A new year is coming, and with it, new opportunities for embracing ways to sell smarter and sell better. And it starts with sales enablement.
Sales enablement has “moved from the margins to the mainstream,” according to an executive summary report from CSO Insights. In 2013, fewer than 20% of companies worldwide were dedicating resources to this key facet of industry excellence. In 2017, closer to 59% had begun incorporating target sales enablement strategies into their practices.
The goal of sales enablement is a simple one: build a better sales team. How companies do this varies, and so do the outcomes. The most successful sales enablement strategies are the ones that incorporate lessons from the past with key insights into sales’ evolving future. As you look ahead to 2019, here are some of guiding principles you’ll want to incorporate into your sales training efforts.
1. Align sales with marketing
Sales and marketing are two departments working toward the same objectives, so doesn’t it make sense that they work together? Companies where sales and marketing are tightly aligned experience a 67% higher probability that marketing-generated leads will lead to sales. Among B2B companies, sales-marketing alignments also result in 24% faster revenue growth over three years and 27% faster profit growth over three years.
To boost sales velocity with sales enablement, start by correctly defining your team. While your marketing workforce might not be on the front line of deals, they play a crucial – and often underappreciated – role in your ultimate sales success. Form a united front with sales and marketing and you should see more sales, faster growth, and a team that can withstand market forces as they continue to change.
2. Measure, manage, improve
In the age of data-driven sales, it’s not enough to only focus on your ROI. You have to look big picture with your sales and marketing impact analytics, optimizing your sales enablement training for your organization’s most critical metrics. These include everything from content usage and quota attainments to the average length of the sales cycle and win/loss rates against your competitors. Use these measurements to manage your sales enablement strategy and, ultimately, to improve your overall sales.
Your individual sales training statistics need to be at the heart of your enablement efforts, since what your sales team learns is just as important as how they learn it. If you’re worried about tackling the analytics, look into KPI software tools that can do it for you. Domo, Yellowfin, and Looker are all good places to start.
3. Meet your sales team where they’re at
The sales workforce is becoming increasingly remote, and sales enablement training that takes place in a boardroom over the course of a couple of days isn’t going to cut it anymore. Instead, training leaders need to think outside the office space, designing custom courses that are crafted to how sales teams work and not the other way around. Mobile sales enablement training, timely video content delivered right to employee inboxes, interactive online courses, and other innovative methods empower sales teams to learn more organically and effectively.
There’s more to tailoring your training to your team’s learning styles and lifestyles than just convenience. Encouraging them to read training materials out loud on their own time instead of reading it to them or handing it to them to quickly look over during a meeting, for example, can provide between a 5% and 15% boost in their learning speed (Inc.)
4. Let the customer guide you
The future of successful sales enablement is guided by the customer. Or rather, successful sales enablement has always been guided by the customer, but organizations have been slow to catch on. Fifty-four percent of sales organizations fail to formally align their sales processes with their customers’ journeys, but those who do make the customer the guiding force report quota attainment rates of 14% greater than average (CSO Insights).
What does customer-lead sales enablement look like? Simply put, it’s aligning your training with your customers’ behavior. And specifically, how they make decisions. Customer behaviors vary from stage to stage of the sales funnel. The more you understand about your customer at each stage, the better you can target your sales tactics to facilitate certain outcomes. Whether you need to revive stalled deals, boost your lead generation, or eke out a competitive advantage in the post-purchase period, your customers are the greatest sources of information and their behaviors are the first place you should be looking when optimizing your sales enablement strategy.
5. Bring on the AI
There’s a new member you should be adding to your sales enablement team in 2019 if you haven’t already: an AI assistant. Artificial intelligence is the next frontier in smarter sales, and can help your team improve everything from the way they qualify and communicate with leads to the products that they recommend, all while saving time and boosting productivity.
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If AI and machine learning sound a little bit too ahead-of-the-curve for you, keep in mind that these technologies are the future of sales—whether you resist them or not. Your best bet is to get on board now, placing special emphasis on the role of AI in your sales enablement training and its growing role as a fundamental player in driving data-based sales. The sooner you integrate AI into your training, the better off you’ll be when it becomes a true staple of sales culture
Every year provides us with additional ways to grow and improve. As you prepare for 2019, embrace sales enablement as an integral part of your organization’s success, approaching it not as just another thing on the to-do list but as an opportunity to lead your sales team toward the achievement of bigger and better goals. Technology can help you get there, as can smarter alignment of the people and processes that guide customers through the sales journey. The future of sales enablement starts now—are you ready for it?
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