Picture the following: one of your sales representatives, let’s call him Joe, is pitching your company’s product to a potential client. Joe has already met and familiarized the prospect with the offering. So far, so good. Joe’s ready. He’s decided to use the same approach he uses with every client: a blend of hope, charisma, and the conviction that the product’s benefits will work its so-called magic. But after a few long minutes of being the only one talking, and after handing the client this and that product information sheet, he’s starting to break out in a sweat.
While it may have served him well enough in the past, Joe’s hope-based approach isn’t cutting it this time around. Conversely, a sales representative who has reaped the benefits of a sales enablement program would probably be searching for a pen to close the deal. Why? Because constant training has taught him how to seize new opportunities, no matter what the situation. Because he personalizes the selling experience for his clients based on their needs, not his own or those of his company. Because he knows how to adapt his offer on the spot.
Though sales performance management and the automation of processes may top the agenda at company meetings and stimulate new initiatives, sales enablement has yet to receive the same attention. But it will. According to IDC, sales enablement gets the right tools into the hands of the right salespeople, at just the right time, in order to accelerate the sale.
Unlike other concepts that fall under the SPM umbrella, sales enablement is not strictly tied to a software platform or a specific activity. Rather, it’s an ongoing process that optimizes the performance and productivity of your sales team by ensuring that every sales call is individualized for the client. Since client centricity is at its core, sales enablement furnishes your team with the most useful and appropriate tools, technology, and information. Enabling your reps in this way means much more than equipping them with general sales and marketing collateral, whether online or off. It means that the rep knows the exact stage the client has arrived at in the customer journey, and how the client got there. With this foundation, reps can confidently move any sale forward in a conscious, receptive, and thoughtful way. A way that, once committed to, has the power to define your company’s culture.
Powered by the right technology, a sales enablement program will offer your sales team everything from training and coaching to on-demand access to valuable client and product data. It will streamline internal sales-oriented processes, provide support during spontaneous and client-requested changes, and accelerate the sales cycle by helping your teams identify opportunities. In addition to helping your reps hone their skills, a robust sales enablement program provides constant progress updates, thus allowing sales reps to measure their own performance as well as that of other sales optimization program components.
Making a Choice
If sales enablement sounds great, that’s because better outfitting your team puts the whole company on firmer ground. Doing so can only raise sales a level, or two, or three… Still, while a sales enablement program is almost certain to help your reps accomplish their goals, lack of money, time, or the ability to implement changes usually forces companies to choose between two different approaches. You can optimize sales processes, or you can optimize sales knowledge. Both enable sales, yet they do it from very different angles.
Optimizing sales processes focuses on the improvement of strategies, methodologies, content management systems, and similar tools. It usually leads to a more efficient workflow that saves time and, of course, boosts sales.
Optimizing knowledge, on the other hand, makes the delivery of important information quicker and more efficient. Selling aides that have been specially tailored for each stage of the client journey are available in different formats and on different devices for convenient, on-demand access. Optimizing knowledge also allows you to measure the effects of your content, coaching and training programs.
In general, companies select the sales enablement approach that’s right for them based on their market strength and long-term goals. Some companies prefer optimizing and streamlining current processes, while others prioritize equipping their sales force with the knowledge and inside information needed to establish lasting client relationships and a strong market presence. Which approach is best suited to your organization?
The answer is both, no matter what goals your organization aims to achieve. Though your company is probably partial to certain strategies for success, due to the complex nature and adaptability of the sales process, the best approach leaves no stone unturned. Furthermore, for a sales enablement strategy to truly work, the sales team’s involvement is not enough: you need the collaboration of your marketing team and the support of high-ranking executives.
With a competitive sales performance management platform behind it and a long-term commitment to improving every aspect of the sales process, both sides of sales enablement – sales process optimization and sales knowledge optimization – will help you accelerate your existing sales cycle and show you how to turn the most difficult pitch into the perfect opportunity.
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