Recent client interactions with a wide range of tech vendors leads me to believe that sales enablement will move from good idea and experimentation to real action in 2010. Of course that will be an uneven thing as leaders set the pace with big transformation efforts to align what sales and marketing do together (that is the operative word here, together) to center their activities around clients' business problems with all the organizational angst and habit breaking associated with such an undertaking, while others tackle smaller bites, like messaging and measurement changes. But to me, it feels like 2010 will be the year when we see real progress, exemplary cases, and hard evidence that tackling effective sales enablement does drive sales efficiency. Are you sensing the same thing?
So why now? I think in no small part it's because tech is maturing and so are the business people whose job success depends on it. So the two have begun to talk like adults about the business outcomes tech enables, not just the adjective-laden virtues of some engineering breakthrough. And those conversations are more meaty, grounded, and accountable; there is a solid transfer of value both in the discussion and in the outcomes from a transaction. Or there better be, else the buyer will drop the vendor like a stone. In a recent Forrester survey (we will publish this soon and will let you know how to find that data) of bus and IT folks involved in tech buying, 75% of the business people said they were involved in choosing or recommending vendors. More than half of those same business people said that their strategic vendors were the ones that understood their business and how to help them execute, and two thirds had a formal process to identify those vendors among their suppliers. You get the picture, cool tech is dead, business outcomes are a must.
It's also getting less crowded out there. IBM, HP, CISCO, and Microsoft are all competing in increasingly end-to-end ways, which means they talk about business problems and working solutions and to differentiate will have to make those business outcomes increasingly transparent and accessible. It just follows.
So there is the evidence and logic of the thing, but let's be real here too. Old habits die hard, product marketing and product managers, CEO/Engineer/Entrepreneurs, business unit heads, sales managers and lots of other folks have visions and goals that reinforce product-centric marketing and selling and changing that won't be easy.
So let the games begin, and like the coming Olympics, let's look for the high and lows, the triumphs and upsets and personal stories behind the trend because that's where we will find the good and bad ideas to try and avoid ourselves as we tackle sales enablement together in 2010. Ready?
Please comment if you have one, let's hear your take on SE in 2010.