Sales Enablement Danger

I am a huge proponent of utilizing innovative technologies to streamline business processes and I am fascinated by the history of technology. In fact, just this weekend, the inventor of email, Ray Tomlinson and the use of “@” passed away. The changes his invention brought to our world and especially as they relate to marketing, are nothing short of mind blowing. However, even as amazing as email is for demand generation, used outside the context of a solid demand generation strategy, it can have a negative effect on productivity, communications, brand, revenue and growth.

Skull cross bonesIt’s been nearly two decades since marketing automation pushed into the B2B scene with the introduction of Eloqua in 1999. Eleven years later, in 2010, marketing automation became its own category with over 110 known vendors in the space. Since then, every marketer is now a potential buyer of this technology. Marketing automation became a business technology powerhouse, but many still struggle with how to effectively support critical business imperatives with it.

Earlier this year, the ANNUITAS B2B Demand Generation Study reported the majority of firms (69%) are seeing only marginal effectiveness from their demand generation programs, to which marketing automation is the underlying technology enabler. Complexity is the culprit of missed opportunities. Even a simple and less effective implementation approach to marketing automation takes upwards of six months to deploy, according to the Pepper Global Report. Companies surveyed all agree that the effort of deployment is difficult at best.

Although marketing automation is now almost fully embraced by marketers, sales organizations are still not completely accepting of the technology benefits, nor are they trusting of marketing’s motives. Marketing automation presents tremendous promise to organizations, but without strategic consideration, it is nothing more than another wave of innovative distraction.

Enter, the era of Sales Enablement.

Sales enablement is a universal challenge. Modern businesses tend to throw technology at challenges. It’s no wonder so many vendors are pitching their wares, hoping to convince sales organizations that the key to successful sales enablement can be found in their technology. We hear these grandiose promises to save time and sales drive productivity by expanding CRM functionality with things like: integrated proposal automation, content delivery, lead scoring, predictive analytics and data visualization. Is the target now a naïve Sales Enablement buyer?

A word of caution…technology, in and of itself, does not (and never will) effectively overcome a challenge.

My advice to the Sales Enablement buyer – learn from your marketing counterparts. Don’t let the technology distract you from your purpose of driving revenue and growing the business. Recognize the complexities of adding technology to your process. It will have a ripple effect upstream and can easily disrupt the entire Demand Process. Adding a new Sales Enabalement “solution” could overlap capabilities offered via the existing marketing technology stack.

Don’t start with the technology to solve a challenge. Start the discussion with a strategic plan to seamlessly integrate the the right technology into the overarching Demand Process and make the goal to properly integrate people, process, content and then technology. Then, and only then, will you achieve the full potential of a technology investment and solve the challenge the right way.

Author: Tracy Thayne @TracyThayne is Senior Vice President, Strategy, for ANNUITAS.