How sales enablement has evolved over the past decade
How to turn around some disturbing trends in sales performance and productivity
The questions that can help sales enablement professionals focus on the right things at the right time
How to deal with sales tool fatigue
Pat Lynch has seen the evolution of sales enablement from several perspectives – in large companies like Xerox and FedEx and in research firm CSO Insights, to name a few. Now as Vice President of Enablement Excellence and Innovation at Mindtickle, Pat’s responsible for driving better outcomes for sales organizations through innovation and world-class enablement.
In recent years, Pat has seen some disturbing trends in sales organizations.
“Until last year, selling time for a sales professional was decreasing six years in a row. Now only 35% of a seller’s time is actually spent selling. Until last year, overall quota attainment also went down for six years in a row – from 63% to 51%. These are two alarming trends,”
“Then add in the fact that you may only get 17% of the time with somebody who’s actually interested in purchasing your product or service. That’s very little time to actually develop rapport and trust with a potential customer, let alone trying to sell to them. That means salespeople have to be far more concise about the value-add that they’re bringing.”
While the numbers are worrying, it has ignited a fire under sales organizations. “
They realized that they needed to actually get somebody in the position and hold them accountable to stop these trends going in the wrong direction. With the Sales Enablement Society coming to fruition just about two years ago, we’re now seeing that enablement is a role that’s a critical success factor to getting sales organizations back on track and hitting quota,”
The growth of sales enablement is certainly a step in the right direction but Pat has observed that some enablement professionals are at risk of missing a big opportunity. “
What often ends up happening is that the sales enablement executive is relegated to being a tactician. They’re trying to solve problems for salespeople. But sales enablement has a fantastic opportunity to look over the horizon to see what’s coming. They can provide strategic guidance to the VP of Sales. Some need to take a step back and look at the big picture and how they can help their sale organization.”
In the past year, Mindtickle’s growth has been rapid – expanding our team and technology innovations. We’re proud to share that recently Mindtickle was recognized for that growth by SaaS 1000 as one of the Top 100 fast-growing SaaS companies.
The SaaS 1000 list highlights the top high-growth SaaS companies based on hiring trends and other growth indicators.
Not all training and development solutions are created equal. In today’s fast-paced business environment, it’s crucial sales representatives are trained for and provided with the right information whenever and wherever they need it for the “moment of truth” in any customer conversation.
At Mindtickle, our sales readiness platform utilizes an outcome-oriented approach, meaning we’re able to track and identify sales capabilities each rep needs to close more deals and provide them with the tools to develop those skills. We look beyond traditional sales training to focus on sales effectiveness and improving skills and execution at an individual level. Our data-driven concept provides analytics to identify gaps in rep performance or skills and monitor existing capabilities. Our approach to sales readiness and enablement has been proven time and time again – driving an increase in demand for Mindtickle and fueling our growth.
Want to join Mindtickle’s fast-growing, innovative team? Learn more about our open positions and opportunities on our careers page.
How to manage industry transformation from a sales perspective
How they build and measure sales competencies consistently across remote sales teams
Her top three tips for implementing change in a global sales force
Wartsila is a Finnish company with over 18,000 professional in over 200 locations in more than 70 countries. The company enables sustainable societies with smart technology. Their solutions cover the energy and marine industries. We spoke to Johanna Kuusisto, Senior Development Manager. She has a background in Learning and Development and now brings her expertise to the sales team.
“I work in marine solutions and am responsible for supporting our salespeople to sell and serve our customers smarter. We develop processes, tools and competencies that help our salespeople be prepared for the future,”
“Our sales cycle can be anything from one to five years. For example, if a cruise line decides to build a new cruise ship our salespeople first need to be engaged early on to influence and be part of the bidding process,”
“There are many players in the process – ship owners, shipyards, ship designers, and operators. Our salespeople need to create relationships and build trust with all of them. We also have hundreds of products that our salespeople need to be aware of and understand the value of. They need to match this value with each customer’s specific needs.”
Long sales cycles and complex products make sales challenging at Wartsila, but the rate of change in their industry is accelerating their need to sell differently.
“There are mega trends happening in our industry. Regulation is changing, some products will be mandatory. People are also getting older which means we need to develop the tourism and service sector more and this involves influences customers, shipyards and ship owners,”
“Our salespeople need to accept this change. They need to be flexible in their mindset and keep their know-how up to date.”
Keeping everyone on the same page can be challenging, particularly with information scattered across emails, social media, and documents. This is amplified by remote and global sales teams.
Sales readiness is crucial for a company like us. We need to continuously find new ways to work and connect our people.”
What we can expect from technology in the sales enablement space
The key challenges to really enabling your sales team through content and process
Some of the pitfalls of trying to get sales enablement change off the ground
What are the hallmarks of a good sales enablement practitioner
With 20 years of experience in sales enablement both as a practitioner at companies such as IBM and as a Senior Analyst for Forrester, Steven Wright has seen a lot of change. In this day and age, change is the new normal and how we sell is transforming bringing with it new challenges, particularly with the use of technology.
“Sometimes there’s a very sharp pain and somebody finds a tool that will address it, but they haven’t really thought about the bigger picture. The overall process and program and dedication it’s gonna take to consistently execute on the sales enablement program. This tool may not help them get people onboard or keep them up to speed and keep reinforcing what they’re doing as part of an ongoing process,” explains Steven.
An area where technology has the potential to really transform how we sell in the future is in customer relationship.
“From the sales enablement perspective, companies who are using a lot of different technologies could try and lower the burden of the CRM on sellers so that they’re spending more time selling and less time doing data entry. A lot of that has to do with being able to capture data about sales activities that they were doing like how they are using emails, what they’re doing with content, is it being opened, is it being read and using all those analytics to be a real source of intelligence on what to do next,” says Steven.
Improving the productivity of reps is one area where technology has the opportunity to help and possibly hinder, training is another challenging area, particularly for businesses that have already invested in LMS.
“A lot of companies have a hybrid approach to training. This varies by industry – some have more need for certification like financial services or pharmaceuticals – that the curriculum in an LMS has. Other companies, with a focus on sales, need the approach Mindtickle brings to bear. Something that can be delivered very quickly, which on one hand meets a lot of tactical needs but can be part of a bigger development framework,” explains Steven.
“I think a lot of companies that haven’t made an investment in LMS probably aren’t going to need it if they can adopt the right kind of technology with some of the newer approaches like Mindtickle.”
How sales enablement needs differ within sales teams and how technology can help address this
How Kaizen can be applied to sales teams to improve their productivity
“Whatever type of sales team you have, the larger it gets the more important the sales enablement and sales operations role becomes. If you have 100 guys, and you save them all 5% of their time, that’s hiring five guys for free,” exclaims Steve Benson.
Steve began his career in software sales and has worked for IBM, HP, and Google. Now as CEO of Badger, he helps field salespeople focus on their best customers and optimize revenue opportunities by mapping out their territories.
The key to optimizing your sales team is a focus. “You have to study your sales team almost like an anthropologist or a sociologist would and use those stats. What people often find is that there’s a lot of value in a lack of focus on field sales teams. People are spending their time on the wrong leads. They’re not focusing on the highest probability deals to close, and making sure that they make it over the line. It’s the same for inside sales team, helping them focus on the right groups, with the right message, at the right time is really important,” explains Steve.
While the focus is important, it’s also essential that sales enablement, operations, marketing and other members of the team understand what each sales reps need when looking at ways to leverage technology.
“What the outside guys need is different to what the inside guys need. What the people who are selling to giant companies need is different than the people that are selling over the phones to small companies. There’s a variety of ways you can split up your sales team and different strategies to do that, but then I think it’s really important that one size does not fit all from your sales tech sack.”
This post is based on a webinar where Mark Tefakis, VP of Global Enablement at Fuze, shares the key pillars of successful sales enablement and how to show its ROI to your leadership.
Fuze is an award-winning “cloud-based unified communication platform that addresses complexities around the modern workforce with the ability to work in a way that drives efficiency and effectiveness for the growth and profitability metrics companies need,” explains Mark. “Founded in 2006, we’re headquartered in Boston and have offices throughout Europe, into Australia, Latin America, and Asia Pacific.”
The evolution and need for sales enablement
“Sales Enablement centered around training and development initially and expanded into how you fully enable the sales organization,” Mark continued. “A lot of CSOs are being challenged with having a constant pulse on the business, to be able to report on where they are today, where they’re going tomorrow, and knowing the lead and lag indicators so they can be responsive to the demands of the business. The discipline of sales enablement is a foundational set of processes and standards that help the CSO address that pressure and scrutiny. This foundation includes time to ramp (TTR) [onboarding], ongoing enablement [to increase productivity], and [preventing] unplanned churn.”
The five pillars of sales enablement
Mark developed the concept of the five pillars of sales enablement through his experience in sales and sales leadership. They are:
Organizational alignment: “Before you get started you have to understand the dynamics around the organizational alignment. Do you have governance and some process in place where everybody understands the vision, strategies, initiatives, scorecards, and metrics that you’re putting in place to drive the success of the program? That’s critically important,” explained Mark.
Role-based certification: Most sales organizations have several different roles that vary by company and industry. Role-based certification involves identifying the competency model tied to the skills and knowledge associated with each role. As you look through the motion of each role, what is the thing reps need to know, say, show, and do as they manage the day-in-a-life of performing against the expectations of the role? Next, turn it into a curriculum and how you want to train, develop, and evaluate the performance of these roles. There are three levels that comprise this certification model:
Lecture and test the retention of knowledge;
Exercise and application, transitioning from understanding a concept into applying and exercising the skill tied to that concept prior to going out into the field; and
Managers evaluateperformance in the field and coach.
Enablement on demand: “Leverage technology to streamline how effectively you execute against the things that are defined in the role-based competency model. There’s no need for heavy dependency on instructor-led training or virtual training when there are technology and applications that allow you to better drive efficiency and effectiveness, plus scale better for the organization within a proper cost model,” explains Mark. “Leverage technology as part of this foundational layer and put the power in the palm of the hand of the individual. Do this within cloud-based applications, with integration into CRM, where you can tie learning and sales supporting assets to a specific sales scenario, prescribing assets and learning based on that scenario. Also building in some gamification to drive contest around how people learn is really compelling. I would encourage you to think about enablement on demand,” he continues.
Predictive analytics: “It’s one thing to look at reports and reference a dashboard of things that happened in the past. It’s another to look through the windshield, at the road ahead, and predictively be able to tell where your business is going. If you establish the right lead and lag metrics, supporting technology can show when individuals in your sales organization are heading for disaster. You can then start to prescribe specific learning to get them over that hurdle so they can start to perform much better,” suggests Mark.
Sales advisory boards (a.k.a. voice of the customer): “If you don’t establish champions and have a feedback loop from the sales organization, you will battle some apprehensive people while you’re pushing programs out. This is a mechanism for you to be able to gather insight and feedback in a structured fashion. Sales can contribute to the design and development of your initiatives through localized champions who can support and help drive adoption,” he explains.
“With the five pillars of successful sales enablement,” Mark explained, “we’re leveraging really interesting technology to help do this so you can scale with the demands of the business. You’re not asking the CFO for a ton of bodies, you’re actually leveraging the power of technology, and better equipping and enabling the field based on the power in the palm of your hand, which ties back to the center pillar of enabling on demand.”
How sales enablement works at Fuze
“First and foremost is sales methodology. Whether you do it internally or you leverage an external partner, you have to start there because that is the foundation that drives the rest of the bubbles to the right,” Mark continued.
“Once you have that in place, you then start to think in terms of how to establish a best practice approach to outreach and engagement to the marketplace. We use Mindtickle for our learning management system and recently launched it to our global sales organization. We use Savo for our content management system and a combination of both Mindtickle and Savo to help us with ‘voice of the customer’ and engagement with the field. This gives us the pulse of what’s going on,” explains Mark.
“All of these equate to very effective sales productivity based on the pillars and the underlying enablement technology that you can put in place.”
What sales enablement needs to know about collaborating with sales operation
How sales enablement and ops can drive change within the sales organization together
How sales enablement differs between large and smaller companies
Collaboration between sales enablement and sales operations is crucial for effective enablement, but it’s not always easy to achieve. Aarti Kumar, VP of Sales Operations at BrightEdge, has some helpful advice for sales enablement professionals who want to build collaboration with sales ops and get a seat at the table. “Be proactive and make sure that you’re in the loop. This is critical, because if you want to know where the ball is going, then you should be there. Alsobe engaged and understand what works for the sales team and what doesn’t work. If you can be that bridge or have that knowledge, you can be the bridge to communicate between two departments.”
With over seven years experience at Symantec, and now at BrightEdge, Aarti has seen how much value a collaborative relationship between sales ops and sales enablement can generate, but it’s not something that happens overnight. “From a strategic aspect, being in tune with what the company and the business are trying to drive is critical for sales enablement. They have to work with sales operations to understand what the company is solving for and how sales operations are playing a role there. It needs to be an ongoing dialogue, it’s not a one and done process,” she explains. “Sales enablement and ops need to speak, on a weekly basis, on a monthly and a quarterly basis. It’s best to have a seat at that table, so you know what’s coming down the pipeline and you can plan for it accordingly,” continues Aarti.
To ensure the relationship runs smoothly, maintaining a constructive feedback loop is key. “Every time decisions were made or projects moved forward the sales enablement team was kept informed. We would tell them the what and they would tell us the how, in terms of getting information to sales. On the flip side, we also got a lot of feedback from them, because, they’re closest to the sales team. That feedback was super effective and it helped shape some of the decisions from the sales operations side,” explains Aarti.
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The most common mistakes businesses make when implementing sales training
“Understanding what your customer is looking to solve and what’s the fastest way to get them to solve that problem is key,” states Dan Smith, Growth Specialist at Winning by Design. And he would know, Dan helps customers understand how to design and implement an effective sales process.
“I’ve seen change a lot in the last ten years around selling. People are struggling to sell effectively using old-school sales tactics. Companies that are successful are the ones that are adopting the selling style that their customers actually want to buy from,” he continues.
For most businesses, the challenge is identifying the right selling style and adapting it to their customers.
“There are a lot of good methodologies out there, and the trick to figuring out the right one for your business is really understanding what your sales cycles and process looks like today. The most popular one in Silicon Valley is The Challenger Sale, it’s focused on the provocative selling methodology. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a more transactional sales methodology,” Dan explains.
Once you identify the right sales methodology it’s then important to implement it effectively. This involves reps understanding their customer and addressing their needs. “When you understand the buyer or an influencer very early on in the sales cycle, you can talk to them in a way that drives the endpoint home as quickly as possible,” comments Dan.
This post is based on a webinarwhere Jonathan Hinz, Director of Product Marketing at Seismic and Daniel Kuperman, Director of Product Marketing at Mindtickle, discuss maximizing the impact of sales enablement with content and learning. You can listen to the entire webinar here.
Today’s buyers are more informed before they meet with sales reps. They expect reps to be prepared to help them make an educated decision. Unfortunately, modern sellers are stretched so thin by day-to-day demands that they’re often challenged to find the time to really understand their buyers. “This is the gap of knowledge and preparation for sales,” Daniel explained, “There are several aspects to this gap:
How prepared the salesperson is to have a conversation with the buyer;
What they can offer during that conversation in terms of solutions and insights; and
How much they know about your pain, your challenges, and your industry to educate you to move towards the ideal scenario.”
Things have changed for Marketing
Marketing needs to change to ensure it can feed the right leads to sales in this new world order. “At the marketing level, we’ve had this conversation one too many times. We’ve been using marketing automation platforms to broadcast our messages to find and advance leads until they’re good marketing-qualified leads to hand off to sales,” Jonathan said.
“Sales works these leads until they’re won or lost,” Jonathan continued. “Where are the key learnings? How do we win? What content was used? How was training effective? What element went into that salesperson being able to close that deal? How did marketing know what content worked? How did they enhance those leads to get to the point where there was a signature on a piece of paper? These metrics all need to be captured for marketing to optimize the flow and drive better-qualified leads.”
What is the solution?
Sales also need to be equipped to meet these changes.
According to Daniel, “There are three things you need to do to meet these challenges:
Prepare sellers to have the value-added conversations buyers expect from them. This is not just about sales training, but really making sure reps have the knowledge, skills, and behaviors they need to perform in the field;
Ensure sellers have the right information at the right stage of the sales cycle. In today’s environment, reps need very specific training and content at different stages in the sales cycle. This ensures they can adapt to the various situations and demands of their buyers; and
Create a culture of continuous learning so sellers are always prepared to engage with buyers. This is the best way for sales reps to become familiar with new features and product updates quickly without taking them out of their selling environment.”
There are some constraints that must be addressed for this to happen. According to Daniel, these include:
Creating a culture of continuous learning without impacting selling time;
Understanding that one solution won’t necessarily meet every organization’s needs;
Being able to demonstrate the value of your sales enablement initiatives; and
Reviewing existing systems to determine if they are inefficient or and need to be updated.
How you really fix these issues?
Sales Enablement plays an important role in addressing these issues.
“The essence of Sales Enablement is really about setting up the framework so Sales can be successful,” according to Jonathan. “Plus, you need to have the right training in place to provide context at the same time. This includes new product launches, new competitive messaging, new decks, new content – sales needs all these different things to quickly absorb this information so they can have better customer conversations.
When that’s done right, sales reps are easily able to access the right assets. They know how to use them, the results are awesome, and they can accelerate deals. They also have a better deal impact and their teams become more efficient.”
The organizational benefits multiply
It isn’t just the sales reps that benefit from these enablement initiatives. There are flow-on effects throughout the organization. “From a business perspective, what we see across companies that we work with, is a stage of effects,” explains Jonathan.
“First, there is increased efficiency across the business thanks to improved sales and marketing alignment. People can find content as it’s all in one place. Sales teams can pull assets and know how to use them because the right training is in place. This results in improved content ROI and increased seller productivity,” he continues.
“All this together creates a higher focus on commercial outcomes for the business. New and organic revenue growth is driven by these more productive and effective teams.”
“This improves morale amongst the sales team, particularly because sales reps realize their organization is taking them into consideration,” adds in Daniel. “This also results in significantly reduced attrition rates. If you want to grow your sales organization, improving morale, and how your sales reps are perceived internally is extremely important. It’s a great outcome that will positively impact your bottom line.”
The future state of sales enablement with Mindtickle and Seismic
“Mindtickle and Seismic integrate with your CRM system so sales reps have access to them every minute of every day,” Jonathan explains. “They give them the tools and the resources they need to have great customer conversations. By providing them access to the platforms they already use, sales reps do not need to go to offsite training that takes up their valuable sales time.
With this combined solution, you’re able to lock content until knowledge certification has been completed. This means sales reps have to take the training before they can access some content. It’s an awesome capability that can magnify your ability to train and educate your entire sales team.
The solution also has the capability to combine content and training on a landing page that sales can see on a daily basis. The reality is that only a small volume of content in the library is actually used. 80% to 90% of content is generally unused for a good reason -it’s not the stuff that closes deals. It’s the 10% to 20% that does. This is what sales see on their landing page.
If they’re looking for something on a more occasional basis, that’s what Search is for – the every so often use. The training content can be extracted from Mindtickle and put it into the Seismic platform. It’s an incredible capability that really enhances the content and gives it context, “ explains Jonathan.
Customers see ROI and results
Companies that use Seismic and Mindtickle achieve the following results:
Organizations need to become agiler to succeed
Sales Enablement is charged with leading the way organizations to address new business challenges so they can accelerate their sales now and into the future.
“Enablement leaders need to create a culture of continuous learning so their organizations can become agile and adapt well to changes happening in the marketplace,” Daniel advises. “This can be achieved by looking at the technology available today. Mindtickle and Seismic offer one possibility by working together.”
“Regardless of the technology platform that you choose, my recommendation is to make sure that it is aligned with the vision for Sales Enablement at your organization,” he continues. “Make sure that the platform, or combination of platforms, that you choose is actually going to help you move the needle now and as you grow. Don’t just look at the problems you need to solve today, but also think about whether the solution can grow with your organization. A good sales enablement platform should help you tackle all of your issues, provide strategic insights and facilitate the change management that is required from sales enablement today at organizations of any size.”
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What to look for when evaluating sales enablement technology
How bot technology will transform sales enablement in the future
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Sales enablement means different things to different people. Some think of it as training and knowledge while others view it as being about developing sales capabilities or improving the overall effectiveness of their deals.
“My northern star when it comes to sales enablement is how do I enable people to transform an organization, to transform faster and better than they did before,”
states Glen Lally, Global Vice President of Enablement and Innovation for SAP.
“SAP is a large organization with 90,000 people, so we have multiple lines of business and each line of business has their own enablement function. It’s important to work cross-functionally with sales operations, with marketing, with the sales organization and put the field at the center of what you do. Understand what’s working and what’s not for them, and be that cross-functional partner that can bring all of these different pieces together to be successful,”
“Netflix summed it up well by saying you need to be tightly aligned and loosely coupled.”
This, coupled with a growing sales stack, are some of the biggest challenges facing sales enablement leaders in large organizations when trying to enable their sales teams effectively.
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