An Analysis of The Current (and Future) State of Enablement
Since the beginning of 2023, I have been interviewing Sales Enablement professionals from renowned organisations to hear how they got into the world of Enablement, what they view as today’s challenges, and what they predict for the future.
Some of the experts that I had the pleasure of interviewing include:
- Bana Kawar, UK Senior Sales Enablement Program Lead at Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- George Pastidis, Head of Sales Enablement Programs at Ericsson
- Ben Purton, Director of International Sales Enablement at RingCentral
- Dr Grant van Ulbrich, Global Director of Sales Transformation at Royal Caribbean Group
- Stephanie Middaugh, CEO of Phoenix GTM Consulting and Co-Founder of The Enablement Squad
- Mike Kunkle, Founder of Transforming Sales Results and Vice President of Sales Effectiveness Services at SPARXiQ
- Viktorija Hartwell, Revenue Enablement Practitioner
With each of the above interviews acting as a valuable puzzle piece, we can now put together the puzzle that is Sales Enablement in 2023. More specifically, we can analyse its current state, predict its future, and discuss the factors that will influence its development.
THE IMPACT OF AI
Considering the incessant talk surrounding the rise of Artificial Intelligence, it is impossible to write an article predicting the future of the industry without taking AI into consideration.
According to Bana Kawar, AI can not only provide personalised learning experience but also help with skills gap analysis, recommend Enablement programs, and provide real-time feedback and coaching to learners. In other words, AI can be used to provide on-demand support to learners and enhance their training.
Mike Kunkle also pointed to the benefits of AI, noting that tech can help sellers do things more effectively and help them do more to improve efficiency. Taking this further, he alleviated the concerns of sellers who fear the advancements in AI, noting:
“I predict that consultative sellers won’t need to fear AI – they’ll need to worry more about being replaced by other sellers who use tools wisely. I also predict that what I refer to as “The Human Differentiators” will become even more important when working with human buyers. When machines are buying from machines, it will be a different story. Until then, humans and human behaviour will rule.”
The Human Differentiators that Mike refers to are empathy, listening, judgment, kindness, decision-making, and ethical persuasion, among others. Put differently, they are the things that AI cannot do.
SALES EDUCATION IS EVOLVING
The advancements in technology can be seen as a double-edged sword that simultaneously makes it easier and more challenging to sell. This contradiction can be explained by the fact that today’s customers have access to more information than ever before, making them more difficult to sell to. As a result, Dr Grant van Ulbrich advises:
“Sales has evolved. Our customers and buying atmosphere have evolved. Therefore, our investments into our sales team’s education must also evolve. We are no longer in the 1980s, with tips and tricks to manipulate, overcome objections and close a sale. Today’s customers are way too savvy.”
ENABLEMENT STILL HAS A WAY TO GO
Despite its countless benefits, most of the interviewees acknowledged that Enablement has not yet secured the place it deserves within businesses. Viktorija Hartwell commented on this, sharing that Enablement still has some way to go to be seen as a strategic function within organisations, with many viewing it as “just an add-on that provides training”.
Echoing Viktorija’s statement and seeking to underline just how crucial Sales Enablement is to the growth and success of an organisation, Ben Purton shared:
“Sales Enablement is more important than ever, unfortunately, companies will ignore that in an economic downturn. Warren Buffett always talks about “investing in a downturn” and truly Enablement is an amazing resource and investment.
If you are a business reading this, ask yourself one question, what % difference to closed won rates would it take to make Enablement pay for itself? If the answer is a single figure %, then you have to have Enablement. If it’s a bigger % and you are a growing company, then due to the Snowball/Compound effect you need to have Enablement.
The final question to ask is, which is better, getting rid of my Sales Enablement or my worst-performing sales? If you do the Maths, not even 9 times out of 10, 9.9 times out of 10 Enablement wins.”
TURNING TOWARDS CONSULTING
Amidst countless layoffs in the B2B tech sector, many Enablement professionals have now turned to consulting. This point was raised by Stephanie Middaugh, who founded her own consulting group earlier this year.
“Enablement is going through a really hard time right now. There are a lot of layoffs happening with the B2B tech sector and Enablement teams are being reduced or gutted altogether. I anticipate there will be some turmoil in the market for a while, I’m seeing a lot of folks starting to branch into Enablement consulting just like I did.
Companies still need Enablement, but the headcount is too much for them to keep on their books right now. I anticipate growth within the fractional Enablement sector until the market evens out and companies begin investing in Enablement again across the board,” Stephanie predicted.
ADVICE TO HELP YOU DEMONSTRATE YOUR IMPACT
To prove that Enablement is a strategic function that businesses should invest in, it is crucial that you demonstrate its impact. To do so, Ben advises:
“Treat Enablement like a business within a business, you have to build ROI but truly quantifiable, trackable, and scalable ROI. I am used to hearing “build value” as a soundbite but actually putting it into practice, you must be an internal seller. Like with sales, this involves understanding your customer, so internal business units and stakeholders.”
With nearly 10 years working for Ericsson, George Pastidis also shared a few words of valuable advice:
“Listen to your target group of learners as co-creation is important for having their engagement. Build your network inside and outside your organisation and learn from their best practices. Be a doer and drive things strongly. Do not overthink waiting for things to get perfect before you go on execution. You can finetune things down the road. Act fast instead. You need to have quick wins and you must communicate those wins well, showing the necessary business impact that your actions have brought.”
To learn more about the current state of Sales Enablement and learn from other industry experts, read all interviews on Engage Sales here.
Want to share your own predictions and advice? Email email@example.com