The SiriusDecisions 2014 Summit, held in Orlando, had about 2,000 senior-level sales and marketing professionals in attendance. As an exhibitor, here are a few of the observations that I made during the three day event.
1. Sales enablement is a senior-level position, not just a strategic imperative.
In the past 12 months I've seen an explosion of Director and VP-level titles in Sales Enablement. It seemed like 80 percet of the folks that I spoke to that had a sales enablement title had been promoted to the newly created position in 2014. I'm convinced that as executive leadership has (finally) learned to understand not just the importance of sales enablement and the benefits that it provides, but the cross-departmental nature of it, that headcount is required.
SiriusDecisions recently published data showing that the sales enablement role, which was born out of product marketing, is increasingly reporting into the VP of Sales. The tangible KPIs of sales enablement– increased time spent selling, increased win rates and shorter sales cycles– all accrue directly to the top line, making that reporting structure a more natural fit.
2. Delivering content in the context of a sales situation is a hot topic.
Many of the folks that I spoke to, when seeing that we are a sales enablement solution, asked if we “help deliver the right content at the right stage of the sales cycle.” (The answer is yes). The immediate follow up question was, “What about playbooks?” I find playbooks to be a fascinating study in paternalism and the not-that-far-in-the-past linear sales process. Remember that sales process? A single buyer going down a single decision-making process…those were the days of not even five years ago. Back then, in the pre-tablet days, of course a playbook could be helpful– sales reps were pre-programmed robots! But, alas, the world of the linear sales process doesn't exist anymore– there are too many buyers at the table. Luckily, sales reps were never robots to begin with. While playbooks are a great idea and a great training tool, what is the actual adoption rate of playbooks as the single source of truth by all sales reps, let alone the quota-beating ones? Playbooks aren't flexible enough and too paternalistic. They are a consultant-style legacy of a “here's how you should sell” heyday. Today, with tablets in hand, sales reps need options to customize content on the fly while having access to the right content at the right time.
A playbook is a crutch that isn't used by someone who knows how to walk and wants to run. Also, a playbook isn't the only way to deliver the right content at the right time. Rant over.
3. The Director of Content Operations is real and necessary.
Last year, SiriusDecisions began advising clients to create a Director of Content Operations to help orchestrate the variety of internal channels that create content (product marketing, sales support, sales ops, customer support, etc.) to the variety of distribution points for that content in the outside world. Steve Diorio of Profitable Channels did a webinar with us a few months ago articulating a similar vision for this “King / Queen of Content,” and I had the pleasure of meeting the first real person with this title at the event. The benefits that Kathleen Pierce from Illumina has brought to the table in the past six months in this newly created position– that she lobbied to be created– are striking. Organizing content by usage and age reduced the mounting stockpiles of content by 60 percent, making it somewhat easier for people to find the content that they need. And Ms. Pierce is just getting started with making her sales reps and sales support team more efficient and effective…I think we might see her on stage in a year or two as a case study.
Fun times in Orlando, for sure. I'll see ya'll in Nashville next year!