18th Sep, 2018
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How has the sales enablement industry evolved over the years?
Since its inception, B2B sales world is an unchartered territory, however, over the years technological disruptions in the industry have attained near-totality and therefore B2B sales has completely transformed over the years now.
From being a completely skill based industry, it has moved on from a ‘skills aided by process industry’ to a ‘skills aided by technology industry’. Observing the current scenario, most of the mechanical processes are now being replaced by automation – whether it is blue-collar jobs through robotics and IoT or supervisory work through AI.
Today, the largest sales companies are witnessed being less people-led. In fact they are platform led and thus, the most successful sales organizations are those which are technology driven companies and not the companies that employ a lot of people to get their work done manually.
Essentially, with significant amount of automation leading the sales world, processes have become even more efficient – be it analytics based upon AI or targeted campaigns using digital media.
Digitization and technology has definitely assisted businesses to enhance their sales impact and ROI footprints globally. Therefore, it is quite imperative to say that eventually the sales enablement industry has got an ultimate makeover and this transformation is going to continue throughout. Essentially, we should continue to grasp this evolution much more as time goes by.
How has the evolution, or so to say, the technologification, took place in the Sales Enablement industry? Elaborate the stepwise transformation over the years?
Sales enablement practices, backed by technology, have led to the rise of several new customer touch points and therefore, the opportunities to increase the size of the overall customer pie.
Be it prospect analysis, customer database expansion or even customer acquisition, technology has enabled the sales enablement function in an all-rounded manner. Let’s have a quick sneak peak on how has this evolution changed the dynamics of the industry so far:
About 40 years back – Sales enablement was more about enabling a sales person’s skills to help him sell better – so it was more about skill selling.
Around 1980s – It was the era when all the sales processes were based on the SPIN selling techniques (through the method of Strategic Selling) that went into adopting the ‘training’ of sales enablement in order to improve the sales guy to sell better rather than just leveraging his skills – so that salesperson can act more like a consultative agent.
1990s- The years witnessed the emergence of several software tools – some amount of automated sales process products such as – CRM tools or even Document Management Software. All of these from the sales enablement perspective went into helping a sales guy to communicate his ideas in a better way with power point presentations, excel sheets, and document management software.
All of these from the sales enablement perspective went into helping a sales guy to communicate his ideas in a better way with powerpoint presentations, excel sheets, and document management software.
So, sales enablement in this particular decade was more inclined towards helping a sales guy get his thoughts or even get his communication across the customer clearer and present them in a better manner.
Not only this, but technology has also affected the buyers and sales representatives altogether. Instead of just being the holder of all the information related to products or services, sales reps now had to absorb the new methods of selling techniques in order to inform the audience in a more transparent manner.
Considering the facts, during the ‘.com’ boom, numbers of countless sales tools’ companies got their flinch. For instance, the meeting platform Webex, was designed in 1995 and 1999 onwards significant names in the CRM software industry came up…
It actually marked a huge shift in the way technology impacted sales enablement. With the emerging platforms for process automation, CRM and Marketing Automation – actually went a long way into building intelligence into the sales processes.
For instance, companies like Marketo and Hubspot connected sales and marketing efforts together. Also, Content management solutions like BOX and DROPBOX came together, making it simpler for teams to exchange their sales resources.
Moreover, social media platforms helped allowed people to participate in community development by leveraging it in a better manner. Hence, all these tools provided lot of information that the sales guy had to initially acquire by himself while doing primary and secondary research on the fingertips of the sales guy.
It was the orientation of the sales guy which became more important in this decade to leverage sales enablement more effectively. Consequently, sales enablement started impacting the ability to provide quick information to sales professionals in order to start doing a better job of ‘Enabling Sales’.
2010s onwards- This was the year when there was actually a huge impact of technology evolution on the sales enablement function.
With the strong emergence of social media converting into sales platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter of the world, essentially started impacting the sales processes of the sale’s guy in a much more intelligent way.
Apart from providing information, it started collating information in a particular manner to allow a sales professional so as to start looking into the trends and start identifying the pattern of thoughts that a customer had.
Also, data science became an effective tool in identifying the behavioral in trends. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning enabled customer preference mapping. Together it helped sales guys to re-align their approach to the customers – which made it much more relevant in reacting in a positive manner.
In this particular period, sales enablement actually became a true enabler for the sales guy as well as for the customer. Before 2010, it was only impacting the skill level ability to present, communicate and capability to think from a sales perspective but in this period it actually started initiating the process of impacting the sales at every cycle.
The future no doubt upholds the impact of sales enablement process at every stage of the sales journey, starting from the time we identify our next new customer to the time we understand the probability of his purchase followed by his propensity to buy and then tracking him through the entire sales motion and final fulfillment.
What are the major elements involved behind this ‘Technologification’ driving the sales enablement industry by storm?
Well, the primary driver in this whole piece is the technology evolution that we see and within that, if we observe, there are a few key developments that have been happening over the last five to six years after the boom of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
No doubt, they have been the biggest enablers in the process of improving the experience of the salesperson and make his job better as well as the experience of a buyer to get the information in a much more intuitive manner rather than having to look around for what they need to purchase.
If you were to take away the needs of specific language input into the CRM software and enable the process of allowing them to talk to the platform in their own language then the platform will intuitively be able to capture and process the information so as to give it back in a manner that is required at the backend to take an informed decision. It would make the whole process extremely easy and will have the ability to penetrate the market much strongly.
Similarly, we have been talking about data analytics for the last 20-30 years, but the final impact of data analytics still require a lot of specialist intervention before a user can actually leverage it.
With AI and Machine Learning evolving the way it is today, the impact of data analytics, itself has improved. The ability to leverage analytics with minimal human intervention at least in the first three stages of building up data analytics has become much simpler today.
And the last part is obviously putting all these together, thus connecting the dots in the form of business intelligence representation. Today, as an organization one has to go through multiple levels of interaction before a set of data can start making sense.
The digital marketing platforms are enabling enterprises to operate in a much more customized way along with automated techniques to be able to a top-notch experience to their customer.
Additionally, we cannot skip the part of leveraging social media which has truly given a new dimension to profiling of customer-base and prioritizing practices.
What has been the impact of such massive technology evolution on the sales space, in totality?
If we talk about the utmost priority of the sales landscape it would definitely be the ‘net new customer acquisition’. Well, it is where this technological evolution has played an important role to ‘identify the next new customer’.
Every company irrespective of its size faces the biggest challenge that Where will my next new customer come? The identified visible customer basis are available for everyone to go after, however, that is where the price wars and the margin issues come up unless you have a huge differentiator which not every brand can create for itself.
Here, technology has helped in identifying the next new customer in a much-evolved way by making a scenario wherein a sales guy does not have to pound pavements and interact with hundreds of organization through cold calling and then identify and map them further.
In fact, instead of identifying the influencers and rectifying them, today by leveraging data extraction mechanisms, database management solutions amalgamated with machine learning – the whole process of extracting the entity details, mapping them together and then identifying the probable next new customer has eventually become much more simple.
The next part within these organizations (once you identify the probable customer) is targeting influencers and thus, social media is making a big difference to that process.
Like for example earlier targeting an influencer was based on your ability to know the influencers so that you can connect with them and also the ability to build rapport with them face to face before you could get the person to have an impact on your sales output.
However, by leveraging social media, lot of organizations are actually following the thought processes of their targeted influencers and thus are able to identify similar streams of thoughts which they can leverage while going out and sell to that influencer and then eventually come down to those talking points that the influencer would find valuable in order to convert the interactions with them in a faster way to increase the overall productivity of sales.
Thirdly, over a period of time sales processes have become more like one size fits all kind because of the economies of scale an organization needs to keep building in order to improve their sales output.
Consumer organizations, primarily B2C organizations, are able to actually customize their sales fields based on the preferences of the customers. They are able to leverage social media watching, leveraging IoT, and leveraging response management and also identify a typical profile of every single consumer in order to reorient their sales pitch according to the preferences of the consumer.
So, from one size fits all process, you actually progress to a customized approach which might have been hugely expensive if not for these technologies.
Last but not the least, converting customers from being a one-time customer to a loyal or repeat customer.
By leveraging Machine Learning and Data Analytics and study consumer behavior analysis you can ensure the positioning of your brand/product in much more relevant and interesting way (suited to TG) This shall go a long way in engaging the customer and converting that one time customer to a repeat customer.
In this technology flux what do you think the future holds for sales enablement?
Well, the time-saving element which technology has introduced has certainly added quality and precision to all the business practices. As the observation states in the above-mentioned points, the future will belong to Sales personnel and organizations who will eventually adopt as well as adopt themselves as per the technological transformations enabling the sales.
In near-future, of course, sales enablement will continue to evolve as a profession. Also, Sales enablement platforms will continue to evolve and transit from being generic sales tools to intelligent sales platforms and will focus on merging talent development, technology, sales processes, messaging and sales methodology so as to better train, support, coach and guide sellers in a similar way as they support buyers throughout the buying journey and customer lifecycle.