Reflections on Sales Enablement in 2019: Cutting and Polishing Your Sales Enablement Diamond

What an incredible year! 2019 was a very intense and challenging year here at CSO Insights, with lots of interesting and comprehensive research projects.

As I thought about how to best summarize the essence of our research and client experiences and what it means in practical terms for you, once again I landed on our sales enablement diamond, the sales enablement clarity model. This model is fitting simply because you have to tackle all of these facets over time, and ideally – even in the early stages – you have all of them in mind even if you only tackle some of them in the beginning.

Let’s get started – facet by facet – with the latest data based on our Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study.  We’ll start at the top of the diamond with the facet labeled “Customer”.

#1. Customer: Tackling all enablement challenges through the lens of the customer is a mandatory mindset shift and a prerequisite for success.

It sounds like a no-brainer in the age of the customer: Whatever you do should make sense not only for your sellers alone, but also for their interaction with your buyers along their customer’s path. However, it is not as easy as it seems. In times when many debates are still focused on the latest piece of technology to magically solve complex problems, the fundamentals of a buyer-driven world often get lost.

If you use the customer’s path as your guiding principle for all enablement efforts, you automatically have to ensure proper integration of your processes along their customer’s path. And that covers marketing, sales and service. For more details, check out these blogs: Why Aligning Your Selling Processes to the Customer’s Path Is Key and Why Customer’s Path Alignment Is Essential to Sales Enablement Success.

The essence: Only 19.0% of organizations have their customer’s paths purposefully and dynamically aligned to their internal selling process. But these 19.0% achieved significantly better results, such as an increase in win rates of 17.9% or an increase in quota attainment of 11.8%.

#2. Strategy, Sponsor, Charter: Establishing a solid business-oriented foundation of sales enablement is the single most important facet to driving results.

This statement is grounded in research. Year after year, organizations that follow a strategic, formal charter-based approach to sales enablement achieve two-digit improvements in win rates and quota attainment compared to those that run sales enablement in a one-off project manner. Only if sales enablement is designed and set up to achieve your senior executives’ goals, to drive the business strategy, and well connected to other strategic initiatives will it create actual business impact.

A sales enablement charter is a business plan that begins with the business and sales strategies, the business goals and related metrics, the current state and the desired future state, and the current challenges to overcome to be able to achieve these goals. And then the sales enablement strategy (enablement capabilities and enablement services) kicks in, including capturing their main audiences, a roadmap and more. For details, check out these blogs: Five Ideas for Sales Enablement Leaders to Get Your Senior Executives Involved, Why You Need a Sales Enablement Charter and How to Get There: Part 1 and Part 2.

The essence: Only 15.6% of organizations follow such a formal charter-based approach, but year after year they achieve double-digit improvements, such as an 18.8% increase in win rates.

#3. Customer-facing professionals and their managers: Driving seller engagement through engaging sales managers is crucial to driving results.

Seller engagement is an area of sales enablement that is often overlooked; however, there is a certain sequence of “engage, equip and empower” to be considered. Engaging sellers first is a prerequisite to being able to successfully enable and equip them. And only then are they empowered to drive your sales strategy.

Seller engagement is the emotional commitment to both solve your buyers’ problem and drive sales results. In the 2019 data, 57.7% of organizations said their sales force would be fully engaged. This group improved all main KPIs and also could lower their turnover rates. Interestingly, the main drivers for seller engagement are engaging, inspiring and motivating sales managers. The group of organizations that reported engaging sales managers (51.1%) had a higher rate of seller engagement (82.8%) and even better sales results.

The essence: Driving force #1 for an engaged sales force is engaging, inspiring and motivating sales managers. Win rates could improve by 9.5% and quota attainment by 9.3%.

#4. Effective sales enablement services: Implement consistency, connectedness and coaching to drive results.

In this facet, we cover all enablement services you provide for your target audiences, such as training, content and coaching services, including the related tools. To avoid inconsistent, contradicting enablement services that create more confusion than value, it’s mission critical to ensure that all training, content and coaching services are consistent with each other, closely connected (e.g., no content without related training) and always supported by related coaching services for sales managers or specialized sales coaches. For more details, check out Consistency, Connectedness and Coaching: The Three Cs of Seller Engagement and Why Consistency Matters: Connecting Content, Training and Coaching Services.

The essence: Only 31.8% have a content strategy, but they improved their win rates by 27.1% and quota attainment by 18.1% compared to those without a content strategy. Dynamic sales coaching showed double-digit improvements in sales performance on both quota attainment (21.3%) and win rates (19.0%) over the study’s average.

#5. Efficient enablement technologies: Integration and adoption matter to drive productivity.

Organizations invest in various sales enablement technologies such as content, learning and coaching. However, adding point solutions and just having those technologies doesn’t drive results – only integration and adoption does. In fact, adding more point solutions and not integrating them properly leads to results way below average.

The essence: When enablement technologies were integrated into CRM, quota attainment rates could be improved by 6.8% compared to the study’s average of 46.4%. Point solutions only led quota attainment results -10.3% below average.

#6. Formalized collaboration: Get organized to be efficient, effective and scalable… and that begins with your charter.

Sales enablement, with its orchestrating role, has a need to collaborate with many more functions than just marketing. Therefore, every team has to know who is doing what and who is accountable and responsible for what enablement service. Establishing such a collaboration model on the level of each enablement service (content type such as a white paper or playbook, or training type such as social selling level 1) is mandatory to build a scalable sales enablement function. For more details, check out these blog posts: How Do You Approach Collaboration in Sales Enablement?, and Sales Enablement: How to Collaborate Effectively Across Functions.

The essence: Overall, 76.5% still collaborate in an ad hoc or informal manner. But organizations that followed a formal charter-based sales enablement approach almost always followed a formal collaboration model as well.

#7a. Efficient enablement operations: Set up your sales enablement engine properly.

Next comes your production model (i.e., the sequence of activities followed to create and deliver enablement services). Overall, 23.0% of organizations reported having a production model in place, 34.8% were not sure or only somewhat agreed, and 42.2% disagreed.

As with the collaboration model, the sales enablement approach plays a big role. When sales enablement is formal and charter-based, it’s more than four times as likely that the enablement team also has implemented its production model.

The essence: It makes sense to get the inner workings right. When both the collaboration and production models are formalized and implemented, quota attainment was 13.1 points higher. Win rates showed a similar impact.

#7b. Governance and metrics: The ultimate elements to an effective sales enablement initiative.

Investing in a formal charter-based approach to sales enablement only makes sense if you also implement a governance model that allows you to keep your senior executive sponsors involved and engaged. Additionally, determining the ROI of your enablement efforts still seems to be a challenge for three-quarters of organizations. Also here, organizations with a formal charter-based approach are in a much better position, as they had to think through these issues when creating their charter.

The essence: Overall, nearly 25.0% of organizations consistently measure the impact of their enablement efforts with either productivity metrics, milestones or leading and lagging indicators. However, organizations that follow a formal or even charter-based approach to sales enablement are two times more likely to implement a tailored approach to enablement metrics.

As the budgets are determined and the priorities are set in most organizations, whatever your sales enablement scope is for 2020, HOW you lead sales enablement and HOW you set the initiative up is what will make or break it. I hope you enjoyed the essence of the 2019 data here. If you haven’t already, click here to get your copy of the Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study.

Also take a look at our book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. It contains lots of valuable information, frameworks and approaches to make you a better sales enablement leader, structured by the sales enablement clarity model, as I’ve done in this blog.

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