Over the past year, software for sales force enablement has emerged from the margins to take center stage in the evolution of the sales function. That’s one of the central findings from CSO Insights’ third annual, global Sales Enablement Optimization Study. A solid majority – 59.2 percent of companies surveyed – now report having a dedicated sales enablement platform.
This report also marks the first year that researchers have investigated how much social selling impacts the success of sales enablement programs. Social selling has had an especially significant role in the adoption of new processes, the overall performance teams and the formation of new key performance indicators (KPIs) for revenue growth.
Roll out, adoption rates and success factors
The details of adoption plans turned out to be critical – it is actually the roll out that tends to make or break implementation success. For example, no matter what sort of sales process a company began with, the initial adoption rate of new sales enablement tools acted as an early indicator of eventual business impact.
Movement on performance numbers followed when adoption rates crossed the halfway margin. Significant performance boosts came from adoption rates above the three-quarters level. Those sorts of adoption rates required a champion at the executive level and consistent messaging from sales managers.
More companies are adopting social selling along with their enablement programs. One of the prime drivers of that is that social selling aligns the efforts of marketing and sales while enablement software that streamlines workflows also simplifies that alignment process. In 2016, 40 percent of companies reported no marketing and sales alignment, but that fell to 31.6 in 2017.
More conversations for more effective social selling
More and better conversations are at the heart of sales and marketing alignment. Conversations, along with clear communication and dedicated implementation activities improved sales performance, make things happen, yet only the top 12.9 percent of companies reported social selling adoption rates over 75 percent.
The report demonstrated the correlation between higher social selling adoption rates with greater performance. Average quota attainment across the board was measured at 57.7 percent. Social selling adoption rates in the 75 – 90 percentile posted quota attainment of 64.8 percent. Better adoption rates brought ever stronger revenue. Sales reps at companies with social selling adoption rates over 90 percent reached quota 70.6 percent of the time.
Social selling links to quota attainment
The report demonstrated the correlation between higher social selling adoption rates with greater performance. Average quota attainment across the board was measured at 57.7 percent. Social selling adoption rates in the 75 – 90 percentile posted quota attainment of 64.8 percent, which is 12 percent above average. Better adoption rates brought ever stronger revenue. Sales reps at companies with social selling adoption rates over 90 percent reached quota 70.6 percent of the time, 22 percent higher than their competitors.
Many companies go through a phase of informally aligned marketing and sales teams until the strategic formal alignment processes are put in place at the management level. In informal agreements, integrated campaigns, enablement services, social and enablement technology, play critical roles in better sales performance.
What's involved in social selling
The definition of what’s involved in social selling can vary considerably, but it is more than just a series of social media actions by individual sales reps. For 74.9 percent of companies, social selling is critical to lead development. 61.6 percent say that social selling is really about building brand awareness, while 54.8 say that it is about account research. As a complement to social selling practices, sales enablement was found to be most valuable in managing communications with sales reps, maintaining version control of multiple documents at once and for integrating seamlessly with the CRM for faster access to accurate customer data.
Creating a plan for implementing social selling on top of sales enablement platforms should be approached as a cross-functional set of plans that coordinate the efforts of sales, service and marketing. They cannot operate effectively as individual initiatives. Instead, an integrated approach to sales strategy, processes and new technologies is where companies begin to see the biggest impacts on quota, closes and revenue.
Companies are not reaching that level of performance without the help of outside experts in social selling. Over the past two years, only a third of sales reps have been successful at using sales enablement software with the social selling process. Sales teams need recurrent training on best practices, more relevant content and consistent coaching from management.
In the end, formal sales enablement programs along with social selling adoption rates show positive results for increasing productivity, performance and profitability. This will be even more important as sales teams grow. Currently, 59.9 percent of companies surveyed planned on hiring new sales reps within the next 12 months, as automation and low-cost tools gave sales reps more time to do sales instead of administrative work. This study concluded that social selling with sales enablement tech is the linchpin for better performance overall and rapid onboarding of new agents who can reach their quotas in record time.