2019 is shaping up to be another fine year for those working in and around sales enablement. We’re seeing larger numbers of people work in the industry, more companies investing in sales enablement teams and numerous tools being developed to solve sales enablement challenges.
In my mind, there’s never been a better time to work in sales enablement and for the foreseeable future, I think things are only going to get better. By most measures the industry is growing, thriving, even, and shows no sign of slowing. On a personal note, I find it exciting to be part of an industry that’s growing at such a rapid pace - many of us are “building the plane while flying it”, and having lots of fun along the way. The truth, is today, nobody has all the right answers, but there is a burgeoning community of practitioners sharing ideas, stories and best practices that will help us elevate the role of sales enablement.
But here’s the thing. The data we use, the stories we tell and the future state we describe matter (they matter a lot), but there’s often a lack of authoritative data - and what is available is often dated and doesn't show sales enablement today - in it’s most impactful light. Putting this right, is one way, we as an industry will grow, evolve and thrive. But for that to happen, we need a bank of recent and authoritative data to help build the case for sales enablement. That’s why I’ve written this post. The data is from a variety of trusted sources and is less than a year old, so you can feel confident citing these statistics throughout 2019.
2019 Sales Enablement Statistics
My hope is that this blog post will be a small step towards something that will have a big impact, and is frankly long overdue. Below are 10 statistics about the state of sales enablement and are accompanied by light commentary:
1. Financial services (75%), high tech (70%) and telecommunications (67%) have the highest saturation of dedicated sales enablement teams (Quark).
It’s always insightful to see which industries are investing in sales enablement. Generally, larger companies with many sales reps are most likely to invest in sales enablement, as just a few percentage point increases in quota attainment will lead to millions in extra revenue. The industries highlighted in the research reflect my own experience, however, I believe sales enablement can help businesses, regardless of industry to make sales reps more productive and successful.
2. There are 292K+ people on LinkedIn with “sales enablement” included within their profile, up from 250K+ (LinkedIn).
The sales enablement category has generated a lot of momentum in recent years - and a search of LinkedIn shows that there’s more than a quarter of a million people with a professional interest in the area. Again, this datapoint shows the growth of the sales enablement function and can be leveraged to build the case for investing in the creation of a sales enablement team at your company.
3. Searches for “sales enablement” on Google increased by 61.1% year over year, up from 51.2% (Google Trends).
Using Google search data it’s easy to take a snapshot of interest around sales enablement - and see how it’s grown in recent years and continues to. This insight can be used to provide an overview of demand within the category and shows that people are interested in a number of areas related to sales enablement, most notably, sales enablement tools, the Sales Enablement Society, playbooks, planning models and events. The fact that people are interested in professional membership, and are actively looking for best practises, tools and community are some of the forces which make the category attractive to VCs.
4. The key priorities and initiatives for sales productivity in 2019 are shorten sales cycle (61%), decrease onboarding time (44%) and streamline opportunity management process (41%) (Regalix).
This data is encouraging - by reducing the sales cycle and time it takes to onboard new hires, sales enablement will have an oversized impact on the bottom line. Quite frankly, this is where we need to be. A maniacal focus on growing revenue is how sales enablement will evolve from a tactical discipline to a highly strategic one and earn its seat at the top table.
As an aside, my personal definition of sales enablement is that it exists to make sales reps more productive by increasing sales rep effectiveness (sell more) and efficiency (sell more quickly) - reducing the sales cycle and onboarding time are two objectives that both neatly fit into that definition.
5. 34.8% of sales leaders admit that they have little to no formal sales training for new hires (Chorus).
Let’s not beat about the bush - this is a worrying statistic, but viewed another way, it represents a fantastic opportunity for sales enablement. Having no formal sales training in place is a recipe for costly, painful failure. Without a formalised training programme, there will likely be duplication of effort, bad practices will be propagated, best practices will be hidden and decisions made without data.
However, the opportunity for sales enablement leaders is to identify this need and build the case for such training. When the alternative is nothing, building a programme that is rudimentary can deliver huge gains.
6. 78% of high-performing organisations have onboarding that lasts over six months (Highspot).
This is an important finding and validates much of the thinking and best practices around onboarding. Unsurprisingly, companies that invest heavily in onboarding, and to be clear, more than six months is a large investment, achieve high performance. There’s often a perception that reducing the length of onboarding will also reduce time to productivity. While a shorter onboarding can accelerate learning (for example, if sales reps complete a 90 day onboarding in 45 days), the data shows that having a lengthy onboarding results in better performance.
7. 47% of sales enablement professionals don’t measure ROI of their programmes (PROLIFIQ).
To me, this is perhaps the most worrying out of all the statistics and should serve as an immediate wake up call to the sales enablement industry. Whether people are unable, unwilling or uneducated about return on investment (ROI) this has to change. If you can’t show the ROI and value of your programmes, pretty soon you’ll have smaller budgets, less responsibility and your sphere of responsibility will shrink.
If sales enablement doesn’t grow up, understand ROI and speak the language of chief executive officer (CEO) it’ll be consigned to the tactical wilderness. It’s all of our responsibility to become proficient in sales enablement measurement and ROI.
8. 54% of organisations have not effectively figured out how to generate actionable insights from sales asset data (Seismic).
While it’s important to note the source of this research, it once again highlights a challenge facing the sales enablement industry - not understanding how to use data. There’s a large difference between data and insight. Finding data is easy, know what to do with it is tough. Many sales enablement professionals lack the analytical skills to interpret data, much less understand how to apply it to a strategy.
9. 71% of people stated that having a dedicated sales enablement function increased sales rep productivity and 56% have seen an increase in sales pipeline as a result (Quark).
Again, this makes a lot of sense. If you’re serious about sales enablement then you need to invest in it. And if it executes well, then it stands to reason that sales reps will become more productive and increase sales pipeline. While it’s hard to precisely attribute the value of sales enablement, there’s a large body of research linking sales reps performance with the creation of a sales enablement team.
10. Organisations with a formal sales enablement charter achieve an average win rate of 49%, which is 12% higher than organisations without a formal charter (Highspot).
I’m saving the best for last here - a formalised sales enablement charter leads to the highest average win rate. Highspot has done the industry a tremendous service by analysing the practice of sales enablement, and one of its most significant findings is the importance of a sales enablement charter and its link to increased performance. The process of building a charter is important, as it involves uncovering and understanding the challenges facing a sales organisation, which in turn gives the sales enablement team valuable insight into solving them.
If you’re searching for a single datapoint to validate your investment in the creation of a sales enablement function, then this is it. Organisations with a formal sales enablement charter outperform those without one.
To conclude, I believe that we, the people currently working in and figuring out sales enablement need to get better at making the case for sales enablement to exist. While vendors should play a part in this, it’s my view that most of the responsibility lies squarely with us practitioners. Admittedly, this will take hard work and some trial and error, but the truly exciting part is that those working within sales enablement today, have an opportunity to shape the industry of tomorrow. But, to ensure we realise this opportunity, we must build on the momentum currently shown in the category - an important step we can, must and should take together is the creation of a bank of sales enablement industry data that is easily accessible.
While data is by no means the only factor that businesses consider when they invest in the creation of a sales enablement function, it does play an important role in building credibility, allaying fears and showing potential value. Data and research may only be the first step on the path to building a sales enablement team, but as is often the case, the first step is the hardest and most important - and that’s why we have to get this right. Our industry depends on it.