CSO Insights: Sales Enablement -Have We Plateaued? – Soirée, San Francisco
315 Views | 44 Min Read
Seleste Lunsford: Good morning. So, as Lucas mentioned, I have the pleasure of being chief research officer at CSO Insights. What CSO Insights does is we look at data. And so be warned for those of you who stayed out at the concert late last night, there are lots of charts in this, lots of small numbers and lots of charts. But we call it two buckets of information. So, one set of information that we collect is around practices. What is it that organizations actually do? And we look at sales, sales effectiveness, sales enablement, and sales operations. The second bucket of metrics is results, right? Because we’re in sales, we want to know if it worked. And we look at the kind of metrics that you can compare across organizations.
Now, the good news is we sit back and we looked at the last 18 months or so of data, and what we found is good news, bad news. So the good news is we still need sales enablement. The bad news, this is because we still have some things we have to fix in sales. I mentioned we look at is operational metrics. We look at things like revenue plan attainment. Does a sales organization make its goal? The big number. And we look at quota attainment, so is the percentage of salespeople who make their number going up, down, staying the same? And what we found is we looked at the last 18 months is some positivity.
Most sales organizations are making their numbers and a higher percentage of salespeople are making their numbers. That had actually bottomed out about 2016 and it started to wobble its way back up. Now what’s interesting though, is that we didn’t see the same pattern when we looked at the other metrics we collect. Win rates and conversion rates were flat practices. So, when you ask sales leaders to rate their salespeople’s capabilities, those went down over the last two years. I’m talking about things like account management or opportunity planning. We saw that decline. We saw the depth of customer relationship decline. It’s not surprising that we also saw customer churn go up or customer retention go down. And we’re losing more sellers in the organization. So, it’s unusual when you see the arrows pointing in all these different directions like this, which causes us to say, how can we be succeeding as sales organizations if the leading indicators aren’t there?
Well, over that same 18 months, we saw three other things increase pretty sharply. So, when you measure GDP, and we measure it globally across about 150 different countries, during the same period of time that we took these measures, global GDP went up about 10%. You just heard what Lucas said, it’s probably not likely. We’re going to continue to go up at that kind of click. Sales force size went up. The majority of sales organizations grew and they grew on average about 9%. And investments went up.
We’re putting the finishing touches on a sales ops report. Now, organizations use on average, 10 or 11 tech tools that they include as part of or on top of their CRM. What we’ve done as an industry, when you think about sales as an industry, is we’ve thrown a lot of money because we see opportunity in the marketplace, right? We said, “Hey, there’s demand.” Let’s just increase our coverage. We can depend on our high performers. We can throw more tools in the marketplace, we can increase the size of our sales force, and we’ll get to our ultimate number. The problem is that’s not sustainable.
I know there’s a lot of drama about the R-word when it comes to the economy, but certainly we couldn’t expect a 10% growth all the time. And if that’s the case, those second two columns, those make sales organizations very vulnerable. So, when we look underneath those, here’s what we found. Typical things that normally cause you problems are people, process, technology, and first is a talent issue.
I mentioned that seller attrition was up. We’re having trouble keeping our sellers right now, it’s about a four year high, it’s about 18%. We’re trying to net grow our sales forces on average 9%. That is a lot of hiring that sales organizations are doing. At the same time, 84% of sales leaders say they don’t have the talent that they think is going to take them into the future. So, we’re doing lots of hiring, but are not really pleased with the results that we’re getting, and it’s really expensive. Right now, because it’s a fairly hot market, so there’s lots of poaching. What we’re finding is that it takes four months in order to place a position, and then another nine to get someone ramped up to full productivity. So, that’s over a year. That’s 13 months.
So, I’ve got a people problem. If you look at B2B complex sales, your territories are running probably $2 million. And now I’m saying I’m going at least a year where they’re not fully productive. So, there’s a big people problem. We’ve got a process problem too. And I’d like to give us as an industry a little bit of credit in the sense that we have moved the needle on this in the same two year period.
When we look at process, we say a process and a sales organization is either random, which means every salesperson, every team kind of does what they do. Informal means, “Oh, sure. We have a slide that has our sales process on it. It’s probably built it into our CRM. It’s not actually how we sell.” Formal says, “it is how we sell. We do have details. We have gates, we have measures. We use it to forecast.” But dynamic is the Holy Grail, right? Dynamic says, “well, yeah, we built one, but we’re fueling it with analytics and we’re constantly refining it.” Right now, less than a quarter of organizations have gotten to that level. We get credit for the big shift from informal to formal. Now we need to move from formal onto dynamic.
It’s probably sacrilegious to say this at Dreamforce, but we still have a CRM problem, right? We interviewed 1200 sales organizations and only a quarter said they were actually really confident in the data in their CRM systems, and they felt like it was driving productivity. That’s a challenge when you think of the fact that my backbone might be a little unreliable, and now I’ve stacked on 10 or 11 tech tools as part of it, right? And I’m hoping that’s going to help my sales people be more successful, but instead it’s made it more complex.
Now here’s the bigger problem. So, those are things that are fixable. Here’s the hard one. We have an engagement problem. We went out and we talked to about 500 B2B buyers around the world. And the reason that we did is there was a lot of noise in the marketplace that says no one likes salespeople anymore, right? We want to get rid of our salespeople. And this year, B2B e-commerce will eclipse B2C.
So, there’s probably something to that. We interviewed all these buyers to find out, and we gave them choices: do you find value in your sales relationships, that sort of thing. 62% said, “yes, my sales people are fine. They meet my expectations.” Only 3% said, “the sooner I can be done with them, the better.” Right? So 62% is not bad, but for those of you who might be helping out your customer success, your customer service teams, when someone meets expectations, that’s damning praise because you’re vulnerable to the competition. There’s nothing in it that’s value added. It’s just what is expected and where we saw that translate as we dug a little deeper and we said, “okay, where do you go to solve your problems?” And we gave them a whole list of resources. Salespeople are on that list, and 77% of them didn’t pick them. Not only did they not pick them, number one, we gave them three choices and said pick your top three. 77% didn’t put sellers in the top three. So, it said, “yes, my salespeople are fine, but I wouldn’t really go to them to solve a business problem.”
It’s only natural that about that same amount, 70% said, “well, I wait till later to engage in the sales process.” We gave them a series of decisions to say, “well, exactly when in the sales process would you want to engage them? What decisions have you already made? What decisions do you have left to make?” And they said, “we’re going to decide what we need, the prioritization of my needs, and I pretty much know what the solution is. And now I’m going to invite a seller in.” So, now I’ve put my sellers in this really little box and I say, “present this widget to me.”
When we talk to them about looking at the salespeople they work with and ask what’s the difference between the person who won the last big thing you bought and number two? 68% of them said not much. Right? Because I didn’t give much room to work with to differentiate themselves. That just reinforces my thinking as a buyer. Salespeople are okay. So it’s not that they disliked salespeople, they’re just kind of apathetic about it. And that’s hard to break through. If there was something very specific where buyers said, “I hate it when salespeople want to ask me that question about what keeps me up at night, will you just tell your salespeople to not ask that question anymore? Breaking through the apathy loop is more challenging.
Now, the upside for all of us is this is what sales enablement does, right? Sales enablement can solve the engagement problem. But to do so, it’s got to solve the process problem, the people problem, and a piece of a tech problem. That’s why we have job security for now, as long as we can solve those problems. But here’s the thing, we have to think about sales enablement in a big strategic way.
So, in most organizations, sales enablement didn’t exist five years ago. When we say sales enablement, we mean this. A lot of times it was born of “well, I had a sales training group, so I sort of morphed them and renamed them into sales enablement”, or there is a piece of ops that was always kind of good with working with people and I sort of broke them off and made them enablement and we say enablement. That’s a great way to start, but now it has to be a separate business function.
Enablement has to be a discipline, has to point to results, has to be about collaboration. It has to be scalable across the enterprise. And we start with sales enablement because I had a colleague tell me once, “when in doubt, you find the closest revenue stream, you jump in, and you start swimming.” If I’m going to fix an enablement issue, I start with sales. That doesn’t mean salespeople are the only people I care about or the only people that are important to solve that engagement problem. So again, when we define sales enablement, it’s customer-facing folks, not just focusing on sales. The goal is those interactions, it’s to fix that engagement problem. It’s to break through that apathy loop.
The other good news is organizations who have sales enablement, on average, they do better than organizations that don’t. They have better win rates, better quota attainment, they make more money. Just generally speaking, on average, they’re more successful. So it’s no wonder so many organizations have stood up sales enablement, and you’ll see the big jump between 2016 and 2017.
Not coincidentally, that was the year we bottomed out on quota attainment, right? We had a lot of salespeople that weren’t making their number. Now, you don’t want all your salespeople to make your number, because if so, you set your quotas wrong, but you should be aiming for somewhere around 65 to 70%. Back in 2016 we were at like 52%. There was a lot of energy poured into, “we need to fix this issue”. Right now we’re at about 60%, and that’s globally. If you broke that down and you looked at a highly penetrated region like North America, it’d be more like 75%.
What’s interesting though is it hasn’t moved much. This is the third year it’s been right about the same. Not a lot of other people are rushing into sales enablement. And if you think about the change curve, no matter how you dice the data, we’re still sort of in that late maturity stage. There’s still a lot of mainstream orgs we’re trying to get onto sales enablement, so we’ve plateaued a bit now. That’s interesting because there was such tremendous energy around this three years ago. We wanted to find out did we just plateau in terms of penetration or how we started to get a little stagnant in terms of how effective we are.
I showed you that chart that showed that on average, organizations with sales enablement, they’re more successful. But if you watch late night TV and you see all those commercials for like vitamins and supplements, there’s always some sort of fine-print that says “results may vary by individual.” Right? Results in sales enablement vary by individual and they vary pretty broadly. So yes, on average, organizations that have sales enablement do a lot better than those that don’t have it. The key is, are they meeting their objectives? And this number gets worse for the last two years.
What this data told us is that little more than a quarter said, “yeah, we’re feeling pretty good about achieving the things that we set out to do.” Just shy of 17% said, “we haven’t really achieved much.” We’re not achieving a lot of our objectives. And the bulk, the 56%, were like, “we got some good stuff done.” I mean, there were some. Now, the problem with that same bucket is you can’t stay there. Every year that you’ve established sales enablement in your organization, the expectations for what it’s gonna do get greater. You can’t just stay in the, “we met some of our objectives”. We have to move forward, or we risk slipping back. And those variances, they matter.
We looked again at all these operational metrics, the blue bar, the people who are meeting the expectations, right? Those 27% are doing what they set out to do. Our friends in dark gray don’t have sales enablement at all. The ones in light gray, they do have sales enablement, but they’re not achieving the objectives they set out and their numbers are worse, right? So it’s worse to do it and not do a great job of it than it is not to do it at all. So, it makes organizations vulnerable. Because in a way, sales enablement is a bit of an overlay position, right? We used to have content marketing, we used to have L&D. Now we’ve got a bit of an overlay position that orchestrates them together. That has to prove, that has to come out to tangible benefit.
So, how do we move off that plateau? It takes tremendous energy to get sales enablement up and going, and all these organizations are starting to get a little flat. Not just in terms of the penetration, but in terms of the accomplishment. So, when we drill into that 27.5%, the ones who are achieving, we find that they have a few things in common. And so to Lucas’s point, this is the future-basing bit. As you think about this, you won’t be able to do all the things that I share, but you could certainly make some progress towards some.
The first is a business commitment, and I think this comes from the fact that sales enablement was usually morphed or evolved from something else, and that something else may have had some objectives for the year, some KPIs, but it may not have sat distinctly as a business function. Well, we position sales enablement as a business function and a business function, it needs a business commitment and a business plan. Those of you have not seen this before, I won’t go through this in detail today, but I’ll tell you in the end where to find it.
We sat down and we’ve just completed our 5th Annual Sales Enablement Report, and we looked at all of our findings and we put together what we call the clarity model. These are all the things that you need to do to stand up and grow sales enablement in your world, right? So, this involves all the things that you need to think about, that you need to put some formality around. The important bit for today is the bottom part. The foundation of it is it starts with this idea of a business plan, a strategy, executive sponsorship, and it’s formal. Organizations who do this are a lot more successful.
One of the things that we look at with a sales organization is there is enablement somewhere, right? There’s no sales organization who doesn’t have it. It just could be very random, which means product says, “Hey, we’re going to launch a new product”, and there are some people somewhere who have to go build some training for it. So, there are things that happen, but it’s not actually what we would consider formal sales enablement. Informal means there’s probably groups of people around the company, like-minded sort of federated folks who work together to get things done, change the capability formulas. I got a team, I’ve got a budget. People know, roughly speaking, my roles and responsibilities, who I report to, what I’m accountable for.
The little extra bit is this idea of a charter or a business plan, and that’s the dark blue bar. Only 15.8% of organizations had that going for them. And it seems like that’s just sort of documentation. When we asked this question about sales operations, it’s not that big of a deal. It is in enablement because people are still trying to establish in their organizations what it does. So, what’s in this business plan? The formats are irrelevant. Some have been slides, some are spreadsheets, some are interpretive dance. It doesn’t matter, right?
You’re a business plan has to include these six things. I have to link to the sales strategy. I have to have a mission. I have to be aspirational. I have to have someone with money who cares. I’m going to hold myself accountable to some metrics. I need to be able to offer services to audiences. The important part is I’m having lots of conversations that help people make these decisions. Now, yes, I can sit in a corner and I could write the answer to these questions. The actual way to do it as the collaboration with content marketing and product and corporate marketing and sales executive leadership and sales ops. That’s why that little extra of having the plan makes such a difference. It’s not so much the document, it’s the collaboration and the process that happens.
So, a couple of places where people fall short would be this whole idea of needing the person with the money, right? I need the executive sponsorship. So we talked to a few people who had really good executive sponsors and then found that they had one of two paths to get in. So, if they were trying to stand up sales enablement or get it more firmly established, there were basically two strategies. One was, my CSO wants to do something that involves people. I’m going to help them do it. He or she is rolling out a new CRM, we’re launching a new product, we’re getting into a new market. So, I’m not going to go in and talk a lot about sales enablement. That doesn’t mean anything to them, but I’m going to help them succeed with that, and when I’m done, I’m going to let them know it was enablement. The second thing is I’ve got a CSO who values being a mature, sophisticated sales organization, and I’m going to help them see, this is part of the landscape.
And the keys are nothing magical. You talk to these people who have these really strong sponsors. What they said is words matter, right? So, we have our definition of sales enablement, but what’s the one that matters in your organization? I talked to someone about our definition and he said that it helped him internally because he used the word discipline and discipline was nonthreatening. If he had said, “I want to set up a team, I want to set up a function,” I’ve gotten mired in governance. But he just wanted to establish a discipline.
And the other things on the list were really about internal selling, not just influencing skills, but the largest service that sales enablement offers to salespeople is usually sales training. What these guys did and these women did, is they treated it like an internal sales call. They had opportunity plans. They knew who their economic buyer was, they knew what the issues were. They had sales call plans, and they sold the idea internally, right? They teach all the sales training classes. So, that was a very interesting approach and a little more specific than we would have expected.
Once you get that executive on board, they’ll bore of the project, so you have to figure out how to keep them engaged. But it was really important for folks to have that executive sponsor. Then if I’ve got an executive involved, I have to commit to metrics. We interviewed about 940 sales organizations to ask them what they expected from sales enablement. And these were the top five lists, and the top two are the big ones. I’m expecting sales enablement to help me with my win rates and to increase account acquisition. Those are the two things I want from sales enablement for my business plan. I would need to include that. But let’s face it, when we get to the end of the year and I’m tracking win rates and I say, “Hey, our when rates go up, I get credit for that,” no one gets credit for that. So, one of the things is you track in between. And that’s where sales enablement falls short.
About a quarter of a sales organization said we actually measured the pieces that lead up to increasing win rates or account acquisition. So utilization of content, sales cycle, velocity, competencies of salespeople, capability building, ROI. That was rare. Part of the business planning process forces you to agree on this with an executive. So, it’s a risky thing, but it elevates it to a business function. That’s one way to get off the plateau.
Now I have to help people, right? So, I got my sponsor, I put some metrics in the ground. I’ve got accountables. What am I going to do? And the key here I think we all have to ask ourselves is, are we occupying a unique space as sales enablement? What I mean by that is, are we in our sales enablement functions doing things that we could not have done before when we didn’t have sales enablement? If we just had training or we had content marketing, or we had sales ops, are we really living up to the potential of sales enablement? Or are you occupying a unique space?
‘ll give a couple of examples. We think about services. They’re sort of a a stool. There’s three parts of it. The first is training. Without training, what enablement looks like is usually onboarding, usually product knowledge, right? So, that happens. Most organizations have that at the plateau. Once we set up sales enablement, we’ve got multi-modality curriculum. We have curriculum by role. We’re starting to measure some things, and we’re not just reacting to, “we need to launch a new product.” We’re also capability building the organization. So, we’re doing a needs assessment. We’re figuring out how we can make us all more successful.
That’s all very good, but could also be accomplished by a pretty sophisticated training organization. What the next peak looks like is I have actually fully integrated content and training and coaching together. I never roll out training unless there’s a coaching piece and I never roll out a training and coaching piece without content already embedded in it. So, all those things are happening together. My learning paths aren’t just by role. They could be by individual because I’ve partnered up with HR and ops and I have talent data. The training I’m rolling out is not just stuff about process or methodology, it’s about markets and personas. I’m doing true business measurement.
When we asked sales enablement organizations where they were going to invest their money, it tends to be the usual suspects, right? Selling skills, sales process, sales methodology, all good things to do. The new bet is value messaging. There is definitely an increased focused on value messaging. The important part when we talked to a lot of sales enablement leaders is what they said is, “if I look at HR, they have a lot of toys that I don’t have in sales enablement.” Some of these trends are on microlearning and stuff like that. You’re more likely to see that in the HR port of an organization than sales enablement, and there’s a real opportunity to collaborate more than we do today.
A similar example is content. Content’s little harder to push up the plateau. So, without sales enablement, everybody’s making content. Marketing is doing their thing, sales doing their thing at the plateau. We’re collaborating better together, usually on things like collateral and pitch decks, external things. Hopefully we’ve taken all of our content we’ve got at one repository and we’ve curated it. We might even tailor it by industry. The next level says, this is a little bit different. I’m actually having a content strategy. My content strategy includes life cycles for all those assets. It’s all based on a value messaging framework. I’ve got it tailored by persona and it’s not just created. I’m also using predictive analysis to push it at the right place at the right time.
Again, that’s a pretty sophisticated thing. That is something I could definitely not have accomplished when I was just content marketing alone. Those who have that kind of content strategy, we’ve actually made some strides over the last couple of years, at about 30%. Now, they have much greater results than those who don’t have it. And if you ask most organizations what one is, there’s a lot of debate on what goes into a content strategy. That one’s a bit harder, but has some pretty substantial uptick.
The hardest of the three is coaching, which at this point, we should think should be easiest because we’ve been talking about coaching long before there was such a thing as sales enablement, right? The type of coaching that’s been around forever without enablement and unfortunately with, it’s left up to managers. What happens is when you’re new to role, you might get an HR course around performance reviews, something like that. Once you stand up sales enablement, the idea is I have a definition of sales coaching, so not just coaching in a generic sense, but sales coaching. I have expectations for it. I have some planning tools to make some progress.
But the Holy Grail where you really want to get to is, I’ve got skills and process, right? I have a cadence. I’ve partnered up with operations and I am feeding my sales leaders individual dashboards fueled by analytics that tell them for each one of their reps, here’s what the opportunities are. I’m saving them all that research time so they can focus on the conversations and development bits. I’m rolling out technology not just to be used in the sales process, but specific to the coaching process, and that one is a long way away for almost all organizations.
This is one of those charts where the gray bar is pretty big. Almost 43% of organizations say they still leave coaching up to the manager. It’s kinda heartbreaking. You think about it, the number of years we’ve talked about it. The problem is it’s a hard thing to change and it’s almost cultural in organizations. But when we smashed together all of those practices with all the results, this has the biggest uptick of all of them. So, that 32% win rates is for organizations who are good at coaching They are just better at everything than organizations who are not. So, if there’s one thing you want to do where you want to stake your claim on something, you want to move something that people can get their hearts and heads around, it would be coaching.
And the last thing is about connecting to the customer path. So, this is something we’ve been talking about for a little while, but more in a generic or conceptual sense. What it means is that we just stopped thinking of things from lead to close, then start thinking of things along the customer experience. Again, if you go back to this model of the foundations, the business plan, the anchor points, the customer and organizations who do this well, again, have very good results. But you’ll see the good news is the gray bar is little. There are very few organizations who don’t take customers into account at all, but the vast majority are sort of in this informal/formal race.
So yes, of course, we love our customers. We’re customer-centric. We give them a customer sat survey every year, but there’s really nothing in our sales process that links to that. This would be a very over-generic view of what we mean by customer path. You’ve got awareness, I’ve got buying, and I’ve got implementation. What that actually breaks down into is a bunch of process steps.
In sales enablement, we tend to focus on the ones in the middle, the green ones, because that’s when we go from lead to close. The customer’s perspective is it needs to be all integrated. And if we’re talking about sales enablement, the way the definition describes, it’s more like this. So, my job in sales enablement is to map all of this out knowing a lot of this is outside the sales org, and then everything has to fit up underneath that. I have a value messaging framework where the messages are pre, post, and during.
Once I have that framework built, I put content on top of it. Content has to connect. You have to be able to pick up any case study and say this case study is for inspiration, this case study, which might be about the same customer, it’s for implementation. The messaging is going to be different. I need internal content and it’d be great if I could just pass out the internal content and tell people to go sell, but that doesn’t work. So, I need training and I need coaching.
In sales enablement, our job is to map all this out, even this stuff we don’t own, because we need to influence all of it and any element of it. So, this is like a huge butcher block paper you put on your wall to be able to say, this is how this all fits together. The problem is that we still tend to think of it a bit siloed, right? So, marketing handles awareness, we handle sales, and customer success does their thing. But in actuality, marketing is out doing account-based marketing one-to-one and sales is doing content marketing one-to-many. We’re doing personal branding. Most of your customer success people have a quota, so it’s all smashed together anyway.
So, in sales enablement, the question is, how can we put together some of the shared process? I might just start with sharing data with each other, but because of our role in sales enablement, where we are, we’re the ones who can pull this together. It’s not going to come from marketing and it’s not gonna come from service. It has to come from us.
The last bit is, what does that mean for my audiences? It’s got to be more than just salespeople. Where we’ve made progress is the gray bars. Two years ago, we didn’t even have manager enablement. Now, most sales enablement organizations are enabling their managers formally. But you’ll see the blue bars. We’re not engaging much with channel, customer service, customer success, and those own huge pieces of that process. To start with, we end where we started.
From a sales enablement perspective, we need to work on those other two columns because we can’t count on this continuous investment. We can’t count on the economy. But to do so, we have to think through and be honest with ourselves. Are we truly living up to the potential of sales enablement? And how do we get there? A lot of people will say, “well, that’s great. I’m still trying to get up to the plateau. I don’t have money. I don’t have enough people.” The one universal is, no matter how big the sales organization, enablement is usually one third the size of sales ops. Everybody’s working with less, but everyone can make some small step in terms of can I make a business commitment? Am I occupying a space that’s unique and how am I aligning and being the champion for aligning for the customer?
I know we have a couple of minutes now that we’ve got devoted to questions, and then I’m going to share some resources to learn more. There’s a mic in the back. If anybody has any questions, please feel free to raise your hand.
Audience 1: Hey, good morning. This 940, that’s a great sample size. Any more context? Geographic, market, segment, industries?
SL: Great question. We do all of our studies broadly. So, that covers 23 different industries. We never do more than 50% in North America. We try to keep it balanced. There are no micro-businesses, nothing smaller than about $50 million in there. We have like 20% that are $1 billion or greater.
So, it tends to be broad across a whole range of industries. Geographies tends to be 45-50% North America, about a third EMEA, the next biggest chunk is APAC, and then usually more like 5% in Latin.
These are all sales and organization leaders. So, these are actually people who are managing sales organizations or managing sales ops or sales enablement. Some of them are channel managers, and the salespeople they manage are channel managers. Most tend to be direct. Good question.
Audience 2: Seleste, thank you. Very insightful, as always. I appreciate that. Can you walk us through this slide again because I’m kind of finding it a bit confusing. You’re saying revenue plan attainment has gone up, which means to me more sales reps are hitting their quota attainment, which is the next bullet. Yet win rates, conversion rates are staying the same, and then all of these things are going down. So, if this is the same and all these things are going down, why do you think it is that people are still hitting their quota? And I mean, that’s the positive, right? Isn’t that what it’s all about is helping people hit quota? So where’s the rub here?
SL: Great question. So we see you a couple of different things. One of which is that there is a small proportion of salespeople who are way blowing their quarter out of field, and we’re more reliant on our top performers. And we were a couple of years ago. So, we’ve got more people who are meeting quota, and then we have our top performers who are well-exceeding quota. So we’re kind of putting a lot of eggs in that basket. The other is the funnels are much fuller. So just a lot of volume that is coming in. When win rates aren’t as high, we’re making up for it in terms of volume, because GDP is going up and there’s a lot of demand in the marketplace and there’s a lot of activity. So, I’ve got a lot more reps out there. I’m turning a bunch, but I have a lot more activity.
The concern is that you can only carry so far with that, right? Even if the economy continues to grow, but not grow at that pace, then your win rates will absolutely catch up with you. We see the behaviors impacting the win rates and conversion rates, which do damage that. But right now, we’re making up for it in volume, so that’s the concern we have. So we say, “yay, sales enablement, we can fix these things.” But if we don’t, then we’re going to be viewed as an extra expense.
Let’s say the economy goes up 5%, and everybody has become fixated on margins. All that stuff costs money, right? The win rate being flat, all the deals we’re chasing that we don’t close, it costs money. Growing the sales force costs money. Also, attrition costs money and will start to become cost fixing again. Good question.
Audience 3: Thank you. Thank you for your presentation. Really good. Could you give us some examples of leading indicator metrics and also how are you measuring customer relationships? You mentioned C-SAT, is there anything more that you might do?
SL: Great question. From a sales organization perspective, most organizations are collecting C-SAT. It’s usually fairly shallow. So, it’s more your typical NPS-type things where you’re happy and a lot of the feedback they get is about delivery. So, I’m mad because you didn’t give me the thing you were going to when you were supposed to, and sales is like, “Hey, my problem.” The organizations who are doing this well, have we worked with our customer satisfaction? And they have a whole survey that goes to the economic buyer, which is about the sales cycle. So, it’s satisfaction and the customer experience up to that point.
Then there’s ultimate other modules that talk about the delivery and implementation, whereas most customer sat surveys right now are all about that. So, they’ve actually reworked the instrument and they look at things, particularly in market, like med devices. In places where they have lots of data, they can look at share of wallet and they can look at frequency of purchases and length of contract. Those are some of the things they look out to say, is this relationship deep or is it more shallow and product-oriented?
Organizations who have the more shallow customer relationships have higher customer churn. That’s where we see the connection back to, if I’ve got higher customer churn, now what I’m finding is chasing new customers is a lot more expensive than existing customers. When I’m working with my existing, I’m doing okay with renewals, but I’m terrible at expansion and that’s how we see the breadcrumbs connecting together. Good question.
Audience 4: Great insights. I’m curious about if size of sales enablement teams has a ratio to overall sales employees. I certainly understand that enablement is spreading across the customer-facing groups, but anything you can share there?
SL: Great question. We don’t have a good number for that. That’s one that that drives me crazy a little bit. We know that it’s typically much smaller than ops. A lot of it depends on if they include training or not, so that throws off the numbers because many people will say, “my trainers are contractors.” I include them, my trainers are underneath me, so there’s not a good ratio right now. It’s easier on the sales ops side. There’s not a good ratio of enablement to sellers. Good question.
We know that about as low as a 50-person sales force, which is pretty small, that’s about when people are like, “we can’t do this without enablement.” So, we don’t have a better number than that. That’s on my list.
I will tell you, I have worked with organizations who are multi-billion dollars in sales. Enablement is one woman or one man with a lot of regions, right? So, there’s just a lot of variance. A lot of resilience, maybe a little crazy.