Sales Enablement 2010: Is This The Year For Breakthrough?

Recent client interactions with a wide range of tech vendors leads me to believe that sales enablement will move from good idea and experimentation to real action in 2010.  Of course that will be an uneven thing as leaders set the pace with big transformation efforts to align what sales and marketing do together (that is the operative word here, together) to center their activities around clients' business problems with all the organizational angst and habit breaking associated with such an undertaking, while others tackle smaller bites, like messaging and measurement changes. But to me, it feels like 2010 will be the year when we see real progress, exemplary cases, and hard evidence that tackling effective sales enablement does drive sales efficiency. Are you sensing the same thing? 

So why now? I think in no small part it's because tech is maturing and so are the business people whose job success depends on it. So the two have begun to talk like adults about the business outcomes tech enables, not just the adjective-laden virtues of some engineering breakthrough. And those conversations are more meaty, grounded, and accountable; there is a solid transfer of value both in the discussion and in the outcomes from a transaction. Or there better be, else the buyer will drop the vendor like a stone. In a recent Forrester survey (we will publish this soon and will let you know how to find that data) of bus and IT folks involved in tech buying, 75% of the business people said they were involved in choosing or recommending vendors. More than half of those same business people said that their strategic vendors were the ones that understood their business and how to help them execute, and two thirds had a formal process to identify those vendors among their suppliers. You get the picture, cool tech is dead, business outcomes are a must.

It's also getting less crowded out there. IBM, HP, CISCO, and Microsoft are all competing in increasingly end-to-end ways, which means they talk about business problems and working solutions and to differentiate will have to make those business outcomes increasingly transparent and accessible. It just follows.

So there is the evidence and logic of the thing, but let's be real here too. Old habits die hard, product marketing and product managers, CEO/Engineer/Entrepreneurs, business unit heads, sales managers and lots of other folks have visions and goals that reinforce product-centric marketing and selling and changing that won't be easy.

So let the games begin, and like the coming Olympics, let's look for the high and lows, the triumphs and upsets and personal stories behind the trend because that's where we will find the good and bad ideas to try and avoid ourselves as we tackle sales enablement together in 2010. Ready?

Please comment if you have one, let's hear your take on SE in 2010.


re: Sales Enablement 2010: Is This The Year For Breakthrough?

You hit the nail on the head with "cool technology is dead, business outcomes are a must." With more and more players trying to position within the sales enablement space, it may be hard to decipher between the hype and whose solutions can actually deliver on what you are trying to accomplish as a company. Thinking through the one-on-one conversations you're having with potential sales enablement vendors, it's helpful to ask: How do they approach conversations with you? Are they asking you insightful questions before even attempting to show you all of the bells and whistles? Are you having a dialogue or being pitched to? Are they genuinely listening? Do they share examples of how they've solved your business problem in the past? Do you find yourself thinking differently about your business after interacting with them?

re: Sales Enablement 2010: Is This The Year For Breakthrough?

Yes, right! 2010 could really become a "sales enablement" year, we already started our implementation project...

Based on technology (there is good technology available for different purposes) it's about processes, governance, content quality, development of playbooks, documents etc. for different sales situations with consistent core messages tailored to specific accounts etc. And please don't forget that sales skills have often to change as well - from product selling to consultative based solution selling, driven by the customer's problems. Major challenge here: How can we use sales enablement technology and methods to manage the complexity within major accounts? How can we align the market view and the account view to improve the capabilities on solving customer’s problems instead of trying to sell just portfolio elements?

I'm looking forward how sales enablement will develop this year, let's get started!

re: Sales Enablement 2010: Is This The Year For Breakthrough?

The question Tamara asks lies at the heart of complex selling:

"How can we align the market view and the account view to improve the capabilities on solving customer’s problems instead of trying to sell just portfolio elements?"

Tamara calls it "portfolio selling." At XFI we refer to the same concept as Enterprise to Enterprise (E2E) selling.

The question we all seem to be grappling with is three fold

First, can a system be built that captures, organizes and maintains the collective knowledge, understanding and insight about both the seller's and the buyer's organization and once implemented can that repository be leveraged to help seller's often overwhelmed sales team position the seller's portfolio of capabilities to resolve a specific buyer's challenges?

Second, is said system robust enough to convey the portfolio value Tamara speaks about in each of the hundreds of client facing conversations, presentations and negotiations that happen hour-to-hour, day-to-day across any given enterprise sales team?

Third, can such a system be built and maintained cost effectively?