The sales, content and value enablement initiatives you must consider over the next 12 months
As we approach the New Year, we’ve been having more conversations with our EVOLVERs community about what 2022 has in store, in particular which top revenue enablement priorities and initiatives will garner the most attention and investments over the next 12 months.
Here’s my take on what sales, content and value enablement initiatives you should be budgeting for and investing most in 2022:
1) Seller Turnover and Open Headcount Accelerates Digital Sales Transformation Efforts
If you are like most of the sales leaders I’ve been talking to, you’ve` lost many good sellers over the past year to the great resignation. And making this worse, the competition is fierce for replacements and new team additions. This means more open headcount, 40 days or longer on average, presenting a major roadblock to your growth plans.
So, what are sales and enablement leaders planning for 2022 to overcome the sales headcount challenge? Our clients are vigorously getting their sales enablement and learning programs elevated further, to assure:
a. The organization is getting the most out of each seller.
b. That sellers feel engaged and supported in a way that reduces potential attrition.
c. When a new rep is on-boarded, the newbies are enabled to selling effectiveness quicker than ever.
To address the sales headcount challenges, sales leaders and enablement pros are implementing:
a. Better remote learning content and tools, and dividing the learning material into more snackable lessons, to help make sure sellers have the training they need at their fingertips no matter where they may be working and what time they may have.
b. Co-pilot videos, making it easy for experts to annotate content to guide use and improve understanding.
c. Coaching tools, especially conversation intelligence, to help better capture what is happening during each client engagement, share best practices, and allow managers to monitor more calls and coach where appropriate with more specific advice and examples.
d. Automation of mundane tasks like Salesforce data entry, logging meetings, participants, content shared and other key data points, helping sellers reduce data-entry time each week, while dramatically improving data hygiene.
e. Intelligent sales playbooks, to help guide sellers as to the right approach and content to use for each specific role and industry engagement, and each step in the sales cycle, so they are confident versus lost.
f. Intelligent content recommendations, to help guide the best next step in the process and content sharing, leveraging AI / ML to understand the best content to progress the deal and guide the seller precisely to what is best to next present and share.
2) More Interactions with Buyers, Means A Stepped-Up Content Game
In a recent interview I had with Forrester’s sales enablement analyst Peter Ostrow at our annual EVOLVE conference, he indicated that two years ago, buyers would interact with a selling organization just over 17 times from first engagement through decision, with 53% of the interactions self-service.
Fast forward to today and we see a dramatic 54% increase in the number of interactions, now just shy of 27 touch points per decision cycle. And these interactions remain almost evenly split between self-guided interactions (55%) versus sales driven and personal interactions.
The question for any selling organization needs to be: How do we up our content game to maximize every buyer engagement, differentiate from the competition, and inspire decisions to “Yes”?
We find that interactions can be better fueled by rethinking content, advancing what you provide to buyers to be more interesting, personalized and relevant.
This means taking a critical look at your content, re-imagining your typical one-pagers, PDF white papers and large presentation decks to address some key questions:
a. How interesting is the content? – does the content immediately capture and sustain engagement with dynamic animations and compelling storytelling?
b. How personalized is the content? – does it support customization based on the role and industry, challenges and use cases the buyer cares about?
c. How relevant is the content? – allowing the buyer to navigate their own journey easily to jump right to what they want, and get the most out of the content as quickly as possible?
Our advice to match each challenge is to:
1) Make the content more visually appealing (especially simple imagery and hand drawings), dynamic and animated, to better capture attention and generate an emotional connection.
2) Make sure the content tells you unique story, with a well-defined storytellers arc (Freytag’s triangle), hero, villain and higher purpose.
3) Provide menus and hotspots for easier navigation and drill downs into more detailed content, facilitating hierarchical versus linear storytelling and create-your-own-journey navigation: for quick pivots to just what the buyer cares about.
And if you get this right, it will have a revenue impact, with DemandGen Report research indicating that 80% of buyers said a vendor’s content had a positive and significant impact on their buying decisions.
3) Increased collaboration and co-creation with Buyers
Buyers need to support digital and other transformation efforts within their organization, but when they try to make a purchase to help enable these efforts, face increasing friction.
DemandGen Report says that 55% of buyers report longer B2B purchase decision-making process, with 21% of those indicating that the time it takes to make a purchase increased significantly.
The good news is that sellers can help to streamline the purchase and remove the friction. Forrester reports that it’s not just content that can make a positive difference, but that sellers can be instrumental in helping decision making as well, with:
• 60% of respondents agreeing that sales rep knowledge influenced decision-making
• 23% indicating they would like more (not less) hands-on attention / engagement from solution providers to help generate ideas and make decisions.
In order to help, commercial teams can optimize personal interactions, working to improve seller engagements in meetings, and follow-ups post meeting. Especially helping to support collaboration between the buyer and seller to assure that the solution can solve intended use cases, and in some instances, helping to co-create the right solution to match.
Sales enablement can arm sellers with workspaces and intelligent content recommendations to sellers in order to guide them to just the right content for each selling situation, so that they can help keep buyers informed and moving forwards to “Yes”.
Important as well, is making the sharing of the content easy as well, empowering sellers to create their own workspaces to share important decision-making content with customers – buying hubs to contain all the information the buyer needs to educate and gain consensus amongst all the decision stakeholders and make a purchase decision easier (all with complete visibility into consumption to assure that the content is being used and shared as anticipated).
To support co-creation efforts, customized content and collaborative designs can be captured and shared in the buying hub, along with presentations, meeting notes, decision-guides and more, all designed to improve collaboration between the vendor and buying teams.
4) The need for business value throughout the customer lifecycle
We have been writing for some time how your sellers should pivot from pitching products to better articulating expected business value in all pre-sale engagements.
This is true now more than ever, as Executives and Finance become more involved in purchase decisions, demanding financial justification and ROI business cases. According to Forrester, 75% of purchase decisions now have Executives as decision-makers (versus just 58% prior) and 51% have Finance as decision-makers (versus 35% prior).
Important for 2022, there has been a shift in business value communication and quantification, from the domain of pre-sale financial justification, to post-sale.
Forrester research reveals that 63% of sales leaders said that their top priority is now “Driving growth through existing customers”. And you cannot drive this growth, much less assure continued revenue subscriptions and relationship, without proving that prior investments have yielded the anticipated returns.
In order to implement this, value enablement is arming customer success organizations with Realized ROI tools, in order to validate the pre-sale predictions, and assure that the positive impact on key performance indicators (KPIs) and business value outcomes are being measured, tracked, validated and optimized.
Customer success are using these post-sale Realized ROI assessments in Executive Business Reviews (EBRs / QBRs), helping to
• Drive renewal discussions with real business outcome results versus just adoption / usage metrics
• Improve expand selling motions by leveraging past tangible success to drive up / cross sell.
Explore Further: Customer Success: Six Steps to Communicate and Quantify Realized ROI
5) The End of Voodoo Forecasting:
With so much of the business world being unpredictable, whether that be supply chain constraints, inflation or the great resignation, it is more important than ever for commercial teams to deliver predictable revenue, despite these challenges.
However, most sales leaders and commercial organizations continue to make revenue predictions, and unfortunately fall short.
And this is not for the lack of effort and time spent! Hubspot reports that the average sales rep squanders 2.5 hours each week on forecasting, all with an individual accuracy rate of only 75%. Looking in aggregate, 80% of companies miss sales forecasts by 25% or more, according to MillerHeiman.
So much time spent and so little accuracy, mostly because there is a decided lack of data and science being applied. When sales leaders were recently surveyed by Forrester Consulting (Outreach), they indicated that 28% of forecasts were still based on seller self-estimates and 23% leveraging select deal inspections and gut feel. Noise and bias reign. Only 17% of organization’s approach to forecasting could be considered scientific.
The rest, a whopping 83% are using spreadsheets, gut feel estimates, and as a result, do not know what opportunities are tracking correctly, where coaching and resources should be directed, and as a result have a serious blind spot to predictable revenue and performance.
Voodoo forecasting needs to be addressed and eliminated as a priority in 2022. The key to better forecasting and more predictable revenue is to leverage intelligence and science to automate key forecasting tasks, taking out the biases, noise and guesswork.
The intelligence considers the following four key elements to help improve visibility and correlate activity and engagement, and make better informed decisions:
- Meetings have been conducted and who were the attendees
- Communications to the buying group, such as emails and phone calls
- Conversations and intelligence on what has been communicated and the construct/ sentiment of the communications
- The progression of the deal through the sales stages
- The cadence of interactions
- The content that was shared in and after meetings
- What content has been shared at each stage of the journey and lifecycle
- How the content has been consumed by the buyer
- How the content was shared with other key members of the buying committee, and which committee members that you would expect are missing
- How much time and with which specific content components did each stakeholder interact with
- The key objectives and challenges the buyer would like to address
- The use cases and solutions proposed
- The cost of “do nothing” with the legacy solutions and status quo (the pain)
- The predicted outcomes from proposed solutions
- The estimated investment and expected return on investment (ROI)
- How well the buyer has performed on prior projects, with solving challenges, implementing use cases and achieving predicted outcomes and realized ROI
- Indication as to whether the buyer organizations is actively looking for a solution in your market segment
- How these accounts are interacting with your web site and community content
- How the accounts are interacting with other sites, from 3rd party trusted sources and your competitors
This past twelve months were frustrating for many commercial organizations, as the return to in-person events and meetings didn’t quite pan out, as customer decision making introduced even more friction despite great demand, and as the economy continued to introduce uncertainty into supply chains, resources and more.
As a result, many are putting the past twelve months in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible and looking forward to 2022 with much optimism and vigor.
As a result, we believe there will be significant evolution and new investment in revenue enablement initiatives, to help overcome key challenges and capture incredible 2022 opportunities. Our top five predictions and advice for our EVOLVERs community:
1. Maximize every sales resource you have with better sales enablement and learning.
2. Maximize every prospect and customer interaction with more dynamic and interactive content.
3. Improve collaboration and co-creation with your buyers via shared workspaces and buying hubs.
4. Improve expand selling with better communication and quantification of the business value you deliver via Customer Success EBRs / QBR engagements.
5. Improve forecasting and drive more predictable revenue performance by abandoning voodoo forecasting, replacing it with data driven, scientific revenue intelligence.
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