Although there’s a frenzy of investment happening in the sales enablement technology space right now, there is still a disconnect between the excitement for innovation and the efficacy of the software.
According to the Sales Enablement Optimization Study from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, the number of companies with a sales enablement function has almost doubled year over year, but the number of companies meeting their sales enablement goals has only grown slightly during the same period (from 31 percent to 34 percent).
Why is there such a disconnect between sales enablement investment and business results?
One of the reasons is that many companies view sales enablement as an experimental investment in software, rather than a strategic function enabled by technology. As a result, many sales enablement platforms serve up a mess of data that doesn’t actually help sales reps improve their performance. Much like CRMs, these technology tools produce backward-looking data, misaligned with processes and lacking a methodology that guides the sales person through the opportunity.
Most sales enablement platforms today don’t answer the critical question on the minds of salespeople everywhere: What are the actions I should take right now to win this deal?
At the Elevate 2018: Innovation in Action conference, you’ll learn how to navigate the business disruptions happening in the industry and prepare for the future of sales. Here’s a preview of a presentation from Dana Hamerschlag, chief product officer of Miller Heiman Group, on how cutting-edge technology can equip sales teams with the actionable insights they need to win more deals.
Sales enablement technology feels like a burden to sales reps
Sales enablement platforms that don’t use data to guide seller behavior run the risk of becoming an administrative burden for sales reps. While sales leaders and sales managers are excited about the technology, sales reps see it as a mandate from above that takes time away from selling. Their perception is that sales enablement tools simply put more work on their shoulders and don’t actually help them do their jobs more effectively. The technology isn’t useful to them because it doesn’t connect back to their daily tasks.
Part of the reason these technology investments often fail to deliver the desired outcomes is because the organization’s sales enablement tools lack structure around data inputs connected to seller actions. Like CRMs, these solutions only focus on data outputs, which can’t guide behavior.
For example, some sales enablement platforms require sales reps to capture video of their pitches in order to provide valuable learning experiences across the organization. It seems like a great idea, but when sellers take the time to watch and grade these videos, the aggregate data outputs don’t provide any suggestions about how they should change their behavior. The tool becomes an administrative burden with little value to the salesperson.
This has always been the problem with sales technology: It focuses only on data outputs and outcomes. For salespeople to adopt a technology, it has to measure behavioral data inputs and recommend actions. Once the seller is motivated to provide structure on the the input side of the equation, you can analyze which seller behaviors lead to winning, and then replicate those actions across the sales organization.
You can’t throw technology at salespeople and expect better results if you don’t incentivize the inputs while measuring the behavior. The structure of the data must connect back to seller behavior and show them the actions they need to take to repeat success.
This is where the right input-focused technology comes into play.
The right input-focused technology
What sales reps and managers really need is sales enablement technology that provides structure around data inputs — the specific actions sales reps must take to win more sales. Instead of forcing people to wade through an avalanche of data and make their own determinations about what to do next, technology needs to provide insight and answers.
Miller Heiman Group is in the process of building a sales technology platform that solves this problem by predicting the methodology-backed seller actions that will most improve the odds of winning a deal. By understanding how inputs like identifying an economic buyer or coach translate into sales outcomes like closed deals, sales technology suddenly becomes less of a burden and more of a seller’s best friend.
Combining data inputs and outputs, this new technology succeeds where so many other sales platforms have failed — changing seller behavior.
To find out more, grab a seat at Dana’s presentation. Register now for Elevate 2018: Innovation in Action from April 16-17 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
A majority of sales and service organizations now have dedicated staff and programs for sales enablement. But CSO Insights research shows that despite increased adoption, many organizations still aren’t seeing optimal results from their sales enablement investments.
As more and more organizations embrace enablement, it’s critical for leaders to understand how to properly launch a sales enablement practice and improve existing enablement practices to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Sales Enablement Goes Mainstream
Sales enablement has quickly become a mainstay of sales organizations. According to the 2017 CSO Insights Sales Enablement Optimization Report, almost 60 percent of sales organizations currently have a person, program or function dedicated to sales enablement – almost double the number from 2016 (33 percent). Five years ago, the number stood at less than 20 percent.
With another 9 percent of organizations planning to dedicate resources to sales enablement in 2018, we’ve clearly reached a tipping point. From this point forward, sales enablement will be a vital and necessary part of the sales process.
Organizations that embrace sales enablement expect to receive a range of benefits from their investments, including increased revenue, improved client acquisition and more selling time for sales reps. But in 2017, just 35 percent of firms said they are achieving a majority of their expectations from their sales enablement investments, only slightly better than 31 percent in 2016.
To meet and exceed expectations, organizations need to lay a solid foundation for their sales enablement practices and identify opportunities to improve their existing enablement practices.
Improving Sales Enablement in Your Organization
Sales enablement equips organizations with the tools to increase predictable sales. While some organizations have established sales enablement programs in place, others are at the beginning stages of building a sales enablement practice. In either case, there are several things you can do to achieve better outcomes from sales enablement.
If you are just starting to consider sales enablement in your organization:
Start with an enablement charter. An enablement charter is the first step in launching a sales enablement practice. By clarifying the current level of enablement maturity, the expectations of senior executives, business and sales strategies, and sales force challenges, you can lay a solid foundation for the launch of a sales enablement practice.
Determine your current state. An enablement maturity assessment describes the current state of sales enablement in your organization. In addition to helping you determine a starting point, this assessment is a critical step in charting a course for enablement transformation.
Consider the customer journey. It’s important to align your internal processes to the customer journey. Processes must take into consideration the decisions required at various stages of the journey, and tailor content to the challenges the sales force encounters at each stage.
Evaluate existing content and training services. Content and training services are key elements of an effective sales enablement program. Evaluate your current content and throw away anything that is no longer relevant. Content must be tailored to the customer’s journey phases, buyer roles and other concerns. Make sure training services are consistent with content and effectively address the sales force’s skill profile.
If you already have an established sales enablement practice that is based on a formal strategy, with training and content aligned to the customer journey:
Align and integrate enablement services. Customer-facing and enablement content must be consistent with product and/or value messaging training. To ensure alignment, (1) formalize collaboration by defining the various roles in the process, and (2) define the sequence in which these roles engage in designing, creating, localizing, deployment and analytics.
Refine enablement operations to improve visibility for executive sponsors. A formal, cross-functional production process for enablement services demonstrates impact and scalability of the practice to executive leadership. In some cases, an advisory board can be instrumental in maintaining support from senior executives. Finally, develop a strategy for measuring and communicating success.
Sales enablement is an important discipline for every sales organization. By providing customer-facing sales reps and managers with training, content and other services, enablement adds value to customer interactions and enables the organization to achieve better business outcomes.
2017 is now in the history books for sales organizations, and 2018 is upon us. And for the vast majority of companies, this year’s revenue expectations for sales teams are higher than last year. A question we should be asking ourselves is, “What can we do to help sales professionals achieve these new goals?” Let me offer one answer: Cut back on some of the administrative burden that has been unceremoniously dumped on them!
If you take a look at how the average salesperson spends their time today, you will see them doing a lot of tedious tasks. Take, for example, what happens when they uncover a new opportunity. We expect them to create a new account record, contact records, and an opportunity record in their CRM system. We then want them to log the notes from meetings and phone calls and attach emails to the appropriate records. And then there is the task of continuously updating the forecast.
Do all these things need to be done? Of course. But they don’t have to be done by salespeople. There have been a number of innovations in sales enablement software that can automate most of those tasks. Technology can analyze emails between buyers and sellers to determine when a new selling opportunity has started, who the various stakeholders are, and what tasks are occurring during the sales process, etc. Solutions are also available to record, transcribe, and analyze sales calls, and to append comprehensive records of what happened during those meetings.
The chance to reduce tedium doesn’t stop there. Major parts of the quote-to-close process can also be managed effectively by technology. E-signature management systems can speed up contract creation, while ensuring that everything in the agreements is correct. It then will route and manage the flow of documents to all the key customer stakeholders for approval. It can then manage the internal deal review process to ensure any sign-offs within your company are completed. Once everything is completed, e-signature systems can update the CRM records automatically.
The cost for all of these support services is in the few dollars per day range per salesperson. When you compare that to the $25, $50, $75+ an hour we are paying salespeople, the ROI is very clear. When you take a job in sales, you do so knowing that expectations increase from time to time. But you should also expect your company to do its part to help increase your efficiency and effectiveness to help you meet those expectations. Reducing tedium is a solid starting point to do that for your sales teams.
Click here to watch a webinar where Jim Dickie and Adobe chat about e-signature.
Most sales organizations today struggle like never before. Their teams are not consistently hitting their numbers, they have a weak funnel and, when they do have a customer interested in buying, they have a hard time closing the deal.
Here’s what I mean: According to data from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, the number of sales professionals meeting or exceeding quota has fallen 10 percentage points in the last five years. Today, the number of sales people who hit their number is at 53 percent, the lowest in nearly a decade.
Here’s the scary part: quotas keep going up and there’s no sign this trend will stop any time soon.
And we all know what happens when sales reps don’t meet quota: the company misses their revenue targets, the value of the business drops and people lose their jobs.
Given this business climate, can you afford to keep doing what you’ve been doing? If you do, the outlook is bleak: you’ll only fail faster.
Sales organizations need to fix the way their salesforce conducts business. It’s that simple.
According to data gathered by SalesTalk, sales teams have a big problem. As few as 46 percent of inside sales reps are meeting their quotas, yet quotas are going up by an average of 7.5 per year – with no signs of stopping.
How exactly you define bottom sales performers in your organization will vary from company to company, but every team has them. Even if your company is bucking the trends described above with 100 percent quota achievement, there’s still at least one team member who isn’t performing at the same high level as their colleagues.
So how do you turn these ships around? Check out the strategies below, and apply the options that make the most sense, given the individual characteristics of your company and its salespeople.
Get to the Root of the Problem
This should be a no-brainer place to start, but you can’t fix an underperformance problem until you know what’s driving it. Does your team member lack the resources they need to be successful? Are they stuck calling on poor quality leads?
Maybe it’s not an internal thing at all. Is your employee facing challenges at home or elsewhere in their personal life?
As an example, “Four out of five employers report that their employees’ personal financial issues are impacting their job performance somewhat, very much or to an extreme degree,” per a report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP). The results of financial stress (the kind you might expect when salespeople aren’t making quotas) include absenteeism, tardiness and a lack of focus.
Invest in Training
You may not be able to solve employees’ personal sources of stress. But if you discover that your bottom performers’ skills are at the root of their lackluster results, you’re in luck. As long as they’re motivated, there’s likely a training out there that’ll meet their specific needs.
Budget for organization-wide training, and your sales performance as a whole will benefit.
Break Down Your Silos
If you’ve ever worked in a strictly-siloed office, you know how frustrating it can be to feel disconnected from others in your organization. That goes double for salespeople, who need to be able to field questions from prospects and leads regarding the company’s future growth plans or objectives.
The solution is to improve communications across departments. In my personal experience managing teams of salespeople, I’ve found that growth can’t really take off until you have all the arms of a company – including sales, marketing, customer support and engineering – working together cohesively.
“More meaningful relationship building outside of the silos people exist in will gradually dilute the strength of those barriers. This also improves trust and willingness to regularly share important information. Everyone is working towards a common goal and all understand their roles in moving the ship in that direction.”
Breaking down existing silos isn’t easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Start taking small steps to improve communications today. The cumulative impact over time will be worth it.
Experiment with Incentives
A lot has been written about using different quotas, commission structures and incentives to stimulate performance. Gamification via leaderboards is another big one lately, with proponents arguing that the increased visibility of sales reps’ real-time performance leads to healthy internal competition.
I’m not going to dismiss the importance of these strategies, but I’ve never seen them make much of a difference. Salespeople expect them, which is why they’re never going to be motivating enough to turn around a bottom performer.
Test them, for sure. But don’t forget how important a simple thank you can be. One of my favorite tricks is to take the whole sales team out whenever one member hits or exceeds their goals. Nothing makes those who aren’t hitting their quotas want to work harder than wanting to be the one who’s getting recognized among their peers as a success.
The strategies I’ve described above are incredibly effective, but they can require major structural or procedural changes to implement. That means time and effort to demonstrate results – which your company may or may not have, depending on how sales are going.
So what if, instead, you need something quick to light a fire under your bottom performers?
The motivational tactics below require a thorough understanding of their appropriateness for your unique team and of their inherent limitations. Use them in conjunction with longer-term changes for best results:
Have funny trophies created for “Top Salesperson” or “Most Improved Salesperson”
Sales doesn’t have to be all work and no play. The suggestions above can help keep morale up while you undertake the kind of institutional change that’ll enable all sales team members to thrive in the long-run.
What other strategies would you add to this list?
About the author: Sujan Patel is a leading expert in digital marketing. As the co-founder Single Grain, a digital marketing agency, he managed and grew an outbound sales team in addition to scaling leading client marketing strategies. He is currently the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency, and a partner in a handful of software companies including Mailshake, VoilaNorbert, Quuu, and Linktexting.com. Between his consulting practice and his software companies, Sujan’s goal is to help entrepreneurs and marketers scale their businesses.
I enjoy going to baseball games from time to time, but I’ve never been a big fan of the sport. That is, until I recently had a chance to attend a National League Championship Series game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Baseball used to bore me, but during that game I sat next to someone who really understood the ins and outs of the game. I learned that strategy changes from pitch to pitch, at-bat to at-bat, and inning to inning, and teams are far more advanced in their thinking that I ever dreamed of.
Infusing Talent with Data Analytics
Here’s an example of that.
At one point during the game, with the Cubs’ cleanup hitter coming to bat, my companion pointed out a shift in the Dodgers’ defense (the third baseman positioned himself in the outfield grass between first and second base). He then pointed out that the Dodgers, like many teams, use data analytics to predict tendencies in certain players. Right on cue, the batter hit a ground ball right at the third baseman, who barely moved to scoop up the ball and throw the runner out.
No question about it, the Dodgers have great talent. But they’ve infused data analytics into that talent to increase their chances of winning. It works, too; the Dodgers beat the Cubs to reach the World Series against the Houston Astros.
Analytics Can Boost Your Sales Team, Too
This approach is one of the major disruptions coming to business. Sales teams no longer have to rely on hunches to make quota. And quite frankly, that approach doesn’t work; according to research from CSO Insights, the percentage of sellers who make quota has dropped steadily for the last five years. In fact, only 53 percent of sellers made quota last year.
Enter the future of sales. In the near future, sales leaders will have more information at their fingertips than ever before, and what they do with that data will determine if they succeed or fail.
This information will allow them to quickly figure out which deals are worth pursuing and which ones to ignore. They will be able to evaluate sellers more effectively to the point where they will be able to predict the exact moment a deal could potentially fall apart and then step in and coach them through a course correction in real time.
And that’s just the start.
If you would like to learn more about what you need to do to prepare for the future of sales, please join us for a live webinar, From Surviving to Thriving: The Future Four Focus Areas for Sales, which will be held Nov. 1, Nov. 9, Nov. 14 and Nov. 21. To register, visit the Miller Heiman Group website.
You will learn about the tools you’ll need to be successful, and you won’t want to be left behind.
Recently, as I was listening to Billy Joel through my headphones during a cross-country flight, I started thinking about how much time he must have spent practicing the piano throughout his lifetime in order to become “The Piano Man.” Real talent requires hard work, discipline and dedication if you want to make it big.
When pianists learn to play, one of the first things they’re taught is how to correctly position their hands and wrists. This allows students to build muscle memory in their hands, which in turn allows them to play more complex notes. This is a practice students undergo daily so eventually muscle memory takes over to the point where they can hardly play unless they are positioned just right.
Amazingly, medical studies suggest pianists’ brains actually change as they improve. Their brain stops being right or left dominant as it learns to manage a great deal of information at once and sends it to their hands. A pianists’ brain modifies itself to become a mechanism for musical delivery and overwrites a completely normal human characteristic of being right- or left-hand dominant.
Play it Again, Sellers
When you think about it, a sales professional is a lot like a pianist. And sales professionals who are aware of this can drive greater success. Hear me out.
Sales professionals need a framework for how to run a deal, how to effectively position all the working parts and, ultimately, how to close it. Sales leaders who insist their teams use a framework – or methodology – provide sellers with a path toward success. Miller Heiman Group provides the methodology to teach sales professionals the skills they need to be successful, and we believe it’s the best on the market. We’re like the piano teacher who drives students to succeed.
By implementing a proven methodology and building in reinforcement activities, sales leaders can teach their sellers the skills they need and develop the muscle memory they need to close deals. Over time, this can even shape the brains of sales professionals to the point where they are often unable to discuss a deal without focusing on Blue Sheets, decision makers, red flags and coaches. Sales professionals know these tools help them meet quota and drive revenue. It’s that simple.
The Emotional and Rational Side of Selling
I experienced this firsthand when I was running my own sales team. As a sales leader (who also happens to play the piano), I realized it is important you’re aware of this shift between right- and left-brain thinking because sellers must not only master the emotional side of selling but also the rational side.
As a sales leader, it is vital that you instill to teach “muscle memory for sales” that, much like a piano player, feeds both sides of the brain because it’s proven to be successful.
Social selling is largely misunderstood and ignored by seasoned sales professionals because it seems different. And in that perception of difference lies its presumption of difficulty.
But is it? Is social selling uniquely so different that it’s just difficult to understand, apply and master? This question is rhetorical, of course.
The greatest advantage of social selling is in its simplicity. The greatest disadvantage of social selling is also in its simplicity.
So let’s break this down and truly focus on the fundamentals of social selling.
The Social Selling Trifecta
First, to understand what social selling is and isn’t. Let’s start at the very core. Instead of arduous words and drawn out essays, let’s use vivid imagery and bring it to life.
Quite simply, a sales professional that doesn’t research (the buyer, their company, their industry are the basics) is asking for trouble. Buyers today are simple yet we make them out to be complex (my friend, yes you reading this; you’re a buyer too). Invariably, all we want is information – we want to be educated more and sold less.
So in this world, when we come to the table armed with research, we add layers of context to the experience. This is how I’d argue we all want to be sold.
Social media platforms exist for a few simple reasons; one of them is to be social. And therefore it’s surprising to see how many sales professionals and leaders have profiles but don’t interact.
Our job as sales professionals is to have conversations where we see buyers online. In addition to being collaborative and social IRL (in real life), we also need to do this on social platforms.
“But Amar, my buyer doesn’t have a profile on _____ platform!”
That’s an objection I hear quite often, to which I ask is that the only buyer in the account? Is that the only person worth targeting? Is there no one else worth influencing?
Collaboration requires us to spread our message far and wide. Often, and we all know this, more than a few people are involved in a buying decision, particularly with B2B.
Examples of collaboration include tagging buyers in posts/comments, commenting on what you hear buyers say, sharing insightful commentary and content, and more.
This is the one characteristic of social selling that sales professionals assume is the only one.
Prospecting with InMails, private messages, etc. is common place now. The question is why sales thinks this is the only aspect of social selling. The reason/answer is simple: this is the part that’s the easiest.
What most sales professionals focus on is using platforms like LinkedIn to find potential buyers and then sending them the prospecting messages they would have sent on email. When prospects don’t reply to this, they then claim that social selling doesn’t work.
Is it the message or the medium?
Ideally, the textbook scenario that works wonders is the following:
Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks
The entire case I present to you above is almost foolproof.
These are skills that all sales professionals claim to have and ones they practice in many areas of their career. So if we think about social selling in the context described, the rest just become a matter of mastering mechanics.
But the change is slowly happening.
Allow me to step into the age conversation for a few moments. In a recent data crunching exercise by LinkedIn, they discovered the following: reps that are 45+ have LinkedIn SSI scores that are 21 percent higher than reps that are 27.
What can we infer from this?
Social selling is learnable
Indeed, social media isn’t a magic unicorn that is only tamed by millennials. Quite the opposite. Seasoned sales professionals with commercial discipline and sales knowhow need only the mechanical understanding. Once learned, they can easily apply their known expertise on this new platform.
Social selling is relevant
Per LinkedIn, social sellers produce 45 percent more sales opportunities in the pipeline and have a 51 percent greater chance of meeting quota. Even according to our data at Sales for Life (across hundreds of customers and 90K+ sales reps trained), we’ve seen a healthy 20 percent pipeline lift in 6 months or less.
Social selling has broad applications
It’s incredible to see how our perceptions are shaped by environmental bias. To this day, I hear these biases being expressed all the time.
Here’s generally how it goes. When asked “what does social selling mean to you?” I typically hear that it’s for one or more of:
People with large accounts
People with small accounts
People in North America, but not Asia
These are all fallacies, period.
Social can be used by multiple people in multiple scenarios. It’s not just about using LinkedIn, it’s about using a suite of tools to accelerate relationship building, leading to pipeline building.
The Bottom Line
As you see, social selling isn’t difficult, it’s just different. It’s a mechanical difference that can be overcome through training and ongoing reinforcement.
The common perception that it’s only for young people or those that are digital natives is false. The data shows it, both quantitatively and anecdotally.
What are your thoughts on this subject? What does social selling mean to you and why do you feel so many questions persist about it?
We all know hard-charging executives who make every decision and are in control of everything that goes on within the company. And when it comes to selling to these executives, it’s the toughest crowd to convince. We call these types of executives the Controller.
Thankfully, Controllers make up only 9 percent of executive buyers. The bad news is, they are not easily persuaded. So, in order to understand Controllers, you need to understand:
The Four Top Characteristics of Controller Executives Are:
They are often very arrogant and self-absorbed. Don’t be surprised if they don’t participate much during meetings. In fact, expect a lot of silence as they process information.
They are objective and accurate, and expect the same from those around them.
They deal only in facts and are detail-oriented.
They are sensible and unemotional, and make decisions strictly based on facts.
With the Controller steering the meeting, you’re not going to convince them to buy from you so you have to look at it from a different perspective. There are four keys to dealing with the Controller—pay special attention to the first:
Here Are Four Keys to Success when Dealing with Controllers:
They cannot be persuaded to do things, so you need to make the concept their idea. They need to take ownership, so enable action rather than force it.
They want a highly structured and linear approach to all meetings.
Build alliances with their trusted lieutenants, so you can gain trust.
Draw your line and hold it. Don’t back down, but allow them to take control.
When you start to understand your executive buyers—and tailor your presentations to meet their style and expectations—you put yourself in position to win. Remember, it’s not about your preference for presenting. It’s all about their style for making decisions and how you respond to it.
I won’t lie. You’ll be frustrated at times with Social Selling.
Doesn’t that sound like playing golf? When you consistently swing the wrong way, you shouldn’t be surprised that the results will stay the same. I have certainly thrown a few clubs after bad shots. Having a bad day or bad golf routine happens to everyone. Our understanding of golf can be far from what it needs to be — especially when you watch a video of your swing.
Social Selling is the same: The way we were taught to sell happened during a time when buyers didn’t have vast amounts of data at their fingertips and were less informed than you, the seller. Times have changed. They not only have the data they need but can reach out to their network at any time — it’s called the social web. They now will contact you once they have a good knowledge of the solutions they need.
Excellent social sellers define themselves through online relationships. You may think of Social Selling tools as a one-to-many format, but this is the last thing you should do. When you enter your prospects’ social streams through public or private conversations, it should be to build one-to-one relationships. People often ask me: “How can I get more followers or get my prospect to follow me?” It’s going to take a long time to make this happen, and, to be blunt, it takes something else: marketing.
Marketing’s role is to bring brand awareness and one-to-many access through social platforms. You as a seller should own one-to-one relationships.
So when you engage with prospects on social networks, remember three key things:
Casual and insightful should be your mantra. Are you casual in your interactions? Are you insightful to the people you interact with?
“Always be closing” should actually be “Always be adding value.” Social selling is a methodology where you’re not technically selling but grow your number of acquaintances as you meaningfully engage with them. Some will turn into prospects as they “let you in.” not the other way around.
You’re building a foundation and credibility. Unlike many other sales functions, you are here for the long run and not just to close the quarter. Learn to always share solid content and add value so that when your followers face a challenge, they’ll contact you first.
About the author: Yann Ropars is the vice president of digital marketing at Miller Heiman Group. Follow him on Twitter @YannR.