Q4 2014 Sales Enablement market news and trends

As my list of Sales Enablement solutions has grown, I would like to take a look at some recent Sales Enablement market news and trends:

highspot
Highspot which is on my list of Sales Enablement solutions and is led by Microsoft veterans, nets $9.6M to hone sales pitches according to a gigaom.com article by Barb Darrow from November 7, 2014:

Highspot, which aims to help sales and marketing people do their thing better and more efficiently, now has $9.6 million in Series A funding from Madrona Venture Group. Most big companies create a ton of content — marketing collateral, spec sheets, white papers, PowerPoint presentations — but have little idea of which of those pieces will appeal to what segment of customer or would-be customer. Highspot’s goal is to sort through all that, figure out what material to send and then track how it is received. Was it opened, forwarded, referred to the circular file? Which one slide of a deck of 15 was viewed (if any)?

Seattle-based Highspot, which competes with ClearslideBrainshark and others, offers what it calls an “intelligent portal” to make it easier to find, share and repurpose the right content, scores the content and provides real-time alerts on customer engagement. It will integrate with Salesforce.com CRM and popular file services like Box and Dropbox. Highspot is led by a cadre of former Microsoft hands. CEO Robert Wahbe was formerly corporate VP for Microsoft’s Server & Tools Division; Oliver Sharp was GM of strategy for that group; Scott Gellock was GM of engineering for Identity and Networking Services for Azure; and Chief Architect David Wortendyke was partner architect for Azure.

This funding comes atop $2.7 million raised last year.


immediatelyapp.com On November 5, 2014 startupbeat.com wrote about San Francisco-based Immediately.

immediatelyapp.com is was a cross-platform email tool for salespeople designed to enable closing deals from anywhere, as opportunities happen. From both your phone & computer, you can track when your emails get opened, get reminders to follow up with leads, offer suitable meeting times in a couple taps, and use email templates for sales pitches. Automatically syncs your prospect emails into Salesforce, and pulls relevant contact information from LinkedIn, so that you always know who you’re talking to at-a-glance. “Sales enablement is a huge space with a lot of players and fragmentation.”

If you’re a salesperson, you most likely use a CRM system, lead gen software, a campaign tool, and a bunch of email tools. Email is where the action happens, and there should be no need to have five apps opened to be able to reply to a sales prospect’s inquiry.

Sales, or closing deals in general, is no longer a 9-to-5 job. You’re always selling, always closing. If you don’t, your competition will. And so having perfectly-timed actionable information, and the right tools to take action, is the winning formula. We give you both, as opportunities happen, immediately.


brainshark.com
Brainshark which is on my list of Sales Enablement solutions unveiled a tool/platform that provides sales reps with more contextual content as per this destinationcrm.com article by Maria Minsker from October 13, 2014:

Sales enablement solution provider Brainshark has launched the Sales Accelerator, a tool designed to help sales representatives easily access onboarding and training resources as well as find the right content to drive sales based on the context of different customer engagements. […] and is deeply integrated with the Salesforce platform. […] [The] key functionality allows sales representatives to organize and categorize content in the way that’s most relevant to them and gives them access to the right content in the right context. Often, sales teams find content created by the marketing department to be obsolete or not appropriate

— according to the IDC, a whopping 75 percent of marketing material isn’t used in sales.

The Sales Accelerator makes it easier for salespeople to sort through existing content to find the right fit and can also deliver content based on context, such as a specific rep’s account records, the prospect’s industry, and other factors.

The taxonomy that sales reps use within Salesforce will be translated into the categorization within Brainshark to streamline the experience between the two systems […]

“Content plays a crucial role in the selling process. Sales Accelerator not only helps sales representatives get a handle on the content they need, but also helps sales heads keep an eye on what’s working and what isn’t,” […] “They can ask ‘What content are the A players using to sell? What content are the B players using? What are the A players doing to drive opportunities forward that the B players might not be?'” […] Marketers can also use the solution to inform their content creation efforts by determining what content actually works on the sales end. Additionally, Brainshark’s new platform empowers sales reps to create their own rich content, such as video, quickly. As video becomes an increasingly effective sales tool, sales teams are looking for ways to incorporate it without getting bogged down in a lengthy editing process. “Buyers don’t want to read PDFs anymore. They would much rather see a quick video, and we’re making it very easy for sales reps to create them. They plug in some information, and they’ve got an interactive, effective piece of content,” […] The video content is mobile-ready, available through Salesforce, and is responsive to different device makes and sizes. Also available on the Sales Accelerator platform is smart search, which allows users to create shortcuts and mark frequently used or self-authored content as favorite content. The platform also offers detailed analytics and dashboards that enable sales teams to access their Salesforce data and see how content is performing.


Tamara Schenk made great points on these kinds of platforms in part 1 and part 2 of her series:

[…] Buyers can find what they need online, and make their purchases online. But in complex selling environments where various different stakeholders from different levels and functions are involved in buying decisions, conversations don’t follow a script. Critical, strategic thinking and adaptive competencies are key elements for sales success. Mapping a provider’s capabilities to the customer’s context and to their concepts requires a thoughtful, strategic and tailored approach.

[…] Every customer makes every decision differently, every time, so there is always a need to adjust, to customize and to tailor content, messages and strategies. Examples include adjusting the content wording to fit the customer’s terminology, and helping the customer clarify or even redefine the objectives and desired results they want to achieve. Sales force enablement can only design content and messages for pre-defined buying situations and buyer roles. Mapping to the real buying situations and mapping to the real buyers, the individuals – that makes the difference.

[…] In complex sales, critical and strategic thinking can never be replaced by sales enablement.

[…] It’s not enough to get the creation process right and to provide value messages on an enablement platform. To be effective, salespeople have to be trained to deliver the value messages effectively. This is a challenge that’s often overlooked. Messaging training has to cover two dimensions in parallel: knowledge transfer and behavioral change because value messaging is different from pushing products. […] Sales enablement can create real value if the messaging creation process is changed and if salespeople are trained to deliver those value messages in different situations.
Often overlooked, but key to success: The front line sales managers’ coaching approach has to support exactly this transformation to reinforce continuous improvement – training, practicing, coaching, adjusting, practicing -> learning.

Finally, salespeople are always responsible for the messages they use in front of customers. Only they can decide, based on synthesizing the customer’s context, the different stakeholders’ concepts and their specific decision dynamic, what kind of messages will create value and support their perspectives.


On November 4, 2014 Alyson Button Stone did some predicting for 2015:

[…] According to a recent report by InsideView [http://www.insideview.com/social-selling], 41 percent of companies on Facebook report generating more leads; companies on Twitter report twice the number of leads; and companies with active blogs report 67 percent more leads per month. IBM reported a 400 percent increase in sales in their first quarter, tied to a pilot program of social selling. The list goes on and on. Given these trends, 2015 should be a banner year for adoption of social selling techniques — from C suite executives, sales managers, and individual sales reps. This is all for the good, as it not only builds the organization’s brand, but the individual’s personal brand as well. Individuals become trusted experts engaging potential and current customers, which of course builds trust in the company and its products and services. A salesperson’s personal brand, I believe, is the best long-term investment they can make. Once everybody figures out that all selling is social selling, it will be their most precious asset. […]

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