Analysing the haves and have nots for sales enablement: How can you become better?

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

If you want to be part of the C-suite at a visionary company, then you need a strategic, cyclical approach to the customer lifecycle. But where should sales enablement fit in?

This is the keynote of a new report issued by Seismic (landing page, email required). Not overly surprisingly, ‘sales enablement platform provider says sales enablement is key’ is not going to get tongues wagging. Yet while, as one would expect, the report says companies are applying sales enablement to achieve better business outcomes, there are some interesting areas to explore.

Sales enablement is defined very broadly as an iterative process giving an organisation’s sales team the resources they need to close more deals. This can include content marketing, or certain martech tools. Ian Moyse, chief revenue officer at OneUp Sales and a regular contributor to sister publication CloudTech, noted in a recent Vengreso blog the importance of making good sales behaviours habitual.

Overall, organisations who had the most mature sales enablement programs followed five best practices:

  • Positioning sales enablement as a strategic priority championed by C-level leaders
  • Drive go-to-market alignment by applying sales enablement across the entire customer lifecycle
  • Avoid tech silos by leveraging well-integrated tech stacks
  • Encourage widespread adoption of sales enablement platform capabilities
  • Use data-driven insights to scale best practices across the organisation

Position sales enablement as a strategic priority for the C-suite

Many organisations have accelerated their digital transformation initiatives as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a virtual B2B selling environment being part of it. Having a dedicated sales enablement team is a popular way of achieving this, cited by 95% of the more than 1,000 survey respondents.

But to whom does this team report? If you’re a stronger organisation, the sales enablement team goes directly to the executive team, rather than being another division within sales. 59% of ‘visionaries’ report to exec leaders compared with 42% of laggards, while for CSO and VP sales, it was at 68% and 69% respectively.

Drive go-to-market alignment

This area relates to when and where the sales enablement begins. The answer: as early and as often as possible. An overwhelming 97% of companies highlighted as visionary said they used sales enablement pre-sales, compared with only 41% of laggards. Post-sales (76% visionary, 51% laggard) saw a similar story, as did point of renewal (80%/44%). Many laggards – more than three quarters (77%) – focus only on the sales process itself.

For the where, the report notes sales enablement should impact all customer-facing job functions. Again, the ‘visionary’ companies are more likely to do so. Sales and marketing are evident, with more laggards agreeing (76%) than visionaries (67%), but customer service. with an uptick of 13 percentage points to visionaries, operations (13), customer support (16) and professional services (15), all see the same trend.

Not surprisingly, respondents who were in the tech business were most likely to use the sales enablement to support the marketing organisation (78%).

Avoid tech silos, move to well-integrated tech stacks

“A well integrated tech stack both expands and deepens the capabilities of sales enablement technology, while extending its functionality into other environments,” the report noted. “Integration between sales intelligence data or sales content that surfaces actionable insights in the CRM in a natural, unobtrusive way streamlines workflows and enables sales teams to be more productive.”

Nothing too new under the hood there, and likewise, it is the visionary companies who are again on top. For sales engagement automation tools, it is 56% adoption compared to 34% of laggards. For wider sales enablement vendors, it is a much wider disparity (81%/21%).

Adopt sales enablement capabilities and use insights for best practice

One telling statistic showed almost all (94%) visionaries were confident in the data they used to track the effectiveness of their sales enablement efforts. For companies defined as laggards, it was at 28%, and 68% for survey respondents overall.

Similarly, 94% of visionaries also responded affirmatively to saying they provided organised, ongoing efforts to scale learnings from their top performers. The job of sales enablement, as one executive interviewed put it, is to ‘minic what top performers are doing… at scale.’

Elsewhere, almost all visionaries (97%) predict that artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities will be embedded in sales enablement platforms in the next two to three years. This compares with only 52% of laggards.

You can download the full paper here (pdf, email required).

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