I’ve been covering the sales enablement space here at Forrester for six years. While the concept is certainly more common than it was “back in the day”, I’m not really sure we as a community have a lot of clarity about how to get various Marketing, Human Resources, IT, Finance, and Sales groups on the requisite same page required to drive the desired effectiveness and efficiencies of most sales enablement initiatives across the selling system.
The problem today? Sales is Getting Too Much Well Intended Help and Not Enough Real Support
One of the important realizations that we continue to illuminate for business leaders is that when all of these groups are working independently to support sales, a tremendous amount of uncoordinated, redundant, or conflicting investments are made. Corralling these “random acts of sales support” is job #1 of any strategic sales enablement initiative…but how do you determine whose efforts are the random ones? Whether you are in a small or large organization there are many different people are certain they know what salespeople need to be successful, resulting in an avalanche of sales enablement deliverables, but few real results.
In most cases, the answers to life’s more complex questions have really simple answers. In today’s selling environment it’s often hard to determine who exactly is “the buyer.” Your salespeople are given a lot of inputs:
Your executive leadership want them calling on “business people” or “executives.”
The sales training courses they have been to instruct them to find “champions,” “decision-makers,” and “influencers.”
Marketers produce information about “personas.”
Business unit leaders and other subject matter experts talk about “users” or “doers.”
Sales managers tend to be more interested in understanding the opportunity (Access to power? Is it qualified? Is there budget allocate? When is the account going to make a decision?).
Their contacts within an given account give them different people or process steps to follow, or kick them over to procurement.
With all of the different voices – “You should do this,” “You should say that,” “You need to present this way” – echoing in the heads of your salespeople, things can get very confusing.
A Tale Of Two Sales
The thing is – the buying environment for most of us has changed, leaving us with two distinctively different buying patterns:
On the one hand, the customer knows what they want and have developed fairly sophisticated procurements steps to acquired what they need at the best possible price.
On the other hand, the customer is looking for the expertise to help them get value from their investment and solve a problem.
Why are sales and marketing professionals working harder and longer than ever before? Why are they seemingly in a constant firefighting mode, moving from one fire drill to the next, one meeting to another?
We are in the middle of a major transformation in the B2B sales model. Your company is caught between a rock and a hard place because your investors want to see accelerated growth and improved margins. However, your customers have the same pressures, and all have some form of enterprisewide strategic procurement initiatives underway. Your goal: sell at a higher price. Their goal: buy only what they need at the lowest possible price. Something has to give.
In response to these tectonic forces, we find many companies have a variety of internal projects designed to combat the commoditization trend. Some common efforts include:
Training salespeople to get access to executives.
Creating "solution selling kits" (in marketing).
Developing return-on-investment tools.
Focusing on demand-generation campaigns.
Developing sales-coaching frameworks.
Creating more structured opportunity identification and account scorecards.
Fine-tuning the customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve reporting and forecasting processes.
Pricing and packaging exercises and corresponding negotiation training.
Reinventing product marketing functions into "solution" marketing roles.
When you put the word “sales” and “enablement” together – it sure can mean a lot of different things – to a lot of different people.
As the Research Director on Forrester’s Sales Enablement team – it’s a problem I see every day.
What’s entertaining about this (or aggravating, if you are a sales enablement professional inside a large company) is that not only do many people view those two combined words differently – many of those people are extremely confident their own perspective is the right one. Given what we publish, the number of presentations we give, all of the cross-functional group settings we run into – you might imagine we’ve heard our fair share of strong opinions.
Here are a few highlights of my favorite “certainties:”
· Sales enablement is just lipstick on a knowledge management pig.
· Sales enablement is the new label for sales training.
· Product marketers have been enabling sellers for years, what’s the big deal?
· Sales people should be enabling themselves with all of the resources we provide them.
· Marketing should own sales enablement, because it is clearly a content issue, and the sales force doesn’t have access to good content.
Many of our clients are building named account or strategic customer programs in order to drive more revenue from their existing customers. Unfortunately, few are even close to realizing their expected results. Understanding the challenges associated with cross-selling within large account structures is one of the track sessions at our upcoming Sales Enablement Forum.
Joining me in my track will be Tamara Schenk, VP of sales enablement at T-Systems. Tamara has definitely followed the path of the manager of “broken things” to evolving sales enablement as a more strategic function within her company. Here are some of her thoughts:
1. How has the role of sales enablement changed inside your company?
The role of sales enablement changed fundamentally inside T-Systems. We started with sales enablement three years ago after the consolidation of many different portfolio views to ONE portfolio. Consequently, we also consolidated the variety of different sales portals by implementing one cross-functional multidimensional sales enablement platform called SPOT ON. The hard work behind SPOT ON was to analyze existing sales content, to be brave enough to throw away thousands of documents and to define everything else in terms of target groups, content, purpose, mapping to sales outcomes, RACI matrix for each content type, content generation and content publishing activities including a content localization process.
During the first week of June, we had one of our quarterly Sales Enablement Leadership Council meetings in Barcelona, Spain. (A leadership council is comprised of executives from leading companies who work with us to set the direction for the near-term and long-term role of sales enablement.) For an entire day, we discussed the application of Forrester’s SIMPLE framework, which is a model designed to help combat the random acts of sales support that persist within most B2B companies, to common sales enablement leadership challenges.
The sheer volume of insight, ideas, new research topics, and techniques shared during that session was tremendous – far too much to share in one blog post. So, I am going to pick two issues that came up.
First off, Tamara, I hear you. I was told point blank that I need to participate in the social community more. I’m going to make a more dedicated effort to do this moving forward, but I need your help. Please tell me what you’d like me to share and how. Honestly, I get a little caught up around the axle about the many deliverable formats I’m responsible for (research reports, teleconferences, conference presentations, facilitating council meetings, client deliverables, etc.) so I would love the coaching from the community on what would be the most useful.
Secondly, at the beginning of our council meeting, we had a good discussion about where the sales enablement profession is heading. I’ve written a very detailed document defining the scope and role of sales enablement strategically, but there is an easier way to summarize the trends based on how you define the word “sales.”
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost
In today’s dramatically changing world, many of you are also at a metaphorical fork in the road.
The path most traveled represents squeezing that last ounce of productivity from the tried-and-true practices that got you to where you are today.
The other path is being set by trailblazers who recognize that the economy is resetting itself and new go-to-market models are emerging.
Simply put, it’s a race to see who can develop a selling system that allows client-facing people to add more value to clients, at every interaction. These value-exchange patterns are different based on your customer types, the problems you help address, and the role your organization plays in solving them.
I am excited to be telling you about our first sales enablement conference, which will be held in downtown San Francisco February 14th and 15th. Over the summer, our team has been at work putting together a truly exciting and innovative agenda for our forum. Here are a few of the great topics we are working on:
What do buying executives actually think of how they are engaged by sellers? There’s a lot of talk about getting sales and marketing to sing off the same page, but what is the song? Any kind of alignment should start with buyers, and we are going to present a mountain of buyer insights that in many ways are jaw-dropping.
In Rob Reiner’s 1984 “rockumentary,” This Is Spinal Tap, one of the main characters, Nigel Tufnel, proclaims that they are different than other bands because their amplifiers “go to ll.” (You have to watch this clip if you don't know what I am talking about).
What a perfect analog of how B2B companies are trying to differentiate themselves today. I have the opportunity to work with sales and marketing professionals on the topic of competitive preference, and here are some actual quotes from vendors about how they think they separate themselves from “other blokes”:
“But we are truly global and our competitors are not” – a managed services provider
“We are much more scalable than them” – a software provider
“We deliver our services in the cloud” – a software-as-a-service provider
Translation? “These go to 11.”
You know the show MythBusters?
Forrester’s Sales Enablement team is testing the conventional wisdoms of sales and marketing by asking executive level buyers what they think.