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Benchmarking Sales Enablement: How You Stack Up

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Published on: August 2017

Written by: Andrew Dornon

by Andrew Dornon, Analyst

Summary: There are three distinct maturity levels of sales enablement teams—emerging, competitive and advanced. Within each level there are laggards, average performers and outperformers, all of whom are focused on meaningfully different goals. Outperformers focus on goals similar to the level above them, as maturation can be accelerated but levels cannot be skipped. Skipping the fundamentals leads to lagging performance regardless of level.

 

enablement maturity levels

 

Research methods: We set out with the mission of better understanding what the outperformers in the community we serve were doing and what we could all learn from them. Our starting point was based on our client experience and knowledge from talking to some of the smartest executives from all industries.

After seeing such different levels of maturity across organizations, we looked at what 75 large organizations were doing for enablement, and what their priorities and challenges were. We used their priorities to determine which maturity level an organization fell into.

We then examined our 75 companies’ financials to learn more about their performance as it related to their sales enablement. We looked at SG&A spend, year-over-year revenue growth, industry, and then compared them to other companies within their maturity level. Performance on sales results determined whether they were a laggard, average performer or outperformer.

What We Found
Three Maturity Levels:

 

Emerging Enablement

  • Standardized sales training; not individualized across roles or levels
  • Reps lack structured sales process; tools used for compliance only
  • Sales leaders and managers focus more on quota than developing capabilities

 

Competitive Enablement

  • Belief in onboarding for faster productivity; separate development for experienced sales reps
  • Sales process is a work in progress, reps using CRM lightly
  • Sales leaders and managers believe in sales training but aren’t held accountable

 

Advanced Enablement

  • Training is at least 25% individualized and “in-the-moment”
  • Customized sales process determined by what the “great” salespeople do within the org; reps value and use CRM effectively
  • Sales leaders and managers held accountable to coaching reps and making learning stick
What Average Performers & Outperformers are Prioritizing to Get Ahead

 

Emerging Enablement

Average Performers are focusing on:

  • Sales skills training
  • Refreshers on CRM use

Outperformers are focusing on:

  • Improving their sales enablement function
  • Going beyond Sales 101
  • Establishing sales managers as coaches
  • Creating live sales support tools

 

Competitive Enablement

Average Performers are focusing on:

  • Improving sales training
  • Prioritizing with limited resources
  • Defining the sales enablement space within their organization
  • Implementing in-line performance support to CRM
  • Implementing new strategies into the sales process

Outperformers are focusing on:

  • Developing/sourcing tools that reps and managers want to use
  • Developing managers who master coaching
  • Embedding CRM use into the sales culture and cadence
  • Utilizing in-the-field sales content management, playbooks and learning tools

 

Advanced Enablement

Average Performers are focusing on:

  • Reinforcement and retention of learnings after a program

Outperformers are focusing on:

  • Using data to become more predictive
  • Enabling a diverse partner ecosystem
  • Anticipating the evolution of their industry
  • Experimenting broadly and learning quickly
What to Do

Identify where your enablement organization is in terms of maturity and then consider how effective your sales force has been over the last several years. If you are a laggard or average performer, look to outperformers within your maturity level who have set the course for enablement effectiveness. If you are an outperformer—congratulations!—look to the maturity level above you for the work that needs to be initiated. If you are an advanced outperformer—even more congratulations are in order—benchmarking will confirm you’re doing well now, but you will have to experiment and iterate to continue to stay on the forefront of enablement effectiveness.

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