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2017 Trends: The Future of Sales Enablement

Posted by Rebecca Spary on 12/27/16 11:00 AM

It’s the time of year where we make our predictions for what the year ahead will bring us. We all know that sales and marketing never remain static for long, as trends develop, buyer’s needs change, and technology progresses, sellers and marketers need to be prepared and educated. In our blog mini-series we’ll be covering trends affecting sales and marketing in 2017.

We’ve written in the past about the importance of sales enablement technology for streamlining business operations, enhancing the buyer journey, and improving digital marketing content. This technology will continue to grow in prominence in the upcoming year as more organizations begin to recognize the benefits and multiple functions of sales enablement (MarTech Advisors, 2016).

The Future of Sales Enablement - 2017 Trends.png

This is the second blog in our mini-series about trends affecting sales and marketing in 2017. Don’t forget to check out the first blog in the series with tips for driving sales and marketing alignment in the New Year.

Sales enablement (SE) is powerful tool for driving sales success, and the constantly changing sales environment has made enablement tools a must-have for many organizations, especially those with a complex sales cycle such as manufacturing, industrial, or financial sales.

The evolution of sales enablement has included a shift in focus towards customers, supporting better conversations between buyers and sellers, and improving sales methodologies (MarTech Advisors, 2016). As these practices continue to evolve in the year ahead, we need to hone in on best practices to ensure that ROI remains high. 

We’ll see three practices take prominence for sales enablement success in 2017: 

 

1. Focusing on the entire customer lifecycle

“A deeper focus on sales development will be just the starting point for results leaders. For far too long, many sales enablement practitioners and senior sales leaders have focused myopically on opportunity management. Look at many of the definitions of sales enablement, and you’ll see references to enabling reps to win more deals. There’s little mention of creating opportunities or managing accounts after a deal is won.” (MarTech Advisors, 2016).

There are five stages to a typical customer lifecycle: acquisition, growth, retention, reactivation, and retirement. In the past sales enablement has been largely focused on acquisition, however in 2017 we’ll see a shift towards aligning sales enablement technology across the entire customer lifecycle.

For years now we’ve known that 81% of B2B purchase cycles start online, and that 90% of buyers will reach out when they’re ready to buy (Business 2 Community, 2014). It’s time that we pay attention to this accelerated sales cycle! Sale professionals no longer have to focus solely on attraction; instead they should be focusing their efforts on improving the later stages of the cycle.

For years now we've known that 81% of B2B purchase cycles start online and that 90% of buyers will reach out when they're ready to buy.png(Stat Source: Business 2 Community, 2014)

It makes perfect sense; if you’re already investing in sales enablement technology why not utilize it for all possible functions? We can apply SE to improve account growth and development, by using targeted cross-selling opportunities based upon data about similar accounts, and customer history. It can also be used to pinpoint account problems and needs with content tracking and CRM integration helping to improve account retention. 

The best-in-class sales enablement companies are continuously evolving their products to include new and desirable features that will aid the entire customer lifecycle. Make sure that you’ve invested in the right tool for the job.

                 

2. Focusing on effectiveness

As budgets continue to decline and resources become tighter, we’ll be seeing a rise in the need for improved effectiveness (Market Pro Inc., 2016).

“By focusing on the tools [sales enablement] salespeople need to conduct engaging and productive conversations with decision-makers and stakeholders, sales leaders can prepare even the most inexperienced sales professionals to move prospects smoothly through the sales process.” (Octiv, 2016). 

Sales enablement can help make sales professionals more effective. SE drives high-value activities such as pre-call planning, content management, customer research, and business development, all of which help to make sales professionals more effective at their jobs. Sales enablement - mobile sales app.png

For more information on sales enablement can improve content management, check out 5 digital content management lessons from Netflix.

Another way that SE can help to improve sales effectiveness is through continuous learning. Improving onboarding techniques has been a top priority throughout 2016, as hiring managers and enablement teams have been focusing on making sure that their teams are primed for success, but what happens after onboarding? We’re seeing the highest number of turnovers occur within the first 12 to 36 months (BrainShark, 2016). This is because sales professionals feel unprepared. In the New Year organizations should focus on continuous coaching and education for their teams. 

Utilizing sales enablement technology for coaching and continuous learning is easy (Mind Trickle, 2015). Sharing content tips, creating interactive training pieces, and observing sales activities is convenient with the help of SE tech. Sales managers can allocate training materials such as quizzes and videos to their entire teams or target specific individuals who are struggling.

“For example, if a rep is struggling to understand the value of a new product feature, a role play mission will allow managers to see what they’re doing and coach on how to improve it.” (Mind Trickle, 2015). 

 

3. Focusing on implementing predictive analytics

Everything and everybody nowadays seems to be focused on data and analytics, but in our rush to archive every data point we find, we’re failing to properly analyze this information. 

As the volume of data continues to grow every day, organizations need to adopt sales enablement technology with predictive analytics (PA) capabilities. PA, using techniques such as data mining and machine learning to analyze current data and make educated predictions about the future, helps to enhance and evolve the sales process (SAS).

When predictive analytics are applied to the content cycle, digital content generates more interactions (page views, clicks, ratings, etc.) with 77% less content created.png(Stat Source: Convince and Convert, 2015)

Predictive analytics makes content more effective; it helps marketing to tailor content creation to areas where they will be most successful, eliminating wasted time and resources. It also helps sales to understand what content will be the most effective, for each customers, at each stage in their lifecycle.

Sales leaders want their teams to emulate the results of their top, and most effective, sales professionals. By using a SE platform with predictive analytics capabilities sales leaders can track and monitor their team’s activities to make educated predictions about the future, they can then use this behavioural data to improve the performance of their entire team.

 

Prepare for 2017!

Make sure that your sales and marketing teams are prepared for 2017 by investing in sales enablement technology that has the capabilities that you need. Evaluate and adjust your current sales and content strategies to reflect where your market is heading.

Now that you’ve heard from us, and what we think will be the top trends in sales enablement for 2017, what do you predict? Connect with us on Twitter and let us know!

And if you’re interested in learning more or investing in the right sales enablement technology for the future, then book a demo below and one of our sales specialists will be happy to chat with you!

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Topics: Sales Enablement, Sales