7 B2B Sales Enablement Takeaways from Forrester’s Mary Shea
Sales enablement is having a moment. It’s more crucial than it’s ever been before, especially now that teams are facing new challenges of virtual selling during the pandemic.
In February, just before organizations around the world began adjusting to most sellers and buyers working from home, I sat down with Forrester Principal Analyst Mary Shea to discuss sales training and productivity.
Mary’s expertise is B2B sales with a focus on how business leaders can adapt to the empowered buyer. Not only is she a researcher with deep ties to the sales tech ecosystem, she’s also a practitioner with a lengthy career heading up successful sales teams. Read on to see Mary’s seven sales enablement takeaways for B2B sales professionals.
Takeaway 1: The profession of selling has changed and sales enablement must adapt.
The profession of selling has changed more in the last three to five years than it has in the last 25. Buyers today are setting a very high bar for sellers. They’re enjoying the consumer experience of leading brands such as Apple and Spotify, and they expect to have the same kind of experience when they interact with B2B companies.
It’s a very different experience from what sellers were taught in the past. The sales person used to be the primary conduit of information about a company. But now buyers can find information online about product reviews, competitors, pricing, and more. They’re self directed and don’t want to have a standard conversation about your company or your solution.
Sellers are also getting fewer opportunities to be in front of buyers. This makes it more crucial to enable your sellers to be successful, to be ready for that moment when they’re going to interact, whether that’s virtual, digital or in person.
Takeaway 2: Modern sales enablement relies on three core technologies.
There are three core technologies that make up modern enablement. The first is sales engagement. That’s the category that helps sellers manage their multi-channel cadences with customers and prospects. Then there is sales enablement automation. That’s a category that helps sellers get access quickly and efficiently to external content.
Thirdly, there is sales readiness, which focuses more on internal content. This helps sellers be ready, effective, and able to engage at the level that the buyer expects when you drop that content, when you deliver that meeting, when you have that initial phone call. All of these solutions work together to provide what we call the core modern enablement solution.
Takeaway 3: Modern sales enablement is very different from traditional sales training.
Sales people are just like today’s knowledgeable buyers. They don’t want static brochures, websites, or outdated pitches. They want instantaneous access to information on their smartphones, at any time or place.
Today, half the global workforce is millennial. A legacy strategy for sales training, development, or onboarding isn’t going to work. Sales enablement for the modern seller must be accessible online and offline. It must include insights from data and analytics. And it must make it easier to reinforce key concepts.
Prior to the pandemic, organizations would bring everyone in for a two- or three-day sales kickoff. Without data and analytics, sales managers lacked visibility into what was working. With today’s distributed teams, mobile, interactive sales enablement is crucial to training, onboarding and developing sellers.
Takeaway 4: Capturing knowledge that’s created by sellers is essential.
Salespeople have a unique DNA and are inspired by their peers. If a colleague is having great success, even if they’re sitting in Singapore and the rep’s sitting in Thailand, they need to be able to share what they’re doing. When they can see a pitch or a presentation on video and integrate it into their process, it’s empowering and it benefits the organization tremendously.
The companies that are going to be successful as we get deeper into the 21st century are the ones that can course correct in real time. It’s going to be less about analyzing data and analytics that are backward looking, and more about being able to adapt in real time in the flow of things.
Takeaway 5: Sales enablement can overcome unique challenges of distributed sales teams.
Even before the pandemic, many sellers were home-based, remote workers. It’s a lonely, tough job. One of the most powerful capabilities of modern sales enablement is that it can connect people. There’s so many different things that it can do to bring a sales force together culturally.
Another advantage is that it helps prevent brand dilution. The further away your sellers get from each other, the more risk to your brand. Having an enablement solution is essential in a remote situation. If you are in a regulated environment, financial service or life sciences, there are significant implications if sellers aren’t pitching in the right way.
Modern enablement solutions also help heads of sales understand managers’ strengths and weaknesses. Sales leaders can analyze data to understand if sellers are behind on their training or where managers are struggling so they can take action sooner. Enablement platforms provide the support that’s been lacking for those first-line sales managers.
Takeaway 6: Investing in sales enablement technologies yields significant ROI.
Forrester consultants analyzed the ROI for organizations that invested in three enablement tools: sales engagement, sales enablement automation, and sales readiness. For organizations that successfully operationalized those tools, the return on investment was astronomical. Over the course of three years, the ROI was 666%.
They also found other significant benefits. Within 12 months, these companies saw a 20% lift in revenue across the board; an 18% to 20% lift in individual rep sales; and a reduction in new hire ramp times by 25% to 50% depending on the type of company.
Takeaway 7: Don’t delay if you’re not already modernizing your approach.
Organizations without modern sales enablement processes and technology must move quickly to update their approaches. There’s a significant gap between what buyers expect in terms of their experiences and what most sellers are able to deliver. Figure out where you’re going to get the most impact and start there. Build a case, then create a roadmap for how you want to go forward for virtual sales success throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Watch the Complete Interview
Allego CMO Wayne St. Amand interviews Forrester Principal Analyst Mary Shea: Evaluating Sales Training and Accelerating Sales Productivity – A Conversation with Mary Shea.