Building Your Sales Enablement Technology Stack
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Like most departments in modern business organizations, sales enablement is inundated with a host of technology and software solutions. The question practitioners are faced with is not “if” they should adopt technology that supports their enablement efforts, but “how” to do so while deriving the most impact.
For instance, according to the State of Sales Enablement Report 2019, respondents identified more than 150 tools they use to assist their sales enablement programs. With the multitude of options available to them, sales enablement professionals are responsible for selecting the technology solution that suits the specific needs of their organization.
One of the first and most crucial steps in identifying which elements of technology will add the most value is clearly identifying the key performance indicators of the sales team and, even further, the organization. From there, practitioners can use those KPIs to help them navigate through the sales enablement technology landscape, secure stakeholder support, and ultimately, drive adoption of technology that maximizes the return-on-investment for an organization.
Understanding the Sales Enablement Technology Landscape
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building your enablement tech stack, which is why it’s important for practitioners to do their research. Here are a few key resources for those just getting started, or who wish to expand their industry knowledge.
- Reviews: Peer-to-peer business software review sites such as G2 Crowd allow users to evaluate multiple software solutions based on user reviews and an aggregate rating. It’s useful for those who have a long list of sales enablement software solutions under consideration and want to narrow it down.
- Sales Enablement PRO Directory: This is a useful resource that conveniently organizes sales enablement tools into their primary purpose categories, such as Sales Enablement, Sales Readiness, Sales Performance, and more. Each product description also includes what their main specialization features are, such as Analytics, Training, or Lead Management.
- Sales Enablement Society: This group brings together thousands of sales enablement professionals, experts, and newcomers who seek solutions and support within a community of like-minded individuals. Within the Society’s discussion forums, people can peruse through the questions and answers of other practitioners in the field, and also post their own.
- Peer Connections: Building relationships and fostering a network of other sales enablement practitioners is invaluable in order to source best practices, success stories, and battle scars. Seek out professionals in organizations that are similar in size, scope, and scale to your own. Their unfiltered advice can be extremely useful to understand specific use cases for certain technologies.
Developing Evaluation Criteria
To develop the right set of evaluation criteria, practitioners should start by basing it around the business challenges they’re trying to solve for the organization.
Ensure that criteria is focused on the task at hand rather than what vendors and websites are recommending. By identifying the core KPIs within a specific business strategy, the criteria that mirrors those objectives will naturally surface. Although different organizations and business challenges will require different standards, here are some common themes to consider across multiple solution categories:
- Vendor credibility: Start off by assessing the buying experience from beginning to end. Consider factors like response rates and customer base size: where does your organization fall into and does that affect the experience you have with a solution provider?
- Vendor innovation ability: In a competitive marketplace, a vendor’s ability and frequency of innovation is a key criterion in evaluating their fitness for an organization. Delivering new and improved products, features, and functionalities on a recurring basis is a measure of that vendor’s solution success.
- Integration: Ensuring that the solution integrates with an existing technology stack is fundamental in driving adoption, especially as it relates to core systems such as CRMs and data platforms. Access to reporting and analytics tools should be convenient and centralized.
- User experience: Solutions should be just that–not complex problems unto themselves. They should be intuitive, configurable, and require minimal training to adopt, giving professionals the time and resources to focus on strategic business processes.
Securing stakeholder buy-in can be one of the most challenging obstacles for a practitioner to overcome in the sales enablement procurement process. It not only requires a compelling story, but solid data to truly justify the budget and resources needed to pursue the investment.
To help build a business case for purchasing decisions that require executive support, it’s important to properly align the functions of the sales enablement tools with the KPIs of the company. Practitioners should be comprehensive in their approach, providing stakeholders with a ROI study that clearly outlines how the solution will improve long-term processes and business outcomes.
Remember, dollar signs speak volumes. As part of your ROI approximation, ensure you demonstrate specifically how the investment that you are proposing will translate to revenue impact.
Keep in mind that the vendor can often help provide much-needed support when compiling research and data to build the business case. Many solution providers are eager to collaborate with potential customers to bridge the gap between solution functionality and performance, and can offer useful statistics and case studies to demonstrate this. If a vendor is reluctant to help you with this task, consider it an opportunity to question their suitability within your organization.
Launching New Tools and Driving Adoption
Once stakeholder buy-in is secured, practitioners must ensure adoption across all functional departments that will need to use the tool. Specialists should prioritize making this as seamless as possible by following a few general principles:
- Keep it simple: Be wary of the fact that the more complexity that’s introduced into a process or workflow, the higher the resistance may be to actually adopt it. This is especially key when it comes to new pieces of technology, as there are varying levels of technical aptitude across an organization.
- Make it engaging: Ensure that end users are clearly able to visualize the benefits of using a solution, and not just in terms of long-term business impact. End users should be aware of how the solution improves their day-to-day operations, whether that’s through task automation or information sourcing. If value is highly visible, engagement will follow.
- Create a competitive environment: Many salespeople are competitive by nature–use this to your advantage when introducing new solutions by creating friendly contests. For instance, with a sales enablement tool, you might allot points when the solution is used to deliver content to a prospect. If the prospect views that content, then allot even more points. Not only does the sales team have a competitive incentive to engage with the solution, but it’s also able to see firsthand the positive impact of its use.
In order to derive the most impact from your sales enablement tech stack, always start with the needs of the sales team and the goals of the organization as a whole to determine where technology solutions might be able to fill a gap.
Keep in mind that not all business challenges require a piece of technology to solve, but perhaps a reevaluation of current processes or reallocation of existing resources. One of the key responsibilities practitioners have in building and maintaining the sales enablement tech stack is to reduce complexity. Sales enablement practitioners should continuously assess the tools within their tech stack to ensure it is doing what it is intended to do – enable sellers to confidently achieve their sales goals.