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My Favorite Sales Enablement Tools

by David Brock on December 11th, 2014

Sales Enablement tools are Hot!  Developing and offering sales enablement tools is a multibillion dollar industry.  It seems every week I get at least one email of a tool that is intended to help improve the effectiveness of sales people, managers, or anyone involved in sales.   Some are quite broad in scope, some are very focused–helping us do one thing much better.

The developers of the tools offer great case studies and research about how the tools help sales people.  Most of the companies I talk to are investing millions in buying sales enablement tools.  I haven’t seen the latest data, but a couple of years ago, the investments in these tools were moving from $5K to $10K to $15K per year per sales person.

Some of my favorite blogs on these tools are Nancy Nardin’s and Miles Austin’s.  I never miss Matt Heinz’ weekly post on his “tool of the week.”

I’m very excited by much of what I see with these tools.  There are a few I think are quite outstanding, but when I talk about them I have to do a full disclosure that I sit on the advisory boards of those companies.

With all that as preamble, I never written a post about my favorite sales enablement tools.  So as 2014 is coming to an end, I thought I’d write about my 2 favorite sales enablement tools–at least for this year.  We’ve been using them in our company for quite some time, to be honest, without them, we’d virtually be out of business.

These tools also seem to be very popular with some of the highest performing sales people and managers I’ve met.  Seeing this has reconfirmed, at least for me, the investment our company has made in these tools.

These tools, like any sales enablement tool require constant use.  The people we’ve noticed having the greatest difficulty in using these tools use them only sporadically.  Sometimes, they get frustrated, and they abandon them.  The power users, those getting the greatest benefit use them everyday.  They integrate them into their work flow and into their daily routines.  Like many of the tools, the more you use them, the more powerful they seem to become.

We’ve benchmarked the difference between the results the power users get from these tools and those the the sporadic users get–it’s profound.  Those who use these tools consistently out perform those who don’t.  But the same can be said of virtually every sales enablement tool.  They require focus, dedication, constant use.  So if you or your organizations aren’t committed to learning and using them, it’s probably not worth the investment.

When we evaluate sales enablement tools, we look at a number of criteria.  My two favorite tools are stellar in every area–I guess that’s why we like them so much.  But some of the areas in which they really shine are:

Scalability and Deployment:  A lot of the tools we evaluate are great for very large organizations.  Because they may have fairly complex implementations, conversions, or deployment issues, they serve large organizations very well, but it’s difficult for smaller organizations to implement and get value.  Likewise some tools are difficult to scale up or down.  My favorites get five stars in all areas.  We’ve seen them easily deployed in organizations having just one sales person—and they can be easily ramped to support teams of thousands of sales people.  They don’t require lots of support from IT, or other organizations.

User Interface/GUI:  This is one of the biggest problems with many of these tools.  It seems many of the large, older CRM systems and the other classic sales enablement tools hire Marquis de Sade as their User Interface designer.  A bad user interface drive low utilization and compliance.  People just won’t use the sales enablement tool if its too difficult to use.  Again, my favorites shine, getting 5 stars here.  The UI’s are elegant in their simplicity and design.  At one point I did some research to see if Steve Jobs or Jonathan Ive were involved in the design.  They weren’t, but the UI’s for these tools are that elegant.

Conversion/Data Migration:  Most sales people don’t have to worry about this much, but it’s something we need to be concerned about.  How easy is it to take all our data from previous systems and migrate it into these tools.  Do we lose critical things, are we able to easily take everything we’ve had in the past into the system.  Again, the designers of these tools have thought a lot about these issues and made all of that pretty transparent.

Miscellaneous:  There are always a number of little things, but they can be annoyances.  Things like battery life for devices, what if you don’t have access to WiFi or the cloud.  In global organizations, multi-language support is critical.  There are all sorts of other thins, as well.  Again, these tools generally are 5 stars in the categories we’ve been concerned about.

Cost/Investment:  This is a big issue with any sales enablement tool.  What’s the return on the investment? What’s the ongoing investments we have to make to continue to get value out of these tools?  Like any of the sales enablement tools, you do have to invest in these.  You have to continually train, learn and develop to get the maximum value out of these tools.  But, at least in our experience, these tools are indispensable to us.  The power users and highest performing sales professionals seem to indicate the same thing.  Interviewing one, his comment was, “You can take away everything else–CRM, Analytics, Research, Social Media, all of them, but you’d have to wrench these tools from my cold dead body.  I would never give these up!  They are what set me apart from everyone else!”

So, with that as background to why I’ve selected these as my favorite Sales Enablement tools for 2014–actually for all time, here they are:

Our Brain/Minds:  This is really one of the coolest tools I’ve ever seen.  Again, it’s only useful if you constant use it, I think that’s the challenge many sales people have, they don’t use it as often as they should.  They don’t train it, they don’t constantly learn or develop their skills of critical thinking.  We find it’s the thing that sets us apart from everyone else, it’s our differentiator and the ultimate Value Creation tool.  I’m actually surprised more people don’t write about it as a sales enablement tool.  I guess, possibly because it’s one of those old school tools, and their are much flashier shiny toys to talk about.

Pencil/Paper:  We find this is a perfect complement to our brains.  Our brains have some weaknesses.  Though they allow us to analyze, evaluate, think, create in very powerful ways, sometimes we have so much going on, finding or remembering that critical task or to do just slips our minds.  Pencil/Paper is our backup/complementary or auxilary storage system.  Power consumption is low, we’ve never had a problem with battery life–though every once in a while we do have to buy new notebooks and pencils.  We have discovered if we write down a lot of the strategies our brains enable us to develop, we no longer have to remember them, we can put our brains to use doing other things, but the pencil and paper are the perfect complement.  (Some people prefer the pen/paper options–we’re actually quite indifferent–choose the implementation that best suits you.)

So anyway, those are our favorite Sales Enablement tools.  I haven’t seen many other people evaluate them, I hope you find this useful.  I kind of suspect these two tools will top my list next year, as well.

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3 Comments
  1. Clever Dave, and I hear the subtle point being made that despite all our efforts to automate and game the system, they spoils will still mostly go to those who consistently employ a keen mind and a strong work ethic.

    So I guess when someone calls me “a tool” I will take that as a compliment from now on.

  2. Brian MacIver (@Palayo) permalink

    Thanks Dave, a real insight into the Current Enablement Market.

    Although the two chosen are initially hard to learn, the one taking about a decade and the other 6 years, they are without doubt the best for Cost Effectiveness, and Durability. With free, fairly frequent [daily] updates both will give a lifetime of High Performance!

    It should be noted that if not used, or if not upgraded, they degenerate and fail very quickly. And, will have to be replaced by technology ‘prosthesis’ which are even harder to learn, more expensive to run, and seldom last more than 2-3years without needing replacement.

    I have opted for the pen/paper model as I find I write faster that I think with the pencil model. But they are two tools I have spent a lifetime honing to meet my needs, and hope I will never be without them.

    Oh I do keep a PC for e-mail, twitter, Facebook, Blogging and LinkedIn, but I still put my Brian/Mind in gear first, then reach for the pen and pad before I write!!

    Happy Holidays! :))

    • Brian, it’s important that we keep the firmware for both of these tools constantly updated, and that we continue to enhance and build them. If we don’t use them constantly, their performance degrades pretty quickly. The brain is particularly important, since it is the principle interface to so many other sales enablement tools, if it’s performance degrades, then the value of all the other tools is also compromised.

      Using the brain well, helps me use other vital tools–PC’s, CRM, social media, analytical tools, etc. They all link together pretty nicely.

      Great Holidays to you and your family as well. So impressed/touched by your project to feed the less fortunate–that’s truly Making A Difference! Regards, Dave

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