Evaluating and choosing the right sales enablement automation (SEA) platform may seem like a daunting task. To make your buying process easier, we’ve put together ten questions to ask vendors when you evaluate SEA systems. For expert advice, we sought input from vendors, customers and industry analysts with extensive experience in helping organizations choose the right SEA platform.
- “What kind of adoption rates do your customers experience?”
Why Ask? — Encouraging sales people to use new software is challenging if they have to learn a new UI, especially when it’s unfamiliar.
Listen for — UI concepts adopted from common applications like iTunes, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube that have interfaces that facilitate adoption. Familiar UIs and concepts act as spring boards for rapid, long-term adoption.
- “We use a range of different content types, from InDesign and interactive PPT to HTML5 detailers and web content. Does your solution handle a wide range of content types?”
Why Ask? — One of the biggest challenges sales enablement software has faced is the proliferation of apps and systems designed to only work with one type of content. Integrating heterogeneous content formats into the software usually doesn't work because it’s limiting, which reduces reps’ confidence in new marketing and SEA solutions.
Listen for — A sales enablement platform must provide a “single pane of glass” approach, in which all content works and displays in a way that feels natural and includes all the capabilities of the original content creation tool. If reps can access any type of content within the platform, adoption will increase, as will your ROI.
- “Are you using machine learning or any other AI technologies to help sales ops and salespeople?”
Why Ask? — AI has become a core component of many software tools for consumers and businesses. SEA platforms that leverage real-world machine learning capabilities understand how sales people work, recommend the right content and help reps to learn from each other. AI-powered SEA systems are part of a bigger AI trend that also extends to CRM systems. Advanced SEA platforms get the right data into CRMs to record every touch point and information on every person involved.
Listen for — The best platforms use machine learning and AI technologies inside their tools to exchange data with other AI platforms (like Salesforce Einstein) to improve overall sales and service effectiveness.
- “How much day-to-day maintenance does your sales enablement system typically require?”
Why Ask? — If deployment requires hiring multiple resources dedicated to managing and maintaining the system, the additional cost can greatly reduce long-term ROI. The best SEA platforms minimize the workload on administrators, content creators, publishers, and users.
Listen for — Vendors should be able to describe built-in technologies (like machine learning and AI) that help businesses deploy the software without having to rely on resources to manage ‘tagging’ or other manual processes.
- “How will your system meet the needs of our IT security team and provide the right controls for fast and easy user administration?”
Why Ask? — Deploying a sales enablement system ensures that the right sales person gets access to the right information and content at the right time and place. But allowing various levels of user access means your solution must also meet strict security, control, and information governance requirements — while enabling users to use the tool the way they want to.
Listen for — Who hasn't experienced a situation where the sales person sent the wrong (often internal) content to a prospect by mistake? The best solutions include the encryption and security to satisfy your IT department’s requirements, while also preventing sales reps from exposing confidential information.
- “Will we be able to use your system wherever our sales team works?”
Why Ask? — Sales people need to be effective wherever they choose to work. They also want to use their preferred device. Whether using the company’s CRM system (e.g. Salesforce.com), email (e.g. Outlook), or mobile device (e.g. iPad), sales people must get the content and information they need to work with customers and other team members in a unified way.
Listen for — Vendors must show how content and information, as well as insights into guided selling and sales processes, are available to sales reps at the key places they work. Think mobile devices used in front of a customer or in preparation for a meeting; inside the CRM system sales people use every day to track progress; and email, where reps work regularly to communicate with customers.
- “Will your solution allow us to have a customized experience that meets our corporate brand needs?”
Why Ask? — The materials your reps present and how they present them are expressions of your corporate brand, which are critical in building customer confidence. But for many SEA tools, branding is limited to tinkering with the limited set of elements the vendor offers.
Listen for — Vendors should allow you to customize branding over the entire system and not just with a few templates or fields. This should include your content, support for multiple languages, and easy access to your corporate brand and identity elements. Don’t accept a custom app as a solution. The system must be easy to maintain and offer a customized experience in front of your customers.
- “How well does your sales enablement solution integrate with third-party technologies?”
Why Ask? — SEA platforms will produce the best results and promote better adoption when they seamlessly connect and work with your CMS, file storage platforms, marketing automation systems, and other tools. What is important is not an off-the-shelf connection, but a true systems integration that fits all your business needs.
Listen for — Prospective vendors should understand how to connect different tools, platforms, and systems beyond the broad-brush level. Their platforms should have an open API to connect with all your systems, not just your content repositories (e.g. Dropbox).
- “Can users edit and create real content on their mobile devices?”
Why Ask? — Enabling your sales people to react to the market, adapt their material quickly, and create custom presentations from mobile devices can improve win rates, help reps lead more successful meetings, and enhance customer engagements.
Listen for — Advanced SEA platforms enable content creation, editing, and annotations, and the best will support custom material creation based on approved content sets. Leveraging the power of mobile can make the difference between a strategic sales enablement implementation and a tactical one.
- “Can your solution provide sales teams with formal and informal learning content? How can I integrate with or replace our existing Learning Management System (LMS) with a single, unified SEA solution?”
Why Ask? — Learning is critical to the success of sales reps. SEA solutions must provide a way to help deliver learning content that is integrated into the information flow for the rep. Learning for the YouTube generation is all about delivering training and microlearning modules wherever and whenever users need them. When powered by machine learning and AI technologies, the platform can ensure the right materials are delivered to the right people when they need it and in ways that are useful.
Listen for — Top SEA makers support the creation, delivery and reporting of quizzes, forms, videos and interactive content within their system, as well as integration with legacy learning management systems that were originally built for the web. Today, education must work wherever the sales person chooses — in their car, home office, or onsite right before a customer meeting.
We’ve put together a Sales Enablement Vendor Evaluation Guide you can download here for more insight into each of these questions, as well as what to ask to see. Analyst reports are also a great resource for evaluating vendors against one another. We recommend the most recent Gartner Market Guide for Sales Enablement Platforms- get your complimentary copy here!