Sales Enablement has been one of the most significant areas of investment for many sales organizations over the past few years. Sales enablement is defined as the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools needed that help sales professionals sell more effectively. The foundation of a sales enablement process and culture is to provide sales people with what they need to successfully engage prospects and decision makers throughout the entire buying process and beyond. Either provided by a Sales Operations group or as part of a Marketing team, sales enablement can become the “secret sauce” to revenue generation success. According to a recent analysis, companies that invest in state-of-the-art sales enablement programs and platforms increase their quota attainment by 50% which is a significant accomplishment.
So why aren’t more companies investing in sales enablement? What are some of the barriers to success that companies need to overcome to be more successful when it comes time to realize the return on their investment?
As the designer and writer of a sophisticated sales simulation called Strategic Business Selling™ I conducted a significant amount of research on this topic and discovered some interesting and disturbing trends. The biggest learning - and key point of this blog - is that sales enablement is not easy to execute. It takes time, work, and real commitment from the sales professionals receiving the benefit of sales enablement investment.
Unfortunately, what we are discovering is that too many sales professionals feel entitled to sales enablement and worse yet, expect sales enablement to do the job for them. As we all know, great sales enablement tools can do a lot to support the sales process but they won’t make the deal all by themselves.
We furthered discovered that too many sales professionals who are being provided warm leads and other benefits of sales enablement tools aren’t following the process that has been created. For example, I was working with a group of professionals selling sophisticated versions of a commoditized product into complex accounts. One sales person was given a warm lead to follow up with an opportunity at a targeted account that the company was trying to break into. The Sales Operations team provided the lead, the product support materials, meeting materials, how to write a proposal, and training on how to negotiate a value price. The Sales person we were working with didn’t pay attention to any of these great materials and did everything his way and ultimately the wrong way. The opportunity died at the top of the funnel because they sales person didn’t position the value and innovation well and then when he found out he didn’t make the cut for the RFP blamed everyone else saying that it’s “too competitive out there.” Again, feeling entitled, but not willing to put in the hard, smart work to be successful.
The question becomes what can companies and leaders do to move from being entitled to being enabled? I believe there are two critical skills missing; having the business acumen to understand the customer and having the strategic selling skills to know how enablement can lead to profitable deals.
Business Acumen to Support Sales Enablement
Sales professionals who have strong business acumen skills can understand the business needs of their customers much better. By understanding customer needs well, they can then leverage the tools of sales enablement to position value from the business perspective not just a product or technical perspective.
Strategic Selling Skills to Support Sales Enablement
Sales professionals who have strong strategic selling skills can sell into key accounts and achieve their goals and objectives. By navigating accounts, understanding the decision-making process, and positioning the right business value to the right decision makers they can leverage the tools of sales enablement to develop deep relationships needed to develop and sustain long-term profitable accounts no matter what the business model is.
In summary, sales enablement is a privilege provided to sales professions. Your company and your sales leaders need to create an environment that provides the right skills needed to embrace all the tools of enablement so they know how and what to work for because deals will not happen without the right effort.