Seller efficiency and effectiveness have been a business challenge that has been around as long as most businesses. In today’s B2B world of digital transformation, exponential complexity, and information explosion, this challenge has become even more acute.
How do YOUR sellers handle tough questions in front of a customer? Are your sellers fluent, and accurate, in responding to questions such as “what data protection mechanisms are in place for our data center?”, “how will integrations for a SaaS solution be achieved with our existing on-premise applications?” or “can I get special terms with a 5-year contract?”
Among the B2B leaders I’ve met lately, the answer is a consistent “no.” It is crazy no-one has yet created a sure-shot solution for answering the questions sellers really have. After all, enabling the frontline of your business as swiftly, comprehensively, and regularly is one of the most strategic ways to improve competitive edge and drive the top line.
The question of how to best improve seller productivity is clearly top of mind. A Google search for ‘sales enablement’ returns 14.5 million results, a search volume which has steadily increased over the last five years by at least 50 percent annually. Not to mention over 1,000 software vendors are claiming to solve this problem.
This article is the first in a three-part series where I share thoughts and perspectives on the challenges and opportunities companies face in driving the speed, productivity, and effectiveness of sellers. As I share each article, I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with these particular challenges.
Over the years, there have been some excellent approaches to solving the seller enablement challenge. Entire Sales Enablement, Systems Engineering, Sales Operations, and Product Marketing teams have been built and chartered to develop the right information, content, and tools to transform sellers into top performers.
New hire onboarding programs are carefully tailored to include training, sales teams attend rigorous informational boot camps, and annual kickoffs feature educational sessions. Emails to distribution lists of subject matter experts circulate furiously to find information across organizations, and extensive knowledge bases sit inside firewalls to collect the information sellers need to do their jobs better.
With such incredible focus, budget, and technology, why aren’t companies better at enabling sellers? And why does the topic of helping sellers still attract so much scrutiny and investment discussions at annual planning meetings year after year?
Because traditional approaches to enabling sellers don’t have a great track record of success.
It’s not that the information and education programs to support sellers don’t exist. In 2020, the opposite is true. There is so much information available to sellers through knowledge management tools, packaged content, and multiple channels of communication. The real question is how sellers know where to find the information they need and, once located, how to know which information is most recent, trustworthy, and correct. And while sales enablement programs, tools, and initiatives multiply every year, the success of most are plagued by six critical realities, including…
- 87% of training content is forgotten within weeks 
- 31% of sellers spend time searching for and creating content 
- 84% of sales execs rate content search and utilization as top productivity improvement areas 
- 39% of employees use email to ask colleagues a ‘quick’ question 
- Global average spend on annual sales enablement has passed USD$66 billion 
The value of improving seller productivity
The seller role is a tough one at any company, and increases in difficulty as offers become more complex. Sellers face growing pressure from the accelerating pace of business, rapidly evolving customer expectations and an ongoing learning curve. The business impact of COVID-19 compounds the difficulties sellers face, with a shift to more remote learning and less access to structured training.
Yet, with the right information at their fingertips, sellers can skillfully deliver the right message to the right person at the right moment. The customer is delighted to have questions answered instantly. The seller is happy because they’ve helped the customer without looking ill-prepared or needing a day or two to find an expert to give the required answer.
Happiness aside, studies prove the ability to put the right information at a seller’s fingertips bring tangible business benefits, including:
- 18% of improvements in time-to-productivity for new sales hires
- 17% better quota attainment
- 50% better win rates 
With all the available enablement technology, content strategies, and expected business benefits, what is stopping organizations from consistently enabling teams of top performers?
After all your company’s investments of time and money in tools, content development, and training programs to support sellers, are you satisfied that:
- Are tools fully serving your teams as intended?
- Do you have payback on seller productivity?
- Do sellers genuinely remember training content in the field?
- Sellers are enabled and confident in finding content quickly and easily?
- More deals are closing because your brand is better than your competitors at giving customers the information they need, in the moment they ask for it?
What thoughts do you have on the challenges for sellers in an increasingly complex B2B selling environment, and how we can make it faster and easier for sellers to reach full productivity?