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Industry Watchers Talk Sales Enablement at SF Soirée

By January 13, 2020 No Comments

At the recent Sales Enablement Soirée in San Francisco, sales leaders and industry professionals shared their thoughts about recent advances in Sales Enablement technology and insights about the future of Sales Enablement.

Sales Enablement Capturing Attention – and Dollars – of Top Venture Capitalists 

“Sales Enablement is having a big, big moment. It’s more critical than ever before.” – Mary Shea, Forrester Research

According to the Sales Tech Tide report from Forrester, Sales Enablement is a focal point for top-performing sales organizations and venture capitalists are investing heavily in burgeoning Sales Enablement technologies. In the past year, $15B dollars have been invested in Sales Enablement just within the 585 venture backed companies included in the report. 

With the interest in Sales Enablement technologies capturing the attention – and dollars – of venture capitalists from across the Valley, VCs invested in the sales tech space gathered to share their thoughts at the “Why Sales Enablement? Viewpoints from Venture Capitalists” panel during the Soirée.  

The VCs agreed that one of the most exciting things about Sales Enablement is the potential market size – because every company in the world is interested in growing sales. “Every company needs sales, and every sales team needs Sales Enablement,” said Joydeep Bhattacharyya of Canaan

“Sales Enablement is where Marketing Tech was 7 years ago. We saw companies have success bringing data, science and software into marketing, and now people are realizing the same can be done with sales.” – Rajeev Dham, Sapphire Ventures

The panel also discussed whether the term “Sales Enablement” fails to encompass the promise of the technology and focuses too much on the direct seller. Instead they are now using and recommending we use the term – “Revenue Enablement” which would include enablement for indirect sales channels, and encompass other revenue-producing functions in the organization.

Looking into the future of Sales Enablement technologies, the VCs agreed that the next few years will see rapid acceleration in adoption of sales technology – especially once early adopters within the tech and financial services sectors start to show the ROI on their Sales Enablement investments. Once that happens, senior sales professionals in decision-making roles will view Sales Enablement software and technology as an indispensable part of increasing win rates and overall sales goals. 

Why It’s Not a Selling Story. It’s Not a Buying Story. It’s a Human Story.

Brent Adamson of Gartner led, “Escaping the Pain of Commercial Complexity” in which he shared several high level (and unexpected) findings from the company’s key research reports on the sales industry. His top advice: sales teams need to rapidly evolve and avoid an ethos of getting back to basics. 

“If getting back to basics means selling the way we did 10 years ago, that is a disaster. Customers are not even buying the way they did 2 years ago.” – Brent Adamson, Gartner, Inc

So what really drives account growth? According to research conducted by Gartner there are three “levers” at the disposal of the sales organization that can move an existing customer into a larger buy. 

The first is Customer Satisfaction. Gartner found that: overall satisfaction with the supplier, a belief that the supplier’s product is better than those offered by competitors, and the likelihood that a customer would recommend the supplier are all tied together statistically.  

The degree to which a customer has a Motivation to Change was the second thing that Gartner’s research found can determine account growth. If your customer understands why they need to make a new purchase, have an urgency to do so and believe that not only will this purchase positively affect their business, but it is the right thing to do they are more likely to pull the trigger and buy. 

But it was Decision Confidence that Adamson put the most emphasis on. 

Surprise! There is No Relationship Between Customer Satisfaction and Account Growth

The most surprising finding from Gartner’s years of research into sales: “We could find no statistically significant relationship whatsoever between a level of current customer satisfaction with you the supplier and a likelihood of that customer to grow with you over time,” said Adamson. 

So does customer satisfaction matter at all? Adamson shared that while a customer’s level of satisfaction doesn’t seem to affect the likelihood of a customer going on a growth journey with a sales organization, it does drive retention and renewal. 

“Just because a customer will stick around doesn’t mean that they will do more with you.” – Brent Adamson, Gartner, Inc

Adamson cautioned that sellers can enter a “zone of wasted effort” where you pour good effort into customer relationships in an effort to build satisfaction, but they will never grow with you. He urged sellers to realize that a customer’s decision to stay with the seller’s company is not a change-based decision, or one that can lead to account growth. Instead it is a decision to stay with the status quo.

So If Satisfaction Doesn’t Drive Account Growth, What Does? Not Motivation to Change

The goal of sales is to motivate customers to make a change. Whether it is providing data and materials that educate the customer on the differences between their product vs. a competitor’s or focusing sales training efforts on overcoming objections – sales has historically been an industry focused on persuading customers to change. 

Gartner’s findings blow a huge hole in that line of thinking as well. What Gartner found is that as soon as you have motivated your customer to make a change, you can be caught up in the long, hard slog of B2B buying. Change is hard for B2B organizations. Onboarding a new vendor is very complex. So, Adamson argued that while motivation is necessary to the buying process, buying itself has become very complex.

“You’ve convinced your customer to make a change. Now they think, ‘If I’m going to make a change, I’m going to need budget. If I’m going to make a change, I  have to talk to other teams and departments.’ And then their head explodes.” – Brent Adamson, Gartner, Inc

The Key to Account Growth: Buyer Enablement

The real key to account growth and motivating customers to work through the difficulties of implementing change: building their confidence. And the biggest way to do so: enable your buyers to buy. 

Providing customers with consistent information that helps customers advance a purchase has a 4X impact on purchase decision confidence. Anything you can do to offer guidance through the purchase journey, and anticipate internal barriers for customers will increase your chances of account growth. 

“Sales is getting harder” according to Tiffany Bova, former Gartner Distinguished Analyst and now the Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. Power has shifted – the buyer has far more power today than the seller. The way to close the gap is with Sales Enablement. To deliver even 1, 2, 5% more people with quota, you (in Sales Enablement) will hit a home run. How much growth does that deliver for you? Give your salespeople back time. How can you improve the dial that allows salespeople to have more sales time? The reality is that the sales person needs to understand the buying journey. 

Tiffany talks about growth outside of Sales… this is taking place in Customer Success, in Account Based Marketing (run by a Marketer), in other customer-facing functions. These are ways to impact revenue – ways to win a game and increase revenue. Today, we recognize that growth enablement goes beyond Sales. 

If you want to better help put your sales team on a path to growth and experience the cutting edge of Sales Enablement technology,  contact us for a demo of UPtick, delivering 3D simulated role plays with a virtual reality Sales Enablement platform.