A luxury of living in the Bay Area is that I don’t have to spend $500 to $1,000 a night to sleep in an average hotel near the annual Dreamforce gathering. So I took advantage of the easy commute and attended an offshoot of the nearly 200,000-person Salesforce annual gathering — the Sales Enablement Soiree at the Four Season Hotel.

The Sales Soiree is put on by Highspot — a leader in the important area of Sales Enablement that operates adjacent to the CRM space. It was interesting enough last year that I decided to go again this year.

My first observation is that sales enablement is growing in importance and gaining in stature. The definition of sales enablement is a bit fuzzy but think of sales enablement as a cadre of software tools that can, when implemented correctly, raise the overall professionalism and success of a sales organization. Below are some of my takeaways from a day in the City.

  • We will see guided selling and prescriptive sales management in the coming years as machine learning is leveraged — this may mean fewer salespeople overall but more sales analysts and technicians.
  • 81% of B2B buyers make their buying decision based on their customer experience along the sales process and only 19% make it based on features and price — this ties to my view that we are living in the age of commoditized products and the differentiator is the customer experience.
  • Leading sales companies train more on sales skills than on products and features — this ties to delivering a great customer experience.
  • NPS scoring — companies should have their salespeople score their managers, trainers and sales enablement people on an NPS score — in other words, treat the sales rep like a customer.
  • 17.3 pieces of content are shared before a close — this could include emails, eBooks, webinars, brochures — those content initiatives better be first-rate.
  • The best sellers know to review and share more content with a prospect in the early stages of the sales process — while the weakest sellers don’t do this until much later in the sales process.
  • More than 30% of the best sales reps are already looking for a new job — and they evaluate opportunities based on the quality of the sales managers and sales tools and tech — this makes the job of recruiting even more challenging for companies that don’t invest in sales management and enablement.
  • Customer obsession — successful companies put the customer at the center of everything they do — companies that do not are likely¬†to fail in today’s ultra-competitive environment.

A final observation. Sales and marketing functions are drawing closer and closer every year as data and technology have become more and more important. And while things are converging, it won’t stop marketing leaders from complaining that sales leave hot leads on the floor and sales leaders from complaining that the leads are lousy. So where does that leave us — focus on the customer experience — it just might be the ultimate sales tool.