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Selling is hard… here’s how you can fix it

As the coronavirus causes the largest-scale business disruption in peacetime, organisations of all shapes, sizes, as well as sectors, are facing new challenges. There has been a softening of demand, longer sales cycles and an abrupt end to face-to-face interactions. The need for conducting business digitally is more pronounced and companies need to pivot quickly to keep pace.

Selling stats“Despite the current challenges, revenue targets have stayed the same. The question is how to keep salespeople informed, engaged and productive so they can keep hitting their targets in an unprecedented environment. The answer is investing in technology that can give your sales team an edge,” explains Richard Langham, managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Highspot, a global leader in sales enablement with customers such as TripAdvisor, Siemens and Twitter.

Selling isn’t easy at the best of times. Right now, there are more stakeholders involved in decisions, the information at a buyer’s fingertips is overwhelming and fierce competition is everywhere. This is why businesses need to focus on not only getting a buyer’s attention, but also motivating their salesforce to connect with buyers to build loyalty and brand preference.

Yet this is not how sales teams spend their time. Often sellers are bogged down by tasks that do not involve the act of selling. What is more, they are tasked with delivering initiatives they have not been briefed on and which they do not feel well informed enough to execute.

“This is where sales enablement comes in as it can help build out a sales strategy and prepare sales reps to own and execute it. It boils down to helping sales reps close more deals, at higher values and faster, at the same time adding real value to their customers. Sales enablement breaks down the silos that separate go-to-market departments within a business to streamline efforts and help salespeople find the right information, tools and resources they need,” says Langham.

“Marketing creates a seemingly endless stream of documents and presentations, trying to tell a compelling story and convince customers to buy. But are the sellers finding and using that content? Do they pitch it to customers? Businesses need to be able to answer these questions to optimise sales effectiveness.

“The same goes for training programmes; every sales organisation knows that it needs to teach sellers the skills and knowledge they need to be effective. Do companies have the right training programmes and do they actually work? Modern sales enablement solutions enable a closed-loop sales cycle. They make sellers much more effective as they engage with customers.”

At its core, sales enablement helps salespeople connect with buyers, building trust and providing value through compelling content and new insights.

“Good sales enablement matters. According to a recent survey, businesses with a formal enablement charter, vision and strategy achieve 12 per cent higher win rates and reported the number of sales reps achieving quota attainment was 35 per cent better compared to those without,” says Langham.

Sales enablement helps salespeople connect with buyers, building trust and providing value through compelling content and new insights

Buyers don’t want to be sold to, but guided by their suppliers. In this new normal, strong sales enablement has become a new imperative. Salespeople have to be equipped with the right sales content and education at the right time to keep buyers engaged. Otherwise, customers will turn to competitors that can. In fact, 74 per cent of buyers choose the rep who was first to add value and insight, according to Corporate Visions.

“The main aim of sales enablement is to make sellers better at engaging buyers, closing deals and driving revenue. The issue is how do you get them to pay attention? What do they need to know, do, say and show in the process? No buyer is the same and this is also true for salespeople, so there’s no one-size-fits-all model,” says Langham.

Every year companies invest billions globally in customer relationship management systems and customer experience platforms, but not much investment goes into sales enablement. Part of the issue is that while businesses feel the pain due to a lack of enablement, they are not often aware there are tools to help them reach their sales goals.

“A good sales enablement platform offers not only content management, but also pitching, analytics, and training and onboarding capabilities. The goal of a sales enablement solution is to optimise the sales process, making sellers more effective and efficient, while also providing robust analytics which will help the go-to-market teams focus on the content and information that really resonate with buyers,” says Langham.

Currently, many companies think primarily of the final sales persona, their profile and needs, as well as their key drivers. However, few actually think of the sellers themselves. It is often unclear why a sales representative should pay attention to the myriad of often good information available to them.

“A seller that dutifully consumes everything the company provides for them, studies, goes deep into all the material and follows all the guidelines that are carefully written out in great detail probably fails. The successful seller selects from what is provided,” says Highspot’s Langham.

“Many organisations send sellers a constant stream of content, often with huge PowerPoint decks or long documents attached to them. Dozens of these a day, often. So what do sellers do? They ignore virtually all of it and go back to doing business as usual.”

This is why businesses should take the pivot caused by COVID-19 to learn how to improve selling to the seller and how this needs to guide their enablement model pervasively, powered by the right platforms, to achieve fundamentally different business outcomes.

Companies that seize the opportunity to change the way they go to market will be able to build strategic enablement, which will unlock massive latent potential within their sales organisations to connect effectively with customers and drive dramatic growth for their companies.

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