The man who might have started the direct-to-consumer sales revolution in 1906, who created a multi-million-dollar enterprise with just $375 in seed money, held that success was due to three key business principles. One was that inexpensive materials plus hard work could create large market value. Another was that a politely phrased sales pitch – carefully rehearsed – could almost always break down a buyer’s resistance. And a third was that salespeople, if they were sufficiently motivated, could perform wonders.
His name: Alfred C. Fuller, founder of the truly market-disrupting Fuller Brush Company. At one point his sales organization made calls on 85 of 100 homes across America. This back-in-the-day sales effectiveness speaks to the value of putting in place – and then using consistently – best practices. As hard as it may have been to sell then, it’s more far more challenging today. The market, products and channels are complicated. Prospects are tough to find and then demonstrate a disquieting short span of attention when you do connect with them. That, and more, is what makes sales enablement so critically important, and why platforms that facilitate it have been in such high demand of late.
In fact, according to G2, there are nearly 160 such platforms from which to choose. To be included in its Sales Enablement category, a platform must:
- Act as a repository of marketing content to be used by sales representatives;
- Track prospect and customer engagement on content and sales pitches;
- Allow users to upload a variety of collateral or build content directly within the tool; and,
- Assist in the preparedness of salespersons during presentations or pitches by having easy access to relevant marketing content.
Like Fuller, whose autobiography was titled “A Foot in the Door,” these platforms focus on getting to the prospect and, then, going for the close. Period. Even Gartner centers its definition of a sales enablement platform on what amounts to digital content management, emphasizing the value of content engagement analytics and the ability to measure buyer engagement; both of which help to keep track of the top-performing content.
What about keeping track of the salespeople and how they’re doing? Sales organizations are getting bigger; the sales process is getting more complex. Getting everyone to learn about, embrace and execute a unified sales process – one in which sellers use the same tools in the same way – for best results – isn’t easy.
One way to deal with that is to look for a sales enablement platform that offers more than count leads, frequency of sales calls, and which sell sheet is emailed most often. Look for one that helps salespeople know what they need to do, how well they’re doing it and what can be done, with their manager, to be even better. Look for a sales enablement platform that actually enables salespeople to be better.
A platform like that will help achieve the following:
- Promote adherence to the sales process by the individual, not simply pursue their own sales bogey;
- Drive the most up-to-date knowledge to the individual, so they get it when and where they need it to apply to the sales situation correctly; and,
- Foster collaboration among the sales team to win big more often.
The right sales enablement platform can measurably improve an organization’s sales performance, and, in the process, attract and retain stronger sellers. Josh Bersin, President and Founder of Bersin & Associates, a research and advisory firm in enterprise learning and talent management, suggests the following factors to select the right one:
- Involve the most senior executives possible as they’re the ones who drive what and how things are measured as well as manage the company’s performance;
- Look for a good fit in terms of culture and mode of operations;
- Beware of feature creep. Try to keep it simple so it’s not too hard for people to use;
- Focus on productivity through easy integration with existing applications;
- Be prepared to change out the platform before it’s a dinosaur; and,
- No product is perfect. The way you implement it, use it and where it adds value will be paramount, regardless of the selected system.
To underscore the importance of incorporating employee performance and development capabilities into a sales enablement platform, let me end with the words of Benjamin Franklin:
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”