46% of Sales Enablement Teams Expected To Grow Over The Next 12 Months
The sales enablement function continues to grow— forty-six percent (46%) of teams plan to increase in size in the next 12 months. This growth in headcount will be accompanied by continued spend in technology. The category has seen strong expansion outside of the B2B technology market into new verticals such as Financial Services, Manufacturing, and Life Sciences. While the current extreme work from home environment will subside, a substantial level of remote selling will likely remain and continue to drive demand for sales tech.
The idea of sales enablement has been around for ages but has been traditionally thought of as just training or content. Today, sales enablement has rapidly evolved into a more strategic function. Once the responsibility of product marketing or of a single sales trainer, sales enablement is now supported by dedicated teams funded within the sales organization. Seventy-three percent (73%) of companies TOPO surveyed have dedicated enablement functions within the sales organization focused on a wide range of support from training and coaching to content and communication.
The transition in sales enablement has been fueled by the realization that to achieve predictable revenue, occasional training is not enough. Instead, the modern sales enablement movement is driving innovation, particularly by leveraging technology that can provide always-on, fully transparent, and data-driven programs.
Sales enablement technology helps managers and reps move from ad-hoc, inconsistent training to guided, real-time recommendations for how to engage buyers with suggested next best actions. The market today is made up of five segments with considerable consolidation happening across all segments via acquisition and significant product development. Both the sales enablement platform and conversation intelligence categories play a key role in the overall aligned sales and marketing tech stack (see figure below).
SALES ENABLEMENT TECHNOLOGY HAS EXPANDED FROM POINT SOLUTIONS TO PLATFORMS
An effective sales enablement technology stack provides a place to manage and recommend sales content, a hub for learning and coaching, and a place to listen and prescribe actions based on recorded sales conversations between sellers and buyers. This platform supports all the functions that engage with customers, including sales, sales development, customer success, account management, and more.
Five sub-categories make up the sales enablement stack: conversation intelligence, sales readiness, sales content management, real-time knowledge, and digital adoption platforms. Traditionally, the sales enablement platform has required integrating point solutions from each segment. Over the last 18 months, this category has turned into a race to become a complete sales enablement platform with most vendors spanning multiple sub-categories.
Conversation intelligence: This technology records, collects, and analyzes customer conversations and communications. The primary use case is simple yet compelling: any sales meeting is recorded and easily accessible for peer, manager, or self-review. Vendors in this market use artificial intelligence (AI) to enable sellers, their managers, and go-to-market (GTM) stakeholders to capture actionable insights from a collection of buyer conversations. For example, managers receive email digests with deal-specific coaching recommendations based on keyword usage and customer sentiment analysis.
Sales readiness: These applications provide the ability to design, manage, and track always-on digital onboarding and training programs. These systems are designed to deliver a mix of virtual learning experiences such as videos, presentations, tools, exercises, and certifications. Coaching is incorporated into these platforms by providing scorecards, one-to-one manager coaching reviews, and integration with the CRM to surface just-in-time content in the context of a seller’s workflow. Instead of a one-time live training, sales reps have access to video training, peer observation, practice modules, structured coaching feedback from their peers or frontline managers, and certification—all without pulling a seller away from core selling activities.
Sales content management: These solutions provide up-to-date internal sales play and customer-facing content (e.g., presentations, templates, educational pieces), and track the usage and effectiveness metrics of each content piece. In the past, the pitch presentation deck used to be sent to the team after training in hopes that they would use it. With sales content management, sales reps can easily access the most up-to-date selling content, thereby allowing the organization to track usage and effectiveness. These solutions use AI in order to dynamically recommend which content to share at what time to specific prospects based on historical performance data. For example, the system can recommend which pitch deck to use based on what has worked in the past with this type of buyer.
Real-time knowledge: These solutions provide a scalable process to collect, organize, and surface user-generated answers and content (i.e., knowledge). This knowledge is surfaced as real-time answers and messaging guidance in a seller’s existing workflow channels such as browser extensions, email, chat, and collaborative spaces (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams). For example, a sales rep is asked a technical question and posts the question in the collaboration application. A subject matter expert replies with an answer. When the question is asked again, the system automatically provides the answer. AI-driven browser extension tools provide messaging recommendations based on keywords across the different applications sellers use. If the application recognizes a question received via email, it will proactively recommend an answer.
Digital adoption platform (DAP): This software provides prescriptive, just-in-time reminders and in-app guidance to help sellers successfully adopt and master sales tech applications. For example, as a seller creates an opportunity in the CRM, DAPs provide instructions in the app to guide them through the required steps, even actions required in other applications. The digital adoption sub-category is a recent addition to the sales enablement stack as seller tool adoption becomes critical to their productivity and success.
FROM MANUAL AND DISRUPTIVE TO TECHNOLOGY-GUIDED AND FLUID
Organizations are not just investing in enablement; they are investing in new approaches and technology to solve long-standing issues. The table below reflects the evolution from the status quo to new, more effective tools and processes across the key areas of sales enablement.
KEY CONSIDERATIONS WHEN PURCHASING SALES ENABLEMENT TECHNOLOGY
As TOPO analyzed the most effective implementations of sales enablement technology, a number of buyer recommendations emerged:
- Build strategy first before implementing technology. Analysis of successful implementations shows that these organizations defined their strategy, assigned resources, and as a result, had specified requirements. Invest in technology to support an overarching enablement strategy, objectives, programs, and talent.
- Involve marketing in technology decision making, sales enablement execution, and in some cases, budgets. Marketing is a key partner in sales enablement. It has been instrumental in growing, supporting, and funding sales content management and the content development required. Also, the best sales enablement organizations partner with marketing for onboarding, content, and training.
- Dedicate resources to learning design and sales content to maximize technology impact. People need to be in charge of creating the steady streams of content required to maximize the effectiveness of sales readiness and sales content solutions. This is especially important when optimizing content based on data.
- Adopt conversation intelligence early. The impact of conversation intelligence is significant and should be implemented when teams grow to four or more sales reps. Between speed to value for sellers and their managers, ease of change management, user-generated best practice playlists, and the capability of closing the enablement feedback loop, invest in conversation intelligence early in a sales team’s growth.