Required Reading: How to Master Sales Enablement

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In the digital age, buyers come fully informed about companies’ offerings—as well as those of their competitors. For this reason, companies need a new sales approach to differentiate their products. That’s the premise of Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip, and Empower a World-Class Sales Force, which asserts that sales enablement is essential for companies to distinguish themselves from the competition. Associate Editor Sam Del Rowe spoke with Byron Matthews, president and CEO of Miller Heiman Group, who co-authored the book with Tamara Schenk, research director at CSO Insights, to find out more about sales enablement and how it can empower companies.

CRM magazine: What kind of research did you do for this book?

Byron Matthews: This book combines unique industry research from Miller Heiman Group’s research division (CSO Insights), real case studies, proven methodology, and expert insight based on my co-author’s and my combined 48 years in the sales industry. Together, we were able to produce the first complete blueprint to achieving sales enablement.

What are some of the major ways that the sales arena has changed over the years?

First and foremost, the modern demands of the business buyer have drastically outpaced the methods of the average business seller of today. Business buyers are growing [accustomed] to the seamless experience of online purchasing. They’re used to the consumption of bite-size content via social channels, one-click purchasing, and useful product recommendations, so it can be frustrating not to receive the same conveniences in their B2B environments. 

But there are also macro forces impacting the sales arena, such as the emerging middle class, increased urbanization, productivity, the aging workforce, and invisible sector boundaries.

On a micro level, the industry is facing a greater number of buyers involved in the sales process, with the path to purchase becoming more formalized and drawn out as a result. As buying teams grow and the politics involved in the decision-making process increases, sales teams are inevitably stretched too thin, unable to maintain the same level of service and attention to detail they once were. 

How do you define sales enablement, and why is it important?

In the book, we define sales force enablement as “a strategic, collaborative discipline designed to increase predictable sales results by providing consistent, scalable enablement services that allow customer-facing professionals and their managers to add value in every customer interaction.”

For those still determining if sales enablement is a smart investment for their organizations, I suggest looking at the returns. Companies that have implemented enablement programs attain revenue goals at a rate more than 8 percent higher than those that do not. That is a multibillion-dollar difference for most Fortune 500 companies. 

What are the key elements of sales enablement, and how can they improve companies’ sales strategies?

The most robust of sales enablement programs are multifaceted. There should be enablement services, comprised of content, training, and coaching, and the inner workings of enablement (collaboration, technology, operations, and measurement). 

If your organization only has the resources to get one area of sales enablement off the ground, a great place to start is with your coaching services. Coaching services provide sales managers with the content, tools, and training they need to successfully guide sales professionals through their day-to-day activities. Not to mention, both content and training services require coaching to ensure the services are implemented and adopted appropriately. 

If you can do it all, creating an enablement charter is a great next step after you’ve received leadership buy-in for sales enablement. 

What’s the outlook for sale enablement?

Just five years ago, sales enablement was only being used by 19 percent of companies. By 2017, adoption rates jumped to 59 percent. As buyer expectations continue to evolve faster than salespeople can keep up, sales enablement is what will be the difference between staying competitive or being left behind.

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