Buyers’ expectations continue to change. Though this is nothing new, buyers now expect sellers to know who they are and what they want in every experience they have throughout the lifecycle of the relationship. They want a partnership in making more informed decisions.
Buyers want sellers to demonstrate a deeper buyer and customer understanding in every interaction. This isn’t just to understand every interaction — buyers want sellers to understand in order to anticipate their next step. That’s quite a lot for sellers to take on. But sellers will be up for the challenge if their sales enablement partners are helping to ensure that all customer-facing roles have the content, credibility, competency, and confidence to deliver on those buyer expectations.
As the fourth quarter winds down and planning for 2022 gears up, the onus is on sales enablement leaders to rethink how to manage sales talent, content, methodologies, and communications to provide the right business impact.
To help sales be most effective, the key theme for 2022 will be an emphasis on role-specific enablement. Here are five considerations to keep in mind as you prioritize initiatives for 2022.
- Optimize business results through talent management. If you’re thinking that sales talent management begins and ends with finding and hiring the right person, think again. Organizations must take a much more strategic approach to addressing sales talent, starting with attracting talent and continuing through onboarding and retention of top contributors through a well-defined competency framework. Supply and demand for sales talent is way off kilter — and there is an all-out war for talent. If you’re not strategically aligning role-specific recruiting, onboarding, and ongoing learning and development with your business objectives, you’re leaving sales performance to chance. Top-notch sales talent wants to join organizations that set them up for success. Strategic talent management throughout sales reps’ tenure in your company, regardless of which roles they eventually occupy, will do just that.
- Develop a leadership/coaching culture for managers. Remember that talent management isn’t just for the reps. To keep pace with rapid changes in buyer expectations, sales managers must shift from short-term thinking and last-minute, individual heroics to insights-driven, sustainable performance improvements. Sales enablement leaders must drive the foundational leadership competencies to make this happen. This means providing managers with individualized learning paths for development, beyond just having been a high-performing individual contributor, and creating a coaching mindset that enables them to mentor and empower their teams.
- Help build sales’ credibility with buyers. According to Forrester’s 2021 B2B Buying Study, individual buyers are engaging more in self-service information gathering throughout the buyer journey, as evidenced by the jump in buying interactions by 10 — from 17 in 2019 to 27 in 2021. (Buying interactions are defined as any activity to obtain information about offerings or vendors, including self-guided interactions.) They’re still looking, however, to partner with sales to get more in-depth answers and solutions to their business challenges and fully expect content shared with them to reflect an understanding of their business, industry, market, and job role. Sales enablement leaders can help reps build their credibility and fully align with buyers by leveraging tools and processes that allow sales to gather information, data, and content and sharing these assets with prospects and customers to create engaging interactions.
- Care and feed sales methodologies. Macro changes in markets, buyer expectations, and unforeseen events — can you say “pandemic”? — require adjustments to an organization’s sales methodologies to ensure they continue to meet the needs of buyers and sellers. Failure to monitor and evolve methodologies over time negatively impacts seller productivity and effectiveness and makes it more difficult to meet buyer expectations. Enablement leaders must continually cultivate their sales methodologies to ensure that role-specific motions and buyer interactions are being supported and that sales resources are focused on adding value for buyers. A word of caution: Underperforming methodologies may be attributed to lack of adoption or need of minor adjustments versus a need to fully replace an otherwise valid methodology.
- Overcome failures to communicate. Shouldn’t it be of concern to your organization if your sellers are spending more time processing internal communications and email than they are spending on other higher-value activities, such as account or opportunity planning? Well, according to Forrester’s Sales Activity Study, aggregated data shows just that — reps spend, on average, 1.91 hours per week on internal communications and email, which is more than they spend on opportunity and account planning, product research, and pipeline management. Additionally, B2B sales leaders and enablement teams are missing key insights and opportunities by not prioritizing the other half of the sales communication equation: listening and advocating on behalf of sales. Sales enablement leaders must advocate for sales by implementing a strategy to govern not just who communicates with sales but also when they are communicating and what and how they are communicating. This will positively impact response times and rep efficiency.
Remember, effective sales enablement isn’t about tools — it’s not even about delivering content, training, or processes. It’s about orchestrating all these things for the benefit of the roles you enable. The value that sales enablement brings to the table is the ability to cut through silos and drive more effective customer interactions specific to each customer-facing role.