The sales industry is juggling a lot of buzzwords lately as it works to define a number of related roles and processes: sales training, sales enablement, sales engagement. It’s sometimes difficult to recognize the distinctions, but a salesforce is clearly most productive and equipped for sustainable success when all of these functions are optimized.
Here’s some buzzword clarification:
Sales enablement includes the people, processes and technologies that support sales, allowing reps to be more engaged with their prospects and customers and more vested in the long-term success of their companies.
Sales training is a component of sales enablement, one that can impact that function not just through the information it conveys, but through the various forms (curriculum-based, just-in-time learning, training reinforcement) and form factors (classroom training, national sales meetings, in person, video, social/online training, etc.) in which it’s delivered.
Sales engagement is focused on improving how sales professionals communicate with customers by making the most effective content available for the specific sales situation and giving sales and marketing leaders more visibility into what is working and what is not.
Let’s examine how these functions operate to the ultimate benefit of an organization.
Sales enablement creates efficiencies in the salesperson’s day by simplifying administrative tasks and reducing the time required to find, access and use relevant and impactful information. The proliferation of sales force automation (SFA) and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and sales asset management (SAM) and supply chain management (SCM) systems is proof that organizations are committed to ensuring that their sales personnel are equipped with all the information they need to thrive.
While acknowledging the impact of technology on sales efficiency, we also know that newer technologies and social media consumption are transforming the way we learn, and the newest generation of salespeople (and buyers) is forcing companies to re-think their onboarding and ongoing training practices after decades of decidedly “old school” approaches.
Salespeople already crowdsource ideas. When they need information to help them close a deal, they turn to their fellow sales reps. But they don’t wait until a designated time; they seek out information when it benefits them most – like before a major pitch or while preparing a sales presentation. Organizations that can provide reinforcement and just-in-time learning in the shape of easily accessible peer-generated content, best practices and insights from the field have more efficient and productive sales forces – precisely the core principles of sales enablement.
Today, sales enablement integrates new training methods and formats that are relevant, accessible and effective in helping sales reps retain information. For example, video is the ideal format for sharing insights and best practices and communicating corporate and product messaging. Mobile access is critical for sales teams who work in distributed offices. Giving sales reps access to short peer-generated videos on their mobile devices is far more likely to help them absorb and retain information than training they receive in a classroom setting.
While sales enablement remains a priority across industries, some see the world of digital sales tools as fractured and in need of a more streamlined and condensed suite of tools that closes the loop between marketing, sales and the customer: sales engagement platforms. Aragon Research recently predicted that the sales engagement platform market segment is poised to reach $5 billion within the next five years as content, collaboration and analytics tools merge with CRM systems to create the ideal sales engagement suite. As that market coalesces, digital tools that drive message consistency and promote best practices across sales teams, with mobile video again playing a leading role, should continue to see more widespread adoption.
Regardless of how the sales industry deploys its resources in the coming years, and what buzzwords are used, it’s clear that sales is a unique function within the organization that requires a more nuanced approach to learning and engagement. The sales force equipped with the most high-impact content, along with the ability to understand and effectively communicate that content, will ultimately gain a competitive edge.