Sales Enablement Will Drive CRM Investment in 2016
This new catalyst for developers leverages the power of technology across many disciplines
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While attending Dreamforce this year, with 170,000 of my closest friends, I couldn't help but be blown away by the vast number of CRM solution providers exhibiting at the conference. Here you had hundreds of technology firms all planning on being the next big thing in the CRM world. But that sheer number of technology developers left me wondering, "What could be the catalyst that drives more organizations to invest in more technology to empower all those sales teams?"

In reflecting back on the results of the CSO Insights 2015 Sales Performance Optimization (SPO) survey, which involved more than a thousand companies worldwide, a serious contender emerged for motivating significant CRM investments in the coming year. What that study found was that 25.5 percent of the firms surveyed have implemented a sales enablement department within their company, and another 6.7 percent plan to do so in 2016.

It is important to clarify that we are not talking about sales operations here; sales enablement is a unique function. My colleague Tamara Schenk held the position of vice president of Sales Enablement at T-Systems International GmbH before joining CSO Insights. To support the implementation of sales enablement at T-Systems, Tamara managed an annual budget of €7 million. The following is her definition of what this emerging aspect of sales support entails:

Sales Force Enablement: A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training, and coaching services for salespeople and front-line sales managers along the entire customer journey, powered by technology.

Tamara and I recently collaborated on CSO Insights' first Sales Enablement Optimization (SEO) study, gathering more than 85 metrics from more than 300 companies worldwide. A key trend from that research project was that sales enablement teams are taking the final phrase in the above definition—powered by technology—very seriously. To enhance the capabilities of their core CRM systems, companies are planning to make additional sales enablement investments in five key areas, the SEO study found.

Collaboration. This includes tools to foster communications and content creation between sales enablement and other functional areas, including sales operations, product marketing, training, product management, lead management, customer support, IT, finance, and so on.

Tech-enabled training. Mobile learning, e-Learning, gamification, and computer-based simulations are among the methods companies will use to deliver, enforce, and reinforce training on value messaging, ROI/justification, customer journeys, social engagement, etc.

Content management. This area includes systems for consolidating, sharing, and measuring the effectiveness of all of the internal tools (competitive battle cards, strategic account plans, guided selling scripts, etc.) and customer-facing sales tools (product collateral, presentations, proposals, etc.) that sales teams need to effectively sell.

Virtual coaching. This includes tools to augment and enhance the one-on-one coaching and mentoring that salespeople get from their manager in the form of technology-enablement interactive playbooks and mobile-based precision guided selling systems.

Analytics. These investments are intended to beef up technology that mines data from internal applications such as CRM, ERP, customer support, etc., as well as external data sources, to create insights for now to more effectively compete in the marketplace going forward.

How are companies going to justify these new CRM investments? Going back to the SPO study, we found that the average overall revenue performance attainment for firms that have already jumped on the sales enablement bandwagon was 10.2 percent higher than firms that have yet to establish this functional area within their organization. If CRM vendors can clearly show that they help sales enablement groups optimize sales team performance, those vendors will find an ever-increasing group of takers for their solutions.

Jim Dickie, a research fellow at CSO Insights, a Division of MHI Global, specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales transformation initiatives. He can be reached at jim.dickie@csoinsights.com.

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