New Sales Challenges put Sales Enablement in the Spotlight

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Written by
Steven Vindevogel

Head of Mobile Solutions Business – Panasonic Connect Europe

New Sales Challenges put Sales Enablement in the Spotlight

The move to increased use of online communications and minimising travel has fundamentally changed sales in the business-to-busines world. The role of  Sales Enablement has never been more important, argues Steven Vindevogel, Deputy Head of Toughbook Europe.

Events of the past year have transformed the way sales operate in the business-to-business world. The old methods, of large teams travelling often huge distances to spend a few short hours with the prospective customer, were already well on their way out but a world of enforced isolation and online communication has only accelerated this change.

Traditionally, Sales teams would often “load the bus” when making an important visit to a customer with the aim of closing a big deal. They would take everyone that might be needed to address any potential questions from the prospect – from an engineer to a finance person – all just in case. With hindsight, it was time consuming and not often very effective. Sales teams hoped it would demonstrate to the potential customer a hunger for the deal and that it would enable them to cover as much ground as possible during the meeting. But there had to be a better way and there was.

Sales Enablement replaced the need for this type of approach. It was a team positioned between the sales and marketing departments that could ensure the right information, in the right format could always be delivered in the right way by the salesperson – removing the need to put everyone on the bus. It worked well but that all changed with the onset of the pandemic.

At first, sales teams remained very positive even as customers and prospects were forced to relocate from their offices and work from home. There was a focus on technology to help adapt to the new ways of working and people were much more likely to be available for meetings – albeit from their home desk rather than the office. And they were. Meetings were more easily set-up, discussions were positive and business was discussed. But there was a challenge. The discussions were much harder to follow-up on. Unlike a face-to-face meeting, there were no extended conversations over coffee after the formal meeting had ended. Not the same chance to get a sense of the body language of the different participants in the room. It was harder to identify potential barriers with different members of the decision making unit and overcome them.

Reconfigured our sales approach

We quickly realised we needed a different approach and Sales Enablement was again able to play a crucial role. Selling mobile rugged computing solutions is an increasingly complicated business. It’s not just the device, but the configuration of the device, the peripherals that support it and the software and applications to deploy, manage and make the most of the device. The decision making unit on the customer side is also complex and made up of many different roles and responsibilities. Working with so many people can be challenging. If one person hasn’t had all their questions answered or objectives addressed then it can quickly be back to the drawing board.

Working closely with the Sales Enablement team helped us to reconfigure our sales approach for the online world. There were three elements to our new approach.

First, Instead of trying to influence a group in one large meeting, we adopted a more one-to-one approach. We broke the sales process down into parts and addressed each individual, their objectives and their barriers.

Second, we coached the sales team on selling effectively in this one-to-one online environment. How to use and interact in online meetings more effectively and how to get the best from each interaction with the customer.

Lastly, we reworked the content we were providing and remapped when and how to deliver that information during the sales cycle. 

As with any successful Sales Enablement operation, the team then continued to fine tune the process by analysing what went right and what went wrong in individual interactions and feeding these learnings back to the sales and marketing teams with practical advice for improvements and evolving best practice.

A new sales future

For me, Sales Enablement was already a critical function for improving the productivity of a B2B salesforce and providing an important feedback loop between the customer, sales and marketing. But its role has only increased in importance over the past 18 months and I see this continuing into the future. As we move forward, I do not see a complete return to the old ways of working. There will no doubt be more opportunities to meet face-to-face and in some circumstances this will be useful and welcomed. But I believe the new sales skills and approaches we have honed during this recent challenging period will be a great foundation for the future. I  doubt we will be loading the bus again anytime soon. Tailored sales approaches, backed by an effective Sales Enablement team will ensure we are able to be positioned to meet the needs of our customers - whether in-person or online.

If you'd like to understand Sales Enablement further, check out this article from Gartner.

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