A dozen years ago, if you asked the average sales leader about their sales enablement strategy, the likely response would’ve been, “Huh?”

It’s not as if companies in years past weren’t training and enabling their sales forces; it’s just that the term “enablement” wasn’t yet a common part of the B2B sales lexicon. (Then again, back then most people didn’t know what YouTube was either.)

Flash forward to the present, and the number of companies with dedicated sales enablement functions has more than tripled since 2013, reports CSO Insights.

I’ve been to many conferences over the years, but lately they’ve been centered around Sales. Naturally that makes sense since we provide Sales Leaders with free resources on how to navigate the Sales Technology landscape, so when I had the opportunity to join the B2B Marketing Exchange conference this past week in Scottsdale, I was excited.

Matt Heinz, my marketing mentor, said it’s one of the best B2B marketing conferences of the year. Matt was correct. When I looked at the sessions I wanted to attend, I was wondering how I could clone myself.

Do your sales people have what it takes to be successful in educating, engaging with, and selling to your customers? Ensuring that each sales person has the right information and content at their fingertips to help them to improve the likelihood of closing a sale is critical to sales ops, sales enablement, and sales team managers. Over the last 20 years, since the inception of the digital revolution through the laptop, finding ways to help the busy sales person to get this content ready to go has become even more important.

With this week’s announcement of a professional league for Esports, it’s time to recognize what great salespeople have known all along. Sales is a sport. Think about it. We love to watch others optimize a process to achieve a goal, whether physical or mental. Just like a sports team, great sales teams are built with an obsessive focus on stats and success metrics. Sales needs the right players, and those players need the right tools. Closing the deal involves a playbook of emails, phone calls, social outreach, or, gasp, in-person meetings. Just as sports has been “Moneyball-ed”, sales is being scrutinized in new ways to arbitrage the best people and tools.

Oh, year-end analysis. How I love thee and hate thee. Let me count the ways…

This is the time of year when executives become hyper-sensitive to numbers and are asking a flurry of questions.

What revenue will we close the year with?
What was our ROI on that new tech investment?
What did we do this past year that was most effective at moving the needle?

Your prospects want to succeed as much as you do. And they want to boost their companies — and hopefully their own careers — in the process. So, if your offer will help them succeed, why wouldn’t they call you back immediately and sign now? If something’s good for you, surely you should want it!

Your prospect has a tough job. She must convince her organization and relevant stakeholders (the proverbial average of 5.5 internal stakeholders) that change is a good thing. She must build a business case and balance the cost, risk, and effort associated with that change. She must own the results post-purchase. And she must accomplish all of this while doing her day job.

Sales enablement is a hot topic at the moment, and a key priority for many sales organizations. Yet, as an industry, we’re failing badly at it. According to the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, 32.7% of surveyed organizations had a sales enablement function in 2016 (up from 25.5% in 2015), but only 5.2% of surveyed companies said that sales enablement was meeting all expectations.

One reason for this failure is confusion about what exactly sales enablement should be enabling. The obvious answer to the question is that enablement should enable more winning. But what, exactly, does that entail?

74% of companies are spending more on enablement efforts than they did last year, but sales enablement teams are struggling to quantify the value of on-boarding and training efforts and identify what activities have the highest impact on rep productivity.

With average turnover at 30% per year, management is putting increasing pressure on HR and sales enablement to hire even more quickly and shorten onboarding time so reps can get into the field and start selling.

It’s clear that organizations of all sizes are investing heavily in sales enablement technology. In a recent study on the State of Sales Enablement, sales enablement budgets increased at 47% of respondent companies. Of respondents indicating a rising budget, over 30% cited gains of greater than 11% year-over-year. Companies with sales enablement personnel, processes, and technology are increasing their budget allocations, an indication that the high ROI expected by sales enablement is being achieved.