Stop throwing good money at bad ideas. Or: focus on improving what you’ve already got
by Jason Watson
The Don Draper days of sales and marketing are truly over. Gone, the casual smoking and drinking in the office, and the wide-eyed wonder of the modern consumer. In their place are increasingly savvy consumers, high buyer expectations, heavy workloads, ambitious targets, and a sales force constantly under pressure to do more.
It might explain why:
● the average tenure of a Chief Sales Officer is just 18 months,
● salespeople’s churn rate is at an all time high of 30% and climbing, and…
● salespeople’s average win rate is now <20%.
For sales leaders, the knock-on impact is a constant pressure to deliver turnaround improvements fast, often between one annual report and the next. And there’s no shortage of proposed solutions on hand to help, mostly led by technology.
It is forecast that the sales enablement platform market will be worth $2.6 billion by 2024. But is there any evidence that these solutions deliver what they promise?
In this age of ‘digital transformation’, it is easy to see the appeal of new software and platforms, particularly given the hype that surrounds them and the abundance of quick fixes these platform vendors peddle. But can software alone improve the intrinsically human and emotive process of buying and selling?
Before being railroaded by marketing hype and organizational pressure into buying the next shiny new toy, Sales should stick to what they know to be true and remember several important things:
● Technology alone has yet to fix a human behavioural problem
● Sales enablement platform vendors are IT experts, not sales experts, they are all SaaS vendors looking for seat licences to attract more investment to raise their own appeal to be bought by a bigger vendor
● Salespeople and Sales leaders are the true experts, both in their own profession and in understanding the
For complete transparency, we are huge technology geeks. But as a sales enablement leaders for 25+ years, a more open dialogue is required.
The geek in us says:
Today’s sales enablement platforms promise many things: they pledge to transform your sales team into top-sellers, personalize content to engage buyers, and deliver guided selling, among other benefits.
Absolutely, there are efficiency and automation gains to be made. Some use AI and data analytics as well as automation. Their capabilities are impressive:
CRM automation: It is estimated that salespeople lose on average 5.5 hours a week manually entering contacts and activities into CRM. CRM automation gives sales teams back a month a year selling time – which they can spend on other revenue-generating activities.
Content management: Analytics capabilities mean the right content is served to salespeople for the right sales situation, faster. Recommended content, next steps suggestions, and alert tools help sales deliver bespoke insight at each step of the buying journey.
Just-in-time learning: Intrinsically linked to sales results, on-the-job training increases selling time, improves information and skills retention and helps build better behaviors.
The sales enablement professional says:
This all sounds great but, once you’ve given your team more time to sell, customizable content and sales training at the very point at which they need it – what then? Will it effectively address any performance issues your team has, or will it only exacerbate the situation by making them more efficient at making the same mistakes, faster?
Let’s look at some simple math:
If we have a seller, with a target of $100k p/a wasting 50% of their time doing activities that sales enablement systems purport to remedy and each has a win rate of 25%, they will yield $12.5k.
A sense of reality kicks in when you realize that no seller can spend 100% of their time doing only activities that move a sale forwards. More realistically, 70% is achievable, yielding an incremental of $17.5k.
However, if I leave their efficiency alone and focus on making them better sellers, therefore increasing their win rate by just 5% to 30%, the same seller will yield $30k.
In our eagerness to adopt the next great thing, we risk falling for the trick of the Emperor’s New Clothes. One of the greatest enhancements to sales enablement platforms in recent years is not data, analytics or AI (although arguably they will prove invaluable in the future). Instead, it is the ability to construct Standard Sales Models.
This is one of the most important developments to the sales process since the widespread adoption of CRM more than 20 years ago. As the name suggests, the standard sales model enables you to construct your ideal sales model based on how your organization believes it should be constructed to achieve business goals – not just how it has been constructed in the past. This is an important distinction for evolving sales teams in evolving markets.
Working with the business, a sales operations/enablement can outline the ideal customer engagement and align it to the customer buying process.
The model can include the ideal number and types of job titles to engage on the buyer’s side and the optimum interaction cadence for each persona. From there you can outline the steps a salesperson needs to take to win the deal. The model can even reflect the needs of different sales channels and buying habits across industries or regions.
Using intelligent technologies, sales enablement platforms can then analyze how close each deal is to the standard model and rate it. In this way, each salesperson’s effort can be directed toward only the most ‘winnable’ deals, taking the guesswork out of the equation.
With the ability to intelligently learn from real-time sales activities, the system also automatically recalibrates content and behavioral suggestions.
But critically, the standard sales model requires human intelligence to define what that model is. Human intelligence is required to:
- understand the company strategy and the deals you need to win to achieve it.
- create a standard model based on how the team needs to sell in the future, not on historical sales data.
Only then once the standard model has been constructed can AI take over. It works with human intelligence – not instead of it.
When we work with clients to implement sales enablement software, we do it on the understanding that we will correct and fine-tune standard sales models over a period of 90-120 days so that AI learns from human experience. Without human insight, a sales enablement platform is just a machine that can spot and replicate patterns that may or may not be the route to sales improvement.
Calling out the Emperor’s new clothes
Sales enablement leaders walk a tough line. They are often caught between trying to engage a sales team that would rather be out selling and delivering sales improvements for an organization that doesn’t give them the time or budget to enable those improvements.
The allure of the shiny new toys and all they promise is understandable. But it is important the sales leaders speak up and call out the Emperor’s new clothes. Their experience is key to getting the most out of any technology investment. Human insight combined with AI is a much more powerful weapon in the fight to improve sales efficiency.
Important points for a sales leader to remember:
- There is no magic bullet to ‘solve’ sales performance issues.
- Start with the end in mind; be clear about what sales enablement issues you are trying to solve.
- Take the time to work with a sales enablement specialist that can help you identify the issues and the best way to solve them
- If you need wider organizational buy-in, ask your specialist to identify some quick wins that are a stepping stone to the bigger goal.
- Only introduce your ‘shiny new toy’ once you’ve established good sales practice.
With these principles in place, technology will save your sales team time, save your business money, and save you from the headache of having to justify some very expensive ‘shelfware’.Tags: Jason Watson