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Sales Enablement and The Year of the Sales Rep

I’ve spoken about sales enablement quite a bit in this blog, and I’ll continue to do so as marketers improve their ability to better enable the sales process from an internal as well as an external perspective. With this in mind, Clare Gillan, IDC’s SVP of Executive and Go To Market Programs, will share some of her insights in the sales enablement area. . .

Thanks Michael. At IDC’s recent annual Directions event, I gave a presentation titled “The Year of the Sales Rep.” In response to The Year of the Sales Rep notion, an SVP of sales asked me, “Why does this year have to be my year?” “Precisely,” I responded. Let me explain. . . . never have we more needed our sales reps to be successful and never have they needed us more — those of us in sales, marketing, and executive management.

The crisis in sales is driven not by the economy alone but by an evolution in how buyers buy. Sales organizations, in general, have not kept up. The economy heightens a need for change in how the IT industry “sells” — better mapping to how buyers buy.

For nearly 10 years, sales organizations have emphasized the desire to become “trusted partners” with their B2B customers. Nearly every sales organization has been through “solution selling” programs of one form or another. However, only one in five buyers will tell you that he/she is generally approached by sales reps prepared to discuss solutions. Too often, the sales engagement continues to be product led. Further, buyers will tell you that the pre-purchase experience is becoming a more important indicator of post purchase value. Buyers increasingly consider “relationship ROI” as well as product ROI. And, buyers will tell you that, in this economy, they no longer have tolerance for uninformed vendor representatives who come through their doors. The sales rep must come to a meeting prepared to discuss the buyer’s specific business — yet 31% of sales reps are not prepared with even a basic level of Web available information before taking a buyer’s valuable time. Only 16% are extremely prepared — these are the reps positioned to take share for the companies they represent.

The technology purchase decision is rapidly moving from a product decision to a relationship decision. Buyers can generally find a number of products that can do the job and within the same price range. They will select the vendor that will make them successful over time even if the vendor does not offer the very best up-front price. The shift from product-led selling to relationship-led selling calls for a significant transformation of sales — enabled by a transformation of marketing.

This transformation requires marketing to gather intelligence and create assets that better map to what buyers value and then make the intelligence and assets “accessible” at key points along the go-to-market chain for use by sales and partners. This requires researching buyers (and I stress–from the buyer’s point of view), auditing program investments against what buyers value and other related investments your company is making, creating strong content assets (and then making these consumable in a variety of formats), and, finally contributing to a sales enablement process developed in partnership with your sales “partner”.

Thanks Clare! Contact me at mgerard@idc.com for a free copy of a recently published report by Clare entitled “Sales Enablement 3.0: A Transformation of Sales Enabled by a Transformation of Marketing“.

More to come from IDC’s CMO Advisory Practice on the emerging practices in this area of Sales Enablement.

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