October 1, 2022

There is 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 leaders, there are certain challenges. Finding and retaining top talent is one, as is wading through the flood of new sales enablement technologies. For sales enablement leaders to harness that energy and navigate murky market waters, they’ll need to have a clear plan that builds the right culture, leverages the right technology, and provides sales teams with the right motivation to enter the new year.

Forrester’s new 2023 Planning Guide: Sales Enablement will help leaders build that solid plan during the upcoming budget season. For sales leaders, the guide provides investment recommendations for: sales readiness, content and intelligent conversation solutions; staff to support these platforms; and best practices such as consultative sales advice and creative approaches to compensation.

As you begin your 2023 sales enablement planning, here’s a look at some of the key takeaways from the guide.

The best sales teams focus on the competencies of the salesperson

  • What to plan for 2023: If your sales enablement organization hasn’t imparted the skill, knowledge and process competencies needed to hire, onboard and consider salespeople 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 bestsellers 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’ve already done this step, consider switching from a once-and-done mindset (“We did our sales competencies last year, so we’re ready”) to establishing a regular cadence for reviewing and updating them. This is preferably an annual effort, with additional resources available to address any significant change in your organization’s offerings, markets, customers, competition, or sales moves 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 deals that aim to immediately alleviate salesperson competency gaps, drive better adoption of sales enablement initiatives, and ultimately increase revenue simply by acquiring software licenses. Don’t be fooled by the marketing, especially if the advertised results are dominated by lagging indicators (higher revenue, faster sales cycles, bigger deals) that are clearly influenced by non-enabling initiatives and factors. The technology itself will solve several enablement challenges; it can only scale and automate hard-won process improvements such as improved sales competency strategies. One example is the gamification solutions space, which seeks to “make learning fun” and encourage immediate improvement of salespeople’s skills through their sense of competition, but consistently proven by Forrester research 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, empowered to listen to the objective insights of the most important business circle, does your sales enablement function simulate this exercise by listening to your internal customers, through a sales advisory board? An incredibly valuable initiative in building a strong sales culture is a 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 increasingly demanding group of employees. SACs may additionally provide vital perspectives company executives who help make key decisions.
  • What to avoid in 2023 Culture is not something you can buy, mandate or deliver through a short-term project. In fact, it’s much easier make things worse but to improve them, if the cultural progress is not authentic. Avoid the temptation to think that press releases or temporary changes to the company’s logo “we stand with” are sufficient expressions of cultural awareness. Within the sales team, steer clear of token moves like suddenly sending a CRO into the field to support deals if their presence will only intimidate salespeople who have never interacted with them before.

Compensate reps for both what they sell and what they are

  • What to plan for 2023: Consider rewarding non-sales behavior for a sample group of salespeople and measuring 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 their portion from quantitative to qualitative – eg. their manager (or sales prospect) objectively evaluates their “selfless” contribution to the greater good of the team. A great example is serving on the sales advisory council described above; other rewarding options include participating in high-level learning exercises and mentoring other salespeople. The numerical stakes here don’t have to be high, but the policy sends a clear message to participants that their community membership is essential to the culture in which they work and is recognized and rewarded by the organization. This will also contribute to better seller retention.
  • What to avoid in 2023 Whether or not “big resignation” is a legitimate phenomenon, no one will argue that before, during and after a pandemic, finding and keeping great B2B salespeople is a significant challenge. Many companies balk at the response and immediately consider raising salespeople’s pay as a stopgap measure, but most B2B organizations lack the resources of Microsoft and cannot sustain profitable sales talent management if their cost of sales increases without a concomitant increase in salesperson output. Additionally, most talented salespeople can quite easily find job after job that – regardless of the cultural advantages described above – will initially pay more than their previous one.

These points should give you a great start on your 2023 sales enablement planning. Explore

Forrester’s 2023 Planning Guide for data-driven insights on where to invest, where to pull back, and where to stay the course here.

This post was written by Vice President, Director of Research Peter Ostrow and originally appeared here.

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