Today's guest post is by Kurt Andersen, Executive Vice President of Sales Enablement and Marketing at SAVO.
Unfortunately, most companies are witnessing an ever-increasing gap between the CEO's strategies and the ability to see them through. Part of this gap is the responsibility of your sales team, because they stand directly between these strategic initiatives and your customers. Ask yourself: Are you effectively driving these initiatives through this gap? Too often, the answer is no; thus the need for sales enablement.
Consider the following statistics:
- according to Harvard Business Review, 70 percent of growth initiatives fail;
- only 1-in-5 CRM systems actually increase revenue (CSO Insights 2011); and
- the misalignment in sales and marketing is causing the typical company to underperform by 10 percent in annual revenue (IDC 2011).
These are disturbing statistics for any business. The knee-jerk reaction is to solely blame the sales team – but they're not the problem. The problem is that the majority of companies simply don't know how to effectively enable their sellers.
This is why sales enablement has emerged as a frequent topic of conversation in boardrooms and executive offices. Businesses need to close the growth gap to stay competitive and sales enablement is emerging as the pathway to make it happen.
Defining Sales Enablement
What is sales enablement? The category was previously defined as simple tools that were used by individual sales professionals to sell more proficiently. Sales enablement has evolved into a broader corporate strategy embedded in multiple departments with a singular driving force: achieve revenue initiatives by harnessing the resources and knowledge of the collective enterprise to support sellers.
From this viewpoint, you can understand why zero percent of executives interviewed by IDC rated their sales enablement capabilities as "highly effective." The reality is that most businesses have been committing what we like to call "random acts of sales enablement." This is marked by giving your sellers just enough information to be minimally effective, but without implementing a cohesive strategy designed to align different activities within the organization to optimize the chance of achieving corporate initiatives.
In today's business, simply providing your sellers with the latest marketing slick or whitepaper isn't enough. If this is the extent of your enablement practices, you're leaving revenue on the table.
Why Sales Enablement in 2012
A confluence of trends has resulted in sales enablement emerging as one of the most critical initiatives your business can undertake in 2012. Think about your growth strategy – what steps are you taking to maximize the following trends?
The media has become fascinated with the Bring-Your-Own-Device trend – enterprise use of personal devices (iPads, iPhones, tablets, etc…) has changed the way many of us work. A recent survey from Citrix found that 53 percent of businesses witnessed productivity improvements by more than 10 percent, thanks to the use of personal devices at work. And 16 percent reported increases of more than 30 percent.
How are you leveraging the mobility trend to better arm and enable your sellers? Sales enablement combined with mobility can significantly empower your sales team by providing them with dynamic, on-demand content that they can access in the middle of a sales situation. Think about that: you’re in a sales meeting, the prospect asks a question, you can immediately pull up situation specific content, demos, video, pose questions to colleagues and get immediate responses, and more. Using sales enablement to maximize sales mobility will increase execution and revenues.
Mergers & Acquisitions/Cross-Sell Opportunities
These two topics tend to fall into the same bucket. While M&A activity decreased in 2011, it's still one of the biggest growth strategies employed by businesses. Being able to sell more products and services tends to be at the heart of most M&A activity.
Simply acquiring a new line of products (or launching one for that matter) is just the start. How are you arming your sales team to sell the new products? The traditional approach consisted of a quick training program, a few brochures on the new product(s), a couple of presentation slides and a wish of good luck on the way out the door. This approach has proven unsuccessful and is a contributing reason why there’s a gap between strategic initiatives (product launch) and revenue (closing sales).
Sales enablement helps maximize every opportunity for cross-sell and upsell by delivering timely and relevant information, when it's appropriate during the sales opportunity. This means brand-compliant materials with the latest information on new products, on-demand, based on the unique selling situation. It also reinforces the broader strategic picture – how do these products fit into the broader portfolio, and why should your customer care?
We've seen a lot of companies deploy simple social tools across their enterprise in attempt to foster greater collaboration. However, critics argue that these technologies have little impact on overall productivity. Some of the complaints are that people don't know who to present their questions to, answers provided are out of date or just inaccurate, and too much non-relevant information is shared with the general audience.
Social tools need to be aligned with a specific business purpose and objectives to result in increased sales. Sales enablement will play a greater role in 2012 to mobilize the right subject matter experts, resources and information for each unique situation. Sales enablement will also guide the communication that occurs internally with colleagues and the collaboration that occurs between the sales person and the prospect. Therefore, it will help provide each seller (and ultimately the buyer) with the accumulated knowledge inherent in every organization.
There are a lot of reasons why sales enablement will continue to grow in importance in 2012, but the driver behind them is the same: to close the gap between your businesses strategic initiatives and your sellers.
For more information, check out SAVO's latest e-zine on the topic of sales enablement. There are several case studies from leading selling organizations such as Compuware and Philips, highlighting how they've transformed their selling processes and increased revenues through sales enablement.