Ian Ballantyne, Sales Director EMEA, Pitcher
An inside view on sales enablement, according to Ian Ballantyne
I sat down with Ian Ballantyne, Sales Director EMEA at Pitcher, to pick his brain about what’s new in the sales enablement space, whether or not everything is truly going digital, hybrid reps and the biggest mistakes sales teams make today.
More demands on sales reps today
As we all know, the pandemic has changed the way we work, and this has permeated all industries and most types of roles, including sales, which has traditionally been reliant on face-to-face contact.
Q: How have the demands on reps changed from what they used to be?
“It’s clear that the demands on reps today are bigger than they ever have been. Today reps are having to do more and more. Their interactions, whether that’s face-to-face or digitally (remote), demands increasingly more from them. Therefore, they need to have a sales enablement platform that allows them to do more than just showing content. They need to be able to collect an order, drop a sample, collect signatures and so on,” says Ian.
The platform needs to be much more than just a content pusher and act as a real trusted advisor to their customers.
That sounds ideal, but in order to not simply be a “content pusher”, companies need to have quite a few things in place in terms of their sales enablement organization, so that they are set up for success. And driving adoption across sales teams is one of those things.
Ian continues: “Regardless of the industry, everyone that we interact with are at different levels of maturity when it comes to the adoption of sales enablement. And the first step is obviously getting the content right; developing content and using it in the most efficient way possible.”
“Then the next step to get right is sales coaching. But once our customers have adopted those and implemented them into the sales teams, they then start looking, well, what comes next?”
“Because in order to drive adoption of sales enablement and drive value for the organization, you need to have more tools available for the users (sales reps) in order to engage your customers. And the more that you do from your sales enablement software, which ideally is one holistic platform integrated with your core business platforms, the more data gets generated. As we know, data is key to making informed business decisions that are then going to have an impact on the customer interaction and then ultimately the revenue that the company generates.”
Underestimating the broad scope of sales enablement
Q: Are there any major challenges that people struggle with when it comes to sales enablement?
Ian reflects: “I think the biggest challenge that people have is they underestimate what a big topic sales enablement is. In fact, it involves several different stakeholders from, for example, sales, marketing and I.T., and it requires enterprise-wide buy-in, a solid strategy and governance to back it up. Otherwise, whatever solution you implement will be less effective than it could be, and the adoption will not be where it should be.”
Company-wide effort needed for sales enablement success
Q: What’s the golden formula for success?
According to Ian, “There is no golden formula, but you need to have a stakeholder that takes full responsibility for the program and then have, depending on the size of the organization, people that are dedicated and mandated to make this a success.
“As an example, you can have a few people dedicated to the sales enablement project from a commercial excellence background acting like the conduit between sales, marketing and also I.T. in order to get the right resources as and when they’re required. If you have integrated your sales enablement software with your CRM, you’re going to need the CRM team to get involved. If you’re interacting with marketing, then you need their input on content. And then the sales leadership team needs to support it, so that it will filter throughout the organization, and achieve a higher adoption rate,” concludes Ian.
Omnichannel approach for sales success
Q: Why is omnichannel such a hot buzzword right now (or has been for the last few years)?
“Sales leaders and enterprises today are looking at how to best engage their customers, how their customers are segmented and how we can influence the different customer segments to buy our products or to establish a good relationship with our sales team. That’s where omnichannel comes into play. It is a hot topic across various industries as it allows having multiple, seamless touch points with the customer.
“And given the situation that we had with the pandemic, it’s become even more important because no longer is the face-to-face sales rep going to be just out doing face-to-face sales. They’re likely to have interactions remotely, but also by the channel of choice for the customer. So omnichannel is a huge component that large, customer-driven enterprises today are looking for,” says Ian.
Having a clear, holistic customer experience across multiple touch points is also crucial. As a brand, you want each experience that the customer has with you to be consistent with the positioning and messaging that the brand wants to put across.
The development of the hybrid sales rep
Q: Is everything really going digital or will the face-to face meeting be resurrected?
Ian says: “Even though digital is a game-changer today, thankfully, the face-to-face touch will never be lost. People buy from people,” says Ian. “However, yes, digital is going to become more of a key component. We’re definitely going in the direction of the hybrid rep and this development has accelerated due to the pandemic.
“Ultimately, personal interaction is essential in terms of maintaining the relationship with the customer. However, today the customer is also more open to digital avenues. And that’s why omnichannel is so important. The frequency with which you visit your customer face-to-face, or have customer interactions in person might lessen.”
But don’t worry, it’s not all going towards robotics and A.I. That would be a disaster, because then what do we do with our salespeople?
“For example, if you take your key accounts, which might make up 20% of your accounts, they probably make up 80% of revenue. Those accounts will want, and need, the personal touch.”
The crucial elements of success for sales enablement today
Q: What are the non-negotiables for sales enablement, i.e. what are the crucial factors that sales leaders today cannot live without?
Ian jumps right in: “The first sticking point is not having up-to-date and regularly updated content. I see this across the board. What I mean by that is, it’s no longer enough to just upload a deck and hope that it’s going to be viable again in a year or two.
“Content changes over time, and also people will start to get bored of the same content. If you visit the same customer with the same content once a month or even biannually, then eventually they’ll miss the personalized approach. Secondly, as mentioned, omnichannel.
For example, if I’m someone who doesn’t check my email often, and I get sent an email, it’s likely I’ll miss it. But if I get it via WhatsApp or another tool which I use more often, then it’s more likely I’ll interact with it.
“And then thirdly, the facilitation of remote presentations. Yes, face-to-face is important but remote is definitely still going to drive a lot of sales. Companies either have inside sales operations or hybrid reps, meaning they will need to have the capability to use face-to-face remotely from their sales enablement platform. So in summary, up-to-date and personalized content, omnichannel and remote are non-negotiables.”
Not knowing the reality in the field is a big fail
Q: What are the biggest mistakes that sales teams make?
“One that comes to mind is not actually realizing what is going on in the field so often there’s a big disparity between what corporate and senior leadership see in terms of what a rep does and what is actually happening out in the field.”
“If you don’t spend time with the reps in the field, on a rep ride-along, then you don’t understand what’s going on out there. In that case, how can you put together a strategy without knowing the reality in the field? Secondly, I’d say strategy and governance. Strategy is key to having a successful sales enablement rollout and adoption. But even if you have a solid strategy and implement but don’t govern and make sure that certain KPIs are being met, that the platform is being used in the way that it was intended to, then you’re going to fail.”
So to sum up: Lack of knowledge of what’s going on in the field, solid strategy and governance to back it up – if those three aren’t in place, then regardless of the solution you choose, it will be a failure.
Thanks Ian for your time and sharing your views on the sales enablement space!
Interested in learning more about Pitcher? Request your Pitcher demo and experience our sales enablement Super App in action.