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Sales enablement in turbulent times

Insights and tips from Peter Ostrow at Forrester 

What do these turbulent times mean for sales enablement, and for sales enablement professionals? Peter Ostrow, VP and research director at Forrester, shared his insights in a webinar on “Sales Enablement in Unpredictable Times: What’s in your skill set?” The webinar was part of a series hosted by Showpad, focusing on sales enablement and selling. Here are some of the highlights from the webinar. 

According to Ostrow, leaders in sales enablement need four key abilities to manage effectively today:  

  • They need to be able to understand, embrace and manage change 
  • They need to know how to “speak executive” 
  • They need to know how to measure sales enablement results 
  • They need to be ready to face the unexpected

We’ve been faced with a lot of big changes in the last couple of years. In 2022 alone, we’ve seen the invasion of Ukraine, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the emergence of MPOX, soaring gas prices, US stock market swings, and all of the antics at Twitter. On the technology side, sales of electric cars are expanding, IoT-connected devices are driving huge increases in the US privacy software market, and global owners of crypto currencies are forecast to reach 1 billion this year. 

Impact of change

This volume of change impacts the business of selling in two ways, says Ostrow. First, your salespeople need to have an understanding of all these developments. In their interactions with customers and prospects, these topics will come up, and your reps need to have some expertise in these areas.   

Second, many of these developments have contributed to a growing sense of distrust. People are a lot less trusting of government and journalists, for example. We’ve all heard of “fake news.” Where news outlets used to be considered the source for the facts, they are now seen by many as peddling false or misleading information. 

Distrust and disengagement within organizations  

This deterioration of trust is also the case within organizations. And for some reason B2B sales reps seem to feel it more acutely. In surveys conducted by Forrester, 33% of respondents reported they felt fatigued in the workplace every day – compared to 46% of sales professionals who felt that way. It was the same for feeling frustrated at work – 28% of non-sales employees reported feeling frustrated, compared to 38% of sales reps.   

So why do sales reps feel worse than other employees? One of the reasons is that sales pros are not always included in cultural and wellness initiatives at companies, says Ostrow. “But salespeople have feelings too,” he says. Maybe they’re on the road a lot of the time, or have always worked remotely. Or perhaps it’s because they are focused on sales to the exclusion of all other company activities. Working on 100% commission may not be the best compensation structure. If 3% of comp is based on things like being on committees, acting as a subject matter expert, or other collaborations, it extends the reps’ perspective beyond a single-product driven focus. “Compensate reps for what they sell – and for who they are,” emphasizes Ostrow. Another point to keep in mind is the steep cost of replacing a sales rep. It is a lot more cost-effective to keep the reps you have happy. 

Measuring the results of sales enablement programs  

Ostrow also shared a measurement model to evaluate sales enablement programs. Here are the four criteria he suggests as the key markers:  

  1. Activity – how many programs, tools, etc., were created?

  2. Quality - what was the feedback from sales?

  3. Adoption - how was the tool or program received? What are the statistics on usage?

  4. Impact - how did the program or tool change sales rep's behavior in a way that influenced business results?

Learn how to “speak executive” 

When it comes to communicating with the C-suite, whether it’s to ask for more resources or present your results, be brief and be prepared, says Ostrow. Keep in mind that while you are responsible for a piece of the company puzzle, the exec is responsible for multiple pieces, or maybe even the entire puzzle. Understand where you fit in, and be aware of the competing priorities that the exec has to juggle. “Lead with your headline,” says Ostrow. Don’t waste time on chitchat, go straight to the point. But be prepared with all the supporting data when questions arise.  

Lastly, remember the old adage: change is the only constant. This saying is attributed to Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived around 500 BC (so we can take some assurance knowing that humans have been managing change effectively for a very long time!)  

If you’re looking for sales enablement expertise and support, we’d be glad to help. Mail or call Anne-Mie at, or +32 (0)55 59 10 07.

If you’re looking for support with sales enablement in turbulent times, we can help.

Anne-Mie Vansteelant
Anne-Mie Vansteelant
COO | Managing Partner at Living Stone

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