Conversations today are not moving buyers to action. Sales cycles are longer by 30-50%. The number of leads required to close a deal have increased by 50-100%. More deals are ending in "no decision." And importantly, fully one of three deals is lost due to factors within the control of the sales person.
Executives tell us that they are counting on sales enablement to address this decline in sales productivity (2009 Tech Sales Barometer: Remaining Optimistic in a Down Economy). However, in working with many companies on their sales enablement initiatives, we have identified a common (and unsettling) theme.
For most companies, sales enablement is not about changing the conversation reps are having with prospects and customers. Instead, many, perhaps most sales enablement projects focus on streamlining sales communications or reducing duplication of efforts between sales and marketing, or better management of marketing resources.
For these companies, it's all about internal processes -- ensuring that your 12,000 marketing resources, so painstakingly developed, at great cost, currently unleveraged, are more readily available to the sales organization. It's all about marketing doing a better job supporting sales. It's all about sales operations building more streamlined processes.
Those are all important goals and initiatives, but in 2009, in this challenging economy, the primary need in the sales organization is to create a qualitatively better experience for the individual customer or prospect. It's not about efficiencies or cost reduction. Your sales enablement initiative must primarily focus on changing the conversation (outwardly focused) rather than on streamlining sales communications or implementing a MRM platform (inwardly focused).
The focus on the latter will not deliver the results you need. These other initiatives enable good sales enablement, but they do not create good sales enablement.
Speaking of results...the results of an effective sales enablement project must be measured by:
- Shorter close cycles
- Faster time to revenue for new reps
- Higher rep, customer and partner satisfaction
- Larger purchase values and deal contribution margin
- Higher service attach rates
To achieve these results, the singular primary goal of sales enablement must be to:
Ensure the delivery of the right information at the right time, in the right place, to the right person, to assist in moving a specific opportunity forward.
In other words, sales enablement must focus on changing and improving the conversation sales reps hold with customers and prospects.
A sales enablement initiative that does not incorporate this as the primary focus is accomplishing little more than organizing the deck chairs on the Titanic. The good news is that sales executives are targeting the right high level goals for sales enablement; the bad news is that we've found a disconnect between these stated goals and the focus of the sales enablement initiatives underway.
You must get this right, this time. If you do not deliver on the results listed above, your organization will not have the appetite to engage in another sales enablement initiative.
In January, in the throes of this new economic reality, corporate IT buyers told us that sales people are unprepared, that one of three deals are lost due to factors within the control of the rep. Buyers also tell us that their patience is running short. They do not have time to waste on sales people who are unprepared, who don't know the customer's business issues or their own products. This problem is large and getting worse.
Realities of the New Economy
Welcome to the realities of the new economy. As the economy slowly starts to recover, and we are indeed seeing signs that we may have reached a bottom, buyers will not magically go back to their old ways of engagement. They will continue to expect greater selling precision on the part of their technology vendors and partners.
The good news is that you can use the economy as an excuse to drive greater selling precision. Sales enablement, as one of the five primary components of the IDC Sales Productivity Framework, is critical to get right. And our sales enablement best practice research has identified processes that help to ensure success. By the way, other components of the Framework, including sales methodology and sales management, are just as critical, or you'll miss the opportunity for greater leverage.