Shiny New Balls & Why Sales Enablement Leaders Need to Grow a Pair!

The Don Draper days of sales and marketing are truly over. Gone, the casual smoking and drinking in the office, and the wide-eyed wonder of the modern consumer. In their place are increasingly savvy consumers, high buyer expectations, heavy workloads, ambitious targets and a salesforce constantly under pressure to do more. It might explain why the average tenure of a Chief Sales Officer is just 18 months.

For sales enablement leaders, the knock-on impact is a constant pressure to deliver turnaround improvements fast, often between one annual report and the next. And there’s no shortage of proposed solutions on hand to help, with technology at the fore.

It is forecast that the sales enablement platform market will be worth $2.6 billion by 2024. Like magpies, it seems we’re most attracted to shiny, bright, new things. But is there any evidence that these solutions deliver what they promise?

In this age of ‘digital transformation’, it is easy to see the appeal of new software and platforms, particularly given the hype that surrounds them and the abundance of quick fixes these platform vendors peddle. But can software alone improve the intrinsically human and emotive process of buying and selling?

Before being railroaded by marketing hype and organizational pressure into buying the next shiny new ball, Sales Enablement should stick to what they know to be true and remember several important things:

– Technology alone has yet to fix a human behavioral problem

– Sales enablement platform vendors are IT experts, not sales experts

– Sales enablement leaders are the true experts, both in their own profession and in understanding the needs and makeup of the business they serve

For complete transparency, I am a huge technology geek. I also work for a company that sells one of these shiny new balls. But as a Sales Enablement leader for 25+ years, I think a more open dialogue is required.

In our eagerness to adopt the next great thing we risk falling for the trick of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

The geek in me says:

Today’s SE platforms promise many things: they pledge to transform your sales team into top-sellers, personalise content to engage buyers, and deliver guided selling, among other benefits. Absolutely, there are efficiency and automation gains to be made. Some, like the Accent platform, use AI and data analytics as well as automation. Their capabilities are impressive:.

CRM automation: It is estimated that salespeople lose on average 5.5 hours a week manually entering contacts and activities into CRM. CRM automation gives sales teams back a month a year selling time – which they can spend on other revenue-generating activities.

Content Management: Analytics capabilities mean the right content is served to salespeople for the right sales situation, faster. Recommended content, next steps suggestions, and alert tools help sales deliver bespoke insight at each step of the buying journey.

Just-in-Time Learning: Intrinsically linked to sales results, on-the-job training increases selling time, improves information and skills retention and helps build better behaviors.

The Sales Enablement professional says:

This all sounds great but, once you’ve given your team more time to sell, customizable content and sales training at the very point at which they need it– what then? Will it effectively address any performance issues your team has, or will it only exacerbate the situation by making them more efficient at making the same mistakes, faster?

I’ll say it again:

tech alone has yet to solve human behavioral problems so why would it start now?

In our eagerness to adopt the next great thing we risk falling for the trick of the Emperor’s New Clothes. One of the greatest enhancements to SE platforms in recent years is not data analytics or AI – although arguably they will prove invaluable in the future. Instead it is the ability to construct Standard Sales Models.

This is one of the most important developments to the sales process since the widespread adoption of CRM more than 20 years ago. As the name suggests, the standard sales model enables you to construct your ideal sales model based on how your organization believes it should be constructed to achieve business goals – not just how it has been constructed in the past. This is an important distinction for evolving sales teams in evolving markets.

Working with the business, a sales enablement team can outline the ideal customer engagement and align it to the customer buying process. The model can include the ideal number and types of job titles to engage on the buyer’s side and the optimum interaction cadence for each persona. From there you can outline the steps a salesperson needs to take to win the deal. The model can even reflect the needs of different sales channels and buying habits across industries or regions.

Using intelligent technologies, Sales Enablement platforms can then analyse how close each deal is to the standard model and rate it. In this way, each salesperson’s effort can be directed toward only the most ‘winnable’ deals, taking the guesswork out of the equation. With the ability to intelligently learn from real-time sales activities, the system also automatically recalibrates content and behavioral suggestions.

But critically, the standard sales model requires human intelligence to define what that model is. Human intelligence is required to:

– Understand the company strategy and the deals you need to win to achieve it

– Create a standard model based on how the team needs to sell in the future, not on historical sales data

Only then once the standard model has been constructed can AI take over. It works with human intelligence, not instead of it.

When we work with clients to implement sales enablement software we do it on the understanding that we will correct and fine-tune standard sales models over a period of 90-120 days so that AI learns from human experience. Without human insight, an SE platform is just a machine that can spot and replicate patterns that may or may not be the route to sales improvement.

Calling out the Emperor’s new clothes

Sales enablement leaders walk a tough line. They are often caught between trying to engage a sales team that would rather be out selling and delivering sales improvements for an organization that doesn’t give them the time or budget to enable those improvements.

The allure of the shiny new balls and all they promise is understandable. But it is important the sales enablement leaders speak up and be counted and call out the Emperor’s new clothes. Their experience is key to getting the most out of any technology investment. Human insight combined with AI is a much more powerful weapon in the fight to improve sales efficiency.

Important points for an SE leader to remember:

– There is no magic bullet to ‘solve’ sales performance issues

– Start with the end in mind; be clear about what sales enablement issues you are trying to solve

– Take the time to work with a sales enablement specialist that can help you identify the issues and the best way to solve them

– If you need wider organizational buy-in, ask your specialist to identify some quick wins that are a stepping stone to the bigger goal

– Only introduce your ‘shiny new balls’ once you’ve established good sales practice.

With these principles in place technology will save your sales team time, save your business money and save you from the headache of having to justify some very expensive ‘shelfware’.

If you recognize that tech works best when it comes with a human interface, please get in touch. In a 10 min demo our team can show you how to combine human intelligence with the latest AI-driven sales enablement technology for sales improvements in as little as 120 days.

Jason Watson is the Head of Sales Enablement Practice & Applications at Strategy to Revenue, the award-winning Sales Enablement consultancy.

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