Each week The Sales Way will be interviewing a thought leader from The Sales Enablement industry on how they recommend organisations deliver more effective sales and business development results. This week, The Sales Way speaks to Suresh Balasubramanian, CEO of LiveHive, Inc., about his views on the Sales Enablement industry.
Please can you tell us a little bit about how you came to work in the world of sales enablement, and what makes sales enablement such a special sector to work in?
I have many years of experience running sales teams through my executive roles as GM Worldwide for Adobe Software and CEO at mobile security software startup Armor5. At Adobe, I led the sales organization across 15 countries, delivering annual revenues in excess of $150M within a span of four years. So joining LiveHive was really a natural fit for me. At LiveHive, I speak frequently with sales leaders about sales productivity solutions within the context of a transformed sales environment. Because of changed buying behaviors, organizations need more insight into customer interests and are turning to sales enablement solutions that can deliver that visibility. There is a tremendous amount of energy in this market sector right now – as a result of new technology innovation, as well as investments being made.
How do you think sales enablement (and industry approaches to sales enablement, training and techniques) has changed over the past twenty years?
That question can’t be answered without looking at the shift that has occurred within the sales profession itself. Because of the fact that half of the buying process can be complete before a buyer engages with sales, sales people have to work in new ways to engage buyers. As a result of that change, new sales enablement technologies have emerged to help teams engage with their customers. Sales enablement has helped sales reps more easily communicate and share documents and sales materials with customers in a world where face-to-face sales meeting are declining. These technologies are also extremely valuable in showing how customers engage with sales materials.
With so many apps and software tools being created to aid salespeople in their selling efforts, what real impact do you think these tools and apps will have on how sales people sell?
I expect to see continued acceleration of the transformation currently underway in B2B selling. Buyers will continue to rely on digital information to educate themselves about a seller’s products, and selling will continue to become more virtual. Tools that can deliver insights into the buying process will help companies shorten sales cycles and produce more reliable forecasting. Analytics will produce more complete buyer profiles, so vendors can better understand and react to a buyer’s interest.
Many industry analysts are talking about the ‘decline of the salesperson’. What role do you think sales people will have in the future, in order to stay relevant?
Because inside sales is growing 15x faster than field sales, we don’t view what’s happening today as a ‘decline of the salesperson,’ but more of a metamorphosis of the salesperson. And it’s important to recognize that changes in the buying process have driven a huge part of this metamorphosis. Buyers – even B2B buyers – no longer engage with sellers as early in the purchasing cycle. Instead, they’re researching products and services online, through social networks, and through referrals. This makes it challenging for sales reps to gain enough understanding about the buyer to address their pain points and respond quickly at their moment of interest.
To keep relevant, sales reps need to find new ways to gain insight into prospects and their purchasing behaviors. Sales enablement technologies can help deliver those insights and let sales people deliver the value-added service that customers still need and want in today’s selling environment. Sales will always be a H2H (Human 2 Human) activity, and I don’t see that ever going away.
What key piece of advice would you give to sales managers who are looking to improve their team’s sales results or set up a sales enablement program. Where should they start?
With so many different sales enablement technologies available, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. Sales managers need to start by determining what goal is most important for their business. What decision do they want to support, i.e. is it forecasting or sales rep training or prospect ranking? It’s key to start with the question they want answered the most. We also advise customers to look at the low-hanging fruit. There are extremely cost effective solutions that are easily implemented and seamlessly integrated within existing systems, so sales teams can start gaining value right away.
With deep and comprehensive sales analytics, tools such as LiveHive, for example, give sales reps real-time insight into prospect behaviors to automatically rank prospects according to engagement – a capability that also can help improve your forecasting accuracy. According to recent Aberdeen Group research, sales leaders who have analytics to understand their team’s performance can result in upwards of a 57% lead conversion.
About Suresh Balasubramanian:
Suresh Balasubramanian is CEO for LiveHive, Inc., whose award-winning sales acceleration platform provides buyer engagement analytics by automating sales follow up. Suresh is a seasoned software industry executive with more than 20 years of operations and senior management experience. Before LiveHive, Suresh served as CEO for Armor5, and GM worldwide at Adobe Software.