Sales enablement is the function that enables sellers to be more effective in their role. That is a broad definition and an ambitious goal. Nevertheless, sales enablement is one of the most critical functions in a sales organization. According to a report by CSO insights, 59.2% of companies now have a person devoted entirely to sales enablement.
Sales enablement departments are being more formalized and the number of sales enablement professionals are growing as well. The debate as to what specifics fall under sales enablement are still being debated and figured out. What is the role of sales enablement in the tech stack? Should sales enablement be simply relegated to product and skills training? Who does sales enablement report up to?
Amidst all the confusion, the simple fact that sales enablement is supposed to help sales people be better should not be forgotten. In fact, sales people need more help than ever to ensure they are successful in their role. Here are two reasons why sales enablement will be critical in 2020 and beyond.
Rising Customer Expectations
According to research by the Gallup Organization, customers have four levels of expectations from their vendors. The first level is mere accuracy but at the highest levels, customers expect advice. Customers feel a very strong bond and remain loyal customers if they feel like the seller and their company has helped the customer to learn and grow.
This trend of customer expectations is particularly significant for sales professionals. B2B and B2G products and services are getting increasingly complex. Almost all the information a potential buyer wants about the product can also be found online. Therefore, it is no longer enough to know a lot about a product or the industry. In an increasingly complex environment, customers want their sales people to be consultants. They are looking to gain insight and valuable advice from the vendor they ultimately partner with.
Providing information is nothing more than presentation skills but being an insightful seller involves a myriad of skills that need to be mastered. These skills are not intuitive therefore, sales enablement has to step in and help fill that gap. They need to make sure that sales reps are getting the sort of training they need to be consultative in their sales process. These customer expectations are not dying down anytime soon so this will be a critical role for sales enablement in 2020 and beyond.
As mentioned above, customers have rising expectations. One of the things that is fueling this rise in expectations is the availability of information. According to research by Forrester, 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before ever speaking with a sales rep. This trend means that sellers must be insightful and consultative during the sales process- information is now a commodity.
Technology is also holding sales people more accountable. If a customer or a potential buyer has a bad experience, they are able to leave reviews online or post on social media about their bad experiences. A bad sales interaction, can make an entire company look bad.
Artificial Intelligence is also posing a threat to the sales profession. Companies have to meet customers when they are ready to start thinking about a purchasing decision. This means websites have to be ready to capitalize when prospects visit for research. There are still sales professionals interacting with these prospects and responding to inbound chats. However, this task of converting visitors on a website to a lead is being relegated to technology. AI tools can learn and become smarter over time. There is no reason why AI chat bots in the future won’t be able to provide personalized and helpful experience.
Technology presents a three pronged challenge to sales professionals: customers have more information, a bad sales interaction becomes public information, and AI technology is chipping away at tasks in a sales organization. None of these trends are going to slow down. This puts tremendous pressure on sales reps to perform at an exceptional level. Sales enablement is the function that is and will be critical in helping sellers meet these challenges.
Complexity of Sales Cycles is Only Rising
These trends of customer expectations and technology are on an upward trajectory. Sellers need skills beyond information sharing. They need to be able to provide value to their potential customers before a deal is ever signed. This is possible if the seller can provide insights and valuable advice throughout the sales cycle and beyond. This requires skills that are not intuitive and must be learned deliberately. This is the realm of sales enablement and is the reason why this function can not be ignored moving forward.