Last month, I was fortunate to attend Forrester’s B2B Marketing 2016 event in Miami. This is the research firm’s annual event for marketing and sales enablement professionals to come together, meet with vendors, connect with analysts, and learn about the latest trends impacting B2B sales success.
During the week, I attended a session led by Forrester analysts Steven Wright and John Bruno on “Creating an End-to-End Engagement System to Enable Sales.” During the session, the two paid special attention to the different phases companies invest in when it comes to sales technology – starting, of course, with Sales Force Automation (i.e. the CRM).
“For many, this used to be the one technology for driving sales outcomes,” said Bruno. “The problem is that CRMs haven’t done a very good job of helping sellers sell.”
That’s not to say that Sales Force Automation technology doesn’t continue to play a significant role. But it’s now just one of the four sales technology phases the duo looked at:
- Sales Force Automation/CRM
- Efficiency tools
- Effectiveness tools
- Prescriptive/advanced analytics
As Bruno explained, companies that have seen the most success from their sales technology investments tend to take a more pragmatic approach.
“They start with the CRM – not sexy, but important,” he said. “Phase 2 then involves layering Efficiency tech on top of that, which helps remove the manual work caused by the CRM. From there – Phase 3 – you layer on Effectiveness [to help salespeople] do things better. Then Advanced Analytics with things like machine learning, prescriptive, and so on.”
The sales enablement factor – efficiency and effectiveness
Of the four phases, it’s reasonable to say that the middle two (Efficiency and Effectiveness) are most closely tied to the evolving sales enablement function. Investments in sales effectiveness technology now include solutions for sales training, coaching and content. As Wright and Bruno pointed out, the goal here is not only to help salespeople do the right things, but to do them better and at the right time.
Related: Jim Ninivaggi breaks down the evolution of sales enablement
Research shows that sales onboarding and cutting the time it takes new reps to close deals is a top challenge impacting B2B sales productivity. Other studies report how formal coaching can have a significant impact on extending the value of sales training to increase win rates and quota attainment.
Sales readiness and enablement technology can help to this end by arming sales organizations with formal environments for new hire training, easy access to learning content on-the-go, video coaching capabilities and more.
As Wright pointed out, analytics on content usage and performance can also play an important role in sales readiness.
“This drives a whole new level of the seller experience. You can now identify the opportunities for better coaching and training,” he explained.
For example, insight into the content most commonly used by reps to close deals or the assets top-performing sales people prefer, can help companies identify best practices to replicate across the sales force through training and coaching. It can also impact the content Marketing prioritizes and creates for sales.
“Marketing needs to consciously engage with, ‘What’s the content that you have, and how is sales using it?’” Wright said. “The whole goal is to help sellers sell more effectively. How are you going to market to THEM in the same way that you market to your customer?”
Related Download: The New Marketing ROI: Content Analytics Meets Sales Enablement
Making the right sales technology investments
Wright and Bruno both stressed the importance of having clear goals when identifying the right sales technology to purchase. This means organizations need to understand what they’re doing now before they can know what they need to do next – and which solution they’ll need in order to get there.
“Take inventory of the content and tools your sales folks are currently using,” said Bruno. “Just because you aren’t already arming them with a sales enablement solution, doesn’t mean they aren’t using SOMETHING. For example, where are they storing content? If you understand what they are using now, and how they are using it, you can understand what works for sellers and help invest in the right now solution.”
Want to learn more? Check out Brainshark's infographic: Sales Enablement Technology: How Should You Invest?