The winds of change are blowing rapidly through the sales and marketing hallways of your company. Technologies come and go, and some, like the MP3 player, take a few iterations and some macro-level changes in order to get right. Sales enablement technology is one of those.
While the efforts of sales enablement — helping sales professionals be more effective and efficient through better content and knowledge training — have been around for nearly two decades, the technology to support this effort has gone through a series of attempts and misses.
It has been proven, however, that when organizations get it right, there are incredible benefits to be gained. Aberdeen’s research shows companies with proper sales enablement can improve sales performance in very meaningful ways:
- 99% total team quota attainment — a 62% improvement over average companies
- 13% year-over-year revenue growth compared to 4.3% growth on average
- 3% improvement in average sales cycle versus 0.4% for industry average
And IDC states that when sales enablement drives better alignment across marketing and sales teams, it can contribute as much as 10% to top line revenue growth. So why don’t more organizations have this as a priority?
Mostly, it’s a “twice bitten, thrice shy” syndrome in that many marketing and sales organizations have attempted to put sales enablement software in place, but the technology failed them and they are now reticent to try again.
But the winds of change are blowing. Innovation doesn’t stop and macro conditions — namely, cloud and machine learning technology — have changed to make this problem eminently solvable.
Highspot has learned from the failings of the past and taken advantage of modern technology and UX design to reimagine the ideal solution for sales enablement professionals.
Learning from Previous Mistakes
The development of a state-of-the art sales enablement platform didn’t happen overnight. Indeed, it took learning from a generation of solutions before it was understood that sales enablement was complex enough that it required a dedicated solution.
Previous solutions failed in a number of ways:
- Early centralized content solutions such as SharePoint solutions and web portals, driven by IT, were inflexible, and not designed for the changing needs of sales. Because change orders had to go through IT, which was often backed up, they were difficult to scale and adapt to the changing selling environment and the variety of needs of a global sales force.
- Solutions based on a uniform file-folder structure (such as network drives or even newer cloud file systems) were organized by the publisher (usually on the marketing team) and often did not align to how the sales force wanted to consume content or how different global sales teams wanted to organize content.
- In every case, publishers had very little insight into how, when, or where the content was being consumed, and thus had no ability to measure and improve content quality.
- Poorly designed or “clunky” software solutions drove sales reps to save documents to their laptops, breaking any ability to update content versions or measure usage
- Most solutions were not mobile-enabled.
- Content delivery to the customer (email, online presentation, social) was not part of the solution, so the workflow between finding content and using content was disconnected, eliminating any hope of measuring content performance in terms of customer engagement or revenue influence.
Because of these problems, sales organizations quickly balkanized, with content repositories springing up everywhere, making content management very difficult and measurement impossible. This phenomenon persists today.
Next-Gen Technology Enables Closed-Loop Sales Enablement
Today, technology has advanced to the point where we can solve these problems. Marketing automation and performance analytics has shown marketing and sales organizations the power of closed-loop systems to drive real improvements in team performance.
Four macro-level revolutions in technology over the last 10 years have opened the door to next generation closed-loop solutions:
- Cloud-based applications have put buying, deploying, and operating enterprise software solutions into the hands of the business organizations (marketing and sales, in this case), making it easier to manage and quicker to adapt to the dynamic needs of sales.
- Internet access is ubiquitous. Sales reps are always connected. And “anywhere, any device” is the norm with software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.
- Data science and machine learning have advanced to the mainstream in application development and are empowering solutions to be inherently “smarter.”
- The “Consumerization of IT” has set a higher bar for software design and user experience (UX), driving up user adoption of well-design solutions. This is especially critical for sales reps, who have little patience for anything that creates friction in their process or takes time away from selling.
These macro-level changes have opened the door for a better approach to sales enablement tools. But that doesn’t mean that old solutions with suddenly work. Just the opposite, in fact. Next-generation solutions have to reimagine and re-architect the ideal solution from the ground up based on these technological advances.
Building Blocks for Next-Generation Sales Enablement Software
There are five main components that separate Highspot’s next-generation solution from solutions of the past.
1. Content Management Designed for Sales
The content management system is flexible, intuitive, and easy to manage such that it works for each individual sales team in a global organization, as well as content publishers. Content publishers must be able to organize content in a way that makes sense for them to manage, but enable field teams to organize the content they way they need it. The German sales team for product A is going to want a different set of content from the Japan sales team for product B, and yet marketing wants a unified global view of all content in order to track, measure, version, and generally manage the content.
It must be intuitive and easy to use. Sales teams must be able to find the content they need quickly and easily. That requires powerful search, browsing with faceted filters, and content recommendations, depending on whether the rep knows what they want or needs to learn what they should be using. And marketing needs to easily manage and curate content so that sales reps find accurate pricing sheets, the latest product specs, and the best pitch decks, and are confident they are always using the right collateral.
2. End-to-End Engagement
Second, the system must include customer engagement capabilities that are efficient, professional, and help the sales rep be more effective. Today, most sales conversations are done online, and sales reps need a way to build a conversation around the content that is professional and error-free and drives the deal down the buying cycle. Reps are more effective when they receive alerts when the customer engages — views, downloads, or shares — with content.
3. Closed-Loop Analytics
A closed-loop system is necessary for any process that wants to measure success and optimize. Sales enablement is no different. Highspot includes performance analytics for every step of the sales enablement process, including content mapping, content usage, pitching performance, customer engagement, and business impact, so content publishers can improve content quality and sales management can share best practices.
4. Powered by Data Science
Highspot’s platform is data science-driven, with machine learning, content genomics, and predictive analytics powering many capabilities. Content is scored and recommended based on what is engaging customers and closing deals, not how someone in marketing may think it’s working. Machine learning tracks how content is performing on stage conversion velocity and closed deals to inform content recommendations within the Salesforce opportunity. And Content Genomics — the ability to track content performance as it is modified in the field — enables publishers to track and understand how presentations are being modified in order to make real-time improvements to messaging. When sales teams and the number of content pieces grow beyond a fairly small number, a process that depends on manual organization and scoring breaks down. Modern systems require machine learning and predictive analytics in order to scale.
5. Design that Sales Reps love
Design matters. If sales teams don’t use the product because it is clunky, confusing, or just plain ugly, then nothing else matters. Highspot designers take great care to make the software intuitive, easy-to-use, and designed for sales.
The Power of Sales Enablement Reimagined
Today’s sales enablement software empowers the sales representative to become far more effective, closing more deals within the pipeline, and more efficient, spending more time actually selling instead of looking for collateral material and getting it to the customer. As discussed earlier, leading companies are taking advantage of this with incredible results on quota attainment and revenue growth rates. This is because modern solutions have changed the game.
If you’re a veteran sales enablement professional who’s been down this path before, it’s time to look again at sales enablement software solutions. Think about why previous solutions didn’t fulfill your expectations and what you’d want to see in your ideal solution — then come take a look at Highspot. It’s different.
Take a look at the Definitive Guide to Sales Enablement to see our view on how sales enablement practices should be defined, including best practices, getting started recommendations, and a complete list of sales enablement software and tool vendors. Then, when you want to experience the difference, join us for demo of the Highspot sales enablement software.