The Reality of Sales Enablement

August 6, 2014 John Gorup

salesworld

Even at successful companies, the Sales Force Automation (SFA) system can be a chaotic mess. Sales reps use Campaigns, Leads, Account Plans, Opportunities, Forecasts inconsistently when they use them at all. Making matters worse, the most successful sales reps often have the least accountability when it comes to using the SFA system. Sales managers and system administrators face a frustrating problem getting users just to use the system.

As if encouraging the basic use of an SFA system is not enough, administrators are now asked to provide Sales Enablement. Sales Enablement has become a hot topic these days, and for good reason. It is clear that providing a system to keep better track of sales is not enough. Information about products and services is often complicated and scattered in various locations. As time goes on, this information decays in what what Kristen Sanders calls “Digital Landfills.”

But how exactly should companies think about Sales Enablement? Forrester Research’s Scott Santucci recently produced a useful report titled Clarity Is Key To Sale Enablement which helps answer that question. In the report, Santucci describes Sales enablement as “a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.”

In breaking down this definition, we get a clearer picture of the reality of Sales Enablement:

A process. Sales Enablement is a process, not a piece of software. There is an increasing number of fine Sales Enablement applications on the market. But Administrators should see Sales Enablement applications as a part of a holistic process, not just a tool to install.

Valuable conversations with customers. The SFA system is how conversations with customers are tracked, while Sales Enablement is the way to make these conversations valuable. Keeping information clear, current, and valuable is where Knowledge Management meets marketing, and needs to be an ongoing process.

Customer’s problem-solving life cycle. Despite the name, Sales Enablement is more about the customer than the sales team. Companies need to focus the process on the customer experience from start to finish. This means giving the sales team the ability to solve customer problems at each stage of the sales cycle. Forrester’s Kate Leggett writes in her report The Modern CRM: “Too many CRM initiatives fail because they focus on siloed, internal strategies within the marketing, sales, or support organization. As a result, CRM efforts miss key moments that matter to customers.” A Sales Enablement process needs to focus on how the customer experiences the sale cycle, more than how the sale rep experiences it.

Return on Investment. Modern, mobile-ready SFA systems are expensive. If an SFA system becomes an Excel spreadsheet in the cloud, companies will lose their return on their investment. Instituting a Sales Enablement process will pay off for organizations.

Knowledge Management is to Service as Sales Enablement is to Sales. Both Knowledge Management and Sales Enablement are processes that take time and effort, but turn basic systems into customer happiness platforms.

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