Many of us now have jobs that probably didn’t exist when we were kids, or at least, the way we work has changed dramatically due to technology and other factors. The booming market for sales enablement professionals is one of those growing professions. According to LinkedIn, hundreds of job openings are available in this emerging field, but what exactly does this role entail? And how does adding this role make companies more successful?
The research firm Forrester, defines sales enablement as “A strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.”
The sales enablement function is becoming more defined and includes a variety of solutions. CSO Insights has found that an increasing number of companies are implementing a dedicated sales enablement function. In the 2016 Sales Performance Optimization Study, 32.7% of survey respondents said they had a dedicated sales enablement function. That was up from 25.5% of respondents in the 2015 SPO study and 22.6% in the 2014 SPO study.
There are three key reasons this role is gaining importance:
1. Buyers approach purchases in a new way
Buyers now do a lot of the purchasing research before they ever talk to a salesperson. A research study by Gartner suggests that by 2020, buyers will manage as much as 85% of their purchases without talking face-to-face with a salesperson. Salespeople don’t have the luxury of following a standard, static sales process. They need to be prepared to deliver value and have a conversation on the buyers terms.
Sales enablement helps train, coach, enable and optimize the sales team to meet today’s more sophisticated buyer. In addition, sales enablement teams ensure that sales reps have the content they need no matter what the sales stage. With technology, sales enablement teams can even deliver the content, coaching and training virtually, anytime, anywhere.
2. Content Takes Center Stage
B2B marketers have been focused on content creation to deliver leads for a number of years. Many companies also see the value and importance of sales content throughout the sales cycle. With more and more content being developed, it’s up to the sales enablement team to make sure the right content is 1) created; 2) easily found by sales team and 3) valuable and used by the sales team. However, SiriusDecisions research shows that as much as 2/3 of content goes unused. Sales enablement teams are the ones tasked with fixing those problems, because as a DemandGen Report found, 95% of buyers choose a supplier that provided them the right content throughout the buying process. Armed with the right content, a seller can better sell value and help the buyer.
3. The Need for Sales and Marketing Alignment
Organizations of all sizes have a tendency to create silos when various departments are not communicating or working together. For years, marketing built the brand and drove demand and then sales took over from there. There was a lack of alignment between the two and a lack of accountability to revenue in the marketing department. That is rapidly changing and often the sales enablement function acts as the glue between sales and marketing and is responsible for making sure they stay aligned.
In addition, sales enablement roles use sales and marketing analytics, to optimize training, coaching and content to improve sales rep performance. Exceptional company leaders recognize that the path to growth encompasses more than just sales or just marketing alone. In 2011, Aberdeen Research released a report in which they showed that companies that were superior in aligning marketing and sales experienced an average of 32% growth in annual revenue, compared to a 7% decline in organizations that were lacking this alignment. In Aberdeen’s most recent (2013) report on the subject, they reported that 26% of companies say they’re prioritizing increasing marketing’s visibility into the sales pipeline.
The growth in sales enablement as a key function in organizations is undeniable. The number of people with “sales enablement” in their title on LinkedIn has skyrocketed in recent years. The newly formed Sales Enablement Society is growing rapidly and forming chapters all over the United States. They describe the evolution to be similar to how the CIO position grew out of data processing, or how the CFO role evolved from bookkeeping. The Society (after much debate) is suggesting that a similarly senior role be titled Head of Sales Productivity since many companies treat it as a multi-faceted business function.
Whatever you call it, those that embrace sales enablement first are sure to grow their business. Research from Marketo and Reachforce found that when sales and marketing teams are in sync, companies became 67% better at closing deals. It is no wonder that sales enablement is on the rise.