Happy New Year! 2018 was an incredible year for the sales enablement space. Mergers and acquisitions, notable investments, and news of looming IPO runs all contributed to the success of Mediafly and our competitors while shining new light on the industry and validating the importance of sales enablement within the B2B sales and marketing tech ecosystem. I anticipate 2019 will be yet another year full of exciting growth, news, and innovation. Here are my top four predictions for the year ahead:
1) Sellers will adopt a value-selling approach or get left behind
Historically, sales enablement technologies have focused on helping sellers from a preparation standpoint (e.g. making content more accessible, utilizing predictive analytics to recommend the next best action, etc.). In 2019, there will be a very strategic and impactful shift to helping sellers sell better in real-time using next generation, intelligent content to adapt to buyer input during a meeting. This means a shift away from static PowerPoint presentations toward value-selling with ROI and TCO calculators. These interactive sales tools can be used to capture or refine information from a buyer during a meeting and enable the seller to quantify the value of their product or service in the context of the buyer’s business. Today’s buyers want to understand the value of what they are buying, and they want to work with sellers that can describe their solution in terms of quantifiable value. This applies to every industry from Consumer Packaged Goods to high-end Enterprise software.
In 2018, Mediafly acquired Alinean, a leading value-selling tools provider, to help our customers revolutionize the way they engage buyers with interactive sales tools including ROI and TCO calculators. Given that the use of interactive sales tools is proven to help sellers accelerate deal closure and get high-level stakeholders involved in sales discussions, I can’t imagine other providers won’t begin acquiring or building similar capabilities in the coming year.
2) Marketers will move beyond vanity metrics and quantify their content’s impact
In 2019, I expect marketers to stop gauging the success of their content on vanity metrics including views, downloads, and shares. Instead, they’ll adopt platforms that give them the ability to fully quantify their content’s contribution to revenue. Whether their sellers still use static, linear content or next-generation, interactive sales content, B2B marketers will be able to point to hard data and understand exactly what content and sales stories drove (or hindered) revenue. This impact will be measured in the form of closed deals, deal velocity, competitive wins, and more. To accomplish this, sales enablement solutions must be tightly coupled with CRM and Marketing Automation systems.
3) AI and ML will play a larger role in sales improvement
As more and more sales technology vendors incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) into their solutions, we will continue to see the sizeable impact these “smart” features can have on sales and the complex relationship between sellers and buyers. AI and ML can identify patterns that we’re unable to see as humans. In 2019 we will see companies tie together the data from disparate marketing and sales systems, such as sales enablement, sales readiness, marketing automation, and CRM, to provide tangible actions for sellers. This next phase of AI and ML will become a valued partner for sellers, helping them to spend more time in front of the customer talking about what is most impactful for that particular buyer.
4) We’ll see further consolidation within Sales Enablement and related spaces
In terms of mergers and acquisitions, 2018 was the tip of the spear. Our buyers view sales enablement solutions as a matrix of capabilities including sales content management, sales readiness and training, sales applications, interactive selling tools, sales insights, and more. We won’t see full consolidation in 2019, but leaders in the Sales Enablement market will continue to actively seek opportunities to buy niche capabilities and offer them as a part of a seamless solution. We’ll see more mergers and acquisitions of major players in contiguous spaces (e.g. sales content management and sales readiness). That means more tight, innovative integrations – and less ostentatious partnerships made for the sake of checking a box. With at least one major Sales Enablement player now approaching IPO scale, other companies will inevitably try to keep up through inorganic acquisitions. And as the major players release new breakout capabilities, the competition will need to acquire a similar capability or be left behind. Similar to the Marketing Automation space, there is a race between Sales Enablement companies to deliver broader value and increase their eventual exit value.