The way that B2B companies do business changed dramatically in 2020. Although digital transformation in sales has always been on the horizon, 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have greatly accelerated its adoption. Today, more businesses than ever before are connecting with buyers through virtual engagements and their go-to-market teams are adopting sales enablement practices and technology to drive greater productivity across their customer-facing teams.
Throughout the past year, as we partnered with our customers to accelerate their transformation to virtual selling, one of the questions we were asked most often was, “how are successful businesses using sales enablement to drive customer engagement?” In an effort to answer this question, we partnered with Callan Consulting, an independent marketing consulting firm, to conduct a global study to understand the sales enablement practices of these leaders.
Today we released the findings from our research in the Seismic Annual Sales Enablement Benchmark Report (2021): Decoding the Best Practices of Visionaries. The study, which is based on a set of online focus groups, as well as a web-based survey of 1,090 executives with sales enablement decision-making responsibilities, details the organizational environments, practices, and sales enablement technologies that are most correlated with successful business outcomes. Results from the survey were used to develop a sales enablement index which was used to group businesses into one of four maturity categories: Visionaries, Performers, Novices, or Laggards.
In this blog post, I’ll share some of my primary takeaways from the report. For deeper insights into enablement maturity, please see the Seismic Annual Sales Enablement Benchmark Report page or download the complete report.
Sales enablement is no longer a nice-to-have
Although businesses have varying definitions of sales enablement, the term is widely embraced. Among the survey’s respondents, 95% of companies have a dedicated sales enablement team. Regardless of an organization’s maturity level, respondents expressed that sales enablement is growing in adoption and relevance. When questioned about the role of sales enablement in their company, 93% of Visionaries reported that sales enablement is a strategic enabler for their business, while only 68% of Laggards held this view. Furthermore, 90% of Visionaries indicated that sales enablement is championed by the most senior leadership in their company, while only 62% of Laggards agreed with the same statement. Organizations that elevate the status of sales enablement are well-positioned to achieve better business outcomes than their competitors.
Sales enablement transforms the way businesses operate
Sales enablement is more than a function dedicated to sales activities. As more business is done digitally, companies that have implemented sales enablement platforms are using them to optimize experiences across the entire customer lifecycle. In particular, our research found that leaders prioritize enablement at a higher rate during each stage of the customer lifecycle. 88% of Visionaries apply sales enablement during the sales process compared to 80% of all respondents. However, the key differentiator for leaders is an emphasis on enablement following a sale, where 80% of leaders focus on the point of renewal (only 44% of Laggards) and 75% focus on post-loss in an effort to win back business (only 50% of Laggards). Sales enablement aligns go-to-market teams in order to deliver exceptional experiences at every stage of the customer lifecycle.
“We are equally on the hook for making sure that the demand that we are creating is converting and certainly not just turning into a first-time purchaser but also a repeat purchaser from a customer standpoint – so sales enablement for us now spans the entire lifecycle.”-VP, Marketing, Manufacturing Company
Sales enablement strengthens best practices
Businesses that have confidence in the data from their tech stack have a competitive advantage. These companies leverage insights from their systems to measure the effectiveness of enablement. Overall, 68% of survey respondents are confident in their data, while 28% of laggards and 94% of visionaries expressed confidence.
High-performing enablement organizations focus on efficiency and also creating effective processes. I think they also have a better understanding of the actual problems – so they are developing a targeted plan to address those issues (not just throwing darts at a random board to see what sticks).– VP Marketing, Insurance Company
Companies that expressed confidence in their data, leverage insights to evolve their processes. 54% of all respondents stated that they use data regularly to support continuous learning and make ongoing, granular adjustments to our sales processes. Compared to the average, 84% of Visionaries and 67% of Performers scale their learnings respectively.
Three actionable steps leaders can take to embrace a Visionary mindset
In the past year, surveyed Visionaries achieved over 120% of their quota, a figure that can be attributed in part to their strategic use of sales enablement technology. As businesses prepare for a future that prioritizes virtual sales, enablement technology will play an increasingly more important role in improving buyer experiences. There are some actions that leaders can take today to advance sales enablement maturity in their organizations.
- Elevate sales enablement to the level of a strategic priority: Nominate an executive champion and ensure that they have the support of the entire go-to-market organization
- Focus on buyer engagement: Set some common objectives and KPIs for go-to-market teams as a whole. Make sure that at least one of these is focused on the buyer’s experience
- Take steps to build an insights-driven organization: Set the expectation that your go-to-market teams should use metrics to understand and scale best practices across the organization, not just for reporting but as part of continuous improvement.