In just a few weeks, our friends at Top Sales World will host their first European Sales Summit. We’ll be there too, and in preparation, we reached out to editor and CEO Jonathan Farrington for his take on the event, the dizzying state of the sales enablement market, and the influencers he thinks really “get it.”
Q. This is TSW’s first-ever sales enablement conference. Why now, and what should potential attendees expect?
Our primary objective for this first European Sales Enablement Summit on October 4th in London, is quite simply, to join the dots.
We’ll be viewing the sales enablement “landscape” from every angle: the entrepreneur, the researcher, the strategist, the futurist, the practitioner, the technology provider, the messenger, and the presenter. All have their own commitment to sales enablement excellence, but each has their own approach.
In order to achieve that primary objective, we’ve brought together what is probably the most significant speaker line-up ever assembled in Europe.
Q. Sales enablement, while growing as an enterprise discipline, is still a nascent concept for many organizations. How do you define sales enablement, and how will that definition be manifested at the conference?
I think most people in the sales space believe that the US is always 2 years ahead of Europe in their thinking when it comes to sales innovation. However, sales enablement, as a movement, is already achieving adoption globally – even if most people are still struggling for an acceptable definition. My preferred definition actually comes from CSO Insights: “Sales Force Enablement — A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and frontline sales managers along the entire customer’s journey, powered by technology.”
Q. Many companies still view sales enablement through a lens of training alone, yet we know traditional, event-based training is rarely sufficient to produce the desired results. What advice would you give sales enablement pros that are trying to broaden their scope and drive change within their own organizations?
Yes, that is very true. There appears to be considerable confusion surrounding who should actually own a sales enablement implementation drive. By far the most critical challenge is getting every department to recognize that sales enablement is a company-wide commitment, which requires total buy-in from everyone. Unless that happens, any strategy is doomed to failure.
Q. Particularly for teams with an enterprise focus, acquiring and retaining new accounts is harder than it’s ever been. (Long sales cycles and complex buying groups within accounts are just a few of the challenges we see across our customer base.) As we move into planning season for 2018, what should sales leaders strive to do differently when it comes to enabling their teams to compete and win in this environment?
The most important challenge for any frontline sales professional wishing to sell into enterprise accounts is having "commercial bandwidth." And most important of all, a seller must discover quickly, where or how he/she can make a significant contribution in helping the buyer/prospect achieve their overall goals and commercial objectives, this year and beyond. How can they help them save, gain, reduce, increase or improve? Those are the five significant words that will make a seller attractive - very attractive – if indeed they genuinely do have something to bring to their party. They have absolutely no interest in us, our company, our past successes, our ability to stage a dynamic presentation or even our products/solutions – unless we impact their profitability, market share or overall success.
Q. The sales technology market is booming and shows no signs of slowing down. But we know that technology is only as good as the resources available to support it – including making sure the technology actually gets used. How can sales enablement pros make smarter decisions about where and when to invest in technology?
I believe that it is essential that anyone investing in new technology first understand what they want to achieve. I would estimate that at least 80% of organizations that have invested in sales technology in the past 3 years are not fully utilizing it – and as a consequence, they have achieved a very poor return on that investment. You are right, the sales technology market is booming. Some would say it has become saturated and I know many decision makers who have literally become dizzy. But the harsh reality is that we need technology. It has made us more efficient, more productive, and allegedly, more professional. Therein lies the dichotomy.
Q. In your role, you have a unique opportunity to speak with both practitioners and vendors. What are you hearing in terms of common challenges or frustrations when it comes to sales enablement?
The most common comment I am hearing right now is, “What is it?” There appears to be so much confusion in many areas of the sales and marketing space. I am also witnessing a certain level of cynicism from all those people who heralded the arrival of Sales 2.0 and then embraced Social Selling before getting to grips with Sales 3.0. These people are wondering if sales enablement is just the next shiny thing – another bandwagon to jump on.
Q. Is there an organization or sales leader you feel has really “cracked the code” when it comes to successful sales enablement? If so, who and why?
Yes, I am hugely influenced in my thinking by CSO Insights and Tamara Schenk, in particular. Tamara has a complete view of the sales enablement landscape - in abstract, conceptual and pragmatic terms.