“This is going to be THE year!”, says every sales leader, every year.
Fueling optimism is a steady flow of new ideas about how to drive sales results. During the last weeks of the calendar, the sales effectiveness space becomes an echo chamber. So many predictions about next year. So much buzz around the next thing for unleashing rep performance. Hope springs eternal!
For any sales and enablement leader, it’s easy to get caught up in it all. As sales consultants, we’re also energized by the promise of finally solving the puzzle.
But we also understand that building a high-performing sales organization is never easy. There are many moving and interconnected parts to the system. There's often a big gap between a good idea on paper and field execution.
As we close out 2019, we’d like to offer a reality check of sorts. Over the last year we’ve been a close observer of the many big ideas in sales enablement. Conceptually, we agree with most. But we also understand the long list of things that can block these concepts from becoming reality.
The truth is, there are many sales enablement programs, initiatives, and ideas that will fall short in 2020. They’ll become victims – yet again – of the tough implementation hurdles found in every sales organization. Here’s our list of 5 things that won’t likely happen in 2020:
1. Sales enablement will evolve into revenue enablement. This concept this isn’t necessarily wrong. Sales enablement must take a holistic approach. They should work in active partnership with marketing, product, customer success, ops, and more. But achieving this lofty goal of end-to-end revenue enablement doesn’t come easily. Getting everyone on the same page and navigating internal hurdles can suck up a lot of time and energy.
What sales enablement needs to do: Embrace a strategic view of the revenue lifecycle, but stay focused on the day-to-day. Help make sure other functions know their swim-lanes as they face-off to customers and the field. But prioritize your time on practical execution. Focus on activities that impact win rates, deal size, and pipeline velocity. Don’t die on the hill of championing the ‘perfect’ enablement org structure.
2. The new CRM will transform sales productivity. We all agree that CRM provides the foundation for any modern sales organization. And companies continue to invest millions in these systems and various add-ons. But adoption challenges remain even in the most disciplined sales teams. CRM is just one piece of the sales operating model.
What sales enablement needs to do: Ensure your CRM is configured to support a non-linear buyer journey. Define the common selling situations your reps face. Configure the system to guide sellers with the right messaging, collateral, and tactics for each situation. In this adaptive process design, CRM can more naturally support a rep’s daily reality. It becomes a true playbook, not just a reporting mechanism for management.
3. Front-line managers will finally step up with quality coaching. You’ve heard it before, sales coaching is one the most important ways to influence results. The most effective leaders know this in their core. They actively role-model it with their direct reports. Unfortunately, we continue to see differences between the mandate for coaching and actual front-line manager behavior.
What sales enablement needs to do: Get super tactical around coaching. Support your managers with the right tools and a cadence to stay on top of their coaching. Document the coaching skill gaps by manager, and build tailored training to address specific areas of need. Don’t forget to tackle some of the obvious items that get in the way: bad time management, poor incentives, and corporate distractions.
4. A new Sales Kick-Off design will drive real ROI. How many years have you questioned the value of the traditional SKO? The cost of these events continues to escalate – often into the high six figures or more! But nothing really changes from year to year: the same old ‘motivational’ speakers, the death-by-PowerPoint sessions, boring product rollouts.
What sales enablement needs to do: Take the lead in reimagining the SKO. Champion a new approach that moves past the ‘one-the-done’ agenda. Focus on the right topics and skills your reps need to win with modern buyers. Equip your teams to deliver a differentiated sales experience. Start with SKO, then craft a reinforcement plan that spans the entire year.
5. Measure, measure, and measure some more. As the availability of sales data expands, so does the power of analytics. Many sales organizations have fully harnessed the potential. They’re running highly analytical engines that guide decision making. Other companies are still flying blind when it comes to sales ops. Their plans may call for objective measures of their programs and performance. And they many have even invested in many new data tools and dashboards. But the reality doesn’t live up to the aspiration. Gut feel and first impressions continue to lead the way.
What sales enablement needs to do: Objectively evaluate the metrics you are currently tracking (as well as the gaps). Do they line up with business objectives? Is there a clear path between your programs and the behaviors, leading indicators, and the lagging outcomes you want to influence? Support a culture of measurement and continuous learning. The right metrics provide valuable insights needed to refine your enablement agenda.
Make 2020 All About Execution
As 2019 comes to a close, one thing is clear—modern selling is hard. The job of sales leadership and the tasks facing sales enablement teams will only get harder in 2020.
Here’s to the organizations that are embracing the challenge. These teams are making real contributions to sales results every day. They balance a strategic perspective with a passion for getting things done. Smart, but consistent and practical execution rules.
We’re excited for what’s to come in 2020. What are you doing to improve your sales effectiveness next year? Where are the gaps and what opportunities are you ready to embrace head-on? Contact us to learn more practical ways to move the needle quickly in Q1 and beyond.
About The Author
Justin is a consultant who helps clients diagnose and address their barriers to sales productivity. His work has involved a number of companies in the healthcare, technology, and professional services sectors.