Like many other sales leaders, the sense that tectonic shifts in the dynamics between buyers and salespeople are happening has been palpable to me for a number of years.  Researching these changes is why I joined Forrester just weeks before this year’s Forrester Research Sales Enablement Forum.  At the Forum, I had a number of surprise learnings or “aha moments” gained from colleagues and members of our Sales Enablement Council who are learning in real time as sales enablement practitioners. 

A Cross-Organizational System Issue

The seemingly endless search for the right “solution” to improve sales performance feels like a continuous plodding pilgrimage for many sales leaders.  What I learned at the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum, and have experienced with new illumination since, is why the silver bullet solutions (i.e., tools, programs, training, materials, promotions, technology) that leaders in sales, sales operations, HR, and sales training invest in really ever meet our expectations for delivering better overall top-line performance.

There is true chaos that exists in the selling systems of most companies. Various business functions scurry to support the effort of increasing sales. My core learning from the Forum was that we have to ask whether we even have a selling system. My realization in working with clients over the past five months is that most companies “enable” their sales forces through dis-integrated, costly, inefficient, and ineffective multifunction (as opposed to cross-functional) silos of investments that have a poor performance improvement yield. 

I realize now that when I was in the role of a sales leader, I was too close to the action and too immersed in daily leadership and management activities to see what was around me.  Like most leaders, I was managing my silo and fully committed to leading sales performance improvement. However, there is a profound difference between collaborating and cooperating with other departments (e.g., marketing, product management) and working within a well-designed cross-functional selling system that is engineered for efficiency and effectiveness. This architected cross-functional systems view of sales enablement is what is missing.

To truly transform sales performance, overcome the challenges of this new economy, win new customers, and elevate value for business stakeholders, a new 21st century selling system is the only way forward.  Within the sales enablement team at Forrester, I’m working with leaders in sales, sales operations, learning and development, and human resources to help them realize this system’s view, and to collaborate with others within their organizations to make a new selling system a reality.