If I were to ask you to name a type of sales enablement software, chances are good that CRM would be the first tool to come to mind. In this post, we’ll explore why a mature enablement discipline demands a solid CRM foundation, but it doesn’t end there.

CRM is Must-Have Foundation for an Effective Sales Enablement Strategy
Customer relationship management has come a long way since the days of the Rolodex and the Day-Timer. The modern CRM system provides the organization with many vital benefits:

  • One version of the truth – For many organizations, the CRM system serves as the “system of record” for everything having to do with customer history and sales activity. Without this system of record, sales management and executive leadership lack the insight they need to promote performance improvements.
  • Improved productivity – The modern CRM system gives salespeople instant access to information from any device, 24×7. They can also enter interaction information while the details are still fresh in their minds, instead of spending valuable time in the office recording everything they can remember.
  • Automated best practices – More advanced, modern CRM systems allow you to automate best practices. For example, the system might suggest appropriate content based on the buyer’s role, past actions and customer’s path phase.
  • Streamlined processes – When used correctly, CRM can automate time-consuming processes. One of the best examples of these is forecasting. Ideally, managers can use the data from the CRM system to create the forecasts, leaving salespeople with more time to sell.

It cannot be said enough: Organizations that are still struggling with CRM adoption and data accuracy need to address these issues or risk being left behind by their peers. Tweet This.

Sales Enablement Best Practice: Shore Up a Shaky Foundation First
Unfortunately, many organizations still need to improve their CRM implementation before they can move on to additional enablement technologies. Adoption rates still aren’t universally above the 75 percent level that presages real results. In addition, only 25 percent of respondents to our 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Study say they are confident in the data in their CRM system, and only 25 percent agree that it improves their sales productivity. Tweet This.

The challenge for enablement is that, typically, enablement does not own CRM. This area of technology is most often the purview of sales operations. To keep this from becoming an obstacle to your enablement efforts, refer to our recent post, “How Cross-Functional Collaboration Accelerates Sales Enablement.

Sales Enablement Tools That Build on CRM
With CRM in place and high levels of adoption, a whole new world of enablement technologies opens up. Some of the major categories include:

  • Sales Enablement Content Management (SECM) – SECM allows the salesperson to directly search for content assets based on specific criteria such as the buyer’s current stage on the customer’s path, the involved buyer roles, the buyer’s industry and business challenges. This shortens the time it takes for a sales professional to find the right asset for a buyer at a particular point in the customer’s path, as well as all the internal enablement content they need to prepare to add value during their customer interactions.
  • Learning Platforms – These systems provide salespeople with easy access to internal learning content either through their desktop PC or mobile device. Many of the more advanced developers are leveraging modern learning theory to help their customers motivate sales through techniques like gaming and badging. In many organizations, the learning platform is owned by Learning and Development (L&D). If that’s the case in your company, you will probably need to collaborate with L&D to get the kind of functionality you need. Again, see our post on how to foster cross-functional collaboration.
  • Coaching Systems – Coaching systems help sales managers and professional sales coaches see opportunities for coaching with advanced analysis of CRM data and other inputs. These systems also serve up the content and training coaches need to maximize the value of their conversations and the time they spend with salespeople.
  • Productivity Solutions – This category of enablement technologies covers a wide range of solutions, including functionality available from leading enablement technology providers, as well as a host of point solutions designed to address specific needs. Your sales team has probably already downloaded several apps that fall into this category onto their mobile devices.

While not necessarily a category itself, each of these enablement technologies is being made stronger by the advent of AI-augmented selling. For example, AI-augmented coaching systems allow managers to search for keywords, phrases and behaviors in recorded conversations and content to better understand how salespeople are using value messaging as they prepare for their one-on-one coaching sessions.

The commonality across each of these categories is that, without a solid CRM foundation, each of them loses at least some of their ability to impact sales performance. For example, SECM and learning platforms are most effective when they serve up phase appropriate enablement services through CRM. Coaching systems that incorporate opportunity info, process data and other analytics from CRM drive more effective coaching sessions. Productivity is lost when productivity solutions aren’t accessible through CRM or don’t automatically transmit data back to the CRM system of record.

Lest you underestimate the impact of the integration of these solutions with CRM, consider this: The CSO Insights 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study found that organizations that shared content via e-mail or multiple repositories achieved an average quota attainment of 57 percent, whereas organizations that shared content with enablement technology and/or integrated into their CRM achieved an average of 63 percent. Tweet This.

New Sales Enablement Book Provides a Master Framework
At Miller Heiman Group and CSO Insights, we’re seeing more and more sales organizations make technology a cornerstone of their competitive strategy. But remember, technology alone is not the answer to your sales performance issues. It is just one part of a holistic solution. In our new sales enablement book, “Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force,” we provide a framework for enablement professionals and sales leaders looking to create a holistic, mature sales enablement discipline.

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