Who will guide today’s corporate leaders through the turbulent challenges presented by the digital economy? It’s a question posed by Scott Santucci, founder of the Sales Enablement Society and a director at The Alexander Group in a keynote speech at the recent Experience Sales Enablement 2017 conference in Dallas. He argues that sales enablement leaders now have a powerful opportunity to play this role. But getting there requires them to first step back and consider the larger forces now at work. As Santucci sees it, a meteor crashed into the economy in 2008. Back then, the top seven companies had a combined market cap of $1.84 trillion, with an average valuation of $262 billion. The companies that made up the list included Exxon, Wal-Mart, a number of Chinese financial concerns, and Microsoft. Today, the top seven companies are mostly technology companies, with a total valuation of $4 trillion and an average valuation of $568 billion. In the past nine years, dramatic changes ushered in a digital age. These include the following:
  •  Consumers sought experiences as much as—or even more than—they sought products, forcing companies to rethink what they sell. One office furniture company, for example, is selling “space optimization strategies” instead of desks and chairs.
  •  The Chief Procurement Officer role became prominent. While centralized procurement saves enterprises billions of dollars, it poses new obstacles for salespeople.
  • Omnichannel transactions have made buyer dynamics more confusing and complex.

Digital is disrupting the value exchange process

As businesses change, and as the customer’s world keeps changing, inefficiencies are created at the point of sale. “When the human beings on the buyer side are confused, and the salespeople on our side are confused, what happens?” asks Santucci.“We get a boatload of inefficiency at the point of sale.” According to Santucci, companies have three choices:
  •  They can innovate, just as Uber came out of nowhere and made taxicabs obsolete.
  •  They can transform to meet customer needs, like the way AMC Theatres is retooling its locations into bars and restaurants.
  •  Or they can be disrupted. Clueless companies will feel the negative effects of this by losing market share and ultimately going out of business, but more thoughtful companies that choose to abandon old business models can free up resources for innovation and transformation in other areas.
While the digital economy has created a minefield for many businesses, it represents a huge opportunity for sales enablement professionals.

 Sales enablement professionals must lead and guide

“Sales enablement professionals can be the ones who give CEOs a path to grow,” says Santucci. “We have to help our executives choose. In which parts of our business are we going to innovate, in which parts of it are we going to transform, and which parts are we going to allow to be disrupted or just get out of entirely?” The key to adapting to technology is thinking like human beings, he contends. To help companies make the right choices, sales enablement professionals have to be skilled at social media, marketing technology, and other forms of digital engagement. But just knowing the technology isn’t enough. The key component, which is often missing, is the ability to facilitate open conversations among salespeople, marketing professionals, consumers, and other stakeholders. The key is to listen to other points of view and stay passionate about working with people who want to solve sales problems in a changing world. “When you stop listening, you [lose all credibility],” he says. Santucci reminded his audience that they’re always selling to people. “We have to focus obsessively on the customer experience or outcome,” he says. “Most of the companies that I talk to don’t know whose wallet they’re after.”

The Visible Impact Vantage

If you’re intent on being a strategic guide in this era of digital turbulence, you might want to start by thinking about conversations. After all, what is your enterprise but a network of conversations and relationships. In my conversations and research with product marketing, demand gen marketing, sales enablement, sales operations, inside sales, field sales leaders, I’ve identified a breakdown in something we call the “Value Story Supply Chain” — a breakdown that is undermining success in customer conversations. What’s going on?   Well, product marketing tends to get a bill of materials when a go-to-market initiative begins. It then proceeds to check boxes in an effort to keep up with all the expectations that have been laid down for someone in the role. Unfortunately, this leaves little time to actively solicit the perspectives of the sales team — let alone customers. What you get is a whole bunch of stuff  — presentations, battle cards, and other collateral — getting thrown over the wall and landing with a resounding thud. As Santucci suggests, little thought goes into the customer’s ultimate experience — or even who the customer really is. And sales ends up creating its own material and contributing to a fragmented, cacophonous form of go-to-market messaging. What if you could achieve consensus and buy-in throughout the Value Story Supply Chain? What if sellers went to market in a unified way — with clarity, confidence and conviction?  What if you could report to your executive leaders that a new approach to designing customer conversations has made results far more predictable and impressive? That’s what’s possible. Want to learn more? Download our e-book Product Marketing Imperiled: Why Salespeople Won’t Sell Your Solutions — and What to Do About It.   I’d also welcome a personal conversation with you to explore the topic and possible strategies that you can execute.  Connect with me in LinkedIn or reach me here: Britton at VisibleImpact.com   Watch Scott Santucci’s 30-minute presentation.