The hard truths of sales enablement and business innovation technology is never a magic bullet. Automating existing business practices never yields new results. Buyers must understand new technologies before engaging vendors. If you can’t describe your sales model and sales strategy, don’t bother investigating sales enablement tools. If you don’t have the foresight for how your business must innovate for the digital age, don’t make any significant technology investments. All your people must get on board, effectively use and proactively support your technologies and the failure to do so is a firing offense. Accept the fact that exploring, evaluating, and upgrading your sales and go-to-market technology options and competitive strengths is a never-ending strategic initiative, never a one-and-done project.
These are the hard lessons I learned working with manufacturers and distributors as clients since the dawn of the internet and writing about the digital transformation of sales and go-to-market channels for the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence. As the digital age approaches, channels and sales organizations are constantly evolving and remaining competitive requires serving customers online and enabling salespeople with value-selling skills, customer data, and sales enablement tools. However, too many sales leaders make investments by following “established” best practices, perhaps because they are intimidated by technology and its vendors, or because they believe that in a time of change it is impossible to predict the future and so any investment is a move in the right direction. The only best practice that matters is to have a plan for driving the specific growth objectives that your company must achieve and to develop a well-considered perspective on how your markets will evolve.
The test of an effective growth plan, one that can be enabled by technology, is whether it identifies(and quantifies) the accounts that you will target for incremental growth, the products that will sell, how you will upgrade your selling methodologies to achieve the growth, the knowledge and capabilities required for those methodologies and the data you will collect, analyze and share to prove the value your promise customers in return for growth. All of this is essential, but not enough. Given the forces of disruption and your customer’s willingness to embrace online buying methods, you must also plan for how your markets will evolve over the next several years, the new competitors that will emerge, and how your sales force and channels will fight to retain your company’s competitiveness. Otherwise, your company risks building a world-class sales force, enabled by state-of-the-art technologies that is relevant one day, and irrelevant the next. Guiding a sales force to the future requires that every sales leader become knowledgeable about the forces of change that are reshaping all markets, and identify advisers, partnerships and solution providers that can help them fight today, tomorrow and in the future.
About Mark Dancer
As the Founder of the Network for Channel Innovation, Mark creates awareness, advocacy, and research for channel and business innovation, drawing on nearly 30 years of experience working across an extensive range of industries and global markets. As a Fellow for the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence, Mark will explore business innovation opportunities for the digital age in the upcoming 12th edition of the Facing the Forces of Change® series. If you’d like to be among the first to pre-order the 2019 report, submit this form. Mark is on firstname.lastname@example.org.