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the evolution of sales enablement
March 9, 2023

State of the Industry: How the Sales Enablement Market Has Evolved

the evolution of sales enablement


Today’s sales enablement market looks drastically different from the market of 10 years ago. Back then, Allego joined the space with the goal of helping sales teams improve their messaging via video coaching on mobile devices. With that software, tablets became the hot new sales coaching device.

The company’s founders, Yuchun Lee and Mark Magnacca, soon realized, however, that sales organizations need more. In addition to sales coaching, they need onboarding, learning, and sales content. They need a comprehensive sales enablement platform.

This revelation caused the definition of sales enablement to change, led to a revolutionary new way of learning, and pushed the sales enablement market in a new direction.

Yuchun and Mark have experienced a lot since Allego launched in 2013. Recently they shared their observations during a live Q&A, reflecting on what they’ve learned, sharing their thoughts on the current state of sales enablement, and providing a glimpse of what may come.

Here’s a segment from that Q&A:

How the Sales Enablement Market Has Evolved

What was your vision of how the sales enablement market would grow and adapt, and were your predictions accurate?

Yuchun Lee: As a business, we started out in helping organizations fine-tune their sales messaging and gain fluency for all the sellers, leveraging technology such as video and mobile devices. So, video coaching practice is where we began as a business. We quickly realized that sales organizations around the world need a comprehensive solution, not just for video coaching, but also for learning.

The traditional learning method just doesn’t work. There’s a new way of learning that’s more productive, that’s more seller-centric. So, we developed a concept called modern learning that put the seller and the learner at the center and worked backward to the moment of need.

The traditional learning method just doesn’t work. There’s a new way of learning that’s more productive, that’s more seller centric.
– Yuchun Lee, CEO and Co-founder, Allego

And back in 2015, we realized the seller needs not just learning, but also how to leverage content effectively in their communication with buyers. So, we started to map out a strategy for Allego to really capture the opportunity in the market to help businesses better onboard their sellers, better launch products, help sales managers better coach their teams, and better leverage content and messaging across the entire enterprise. That space is what we call sales enablement.

And last year was a pivotal year for us. We’re one of the very few vendors on the leadership wave for sales content management – something we were already on as a top vendor in the learning market.

Allego co-founders Yuchun Lee and Mark Magnacca

Stay Ahead of the Sales Enablement Curve

Watch the full interview to hear Allego co-founders Yuchun Lee and Mark Magnacca share their perspective on challenges facing the sales enablement market, tech trends, and the emergence of collaborative enablement.

Mark Magnacca: When we started Allego, video coaching was a huge problem I personally was trying to solve. So, the ability to use one of these tools, bringing together the power of mobile and the power of video, and being able to digitize things, it really changed the game.

Mobile technology was central to how we at Allego thought about the world. For many of the legacy [sales enablement] providers, that wasn’t true. They had to try to bolt on something that was mobile, and their whole framework was much more what I call the old-school model.

The biggest thing we have done in helping to invent this industry is recognize how people like to learn at work.

Think about how many times in the past you started a new job. The training organization set up some e-learning, and you had to sit in front of a computer and just watch. It probably wasn’t someone you knew, and frankly, it may not have been someone you respected in terms of the subject you were learning.

The biggest thing we have done in helping to invent this industry is recognize how people like to learn at work.
– Mark Magnacca, President and Co-founder, Allego

We at Allego recognize that for most sellers, the most valuable people to learn from are other sellers—particularly sellers who are known and respected in their organization. Where it gets really interesting is recognizing it isn’t always the same people. You might have product lines in your company where there’s one person who’s really good at product A, and there may be someone else who’s really good at product B.

We discovered that a peer-based model, what we now call agile content, is the best model. It allows you to bring in subject matter experts, the best sellers, leaders, and other people across the team so sellers have access to the best ideas when you need them. That’s a completely different model than the old Soviet style command and control, which we wanted to move away from.

The Key to Building a Successful Sales Enablement Business

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in terms of leadership development?

Yuchun Lee: I continue to learn lessons every single day. I made my fair share of mistakes as a CEO. I’ve gone through many upturns and downturns. This downturn, by the way, that we are seeing in the high-tech industry is my sixth recession as a CEO. And I will say one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to focus on people and focus on culture.

The best way to prepare for the economic turbulence we’re seeing is to make sure you have a team and culture that’s ready for this kind of environment before you get into it. So, we at Allego built our company based on our bet, on our team, our people, and also on solid footing as a company.

We don’t believe in raising money to burn through it. We believe in earning our way through success with customers.
— Yuchun Lee, CEO and Co-founder, Allego

We don’t believe building a business is a lottery. We don’t believe in raising money to burn through it. We believe in earning our way through success with customers. That’s how we build our business, and it’s in our core culture. That’s why our customers are happy with us and why we are able to grow the business. That’s fundamental to what we do.

Another lesson I’ve learned is you have to control what you can control. In a downturn, for example, you don’t want to fret about things that result in pushing the rope. You have to think about what you can leverage … and focus on what you have control over.

Mark Magnacca: I didn’t know anything about the software business really when we started 10 years ago. I’ve learned a lot, and I still know only the tip of the iceberg. One thing I’ve learned is just because you have someone who has a successful track record, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed success.

There are two things I have witnessed firsthand from Yuchun about leadership and learning. The first is authenticity. For example, during the pandemic, Yuchun would send out videos of himself every week to the company, directly and honestly telling everyone, “Here’s what we know. Here’s what we don’t know. Here’s how we are trying to solve the problem.”

Those videos built up a huge amount of goodwill around the company. Almost everybody in the company wanted to see what he was saying next because he was really spending time tracking what was going on.

The second lesson is to learn from your mistakes. Yuchun was willing to admit, “I don’t know everything. I’m studying it, but I don’t have all the answers, and we’re going to do the best we can to get through this.” And I think we got through it really, really well.

The second piece that is a fundamental element of our culture is it’s okay to make mistakes. A lot of companies give lip service to the idea, … but we literally celebrate it in our operating principles. Because we know when you make mistakes, that is how you learn. And when you share how you made the mistake, you help someone else avoid doing the same thing.

When growing a business, we know we’re going to make mistakes. We tell people we’re going to make mistakes. But we correct them quickly, and we’re honest about it. That’s been central to creating a culture that brings out the best in people. And that’s something I had not experienced before Yuchun and I worked together.

Why Customer Feedback Is Critical to Improving Sales Enablement

How are you bringing in the voice of the customer to shape your priorities?

Yuchun Lee: We treat feedback from customers very, very seriously. In fact, quite a few key ideas that we have added to our product throughout the last 10 years came from how our customers think about the problem they’re looking to solve. Because they’re experts in their everyday work. We are in the software business, but our job is to translate the customer’s needs to a scalable, maintainable, supportable technology infrastructure that they can use.

But one thing we are very cautious about is we don’t implement features exactly how a customer articulates them. Sometimes our job is to read between the lines and try to get to the heart of the problem our customers are solving and translate that to the right architecture so that the end solution is what the customers actually are looking for.

Our roadmap is very robust and full of feedback from our customers. And if there are features you want really badly and you feel you are not being heard, pound the table and make sure that it’s heard. If not, send me an email directly. I’ve never turned down a meeting with anybody to talk about where we can improve as a business.

Mark Magnacca: Because of Yuchun’s technical background and his management of the development team, I’m free to spend time with our customers. And I do that a lot. So, I get to hear the voice of the customer directly. And often I’m the one who tells Yuchun what our customers are saying.

And as Yuchun just said, his job is to properly interpret what they’re really saying, because sometimes they’re articulating a problem and thinking there’s an immediate solution for their company. But he’s got to be able to abstract that in a way that says, “Well, we can help solve it for their company. But if we do it in this way, we might be able to solve it for the whole industry.”

How Have Sales Enablement Tools Evolved?

Is the sales enablement market shifting to fully integrated platforms? If so, how is Allego positioned in this space?

Yuchun Lee: It’s absolutely going that way, and we are seeing this as a long-term trend. I think the pandemic and the … need to do more with less are accelerants to that trend.

If you roll back three, four years ago, people thought of sales enablement as consisting of a number of components. The sales reps need to be trained when they are onboarded. We need to figure out how to get them coaching. We have to figure out how to help them manage content. And we have to figure out how to measure them and whatnot. So, next thing you know, the seller is accessing half a dozen tools to get their everyday job done. There’s a lot of inefficiencies and complexity that come with that.

The entire industry, I would say, in the last 12 to 18 months has converged on a singular vision. And that vision is a seller shouldn’t have to deal with six, 10 different tools just to get through the day. They want to have as few tools as possible.

We know sellers all use CRM—that’s the basic part of the infrastructure. We know sellers use email. We know sellers use [Microsoft] Office productivity tools like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel.

Beyond that, the seller should have an enablement tool that they go to for learning, coaching, sharing of content, understanding content, practicing, and orchestrating conversations they need to have with their buyer. And as part of that orchestration is where we see that convergence happening, where the orchestration happens—the internal effort to pull together everybody that’s needed to support the buyer’s journey.

Then orchestrate that conversation between the buyer and the seller to make it efficient so that things don’t get lost. That entire platform cannot be sitting on six different tools.

Consolidating tools offers a massive value for a business in terms of complexity reduction, cost reduction, administrative reduction, and ease of use that makes total sense.
— Yuchun Lee, CEO and Co-founder, Allego

Consolidating tools offers a massive value for a business in terms of complexity reduction, cost reduction, administrative reduction, and ease of use that makes total sense. This is why at Allego, our journey has been to develop that end-to-end platform, putting the seller in the middle. And we are recognized in the industry as the easiest tool to use when you need to access all of these pieces.

And by the way, we’re patient. We’re not looking at our customers and saying, “Rip everything out, and put Allego in for all of these pieces.” We’re very patient. We can work openly with other components, competitors even, and make sure that we address just one piece of your critical needs today.

But over time, it’s really important to have the vision to put them all in the single system. It cannot be, “I’m strong here, but weak in those two.” All of the parts have to work. And that’s where, I believe, our ultimate competitive advantage is in the market. We have absolutely the easiest to use tool that can cover all these different areas in the industry right now.

Mark Magnacca: Yuchun is patient, and I generally am not patient. But I have learned about the power of patience. Because I was rattling the cage in 2015, in 2016, in 2017, saying, “We’ve got to do content. We’ve got to do content.” And Yuchun explained to me patiently, “We’re not ready. We’re just not there yet. You need to build a solid foundation so that it will all work.”

And what I’ve seen with other companies who were in a rush is they glommed all this stuff together with duct tape. And now the problem we hear, from customers of ours who use Allego plus another system and in some cases, from prospects who use one of these systems that’s kind of duct-taped together, is it just doesn’t work. This thing they said it would do isn’t working.

The beauty of us having waited to do it right is that the patience paid off because Allego works.

How Has Virtual Selling Affected Sales Enablement?

Has the increase in virtual selling helped or hindered Allego and its sales enablement work?

Yuchun Lee: During the pandemic, Allego experienced a surge of growth, especially in the first six months. This once-in-a-hundred-year event made people realize that not all things need to be done in person. And the entire world found a way to work virtually.

Selling is no different. In fact, we found there is a trade-off between how long it takes to get to know somebody virtually versus how productive you can be in strengthening that relationship over time. Basically, there’s a hurdle in the beginning; it’s harder [to get to know someone]. It’s harder to build rapport and trust virtually.

But once you get over that first hump, you can be incredibly productive as a seller or a service person to build on top of the relationship because guess what? You can take 20 calls a day. You don’t need to fly to one city, doing just two meetings. So, there’s a lot of efficiency that comes with virtual selling.

And the reason Mark and I published the book Mastering Virtual Selling is really a combination of everything that we learned throughout the pandemic and seeing what our customers are doing. It’s about putting the seller and buyer at the center of that experience and figuring out there are more efficient ways that buyers are looking to interact with sellers.

Gartner has research coming out that shows 75% of buyers don’t want to talk to sellers until they get to the final one or two vendors at the end.
— Yuchun Lee, CEO and Co-founder, Allego

Gartner has research coming out that shows that, more than ever, 75% of buyers don’t even want to talk to sellers until they get to the final one or two vendors at the end. That means most of the conversations that sellers need to have with buyers have to be virtual, have to be digital, have to be in a more passive state versus a direct pushing-and-selling approach that many of the sellers out there are used to.

This requires a change of paradigm. What we are sharing with the world around virtual selling is that new paradigm. We’re helping answer questions such as, “How do you put the buyer in the center? How do you be consultative and add as much value as you can as a seller? How do you build trust and differentiate yourself as a trusted partner compared to your competitors? How do you deliver long-term value to the customer?” Our platform helps sellers and selling organizations do this.

Mark Magnacca: If you take just one idea away from the book Mastering Virtual Selling it’s the notion of understanding how to orchestrate frontstage, which is what we’re doing right now: live, synchronous communication, and then how to operate backstage before and after a meeting, what we call asynchronous communication.

Most people think, “Well, I just have to worry about the moment Zoom starts, and then when it ends, it’s over.” And we’re saying, no, no, no. So many experiences are improved by setting the stage before you ever get on Zoom.

We have a number of clients who send a short introduction video in advance of a call with a buyer. Sometimes they’ll send a video introducing four or five people, for example, before the call begins. And then they can spend more time getting to know one another during the meeting because they’ve already done the introduction.

What we’re seeing is when you have this mindset of orchestration, you can do things that other people can’t do. And that’s why I would say there’s no question in my mind that the pandemic accelerated for us and the whole industry the use of the frontstage, backstage model—and it’s never going back to what we did in 2019.

It’s not that there won’t be in-person meetings because, of course, that’s already happening. But meetings will have a visual video component [to accommodate people who can’t attend in person]. From a presentation standpoint, people have to be fluent in presenting and meeting on camera and in person. That skillset is one of the most important things that sales enablement leaders and professionals can help their teams develop.

Learn More About the State of the Sales Enablement Market:

Watch the full Q&A with Allego founders Yuchun Lee and Mark Magnacca to hear how sales enablement platforms are evolving to meet sales organizations’ needs.

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