablement be treated as a business discipline by senior executives.
#2: Sales enablement should be designed with the customer journey at its core
As your salespeople can only be successful if they effectively engage modern buyers based on their preferences, it’s a logical consequence to begin with the customer journey in mind. Way too often this is ignored, and old internally-focused sales processes are made the design point of all enablement efforts. That’s a recipe for ongoing low productivity.
Aligning all internal selling processes to your relevant customer journeys is essential to implement a foundation for effective sales enablement. And by the way, sales operations and marketing operations require exactly the same, customer-centric foundation.
Organizations that get this integration and alignment right, 19.0% according to the Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study, achieve significantly better results, such as 17.9% win rate improvement.
#3: Your content, training and coaching services should be integrated
Even if you currently only focus on the content or the training domain, your next steps should focus on integrating whatever you tackle next.
As an example, if the content types you want your salespeople to use don’t match the content of your product or value messaging training, you create more confusion than value, and sellers will switch off the enablement noise and use what they’ve always used.
That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that all the messages in all your content assets and related training services are consistent and highly integrated, ideally developed together. Only then can you ensure that all content types are updated correctly and that all related training services, such as product training, messaging training, etc., are consistent with one another.
Additionally, if you’ve already implemented a formal coaching process, make sure that your sales managers coach in a way that reinforces your enablement initiatives for salespeople. Their coaching approach should also be an integrated part of the overall sales enablement services portfolio.
#4: Your sales enablement technologies should be highly integrated and anchored in the CRM
Last but not least, the integration of your sales enablement technologies, or the lack thereof, makes a huge difference.
If you run a holistic sales enablement function, you are dealing with, at least, a sales enablement content management tool, a training or learning platform and ideally a coaching solution, not to mention additional tools as solution design and pricing configurators.
The integration challenges are two-fold. One is to consolidate the existing solutions, especially in the content space, down to one sales enablement content management solution. Also, various learning platforms might exist for historical reasons. Two is the second layer of integration, the integration of your integrated sales enablement platform into your CRM.
Let’s look at some data: the majority of organizations invest in various sales enablement technologies, more than 50% in sales enablement content and coaching solutions, and more than 70% in learning and development solutions.
Almost one-third of organizations maintains a variety of point solutions, deployed by different departments. With a quota attainment of only 53.8%, those organizations are actually 10.3% behind the study’s average quota attainment rate of 60%. Organizations that connect the dots across their point solutions end up with average results.
Only organizations working with an integrated sales enablement solution that’s also integrated in their CRM landscape achieve significant productivity gains of up to 6.8%.
Facing a remote selling environment, these trends will become stronger. Managing various situations with the whole family at home and kids in homeschooling mode, salespeople should find everything they need in one place.
Forward-thinking senior executives are aware of these changes and are increasing priority to evolve sales enablement into a highly-integrated business function.