To me, there’s never been a better time to be a sales enablement professional. It’s a rapidly growing area and while there’s a lack of publicly available or indeed, widely adopted best practices and standards, this is due, largely to the fact, that many of us are figuring out exactly what sales enablement is, means and does.
It feels like my industry colleagues and I are in effect, “building the plane while we’re flying it”, but that’s precisely what makes it so exciting. Sales enablement is unchartered territory and a new frontier of sorts, but there are some noteworthy forces which point to a promising future - just look at the rise of the Sales Enablement Society, level of venture capital (VC) funding flooding into the category, the growing number of sales enablement tools, and, of course, the increasing number of sales enablement teams and practitioners.
While the sales enablement profession looks set to continue on an impressive trajectory, one aspect that has alarmed and disappointed me is the lack of credible and fresh data on sales enablement, its importance and value. This may sound trivial, but the data we use, the stories we tell and the future state we describe matter (they matter a lot). Getting this right is how we as an industry will grow, evolve and thrive. But for that happen, we need a bank of recent and authoritative data to help build the case for sales enablement.
Indeed, much of the data available is outdated (some of it is several years old) - this fails to show the industry as it is now - and in many cases, (I expect) the numbers are less impactful than they would be if the data was pulled today. To help right this wrong I’ve conducted my own research and curated a list of important statistics that show where the sales enablement industry has come from, but more importantly, where it’s going. This data is less than a year old, so sales enablement professionals should feel comfortable using it throughout 2018.
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. 59.2% of companies now have a dedicated sales enablement function (up from 32.7%), while 8.5% of companies have plans to create one in the coming year (CSO Insights).
This research succinctly highlights the growth of sales enablement as a function and shows that an ever-increasing number of businesses are wising up to the importance (and value) of a team whose role is to make the sales organisation more productive. I fully expect people will use this data to create urgency and gain executive sponsorship for the creation of a sales enablement team, and show that it’s no longer a “nice to have”, but increasingly a core function that drives revenue.
2. Only 30% of sales enablement efforts meet expectations (Miller Heiman).
A sobering, but nonetheless important finding to keep front of mind. For sales enablement to succeed and be deemed successful, activity must be clearly defined and tied back to business goals. Things can go awry (and the data shows, it often does) if sales enablement is poorly defined and misunderstood - this almost inevitably leads to poor stakeholder management and subsequently, failure to meet expectations.
3. There are 250K+ people on LinkedIn with “sales enablement” included within their profile (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.
4. Having a sales enablement charter is linked to a 27.6% increase in quota attainment (CSO Insights).
CSO Insights has done tremendous work 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.
5. Over 75% of companies using sales enablement tools indicated that sales increased over the past 12 months (HighSpot).
While it’s important to highlight that the source of this data is a sales enablement vendor, the finding makes perfect sense to me. Today, most sales enablement functions stitch together a stack of disparate tools - in most cases, they’re rarely designed for sales enablement. By investing in the right tools, businesses can automate processes, improve productivity and gain insight - all of which contribute to increased sales rep performance.
6. Sales enablement technology is currently a $780M market, and it is expected to be worth $5B by 2021 (Aragon Research).
If you require one piece of research to explain the large influx of VC cash in the sales enablement category, then this is it. The market conditions are currently attractive - increasing numbers of sales enablement teams are launching, their budgets are growing, most are using outdated tools and there’s no category leader. It’s a huge, untapped opportunity and has rightly piqued the interest of the VC community.
7. Searches for “sales enablement” on Google increased by 51.2% year over year (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. 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, the Sales Enablement Society, industry best practises and tools. The fact people are interested in professional membership, and are actively looking for best practises and tools are some of the forces which make the category attractive to VCs.
8. 7.2% of companies have a standalone sales enablement platform to share content with sales teams (CSO Insights).
This finding goes a long way to explaining why we’ve seen a dramatic increase in vendors selling products positioned as “sales enablement tools” and VCs investment in the category. Today, at most companies, the tools that sales enablement teams use are, at best not designed for the job they’re being used for, and at worse, unfit for purpose. All the numbers suggest that demand for sales enablement tools and technology will only increase in the coming years.
9. Companies with a sales enablement team are 52% more likely to have a sales process that’s tightly aligned with the buyer’s journey (HighSpot).
Within the software as a service (SaaS) industry, it’s crucial to have a sales process that is aligned to the buyer’s journey. Reason being is that today’s buyers are more empowered, demanding and complicated than ever before. As a result, a sales enablement team can add huge value by helping sales reps navigate this new reality with content, training, tools and resources.
10. 59.9% of companies plan to increase their sales force over the next 12 months (CSO Insights).
With most businesses expecting to hire more sales reps in the year ahead, in my mind the next logical step is when, not if they also to plan to invest in a sales enablement function. I’m sure this statistic will be used to convince business leaders that if their company is growing and hiring new sales reps, then investing in a sales enablement team is a shrewd move that will increase sales performance and revenue.
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 the function 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 is perhaps only 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.