As we enter 2018, sales enablement remains a misunderstood sector (what is sales enablement, anyway?), which makes it difficult to predict what the next big sales enablement trends will be.
And with more products available each year, the definition of sales enablement is likely to remain fuzzy for the foreseeable future. Just check out Nancy Nardin’s epic graphic of the 2017 sales enablement landscape to grasp the current extent of the space.
With all that technology available, you may be tempted to think getting customers to say, “Yes!” will be easier than ever. But the fact is, increased competition, evolving buyer expectations, and the need to hear “Yes!” from not one, but 6.8 buyers, the sales process continues to grow more complex.
No wonder 77% of organizations now rely on some form of sales enablement to assist reps in meeting—and hopefully exceeding—quota.
But, what’s next? What hot sales enablement trends should you be watching in 2018?
We’ve listened to our clients, analyzed their pain points, and asked which sales enablement trends they’re eyeballing. Overall, we’re seeing sales enablement branch beyond content to address sales efficiency.
Here we go.
#1: One-Stop Technology
For a sales rep, there’s a golden moment when, after experiencing a well-crafted, personalized presentation, your wowed customer is ready to sign. What’s more anticlimactic than explaining that you’ll need to go back to the office, export the file, re-key it in the order entry platform, then email them later―dampening their enthusiasm and possibly jeopardizing the sale?
Sales teams have been feeling the pain for years. It’s inefficient, frustrating, and time-consuming to muddle through multiple log-ins to collect the data and content needed to build a personalized sales presentation.
So we’re listing one-stop technology as the number one sales enablement trend in 2018. This year, we’ll finally start to see more sales enablement tools serve multiple purposes and address multiple stages of the buying journey.
These new, modern sales enablement tools will streamline functions and data, becoming a one-stop shop that benefits reps, customers, and managers. Needs analysis, presentation-building, customer-facing sales tools, CRM, training, customer communication, and analytics come together in one powerful solution. And all of these functions communicate with pricing, product databases, and location―further enhancing the platform.
With a one-stop solution, reps can analyze customer challenges, suggest the ideal solution, create a quote and then―with the tap of a button―place the order to close the deal. All from the convenience of a tablet!
#2: Highly Personalized Buyer’s Journeys
Personalization enhances loyalty, drives conversion rates, and grows revenue. Monetate says that 79% of organizations exceeding revenue goals have a documented personalization strategy.
Historically, it’s been difficult (and really expensive) to unite all the specific customer data needed – demographics, engagement with marketing content, answers to needs-based questions, etc. – from multiple legacy systems to create a personalized buying journey.
Off-the-shelf platforms can’t manage such a complex feat. But adaptable sales enablement solutions will begin to make this easier in 2018. As solution providers and IT departments continue to move into the cloud, expose APIs, and build integration points, flexible and customizable tools that can adapt to your infrastructure will be something we see more of in 2018.
Also, personalizing your buyer’s journey is one of the best ways your organization can create a competitive advantage. Our clients tell us that sales reps love delivering custom presentations because they’re unique, impressing customers. One client even shared, “I like that it’s interactive, so customers don’t play on their phones while we’re talking.”
“I like that it’s interactive, so customers don’t play on their phones while we’re talking.”
#3: Manager Enablement Via Data
Sales enablement trend #3 is all about data and how sales leaders can use this data to their advantage.
A collateral benefit of improved data integration is what we call “manager enablement.” More data gives managers a huge advantage in coaching reps to perform better based on real-time results.
Sales manager dashboards are not a novel idea. But increased reporting insights are going to revolutionize how managers measure and manage data including productivity, pipeline analysis, understanding the buyer’s journey, forecasting, and marketing insights that maximize sales performance.
As one example, by aggregating data on the most highly recommended and popular products—in addition to the rarely recommended ones—reps and managers can discern:
- which sales tactics are most effective
- what content has maximum impact
- which solutions reps should be recommending
- which methods convert best
- what point in the sales pipeline customers are most likely to drop out
Using this data, managers will have a roadmap to coach reps and suggest training and strategies to maximize conversions as they adapt to new buyer behaviors and expectations. The results: more accurate forecasting and revenue target attainment.
#4: Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Automation and AI are revolutionizing sales enablement, and we believe it will be one of the hottest sales trends to watch in the coming years. However, let’s make something crystal clear: AI won’t replace sales reps any time soon, and certainly not in 2018.
AI can’t achieve quota on its own. It can, however, make reps more productive and efficient with their time, shifting the human role in the sales journey.
What AI does best is provide data, insights, and information in an accessible way. What humans do best is make meaningful connections to other humans that result in depth and understanding of needs. AI is critical in decreasing the amount of time consumed by administrative tasks, freeing up more time for reps to do what they do best: sell.
Reps devote as little as 22% of their time to selling, yet spend at least 50% of it on administrative tasks. Done right, the goal of automation/AI is to decrease reps’ administrative task load, freeing up time to build solid client relationships mid-funnel.
With more time to focus on selling, reps come in at the dynamic moment when customers are informed but seeking guidance in making their best decision.
#5: Continued Focus on Being Digital
Does your organization have a Digital Transformation or Innovation team? If it doesn’t―it will soon. To keep moving forward, companies large and small will be required to adapt to more modern ways of doing things.
While digital and mobile technology have been sales trends for years, many organizations are just now launching mobile apps. As mobile technology expands, Digital Transformation and Innovation Teams help organizations navigate issues around aging IT structures and the challenges enterprise mobile device management (MDM) brings.
While these teams help companies go digital and cater to their unique requirements, most organizations don’t have the in-house expertise or IT capacity to go it alone. The challenge is twofold: how to equip teams with mobile tech―and then manage it.
The movement from on-premise servers and aging IT infrastructure to cloud-based, on-demand, BYOD, digitally transformed companies is well under way and will continue in 2018. But this year, we’ll start to see organizations rely more heavily on trusted partners with proven experience to guide their transformation and help them think through challenges like MDM, security, data integration, accessibility, etc.
Identifying a partner who’s already been there, done that, and understands that change (including the pain of the change and how to make it easier) is critical.
What Sales Enablement Trends Will You Watch in 2018?
Sales enablement is rapidly changing. But hopefully the sales enablement trends we’ve listed above will help you focus on what you can do this year to improve the efficiency of your sales team.
Which of the sales enablement trends we’ve identified will you watch, or even implement this year? What’s missing from our list?
Share below or give us a call and let us know how we can help you achieve your goals—we’d love to talk sales enablement with you!
55% of sales executives plan to invest in sales enablement tools, but they don’t always have a plan to roll out the solution and get reps to embrace it. 51.5% of organizations lack a formal sales enablement vision, according to a study from CSO Insights.
This lack of a vision and planning shows. Poor adoption of sales technology is a struggle that’s real. Take software like CRMs, for example. Failure rates are around 50%—but have been reported as high as 70%.
There is good news. Failure to launch is preventable. Before you roll out a new sales tool, follow these 7 sales enablement best practices to ensure success.
1. Align on Business Outcomes
Sales enablement tools can impact more than just your sales force. Marketing will need to be in the loop. Product will need to be in the loop. So will IT, Legal, L&D, etc.
Identify and involve cross-department stakeholder and decision makers from the get-go. Getting in sync upfront reduces the risk of getting critical feedback too late in the process and creating rework.
Align on both short-term and long-term goals. Focusing on immediate pains or needs only will ultimately lead to a temporary, band-aid solution.
2. Know Your Users
End users come in many forms and include your sales team, sales leadership, and executives. Knowing what each group wants to see and how they want to see it makes a big difference for utilization.
Reps may need tools to help them facilitate sales meetings. But executives won’t necessarily need that. Instead, they’d want a fast, easy way to get to sales results and trend reports.
Make users part of the discovery process and test bench. This will help you best understand how to integrate new technology into their daily workflow. Getting real end users to test the tool will also help you diagnose and mitigate potential barriers to usage early.
3. Keep It Simple
Great tools work for you, not the other way around. Resist the temptation to over-engineer. Feature-bloat is a top killer of usage. Too many bells and whistles get in the way and then the tool never gets used.
Keep it simple applies to implementation, too. Don’t roll out a new tool to the entire sales organization at once. That’s too disruptive a change. Start small with a pilot program. Participants will then become the champions and evangelists who naturally build your user base and adoption rates.
4. Don’t Undermine Reps
Reps are smart, capable people. Interactive educational content and demos (and similar functionality) need to be integrated carefully.
The best sales enablement tools provide the right information at the right time in the sales process to build credibility. They should never undermine the salesperson’s expertise.
5. Prepare for Change
Do internal marketing for the tool. This helps generate excitement. It also keeps people informed of progress, which helps them feel “in the know” and part of the process. Reps don’t want to feel like a tool is being forced on them.
Training will be critical, too. Be very clear about how the technology aligns with your sales methodology, and the ways it will enhance it. Providing contextual examples of how to use the tool will help teams adapt their workflow and daily activities more smoothly.
6. Set Reps Up for Success
Set usage expectations early and clearly and make sure managers and reps have an accountability plan in place.
Reinforce “what great looks like” by having successful early adopters share best practices.
Share and celebrate wins team- and organization-wide. This will help others stay focused and motivated.
Be ready to address tech issues. When something goes wrong with technology, sales teams don’t have much patience. Having a rapid-response help desk and technology support strategy will eliminate obstacles that may prevent sales teams from embracing the tool.
7. Measure & Iterate
Collecting data is good. Connecting the dots with reports that drive insights around sales results is best.
Also collect feedback from users. Learn from version 1.0 of your sales enablement tool and use those lessons to inform how to add to the tool and scale it.
Successfully launching a new sales enablement tool isn’t a matter of releasing it into the wild and hoping for the best. It comes down to good planning, and recognizing and embracing these sales enablement best practices to drive adoption:
- Don’t start unless you know what everyone needs and you can tie those needs to a sales goal.
- Great tools work for your reps, not the other way around.
- Define success early, measure often, and iterate quickly.
Sales Enablement Best Practices At Work
This hard work pays off. For example, when Comcast added a guided selling tool to their sales toolkit, they followed these sales enablement best practices.
They started with a thorough discovery process and ultimately used feedback from the field to iterate on the tool post-launch. The result? The tool contributed to a 60% increase in YOY sales and a 40% increase in rep productivity. #winning
We believe sales enablement is not just a tool-it’s a smart mix of training and technology that helps your sales team win. Want to learn more? Give us a shout!
Sales enablement is a fast-growing space. Look up sales enablement software, and you’ll find hundreds of proposed solutions. Most of them are rep-focused and provide information like lead data, sales presentations, and marketing collateral. These features can definitely help sales reps be more efficient, but if your sales enablement software doesn’t support interactive product demos, you’re missing out.
In this article, we explain how you can deliver a better customer experience, onboard faster, and close more sales when your sales enablement software includes interactive product demos.
First things first: if you think sales enablement is just for geofencing and tracking sales calls, expand your definition of sales enablement. Think of sales enablement as a smart mix of technology and training. When you include interactive demos throughout your sales enablement tool, reps have everything they need in one place. They can quickly learn about your products and services, and then sell them the right way—faster.
What are interactive product demos?
In this context, interactive product demos are highly visual pieces of sales presentation content that explain the features and benefits of a product or service. They help the viewer understand how something you sell works—and how it stacks up against the competition—in a compelling way.
I’ve seen two demo formats work really well: short videos and interactive, highly visual learning modules. Videos support storytelling and demonstrate benefits. Interactive learning modules simulate how product features work and explain how they benefit the customer.
Short videos support storytelling and demonstrate benefits.
Interactive learning modules simulate product features and explain the benefits.
What can interactive product demos help my sales reps do?
Deliver a better customer experience
In my experience, the most effective interactive product demos can explain a product or service in 10 seconds or less. 65% of your customers are visual learners, so when you show how something works (rather than tell), you seriously upgrade your customer experience.
Your customers are also busy, and they don’t have time for clunky PowerPoints and outdated brochures. They want to learn new information quickly so they can make a buying decision.
Forrester shares that interactive product demos change the medium of video from a “lean-back to a lean-forward interactive experience,” empowering and informing customers as they move further down the sales funnel.
Here’s what Hubspot says:
“When customers feel like they’re in control, they will often take risks, such as trying new services or taking a chance on a new product.”
If you want to share your value propositions with your customers in an exciting, visual way, see if your sales enablement software can support interactive product demos. You’ll help your customers understand how you can solve their challenges and why they should buy from you.
Onboard reps faster
You want your new sales reps to be more productive, faster. In fact, we’ve found they’re actively looking for short, to-the-point ways to explain your products and services. Reps want to deliver accurate information and hold their customer’s attention.
Interactive product demos allow sales reps to gain expertise with very little time commitment. In the same way product demos help your customers learn, they help your reps learn, too. There’s an assurance in knowing their sales enablement software has helpful product information, right there when they need it. I’ve seen reps who have access to interactive product demos achieve quota as soon as Month 2 or Month 3.
When sales enablement tools include interactive product demos, reps have more confidence during their customer conversations. They also have access to consistent, helpful content for each customer, regardless of their location and level of experience.
Close more sales
Time is a sales rep’s most precious resource. Selling Power says the average rep spends just 10 percent of their time selling. When your sales enablement software doubles as a sleek interactive product demo, reps gain time to devote to their core objective: selling. No more late nights formatting PowerPoint slides.
On top of that, interactive product demos make it easier for customers to make a buying decision. Customers are more engaged and can understand key benefits more quickly. You heard it from Forrester and HubSpot—this leads to a better close rate.
See it in action
Want to see examples of sales enablement software that doubles as an interactive product demo?
Check out Advisor or contact us to talk more.
Google what is sales enablement, and you’ll find varying definitions alongside dozens of companies offering apps that claim to be the silver bullet. We’ve seen first-hand that companies are often grasping at technology as a quick fix, rather than slowing down to align on a comprehensive initiative. However, making it easy for an entire sales force to use consistent messaging, keep up with product knowledge, add value to the customer experience, and drive sales growth can’t be accomplished with a single app. We must think bigger.
According to CSO Insights, while sales enablement is a growing trend, overall sales performance is not improving. In fact, while sales enablement as a discipline grew from 19.3% in 2013 to 32.7% in 2016, quota attainment actually decreased from 63% to 55.8%.
How can you expand your sales enablement efforts into a 360-degree strategy? We have some ideas.
What Is Sales Enablement: THe Unboxed Definition
To start, here’s our answer to the what is sales enablement question.
We define sales enablement as:
A strategic initiative that aligns sales, marketing, and training to equip sales teams with the training, technology, content, and ongoing coaching they need to increase productivity, sell more, and improve the customer experience.
Let’s break that down.
IT’s a strategic initiative
Sales enablement is a comprehensive, forward-thinking initiative that employs a smart mix of technology and training. It’s not a quick-fix or a shiny new tool that lacks staying power.
If every employee company-wide embraces a mindset that they are either salespeople or sales support, your success will skyrocket. According to Salesforce’s State of Sales Report, 60% of sales professionals say collaborative selling increases their productivity by 25% or more, and over half say it also increases their pipeline.
It aligns sales, marketing, and training
In our experience, sales enablement originates in marketing. It’s marketing’s responsibility to position products, create talking points, and create a value proposition to make the customer experience more consistent.
Sales reps are your organization’s frontline revenue drivers. They build strong relationships with customers, provide solutions, and close deals. But it takes all three departments―sales, marketing, and training― working together to cultivate a successful, cross-functional sales enablement initiative.
Marketing typically owns the budget, sales executes the strategy, and training fosters the necessary skills and behaviors to sustain it. When this powerful trifecta aligns, the ultimate customer experience emerges.
It demands training
Sales reps require knowledge, skills, and behaviors to effectively sell to modern buyers. Without great training, they won’t share your value proposition with ease or overcome difficult objections.
Unfortunately, 80% of marketing content is rarely or never used by sales, according to ITSMA. Without strategic, insightful training on how to use them, high-end sales enablement tools and content are useless—but with the right training, these tools are priceless.
And with microlearning, reps can make the most of small chunks of time and train on the go. They can access training information whenever they need it. Quick refresher course before a big customer meeting? Yes, please.
It’s powered by technology
CSO Insights explains your organization can create the right tools, training, messaging, and content, but if your sales team can’t access them easily, you’re effectively fighting with one hand tied behind your back.
The sales productivity gap―widened by administrative tasks, manual data entry, and time spent searching for the right content―means less time for what sales reps do best: selling. Selling Power says some reps spend as little as 3% of their time actually selling. That’s shocking!
That’s where sales enablement technology comes in. And remember, don’t look for a silver bullet. Your reps will likely use different tools for different tasks. From rep-facing tools like CRMs and sales training platforms, to customer-facing solutions like guided selling tools and customer feedback platforms.
It centralizes content
Message consistency is vital to your organization’s brand. Sales enablement gives every rep access to the same high-caliber marketing content. Customers in every region are guaranteed to receive the same (stellar!) level of information and service. Marketing consistency thus becomes reality.
Easy access to interactive demos and content serves a dual purpose: they’re customer-facing (hello, customer experience) and also help keep your reps’ knowledge on point.
Let the content do the talking: interactive demos can explain your products quickly, while some sales enablement tools recommend the right training content at the right time to help reps close a deal.
Enablement? We’d call that empowerment.
It requires ongoing coaching
According to Topo, “Most sales training programs suffer from a fatal flaw―they happen once a year. As a result, salespeople forget what they’ve learned.”
Products change, messaging evolves, and competitors encroach. The solution? Make sales enablement training a continuous, cyclical effort.
Conduct regular training sessions and provide reps with refresher training to maintain their competitive edge. The more modern and interesting you make it, the more your team will engage with it.
And coach, coach, coach. Observe your reps in action and provide feedback. They want to be better. Help them.
The Goal: Increase productivity, grow sales, and improve customer experience
When sales enablement is done right, the benefits are three-fold.
First, reps are more productive. They spend less time on administrative tasks and more time selling. And don’t forget about onboarding. Getting new reps up to speed is a challenge. With the right sales enablement strategy, reps are more productive, sooner. Often twice as fast.
It empowers reps to educate customers and make smarter recommendations about the best product/service for their needs. When customers experience this transparency and see that a rep isn’t just suggesting a solution to meet quota, they start to trust. And trust quickly morphs into increased sales.
Finally, it simplifies the increasingly complex buyer’s journey and adds value. A comprehensive sales enablement strategy makes it easy for your reps to sell and easy for your customers to buy from you. When you create a unique and exceptional customer experience, customers will buy from you again and again, and tell their friends to do the same.
Think before you launch
Without a well-planned strategy to accomplish your organization’s sales enablement objectives, you could waste time, effort, and money on so called “silver bullets” without achieving results.
Avoid failure to launch. With good planning, and a smart mix of training and technology, your sales force will be enabled, empowered and unstoppable.
So what is sales enablement to you? Share your definition in the comments below.
Tablets debuted in 2010, with Steve Jobs dubbing the original iPad “a magical and revolutionary device.” Many organizations quickly embraced the idea of using tablets for sales teams to benefit from the productivity-boosting aspects of these handy devices.
Within six months of launch, 65% of Fortune 100 companies deployed or piloted the original iPad. By 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that 94% of the Fortune 500 and 75% of the Global 500 were either testing or deploying iPads for sales.
In an April 2015 Smart Selling Tools report, 45% of organizations polled were using tablets for their sales teams. Of the remaining 55%, 5% had interest but no budget, 33% responded “not in use,” and 12% were in process of evaluating or implementing an iPad or other tablet.
Here’s a breakdown of how those teams are using tablets for sales:
So, Why Tablets for Sales?
If your neighborhood bar and grill uses tablets so patrons can rock trivia night and place orders with a swipe, as an industry innovator, shouldn’t your sales reps have them?
Aberdeen asks the definitive question: is it wise to arm 21st century sales reps with pre-millennial tools?
Well, no. It’s not.
There are two major benefits to equipping your sales team with tablets:
- Boosting sales productivity
- Improving the customer experience
Let’s dive a little deeper.
Boosting Sales Productivity
It’s a fact: tablets increase sales rep productivity. How? By allowing them to make the most of the time they do have, getting new reps up to speed faster, and shortening the sales cycle.
When you save reps time spent on administrative tasks and searching for the right product info, they can devote more time to what they do best: selling. With a comprehensive mobile office at reps’ fingertips, 15 minutes of downtime between appointments becomes productive time for completing administrative tasks or even – gasp! – mobile training from the field. Yes, all of that is possible.
When you equip reps with tablets full of product info, presentation software, sales training, and the like, your new hires will have everything they need at their fingertips to learn quickly, gain confidence, and become productive sooner.
And of course, the ever-growing list of sales-specific apps for tablets ‒ CRMs, lead management, guided selling, proposals, digital signatures, etc. ‒ shortens the sales cycle, helping reps close streamlined deals in record time.
Improving the Customer Experience
In 2011, the “Year of the Tablet,” tablets revolutionized the purchasing experience. Weren’t you wowed during your first Apple Store purchase when the sales clerk swiped your credit card from his iPad? Remember that impressed-to-the-core feeling? Yeah, that feeling. Your company can leverage that to wow customers and clients.
Both sales reps and customers are drawn to the cool factor of using tablets for sales, setting the stage for exactly what you want in a sales conversation: reps and customers standing shoulder to shoulder, oohing and aahing at the stuff you sell.
Reps walking into a sales call with a tablet under their arms gain instant credibility. They’re on the cutting edge. Professional. In the know. Customers know they’ll gain access to scads of data at the swipe of a finger.
Aberdeen sums it up:
Customers expect a seamless experience. … They will not tolerate or respect a counterpart who is not enabled with the most up-to-date tools of their trade for fear that the offerings of the company behind that rep are not future-focused.
Bottom line: your customers expect your sales team to use tablets. That’s powerful.
Worse: not having them makes you suspect.
Great Tablets Demand Great Content
But don’t be fooled. The latest tablet is nothing without compelling content. When arming your reps with tablets, you also want to provide them with innovative apps and exceptional content to ensure that your marketing and sales messaging is consistent across the organization.
Think back to the launch of the iPod. Without iTunes and a library of rich content, the iPod was simply a block of plastic and metal with a fun click wheel. It was the marriage of great technology and great content that helped Apple revolutionize the way we consume music.
That’s the core of what we do at Unboxed. We pair great technology – like Unboxed Advisor, our sales enablement platform, and Spoke, our social learning platform – with rich content to keep sales teams and customers engaged.
Testimonials & Results
How about some real-world results?
Here’s what Anthem says about using tablets equipped with Unboxed Advisor to engage businesses purchasing health coverage.
Unlike PowerPoint, Advisor allows our sales team to be very nimble in their conversation with potential clients. It boils down our complicated product portfolio to something that is easily digestible without sacrificing messaging and the breadth of our product offering.
Likewise, Comcast used tablets with Unboxed Advisor to engage retail customers purchasing their home television, internet, phone, and home security packages. The ROI? A 60% increase in YOY sales, and a 40% increase in rep productivity. Read the case study to see for yourself.
Blazing the Trail
So, where can you turn when your organization is ready to start using tablets for sales? That’s where we come in. We’re fluent in all things tablet, and have been since we pioneered the use of tablets in retail stores back in 2008.
That’s right, in 2008 – before the iPad’s groundbreaking debut – we worked closely with Microsoft to develop a user-friendly interface that delivered product information, inventory data, and promotions to tablet-toting store associates. The results were compelling:
- Sales rep confidence, credibility, and versatility soared.
- Customers enjoyed a more consistent experience.
- New hires got up-to-speed faster.
In the 9 years since, we’ve used tablets to deliver smart, beautiful tools that equip and embolden sales forces. Customers oooh and aah; our clients reap the benefits.
So, what do you want your sales team to do with their tablets? Sell products? Complete training? Enhance your brand? Chances are we can help. Drop us a line, or give us a call.