In the start of the last decade, enablement was happening all around us - but it was usually handled by a variety of people, meant different things at each place, and rarely existed as a separate function. Today, enablement is a hot buzzword. But even more, it is considered a vital function and increasingly strategic partner for organizations that want to stay competitive. Like any new business function, enablement is also maturing and evolving. With the new year and new decade dawning, here are the trends we see for 2020:
1. ) Enablement will continue to grow slowly but steadily.
Three years ago, there was a meteoric spike in companies that had adopted enablement, from 32.7% in 2016 to 59.2% in 2017. Since then, according to CSO Insight’s Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study, the growth has been slower but still steady. While 61% of companies reported having an enablement person, initiative or function in 2018, that number rose slightly, to 61.3%, in 2019.
Yet enablement continues to pack a powerful punch in terms of performance—especially for win rates on forecast deals. The same study showed that organizations that have adopted sales enablement reported an average win rate of 49%, significantly higher than the 42.5% win rate for companies without. The message is clear: Enablement continues to present an opportunity for companies that want a competitive edge.
2.) The smartest companies will make enablement enticing and fun.
No one wants to sit through a boring PowerPoint presentation to learn how to do his or her job more efficiently. “One of the biggest trends I am seeing has a lot to do with engagement and getting people excited about training and making it fun,” says WorkRamp Customer Success Manager, Monica Duran. “The customers that are killing it are providing incentives to make people want to do these things.” Duran points to one customer who offered a $500 gift card to the employee that had the greatest success at a particular challenge. Another customer engaged employees by creating trainings that were visually exciting, using vibrant colors and tools such as flip-cards, call-out cards and hotspot questions.
Duran also recently spoke to a customer who attended an out-of-town training in which people played games that were so entertaining that “it only dawned on everyone after about an hour that it was actually a training.”
Trust us, your employees will thank you if you make this fun.
3.) Content strategy and high-quality content will take center stage.
People judge your organization by the content it produces, whether it’s outward facing marketing collateral or internal content used for trainings. Every touchpoint with a customer – whether that be an interaction with sales or a piece of collateral – helps them build a perception and relationship with your brand. Customers and employees grow frustrated when content is low quality or lacks a cohesive message. The best organizations have begun to understand this. To stay competitive, they know they need to have a content strategy in place.
“The biggest thing I tell people is to take their time and think about your structure,” says Duran. “Even if it takes you four hours to determine how you want to structure this, all of that is going to pay off in the end.” You want your content to tell a story, one that flows and makes sense, and is the same whether it is told by the sales or marketing department. You also need it to support your broader business objectives even as the product or service continues to change. Thoughtful content doesn’t need to be overhauled constantly.
A content strategy is likely to pay off in higher revenues. According to the CSO Insights study, sales organizations with a content strategy in place have 27.1% higher win rates and 18.1% higher quota attainment.
4.) The best B2B companies will adopt an increasingly customer-centered approach.
Every good sales team knows that to make sales, they have to understand their buyer’s needs. What are their pain points? What problems are they trying to solve? Why are they purchasing from your organization? How can I speak their language and show them that I can be a strategic business partner?
To increase sales, companies are tailoring their internal enablement and selling processes to align with the customer’s journey, from the marketing lead to the signed deal. An aligned approach increases win rates by 17.9% and quota attainment by 11.8%. Yet, according to CSO Insights, only 19% of the businesses surveyed said they were in “dynamic alignment” with their customer’s journey. If you aren’t aligning with your customer’s journey, you’re missing out on opportunities to make sales.
5.) AI could radically transform sales enablement.
First: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not going to eliminate the need for human sales reps any time soon. But AI could transform sales enablement more than almost any other process in your organization. According to an article in Forbes, AI can help marketing teams identify the most promising new leads and quantify how likely they are to close on deals. When marketing surfaces this information in a sales enablement platform, reps then have a better chance of closing on their leads.
What does this look like in real life? Sales teams that augment their processes with AI are able to increase their leads and appointments by more than 50%, reduce costs by 40 to 60% and reduce call times by 60 to 70%. That means sales managers and reps can spend more time with customers and less on boring, time-consuming tasks.
6.) Data, content and enablement will be integrated into one platform.
Sales reps often store content in three to six different locations, which wastes time and makes them less efficient. If they do not have access to the most up-to-date information (say, from the marketing team), they will lose credibility or misrepresent their message, which could result in a missed sale.
Smart companies are now integrating the tools that sales, marketing and customer success teams use into one platform, so everyone can quickly view and distribute important data. “People want a one-stop shop,” says Duran. “They want a platform that does it all.” As a result, employees can access a comprehensive view of the data along every step of the customer’s journey and the more that AI comes in to play, the more this information will be tailored to that exact role, industry, and sales cycle.
7.) The most effective enablement will include personalized learning.
Onboarding employees at scale often means a one-size-fits-all approach to training. That approach doesn’t take into account the different personalities, life experiences and learning styles of each employee. A more enlightened alternative is personalized training at scale.
Duran points to one of her customers, who personalizes his trainings to every individual. “He has 10 major skill sets that everyone should have for sales, for example,” she says. “When you go through his training, he is able to tell that ‘this person is weak in public speaking’ or ‘this person needs more organizational skills’ and then he has a path to strengthen every one of those skills.” Once he has determined where employees need help, he has them do additional training and tests them again for growth.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Duran, “but if you can pull it off, it will help your team big time.”