Mike Kunkle, Senior Director of Sales Readiness Consulting at Brainshark shares his views on how sales enablement will evolve in 2017 and predicts 4 trends which are expected to thrive among the sales enablement results leaders.
1 – Sales Manager Enablement
Companies are increasingly recognizing the value of sales manager enablement. Considering how important frontline sales managers are – for guiding behavior change, reinforcing training, helping reps apply training to their job and coaching to mastery – this is a smart focus. Manager enablement programs tend to focus on helping managers be effective coaches, an area that is critical. Still, there’s a lot more to the sales manager role that, unfortunately, often doesn’t get taught. Organizations need to ensure managers are able to hire effectively, use analytical/diagnostic skills, lead great pipeline meetings (both in group and one-on-one settings), guide their team on deal qualification and forecast accurately, as well as get into an effective cadence or management operating rhythm.
For these reasons – along with the growing acknowledgment of the importance and difficulty of the manger role, and the upsides for getting it right – I predict that sales manager enablement will continue to take root. We’ll see a focus on hiring, training, coaching and developing the competencies, activities, methodologies and practices that help frontline sales managers succeed. We’ll also continue to see growth with technology-enabled virtual coaching and other enablement tools that support sales managers across their activities, beyond just the coaching parts of their role.
2 – Enabling the Sales Development Function
The old adage is that nothing happens until somebody sells something. (Today, with our more evolved, outside-in awareness and focus on buyers, we might say “…until somebody buyssomething.”) But reps can’t pursue sales opportunities without a first appointment, can they? In many sales organizations today, those first appointments are set by sales development reps.
In contrast to the “feeder system” approach (where sales development serves as a training ground for inexperienced reps), I predict that the area will continue to grow and evolve into a function staffed by experienced, highly skilled and trained, top-performing reps. Those reps will be best equipped to elevate the profession and deliver the quality, top-of-the-funnel results that our sales forces so desperately need. Sales enablement results leaders will fuel and support this transition, much in the same way that they’ve sought to bridge the gap and foster alignment between sales and marketing.
Trish Bertuzzi of the Bridge Group wrote a groundbreaking book earlier this year on sales development that says far more than I can say here. I highly recommend it for more detailed and important insights.
3 – Enabling Across the Customer Lifecycle
A deeper focus on sales development will be just the starting point for results leaders. For far too long, many sales enablement practitioners and senior sales leaders have focused myopically on opportunity management. Look at many of the definitions of sales enablement, and you’ll see references to enabling reps to win more deals. There’s little mention of creating opportunities or managing accounts after a deal is won. Is this assumed? Maybe. But is it focused on? Not often.
Think for a moment about account objectives. There are five. You can acquire an account, grow it, retain it, reactivate it or retire it. Based on decades of experience, I’ll go out on a limb to suggest that the bulk of training and enablement supports account acquisition. Aligning across the customer lifecycle – from an understanding of personas and problems, marketing approaches, and account and contact research, to appointment setting, to opportunity management, and extending to account development and strategic account management – is what’s needed. We’ll start to see results leaders focus more often on the entire customer lifecycle.
4 – Sales Enablement Grows Up
Let me clarify to smart and hard-working sales enablement leaders everywhere that when I say sales enablement will grow up, I don’t mean this in a derogatory way toward them. But sales enablement is not yet a mature function. Even respected industry analysts can’t agree on a definition, where the function should report and what the exact responsibilities should be. It’s still evolving.