Technology AI Image by Tung Nguyen from PixabaySeismic has published the State of Sales Enablement, Operations & Technology 2023/24 report (registration required). It is the second time it has produced the report. It was created in collaboration with the martech and sales enablement educator LXA. The report identifies that CMOs responsible for sales enablement have doubled in the last year from 10% in 2022 to 19% in 2023. The authors believe it indicates that silos between functions are breaking down.

Winnie Palmer, Head of Marketing EMEA at Seismic. Image credit - LinkedIn
Winnie Palmer, Head of Marketing EMEA at Seismic

Winnie Palmer, Head of Marketing EMEA at Seismic, commented, “With many businesses working to achieve greater effectiveness and efficiency, enablement provides the necessary operational muscle to deliver on these objectives.

“The alignment in the skill sets and knowledge between marketing, sales, and revenue operations has welcomed greater collaboration between the functions, with all teams sharing experience in tech, content, data, and coaching. This accelerates go-to-market (GTM) functionality. This research proves that the process of building a connected GTM operation, driven in a dual effort by both sales and marketing, is firmly underway for more businesses in the region.”

What is in the report

The report is 32 pages long and consists of a Welcome message from Carlos Doughty, CEO and Course Instructor, LXA, a foreword by Palmer, and a section on the methodology used in the research. Refreshingly, this was part qualitative and then a quantitative survey from a small sample of only 204 people.

The authors claim they conducted a qualitative survey, but they interviewed only four participants, two of whom were from LXA and Seismic. This is well below the recommended minimum of 12 for any meaningful qualitative survey, and there is a lack of data analysis. In addition, it seems the qualitative survey was conducted prior to the quantitative one. The report is then broken down into five main sections:

  • Sales enablement & sales operations maturity
  • Sales team operating model
  • Sales enablement & operations impact
  • Sales stack investment & management
  • The future of sales & sales enablement

Each section contains an analysis, some data visualisations and quotes from the four interviewees. The section ends with Action Points, which provide the reader with ideas highlighted in the section.

Sales enablement & sales operations maturity

This section looks at the state of maturity in comparison to the previous year across five dimensions. It highlights that sales operations and sales enablement are two distinct functions that must work together. 76% of leaders either agree or strongly agree that sales enablement and Sales operations are key to driving sales performance.

The authors note that the customer journey is becoming more complex, with CMOs reporting 12 customer contacts, with an overall average is 9.8, still up from 9.2 in 2022. The authors believe that teams must use tools to improve insights an ensure that customer contacts are more worthwhile for both parties.

One notable change is that sales tool adoption has fallen as a challenge from 45% in 2022 to only 15% in the current survey. The top three challenges are budget constraints, data quality/integration issues and a lack of staff/resources.

The action lays out some concrete suggestions that reflect the findings in the research and go beyond common sense.

Sales team operating model

Responsibility for sales enablement is shifting to marketing as the link to the top of the funnel gets stronger. The report highlights the split of responsibilities across different management areas. It throws up some interesting findings. However, the analysis might have been more interesting if the report had shown the results from 2022 and 2023.

One call out is the impact of training on sales teams. 76% of organisations have formalised, structured training programmes in place to upskill and reskill teams. These are seen positively, with 77% of respondents seeing a direct link between training and improved sales rates and performance.

The call to action calls for a dedicated sales enablement team within the organisation. With 52% of respondents looking to increase sales enablement team size, this looks likely to happen. Another suggested action worth noting is that organisations should adopt real-time on-the-job training. It is an area where technology can help.

Sales enablement & operations impact

It is important to measure the impact of sales enablement. Organisations doing this increased from 69% in 2022 to 75% in 2023. The report looks at how sales enablement is measured, with the top three metrics being:

  • Improvements in sales deal win rates KPIs
  • Uplift in customer retention / Reduced customer churn, increased customer repeat rate
  • Increase in new business / Increase return on investment (ROI)

Interestingly, retention of sales staff increased by 4% to 18% in 2023. The action points reflect and suggest further improving measurement and suggest ways of doing so.

Sales stack investment & management

Takes a brief look at the sales technology stack in use by organisations. However, rather than focus on what organisations have in place, the research looked at selection and adoption challenges. Respondents want performance and reliability, cost effectiveness and for new systems to have integration points with their existing systems. Integration was also flagged as a reason why previous sales tools have not performed.

However, it was the human element that often causes most problems. Resistance to change, a lack of capacity to make use of the tool, and training were the top three reasons. It indicates that while integration may be the biggest tech challenge, it is change management and training that need addressing most.

Training is mentioned within the action points for organisations to deliver. However, perhaps not as prominently as one might expect. It focuses on third-party engagement for training.

The future of sales & sales enablement

72% of respondents agree that harnessing AI will drive efficiency and effectiveness. AI is at the heart of most of the sales enablement technologies that firms are emerging in the next year. However, as Pam Didner, Author and Speaker, points out, “ChatGPT can write pretty well, there’s no argument about that. The thing is, you need to add your personal touch, add your little humour and let it guide your email before you send it out. Potentially, there will be a danger that sales copy all generated by AI becomes the same everywhere.”

As the previous section highlighted, humans are still needed to make technology work effectively. One should not assume that AI is a perfect replacement for humans. It isn’t. The human in the loop to personalise and validate messages is still important.

The action points prompt organisations to consider this, but they also look at several use cases for AI that inform the reader.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

While the report is only based on a small sample of respondents, it has some useful feedback. The trends are difficult to validate with such as small sample size, but the action points alone make this a worthwhile report to read.

The lure of shiny new technology has attracted business leaders, but history has shown that technology is often poorly implemented. This is often because training and change management programs are set aside. There is a risk that the use of AI will be the same despite its promise to automate many things.

In fact, the risk is worse in some cases. Organisations may implement AI, but removing the human from the loop may lead to the loss of experienced sales staff and poor results. Organisations must carefully consider the technical and human aspects of implementing AI. If Seismic produces a third report, it will be interesting to see how the adoption of AI affects organisations.

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