All organizations want to increase sales results and productivity, and that’s why more companies are investing in sales enablement solutions. But new research shows 69% of companies fail to meet sales enablement expectations.
I’d like to think we can accomplish anything we put our minds to, which is why the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study is perfect food for thought. I was able to catch up with the report’s lead analyst Tamara Schenk to gauge her thoughts on why companies are failing to meet their sales enablement expectations, some surprising report findings and the main takeaway for sales organizations.
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Q: In your opinion, what is the main reason companies fail to meet the majority of expectations for their sales enablement initiatives?
TS: 68.6% of all global study respondents didn’t meet the majority of their sales enablement expectations. But the good news is that 31.4% of the study participants met the majority or all their expectations. So, what can we learn from those who succeeded? We dived deeper into the data and could identify that those participants who worked on a formal vision and a comprehensive enablement charter are more likely (51.3%) to achieve their enablement goals compared to those who work in a one-off project manner (34.7%).
Creating such a charter is necessary to understand the business strategy and the current state of sales execution to identify the enablement fields of action. Then, we offer a simple four-step process that guides enablement leaders to create their enablement charter, which is actually their internal selling tool. Only if such a charter is in place can the daily energy be focused in the right direction. And only when energy has a clear focus can it create a movement.
Nothing is more dangerous for enablement leaders than following each idea and requirement without having a clear strategy and a solid plan for what to achieve. The risk is that many things will be done, but no goals will be achieved.
Additional risks include implementing technology too early, before the homework has been done, such as, for instance, implementing a content management framework or cleaning the content basement. In these cases, we often hear that technology didn’t deliver the expected results. But technology is most of the time not to blame. Instead, it’s poor preparation, a lack of integration in the existing landscape of systems and tools, and underestimating the need for change leadership to be able to leverage the value of technology.
Q: What findings from the study are most interesting/surprising to you?
TS: The most interesting theme for me is the big impact of a strong alignment of sales force enablement to the customer’s journey. That means that the sales process is formally aligned to the customer’s journey, that the enablement services are derived from or aligned to the customer’s journey, etc. In last year’s study, we already had strong data regarding the impact on quota attainment, win rate, and conversion rate. As it was the first study, we wanted to get more evidence, which we were able to do in this year’s study. And again, the impact on quota attainment, as an example, cannot be underestimated. The improvement was plus 13.6% compared to the study’s average quota attainment of 55.8%. So, customer’s journey alignment is not an isolated content issue; it requires a strategic approach, a “customer-core” framework for all enablement services.
Let’s look at the surprises. We wanted to know who actually creates the content salespeople need along the entire customer’s journey. And what a surprise that only 39.4% is created by marketing. Salespeople still create 26.3% of the content they use, and then, many other functions contribute content, such as product management, sales enablement itself, sales operations, legal, etc.
Why is this so important? Because we have facts, finally, that sales force enablement, even if it’s focused on content only, is NOT another word for sales and marketing alignment, and not a question of how to distribute “marketing content.” This word itself just shows how inside-out the perspective actually is. Having the content creator in the name doesn't add any value. And the range of functions is even bigger than the range of functions that create content. So, sales force enablement truly is a cross-functional discipline that has to get cross-functional collaboration right. And this is an area where we see a lot of room for improvement, because 68.8% still collaborate on an ad hoc or informal basis only (more than 80% last year). So we get better, but there is a huge efficiency potential to leverage, with a definition of collaboration goals, a formal enablement production process and a related collaboration model that defines responsibility and involved roles per enablement asset.
Another surprise was in the social engagement data. That data says that there is a strong need to align the social strategies of marketing and sales to be able to provide an integrated social enablement program that has a real impact on sales performance. In the group of those that reported a lack of alignment of their social strategies, many respondents (38%) reported uncertainty about the reasons for using social tools. This value was 100% smaller in the group of those with aligned social strategies. So, whenever people have to use tools, but don’t know the reasons for using them, we have a serious change issue, a communication issue, and an alignment issue.
Q: If you had one takeaway from the study that all organizations need to know, what would it be?
TS: Sales enablement matters. Sales force enablement matters even more. Wherever you currently are, whatever services you currently provide, work towards a more strategic and holistic approach to ensure that you enable your sales managers, especially your frontline sales managers, as well. They have the most challenging role in the sales force, always in a sandwich position, and they have the highest leverage effect in any sales organization. Frontline sales managers work where the rubber meets the road. Their enablement must become a top priority. They have to be developed in their (new) role, a role that always covers three areas: customers, business, and people. And coaching is the key leadership skill to leverage salespeople’s full potential. That’s why developing their coaching capabilities based on a “customer-core” enablement and coaching framework is mandatory to drive sustainable sales performance. Or can you ignore improving your quota attainment by 10.2% and your win rate for forecasted deals by 27.9%?
- The importance of having a customer-core approach to sales enablement
- Why shortening ramp-up time (45%) is the top goal of sales enablement programs
- How a formal sales coaching framework can increase win rates by 28%
- The reason 69% of companies still fail to achieve the majority of their enablement goals