Sales Enablement In The Digital Age
The lifeblood of almost any business—B2B, B2C—is sales. Whether that’s Uber trying to sell its brand to the public and to potential drivers, Salesforce selling its multi-platform technology, or Amazon selling its AWS services to companies worldwide: the fact is that any large-scale organization must focus on sales enablement. Of course, sales enablement here has a specific definition. We don’t just want to use jargon whose meaning is taken for granted.
Sales enablement refers to the specific set of competitive practices, technologies, and processes that help rationalize and increase sales funnel activity. They have to be competitive because it’s important to remember that sales are always happening in competition with other companies. Even Amazon, which seems like an unstoppable titan, is competing with other cloud service companies for AWS real estate. And so even such multinationals must focus on the set of practices, technologies, and processes that will help them stay competitive.
Let’s go over some of the technological trends and developments that are buzzing around right now, in terms of sales enablement. Though another article might discuss the practices and processes for sales—ways to nurture deals, open lines of communication, and standardize collaborative selling—this article focuses on the technologies made available to enterprises large and small for enabling sales in the most competitive fashion via technology.
1st Pillar: Learning And Development For Sales Enablement
Learning and Development (L&D) is one of the surefire ways to enable a sales operation to be competitive. Training has changed since the old days. In the past, you could hire a salesperson from another company in your vertical and let them do the work of figuring out industry trends, pain points, and solutions. However, today’s market is much more fragmented and competitive. Many companies provide the same services with complicated differences between them, that take a good amount of learning to understand how to speak about. Very rarely are companies the “only one” providing their stated service, and it helps if sales personnel have a broad, deep understanding of exactly what distinguishes your product from the others.
Naturally, with teams busier than ever before trying to win business and outsell competitors, there isn’t as much time to manually train and educate sales professionals. That goes for new team members as well as veterans who need to learn new products, technical specifics, and terminologies. This is where eLearning and development enter the picture. L&D teams can collaborate with sales teams to enable the learning that products and services might require. But first, they need to lay the groundwork in terms of eLearning technology. For training leaders, heed this advice: your eLearning technology should be able to intuitively (that is, smartly) sense what training or learning module your sales professional needs at any given moment, to fuel their growth and enable their sales potential.
Obviously, you’re going to need to customize the learning modules yourself, but once they’re set up and designed you should be able to set them up so that the moment a sales professional needs to know something (e.g., how to talk about a brand-new product feature) the platform will notify them to complete the eLearning module that you have already customized. This technology should be using data—collected from the sales professional’s past activity across your tech platforms, powered by intersystem integrations—to determine what learning task they need at any given time. It should then be using this data to assign learning and improve the professional’s selling behavior and breadth of knowledge. Dashboards and reporting should be robust in your technology, so you can have a bird’s eye view of who has completed what kind of training, and who has yet to complete the training they need.
2nd Pillar: Incentives And Recognition
Another aspect of the overall lifecycle of eLearning for sales enablement is incentives and recognition. Many might have heard this term, and for context, it is deeply related to “gamification.” eLearning technology fully fueled by the digital transformation—the new, post-2020 potentialities opened by digital technology—should have a gamified system for incentives and recognition.
Gamification refers to “the strategic attempt to enhance systems, services, organizations, and activities in order to create similar experiences to those experienced when playing games in order to motivate and engage users,” says Wikipedia. An incentives and recognition system, similarly, uses gamification to incentivize, motivate, and engage sales professionals to enable eLearning. For instance, sales enablement technology might provide notifications for an award won when professionals hit a sales target or complete a new learning module. The user, a sales professional, will then feel encouraged and inspired to continue selling and learning about how to sell best. This furthers the goal of sales enablement by using gamification to incentivize and recognize the efforts of the sales professional in this example.
It’s even better if the sales enablement technology you’re considering has smart gamification, automatically set up to provide diverse forms of motivation based on preset triggers. For example, the technology might auto-track sales progress for a team and visualize that progress on a leaderboard, increasing internal competition to make the company overall more competitive in sales. As we spoke about above, the most cutting-edge technology will use a combination of external and internal data analytics to deliver the most effective motivation for sales.
Sales enablement technology might then send an automated notification to a sales professional letting them know that they have to make X more sales for the week in order to reach the top three on the leaderboard. The company can even assign a meaningful reward, like a free trip or airline voucher, to further incentivize leaderboard participation. Incentives and recognition can work together with gamification to make sales enablement both automated and fun for professionals so that eLearning can feel, not like a burden, but a source of entertainment.
3rd Pillar: Opportunity Management
This is the final aspect of the sales enablement lifecycle, as far as technology goes—at least with respect to the most leading-edge present technology. If Learning and Development and incentives and recognition help create the conditions of success, opportunity management helps build on this success. It helps to create a cycle; success begets, and enables, further wins. Any strong eLearning platform will have the ability to take the results of eLearning and channel them into a higher tier of success. It will be able to use the growth fostered by Learning and Development, and the motivation supplied by incentives and recognition, and feed them into the goal of higher sales and ever-higher levels of sales enablement.
Let’s bring it down to earth for a second. Let’s say a sales professional has a groundwork of product knowledge and motivation to upskill and outperform, both the result of their smart eLearning and training platform. They’re starting to build their business, their client or customer list, and their confidence as reps for a product. Yet the most effective eLearning platform will also include opportunity management tools to help them visualize their sales funnel, automate their selling campaigns, and optimize their templates for prospect nurturing and mass communications. Such technology ought to be shrunk down to the size of a mobile app so that sales professionals–who are often so busy, always on the go—can work wherever they are. Imagine a sales professional who can wait in an airport lounge while using their mobile eLearning platform to analyze their sales funnel and send out templates to a new batch of leads.
Of course, as mentioned, all of this ought to be driven by data. When supported by top-notch data, including integrations, the sales team is being shown the most relevant leads and being notified of the tasks they must perform to further their sales funnel. Their technology is taking much of the burden of repetitive decision-making away from them, so they can focus on what they do best: selling. They’re going to be happy, to feel like there are no gaps between their technology and their sales potential, and so, the chances of retaining them are higher, insofar as they feel supported by their technology.
Clearly, workforce retention is a big deal in the era of the Great Resignation, which is still ongoing. The ease of opportunity management makes it more likely that a sales professional will have positive sentiments toward their company. Many have spoken about the benefits of opportunity management for customer retention. For instance, Hubspot dedicated an entire blog article to the usefulness of customer relationship management technology for sales productivity. But few have spoken of the usefulness of opportunity management in retaining sales teams because such technology fully enables them and completely realizes their potential as professionals. They’re fully enabled for sales success all the way.
All in all, the most complete eLearning technology for sales enablement will combine these three phases of the sales enablement lifecycle: Learning and Development, incentives and recognition, and opportunity management. Not only that, they will support the entire lifecycle with data to drive actions, present tasks, and ultimately realize each individual sales professional’s potential. To be truly competitive in a crowded industry, you need a consistent, powerful, and unified team. In this article, we’ve described the kind of cutting-edge technology you want to look out for in order to be just that.