There’s a lot of momentum around sales right now, as organizations of all types move out of pandemic mode and into the “next normal” phase of business. But for sales enablement leaders, there are some distinct challenges. Finding and retaining top talent is one of them, as is sifting through the flood of new sales enablement tech. For sales enablement leaders to capitalize on that energy and navigate the murky market waters, they’ll need to have a clear plan that builds the right culture, taps the right technology, and provides sales teams with the proper motivation heading into the new year.
Forrester’s new Planning Guide 2023: Sales Enablement will help leaders build that solid plan during the upcoming budgeting season. For sales enablement leaders, the guide provides investment recommendations around: sales readiness, content, and conversation intelligence solutions; staffing to support these platforms; and best practices such as sales advisory councils and creative compensation approaches.
As you begin your 2023 planning for sales enablement, here’s a look at some of the key takeaways from the guide.
Best-Of-Breed Sales Teams Focus On Seller Competencies
- What to plan for 2023: If your sales enablement organization has not communicated the skill, knowledge, and process competencies required for sellers to be hired, onboarded, and considered fully trained, this is a quick win that will benefit a wide range of both sales and other functional leaders. Determine which competencies you buy, build, and promote for each enabled role. A key component of this process is discovery: What do your best sellers look like? What traits, competencies, and behaviors represent the gold standard? Forrester has a number of existing sales competency map templates to get you started. If you have already accomplished this step, consider moving from a “once and done” mindset (“We did our sales competencies last year, so we’re all set”) to establishing a regular cadence for reviewing and updating them. This is preferably an annual effort, with additional resources available to address any substantial change in your organization’s offerings, markets, buyers, competition, or selling motions that require a new “what good looks like.”
- What to avoid in 2023: The sales technology landscape is littered with the B2B equivalent of get-rich-quick offerings that purport to immediately mitigate seller competency gaps, drive better adoption of sales enablement initiatives, and ultimately grow revenue simply through the acquisition of software licenses. Don’t be fooled by the marketing, especially if the advertised outcomes are dominated by lagging indicators (more revenue, faster sales cycles, larger deals) that are obviously impacted by non-enablement initiatives and factors. Technology alone will solve few enablement challenges; it can only scale and automate hard-won process improvements such as enhanced sales competency strategies. One example is the gamification solution space, which purports to “make learning fun” and drive instant seller skill improvement through their sense of competition but has consistently been proven by Forrester research to be a poor surrogate for effective adult learning best practices.
B2B Reps Sell More When The Culture Around Them Feels Right
- What to plan for 2023: If your organization has a customer advisory board, chartered to listen to objective insight from the most important enterprise constituency, does your sales enablement function simulate this exercise by listening to its internal customers, via a sales advisory council? An incredibly valuable initiative in building strong sales cultures is the simple message, from sales leadership, that “we hear you,” providing a refreshing alternative to the traditional top-down nature of B2B sales teams and giving voice to an employee cohort that increasingly demands to be heard. SACs can additionally provide vital perspectives to company executives that aid in crucial decision-making.
- What to avoid in 2023: Culture isn’t something you can buy, mandate, or deliver via a short-term project. In fact, it’s far easier to make things worse than to improve them, if cultural advances are not authentic. Avoid the temptation to think of “we stand with” press releases or temporary changes to the company logo as sufficient expressions of cultural awareness. Within the sales team, steer clear of symbolic moves such as suddenly sending the CRO into the field to support deals, if their presence will only intimidate sellers who’ve never interacted with them before.
Compensate Reps For Both What They Sell And Who They Are
- What to plan for 2023: Consider rewarding non-selling behavior for a sample group of sellers and gauging the impact on their levels of engagement, retention, and productivity. For anyone who receives a variable bonus on top of their base/commission/accelerator income, convert a slice of it from quantitative to qualitative — e.g., their manager (or sales enablement) objectively evaluates their “unselfish” contribution to the greater good of the team. A great example is serving on the sales advisory council described above; other rewardable options include participating in high levels of learning exercises and mentoring other sellers. The numerical stakes need not be high here, but the policy sends a clear message to participants that their membership within the community matters to the culture within which they work and is recognized and rewarded by the organization. This will also contribute to improved seller retention.
- What to avoid in 2023: Whether or not “the great resignation” is a legitimate phenomenon, no one will argue that before, during, and after the pandemic, finding and keeping great B2B salespeople is a significant challenge. Many firms take a knee-jerk response and immediately consider increasing seller pay as a stop-gap measure, but most B2B organizations lack the resources of a Microsoft and cannot sustain profitable sales talent management if their cost-of-sale rises without concurrent growth of seller output. Plus, most talented sellers can quite easily find job after job that — regardless of the cultural strengths described above — will initially pay more than their last one.
These points should give you a great start to your 2023 planning for sales enablement.