"Sales enablement is quickly becoming common practice. Research from a sales enablement poll shows an increase in organizations with the sales enablement, functions, persons or programmes.
"We're up from 55% in 2009, to 74% of organizations having a sales enablement function in 2021. Clearly, we're getting a few things right.
"There's also a big shift around the amount of organizations where enablement reports into a revenue leader, and this has increased sevenfold year to year. This shows an understanding of sales enablement and its linkage to revenue and results.
"According to research from Demand Metric, 75% of the companies they surveyed reported that sales enablement made “a moderate or significant contribution to the achievement of revenue goals”.
"How can sales enablement create sustainable revenue growth, and how do you prove it? Beyond metrics, how does sales enablement deliver value that contributes to this sustainable growth now and also into the future?"
These are some of the topics this article will explore.
During our fantastic Sales Enablement Festival in October 2021, Georgia Watson, Enablement & Skills Transformation Lead at IBM, led a panel discussion all about why sales enablement is the key to sustainable revenue growth with three industry experts:
- Theo Davies, Head of Cloud Enablement J/APAC at Google
- Mariana Gastaldello, Head of Culture, Learning & Sales Enablement at TikTok
- Simon Wong, Head of Sales Operations and Enablement at BytePlus
Check out the discussion’s highlights below, and if you want OnDemand access to every talk from every SEC event, become an SEC member today.
What are your insights around the balancing act of metrics, measurements, and keeping things creative?
Google in general is a very data-driven organization and we always want to have metrics, but there's an opacity when it comes to measuring the direct impact that enablement has on revenue, on actually closing deals and on pipeline.
How do we solve that issue? I'm doing my executive MBA at the moment and my thesis is on measuring sales enablement.
When you review academia, there’s no consistent or significant research out there on this so you end up either looking at lagging or leading indicators.
My team is very driven by this question: “What is the customer satisfaction score?” Is there any difference in confidence in the learning? Then you can look at return, not only return on investment (ROI), but also return on expectation (ROE) of your stakeholders.
What are your thoughts around engagement and the tee up culture?
In the last few years, Covid changed the whole engagement landscape. The impact Covid has had on engagement, not just with our customers, but with our sales teams and sales leaders, is significant. We can’t go for a coffee, or fly over to England and go for a quick chat anymore.
When it comes to engagement, a big factor is the digitalization of our current tools and systems. In sales enablement, one-on-one relationships are quite important and in order to get better at it we have to introduce some tools and systems, such as online conference tools or also recording certain conversations and calls.
To add to Simon's point, Covid came to completely shake the way we live, the way we work, the way we manage our personal and professional lives. This triggers a very important point to consider.
When it comes to revenue growth, we can’t forget about people.
This is why it’s essential to discuss culture nowadays. Thinking from a sales enablement perspective, if we equip our sellers with the tools, the metrics and the right kind of engagement, we can make an impact on the business.
Research recently conducted in the US said that 40% of people are planning on quitting their job in the next three to six months because they don't feel valuable, and they don't resonate with the company.
If we don't work on the foundation in the company, which is building a robust culture, giving accountability to the sales team, and giving our sales team the opportunity to co-create with us sales enablement leaders and marketeers, in the future we'll be missing an excellent opportunity.
Culture is essential to Google and famously so globally. What I've seen with sales enablement and with sales is that it's really about cooperation and collaboration, which is baked into Google's tools.
In this day and age, it's critical to build partnerships in the programs created for the fields, in sales enablement to get an impact.
A short example is when I started early in April last year at Cloud at Google, one of the programs I built with my senior stakeholders and our sellers was a sales pitch competition we did entirely virtually.
We made it really exciting with the use of video and a lot of prizes, trophies and badges as a way to gamify things.
Collaboration and partnership was essential here, and I couldn’t have done it without the creative ideas of the field and baking those in together with the sponsorship of the projection of the entire programme.
I'm a huge advocate for innovation, and particularly in sales.
We all need to continually evolve and create new approaches if we want to have impact.
To achieve this, we as enablers need the right environment and we need to create it for ourselves. From an enabling innovation perspective, we need more and more information about how much of an imperative innovation is to our businesses, and also to our clients' businesses.
What is the future of sales enablement and revenue growth with the use of technology?
One of the most important things for businesses is looking at using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions to get the relevant data and to understand certain competency levels.
Individual sellers have ways to build, there's no framework in how you engage with them. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of individuals is absolutely key to coach and mentor our sales team, especially now that everything is done online.
The way we use AI in learning, I love it. We can do a lot with technology but there still needs to be a human element to it. We all know the value of having this coaching as part of our culture.
I wanted to share some examples around design thinking, this is my other love aside from enablement.
We all know that nobody likes to be sold to, we're all happy to buy, but we don't want to have that pushy salesperson selling to us. We want someone who is adding value and helping us reach our goal. We always talk about client- or customer-centricity, but do we all have a really customer focused approach? I don't know.
Sellers need to serve the audience to add maximum value if they want to have an impact. One way sellers can do this is by utilizing design thinking.
When sellers use design thinking methods while collaborating with clients, it gives this feeling that sellers are there to serve them. They don't show up talking about the company's value proposition or the latest data from Gartner.
They don't show up just repeating the same things, they come listening, clarifying, and to understand the client's goals, their problems, their organizational structure, so “it's not selling it’s serving” is a great way to open the door and change the whole game.
CSO insights did a study and found that 88% of buyers agree that the salespeople they want to buy from are seen as trusted advisors.
You have to have that relationship and deep understanding of the client, and then also your expertise.
Applying this design thinking framework can be a way to help build relationships to get to that trusted advisor position.
What's next for the future of enablement and sustainable revenue growth?
Value is an important component we need to consider when we think about the future of sales enablement. From my experience, if we look back at the journey of sales enablement, value for sales enablement was around, at least in my case, communications and communicating well with our sellers.
When I joined sales enablement, it was part of the communications team so the value then was making sure we accurately communicated with sellers.
A few years later, things changed. My value was based on how well I managed to train my team, and made sure that they knew how to sell a product.
Now, value for sales enablement is linked to revenue. If we make sure we equip our sales team with the right tools and information and if we’re able drive revenue growth, then our sales enablement metrics are considered good. Consider this and my previous statement about culture.
For me, the future of sales enablement is really about people and culture.
If we manage to not only trigger revenue growth, but also retain, motivate and engage our sales team, and create a long lasting relationship in partnership with our sales team, that will be really powerful.
What is some key advice you have around sales enablement and creating revenue?
We should ask ourselves: What is sales enablement, really? If you aren't able to explain something as a process, you don't really understand it fully. We have to divide it into its component parts such as sales skills, opposite sales operations, the product, operational excellence, culture, and so forth.
Now, each of those should have a weighting in your organization. Which of those lines do you need to focus on upgrading to help your company and your team perform at that optimal level?
There is also a danger that everything can be seen as sales enablement in one form or another and people come to me for all kinds of requests. I always try to help even if it's outside of my jurisdiction.
What is the low hanging fruit? What is one project you could really go big on, tying in these ideas? I recommend taking that step back first, think strategically, ask those questions, put it all on paper and really think “what is one program that could really make a difference”.
My journey was a little bit different. I came from Telstra, a telecommunication organization where they viewed sales enablement as more of a training function. In other words, understanding the product, then translating the product into a process document, and then go and train.
Over the years, sales enablement in general, I see as the glue between your different teams.
You require a lot of skills because you're balancing so many things in enablement these days.
We have so many different products, from AI, ML to cloud and so forth, it's not as easy as you think when it comes to enablement to understand these solutions to the point where you can have conversations with the sales leaders in different regions and in a different market world.
There's something very important to keep in mind, which I learned throughout my career, and that’s to be seller-centric on top of being buyer-centric.
Understanding the buyer’s needs is important, but we need to understand our sellers first because they are our primary audience when it comes to sales enablement strategy.
Sales enablement is much more a strategy than a piece of execution because it's a consolidation of understanding the market, understanding the business needs of your clients and understanding your sellers.
When I joined TikTok a few months ago, the first thing I did was listen. We can’t, as sales enablement professionals, just plug and play our previous experience to the next company without understanding the basics without understanding the sellers scenario.
Also respect the maturity level of the company and your sales team. This is very important because you can have 10 years of experience in one company, but when you move to another department or when you move to another company, you need to understand where the company is in terms of buyer engagement and in terms of sales approach.
To sum up, my advice is to be seller-centric, and understand the maturity level of your company and of your sales team.
Research shows us that the more closely aligned sales enablement goals and efforts are to revenue leaders, the better chance we have of achieving these goals.
We also know that revenue alignment improves customer experience so make sure your strategy is aligned to these people's goals and you need to be going for the right target.
Another important point is that what you're doing now, what you did last year, what you did 10 years ago is not necessarily going to continue to work.
We have to continually change and evolve. I'd encourage all of you to shake the status quo and think of doing some things differently. Maybe take a risk, do it on a smaller scale and test it, it could fail or it could be a huge success in driving massive amounts of revenue, but you have to take that little risk.
To sum up, my advice is to make sure you prioritize what you do, focusing on what really matters for your organization and where you can most drive revenue. The second thing is to be brave, try something new.
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