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Facing the New Era of Enablement: Five Areas to Focus On

Posted in: Sales Enablement Strategy

Adaptability is key to survival in our ever-changing world.

But in order to adapt, you must first know what changes and trends you’re adapting to. For sales enablement practitioners, this requires proactive evaluation of how you manage customer-facing talent, content, and communications to deliver exceptional buyer experiences.

Fuelled by the latest analyst research, we’ve identified the biggest opportunities that will power your program’s ongoing evolution. Here are the five areas you’ll want to focus on in 2022.

1. Create Clarity Around Your Sales Talent Lifecycle

It all starts with your people – sales talent management is the crux of any organisation’s success. That means enablement leaders must be intentional in managing every stage of the sales talent lifecycle to ensure that reps are prepared for success over the course of their career.

Forrester states that “by clearly articulating the competencies for each sales role – defined as the skills, knowledge, and process expertise required to excel in each position – sales enablement leaders position their organisations to attract, onboard, and optimise the most effective B2B sales talent” (Sales Enablement: Planning Assumptions 2022, Forrester Research, Inc., September 10, 2021).

Explore this opportunity: formulate a top-tier talent strategy by deepening your involvement in the talent acquisition planning processes. Partner with human resources and recruiting teams to jointly define must-have and nice-to-have skills for each role. Then, work to drive clarity around what “great” looks like at each stage of the sales talent lifecycle, both to understand whether or not talent is meeting goals, as well as to create transparency around growth and professional development opportunities.

2. Empower Your Sales Managers

Sales managers often struggle to know when and how to support struggling sales reps, sometimes waiting until a deal has been lost to offer feedback. Closing this gap in the feedback loop is not just possible but essential for any businesses looking to grow in the next year.

To be a truly effective coach, Forrester reports that “sales managers must shift from short-term thinking and last-minute individual heroics to data-driven, sustainable performance improvement” (Sales Enablement: Planning Assumptions 2022, Forrester Research, Inc., September 10, 2021).

To make this change, move check-ins away from deal status updates to personalised coaching that drives mastery of key behaviours. To make these conversations simple and effective, both enablement practitioners and sales managers must have reporting that provides detailed data on how reps are engaging content and training, and whether or not they are effectively applying these tools in customer conversations. Empowered by data, sales managers can easily identify problem areas, and offer additional coaching before money is on the line.

3. Engage Buyers with Optimised Content

As the nature of sales have shifted in the past 21 months, so too have buyer preferences. Research shows that “although the number of buying interactions has been increasing slightly every two years (e.g., from 16 to 17 between 2017 and 2019), the number of buying interactions during the pandemic jumped from 17 to 27” (Sales Enablement: Planning Assumptions 2022, Forrester Research, Inc., September 10, 2021).

To stay relevant in today’s competitive market, sales teams need to be fully prepared to engage with buyers at any given time. More than just a routine attachment to follow-up emails, sales content should share insight into all aspects of a buyer’s business, industry, and role.

This means that enablement practitioners must move beyond simply collecting and organising sales content to partnering with marketing to drive a tightly aligned, data-driven content strategy. A good first step: Start by identifying top-performing assets across persona, stage, and industry. Then use proven content mapping techniques to determine why these assets work and how you can further optimise your materials to elevate customer conversations.

4. Commit to a Sustainable Sales Methodology

Wondering whether your sales methodology is still right for you? You’re not alone. Forrester reveals that “95% of sales enablement leaders indicate that implementing a new sales methodology is a priority in the coming year” (Sales Enablement: Planning Assumptions 2022, Forrester Research, Inc., September 10, 2021).

But before you jump into overhauling your sales process, it’s worth considering whether it’s the methodology or your implementation that needs a refresh, as many methodologies deemed ineffective actually suffer from low adoption.

Instead of completely replacing your methodology, closely monitor and evaluate your approach to identify optimisation opportunities. How are you aligning your organisation behind your chosen methodology? Have sales managers been effectively trained on how to coach reps through it? Does methodology content live in a separate system, or is it embedded within a familiar tool, like your sales enablement platform? Through these questions, you’ll be able to determine whether or not your methodology is driving impact at your business and then pinpoint actions to take to improve its ROI.

5. Prioritise Effective Sales Communication

Many companies transitioned to remote work without giving a second thought to how their communication methods would adapt to continue to support employees. But with hybrid work here to stay, it’s time to evaluate your approach to sales communication.

Forrester reports that “reps spend, on average, 1.91 hours per week on internal communications and emails. New communication channels are often added, but none are removed, so sellers must go to multiple places (e.g., email, portals, content repositories, internal messaging/chat)” (Sales Enablement: Planning Assumptions 2022, Forrester Research, Inc., September 10, 2021). Faced with too many channels and not enough time, it’s easier than ever for reps to tune out – and miss critical information.

Enablement practitioners can change this. Start by implementing a sales communication strategy that sets a regular cadence of who, what, when, and how of all communication that takes place. Then, use your position as key drivers of organisational alignment to organise teams around these cadences and channels. The goal here is to reduce the amount of time it takes to deliver effective sales communications and, importantly, improve comprehension and retention of those communications.

Take the New Year in Stride

By focusing on these key areas, enablement practitioners are sure to find success in 2022 – no matter what the new year throws at you.

Dive deeper into the latest research from Forrester with the full report – Sales Enablement: Planning Assumptions 2022.