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Tamara Schenk

Don’t Try Harder, Enable Smarter! The CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study Is Out!


Tamara Schenk – Research Director, MHI Research Institute

If your sales organization is struggling – not just to make this year’s numbers, but even to match last year’s – you’re not alone. CSO Insights’ studies over the last four years have shown that quota attainment is steadily decreasing.

Quota attainment is decreasing: 63.0% in 2012, 58.2% in 2013, and 55.8% in 2016

One challenge is that sales organizations have a tendency to increase quota year by year without making sure that the sales force is adequately prepared, developed and equipped to achieve these numbers.

There are many reasons for a decrease in quota attainment outside and inside the sales organization. But only those inside the sales organization can be controlled and managed directly – with an effective sales force enablement strategy. We know the problem is not a result of lack of effort or determination or will to win. What’s needed is a fresh approach: “Don’t try harder; enable smarter!”

Our 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study shows in many ways that a strategic and integrated approach to sales force enablement is required, and it identifies key areas to optimize your enablement practice

At CSO Insights, we define sales force enablement as a strategic, cross-functional discipline that is designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training, and coaching services for salespeople and frontline sales managers along the entire customer’s journey, powered by technology.

Here are some of the study’s highlights:

  • Enablement goals: Increase in revenues is the top sales enablement performance goal (68.2%), followed by increasing win rates (43.9%). To get there, sales organizations are looking to drive sales productivity, mostly by reducing new salesperson ramp-up time, increasing available selling time, and improving the quality of client interactions.
  • Enablement success: Only 31.3% of companies achieved all, or at least a majority, of their original sales enablement initiatives’ expectations over the past two years. Having a structured approach (formal vision, enablement charter) to enablement is one of the key prerequisites to achieving the desired outcomes (51.3%) compared to those who work in a one-off project manner (34.7%).
  • Enablement of social selling continues to generate significant interest, but currently with mixed results. If the social strategies of marketing and sales are NOT aligned, 38% of all respondents are not sure what the primary benefits of social engagement actually are. But if the social strategies are aligned, they know much better what the benefits are AND the sales performance impact of 16% better win rates cannot be ignored.
  • Enable your sales managers first: There is still a considerable investment gap when it comes to developing the (frontline) sales managers. But the research shows that investing in sales managers leads to significantly better sales performance outcomes, such as for instance, 18.4% better revenue plan attainment, and 9% better win rates.
  • Coaching matters: The more formal, the better implemented and the more dynamic regarding the customer’s journey alignment and the alignment to the enablement framework, the better coaching works. These coaching approaches are required to get significantly better results than average performance. Win rates for forecasted deals, for instance, were 27.9% better than the study’s average win rate of 46.2%.
  • Integration of enablement content and training services: Enablement services created and delivered in isolation from each other (like swimmers in parallel swim lanes) are not perceived as very valuable by the sales force. And in fact, they are not as effective as enablement services that are developed in an integrated way with an overarching plan for their use and expected outcomes.