Sales Enablement @ CSO Insights: Highlights 2017

What a year! A busy, challenging, inspiring year full of learning opportunities comes to an end. Time to recharge, time to reflect, time to focus on the New Year, and it’s soon time to welcome 2018.

In 2017, I have written 45 blog posts just here on our CSO Insights home blog, mostly based on the Sales Enablement Optimization Studies and our first Sales Manager Enablement Report.
What did we cover this year in the area of sales enablement, and what were the most insightful, the most valuable findings we have seen this year, and what did we learn for 2018?

  • From enablement confusion to clarity to strategy:
    This sales enablement research year had one central theme: enablement clarity. Enablement as a discipline has grown very fast since 2016, which made us think about how to approach enablement successfully in its natural complexity given the fact that it plays out differently in every organization. The result was to focus on the main facets and to introduce our sales enablement clarity model. Our newly introduced sales enablement clarity model became the central theme of our 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Report and was featured in Top Sales World in its December edition.
  • Make the customer’s journey’s the primary design point:
    In the age of the customer, it should be obvious that enablement begins with how customers approach problems, how they want to buy, how they want to engage with sales professionals depending on their specific buying scenario, and how they want to use or implement your products and services. This principle is the foundation of our entire research, our definition, and our newly introduced clarity model which is the central theme of our 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Report
  • Structural topics such as the changing enablement reporting lines:
    Where does sales enablement belong? Sales enablement belongs in the sales organization, and the trend that enablement reports to the sales leader is an increasing trend. The trend to make sales operations the organizational home for enablement is, in fact, decreasing. In other words, sales enablement is growing up, and we can already see trends on the horizon that it will soon become relevant for all C-level roles that have a long-term, strategic focus including customer experience responsibilities. We also analyzed how sales enablement leaders are compensated.
  • Modern selling is navigating the dynamics along the customer’s journey:
    It’s what modern selling is all about: creating value for each buyer role at each stage of their customer’s journey in terms that matter to them is crucial for success. And as it turns out, this shift from a product perspective to a customer perspective, from an inside-out to an outside-in perspective is still the biggest challenge for many sales organizations. Curious? Check out these three blog posts that cover the customer’s journey’s early stages, the actual buying phase and the implementation phase.
  • Consistency matters: aligning and integrating all enablement services to each other (“no content without training, and no training without content”) and along the customer’s journey is a lot of effort, but crucial to be done, because that’s what sets successful enablement teams apart from those that throw stuff over the fence to, or sometimes even at, the sales force.
  • Prospecting is a sales enablement issue:
    The more bad prospecting emails I received over the course of the year, the more I felt inclined to write about it. These bad email habits create more damage than just not generating leads. And it’s easy to fix the problem, with a more thoughtful, tailored and customized approach to prospecting that is focused on the prospect’s role and potential challenges rather than on your product.
  • Social selling:
    It’s the new normal for the early adopter industries and regions. We looked at social selling from different perspectives: what world-class performers do differently, and what the critical success factors are to socially enable a sales force successfully. The formal alignment of social strategies across marketing and sales was a key prerequisite. Also the impact of social selling adoption turned out to be overwhelming. We also looked at social selling differences between the US and the UK. Check out the two-part interview with top sales expert and bestselling author Lee Bartlett, here and here.
  • Finally, sales managers do matter and they need to be enabled adequately. I’m not getting tired of hammering it home: based on data (coaching matters most!), my own experience and the fact that sales managers have a unique linchpin role in any sales organization, sales managers have to be enabled adequately. For that reason we published our first report on this subject earlier this year: Sales Managers: Overwhelmed and Underdeveloped. Based on the data of the report, I have written blog posts about several aspects of enabling sales managers effectively: Why Sales Managers Need a “Driving License”, why sales managers should focus more on leading indicators, why figuring things out is a risky approach when it comes to sales manager enablement, how to create a business case for sales manager enablement, how to assess your current sales manager enablement maturity and many more…

I hope you enjoyed this recap of our year in sales enablement research! Today, there are no questions for you to think about and the related links are already in embedded in great abundance throughout this blog post.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or just a happy, grateful, and thoughtful time to reflect the year that goes and to welcome the year that comes: 2018!

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