Why Sales Enablement Matters

When a CEO defines a company's strategic goals and sets growth aspirations, it's imperative that the rest of the organization is aligned to execute those goals to achieve success. But often, there is a gap between the strategic goals and the buying decisions that drive revenue. Part of this gap is the responsibility of the sales team, as they're standing directly between these strategic initiatives and the organization's customers. However, it's time for companies to own up and admit that the salesperson is not the problem, but rather, it's the company's ability (or inability) to enable that seller that may be. Ask yourself, are we effectively driving these initiatives through this gap? Too often, the answer is no. 

Consider these sobering statistics:

  • According to the Harvard Business Review, 70 percent of growth initiatives fail.
  • Only one in five CRM systems actually increases revenue (CSO Insights, 2011).
  • The misalignment in sales and marketing is causing the typical company to underperform by 10 percent in annual revenue (IDC, 2011).

These are disturbing statistics for any business. For this reason, sales enablement has emerged as a frequent conversation in the boardrooms and in the executive offices. Businesses need to close the growth gap to stay competitive, and sales enablement is the pathway companies are using to make it happen.

Now consider this statistic:

While Fortune 500 companies have averaged a 7.8 percent annual growth rate over the past ten years (with 2002 and 2009 excluded due to the events of September 11, 2011, and the financial crisis of 2008), companies that report having a strong sales enablement program are witnessing 15.3 percent growth, according to the SAVO Maturity Model..

Companies that can proactively identify barriers within their sales execution are going to witness greater growth than those lacking such insight.

Defining Sales Enablement
Before we dive into the importance of sales enablement in 2012, we need to define what we're talking about. What is sales enablement? The category was previously defined as simple tools or technologies that were used by individual sales professionals to sell more proficiently. Sales enablement has evolved into a broader corporate strategy embedded in multiple departments with a singular driving force: to achieve revenue initiatives by harnessing the resources and knowledge of the collective enterprise to support sellers.

When such a strategy is integrated with a CRM system, organizations can achieve a 360-degree view of customer information to determine the best course of action in every step of the selling process. This view empowers sellers across the entire lead-to-cash process, powering collaborative sales asset management for acquiring and developing customers and accelerating deals through the pipeline. 

But for the most part, this process is falling short. None of the executives interviewed by IDC rated their sales enablement capabilities as "highly effective." The reality is that most businesses are guilty of committing "random acts of sales enablement." This is marked by giving your sellers just enough information to be minimally effective without implementing a cohesive strategy designed to align different activities within the organization to optimize the chance of achieving corporate initiatives.  

Why Sales Enablement in 2012?
During a recent SAVO Webinar poll regarding companies' 2012 growth initiatives, more than 75 percent of respondents indicated cross-selling and/or solution selling as their top priority, followed by new product launches and new markets.  SAVO's poll also reported that 70 percent of respondents said their greatest sales challenge to closing their revenue gap was effective sales process execution, followed by consistent messaging (53 percent) and organizational alignment (41 percent).

The results from this poll outline common problems associated with the aforementioned "random acts of sales enablement." A mature sales enablement model is about aligning everything that impacts enterprise initiatives, technology investments, and expertise, and ultimately links corporate programs to sales execution and revenue.

Cross-Selling—a Heightened Priority
Let's take a closer look at how sales enablement can help a company maximize its revenue potential.

Adding a new line of products or extending the introduction of existing products to an existing sales team is just the start. How are you arming your sales team to sell the new products? The traditional approach consisted of a quick training program, a few brochures on the new product(s), a couple of presentation slides, and a wish of good luck on the way out the door. This approach has proven unsuccessful and is a contributing reason why there's a gap between strategic initiatives (cross-selling) and revenue (closing sales).

Sales enablement helps maximize every opportunity for cross-sell and upsell by delivering timely and relevant information, when it's appropriate during the sales opportunity. This means brand-compliant materials with the latest information on new products, on demand, based on the unique selling situation. It also reinforces the broader strategic picture—how do these products fit into the broader portfolio and why should your customer care?

Toward a Holistic Strategy
Regardless of what your growth priorities might be for 2012, to become a part of the 15.3 percent growth statistic noted above, it's imperative that you stake out a higher ground for sales enablement. However, remember that random acts don't have the power to transform your corporate success. To close the growth gap, you need a sales enablement approach that is strategic, global, purpose-driven toward specific business goals, and continually measured to optimize the return on your investment.

Kurt Andersen is the executive vice president of sales enablement at SAVO, where he helps clients develop a strategic vision for sales enablement, compelling business cases, and the efficient positioning of products and services to achieve their critical business initiatives. Previously, he served as vice president of sales and marketing at NovaQuest LLC and as vice president of industry solutions at SupplyScape Corporation, a leading software provider to the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry.


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