Sales Enablement is the hot go-to-market topic of 2014-2015. It’s all about equipping sales people with content and tools to help advance opportunities to close.
Last week I had the chance to co-present on Sales Enablement with KnowledgeTree customer Brian Groth from Xactly. It was a great session at the Open Lounge during Dreamforce. I’ve summarized the presentation below and included our slides from the session.
You can also access a recap of Brian’s portion of the session here.
The Challenge of Sales and Marketing Alignment
A classic business problem has long been the sales and marketing divide. Hundreds of blog posts and articles have been written on the topic. We ourselves have written and surveyed extensively on the topic too. It’s now time to move on.
We can move on by looking into the core reasons for the friction and how to solve them. The friction generally stems from a misalignment in terms of goals. So, what are the primary goals of marketing and sales enablement for B2B companies? They’re twofold:
- First, generate qualified leads that translate into qualified opportunities and won deals.
- Second, create and deliver sales tools that help sales teams to advance deals through to close.
The sales and marketing/sales enablement divide arises because of misalignments in achieving these two goals. But the good news is that as an industry we’re making great strides on both fronts.
The Rise of Smarketing
Increasingly sales and marketing are no longer two solitudes that stand apart. Instead, they are intimately connected. That’s because it is no longer enough for marketing to generate high lead volumes. Marketing must deliver leads that are qualified, and that translates into genuine opportunities.
Sales and marketing increasingly have joint responsibility for revenue numbers
Sales and marketing are now jointly responsible for revenue numbers and are signing Service Level Agreements to that effect. Holding marketing accountable and closely monitoring conversion rates at all stages is vital to helping enable sales teams with truly qualified and prioritized prospects to work.
But What About Sales Enablement Tools?
As an industry we are making great progress on the first cause of the divide. But what about working toward getting great sales tools into sales teams hands. This is where marketing and sales enablement teams can get ahead of the market with a strong focus.
Let’s explore why sales enablement tools are so critical today to address the sales and marketing divide.
The New Sales Funnel
If you’ve ever bought technology for your company you were likely faced with a burning issue that rose to the top of your priorities. After all, you weren’t waiting by the phone for a sales person to call you. Instead you were likely ranking the challenges of your company, and investigating solutions to those problems.
Jill Konrath in her fantastic book Snap Selling discusses the concept of the ‘harried buyer’. That is, a buyer who has so many competing priorities that it is difficult for him to focus on your solution. Adding a new project to an already overwhelmed list is simply not an option. That’s where sales programs like the Challenger Sale have come to the fore. Using content and messages that aim to change a prospect’s mindset and reprioritize activities.
This need to disrupt priorities shows up in how the buyer journey has changed. The sales funnel is no longer a standard, linear progression from interest and awareness to purchase. Instead, there is a great deal of information gathering. Buyers may trial your product. They may pull in other vendors to compare and learn. They may go to trusted friends and advisors for additional opinions. So, sales and sales enablement need to support buyers throughout this complex journey.
The complexity also means that there is no longer a clear hand-off of a lead between sales and marketing. Marketing increasingly is nurturing and advancing prospects through the entire sales process. That’s why there’s an increased focus on conversion rates rather than simple lead numbers. It also means that sales and marketing have to collaborate more than ever.
If we combine these two topics:
- Sales enablement is critical to advancing deals
- Sales and marketing must collaborate to support the changing buying cycle
…then we need to understand how sales enablement and marketing can support the new sales process. I’ve broken the ways into 4 key elements. Let’s take a look.
1. Sales Enablement Must Support Consensus Buying
The changes described above are symptomatic of fundamental shifts that are happening under the covers in the enterprise:
20 influencers are involved in the average B2B sale
Interdependence: Just like sales and marketing are increasingly connected — finance and legal, manufacturing and services, and other teams are less atomic in nature. So, cross-departmental buying teams are now more apt to be formed to make buying decisions that affect multiple teams.
Get It Right: With increased time pressures there’s less latitude to get things wrong. Buyers want to ensure that they are making the right choice the first time around. Yes, there is an overall tendency toward testing and failing quickly. But time pressure means failing quickly, yes, but succeeding early.
This has led to a rise in consensus buying. In fact, studies from sales analysts CEB show that B2B sales often involve buying teams of 20 people or more.
For a sales person, it’s difficult to engage 20 people in a purchase. If you’ve ever been in a sales process and had someone say “we’ll huddle offline as a team” or “we’ll discuss internally” that likely is because there are multiple decision makers internally that need to be brought together.
Sales people can’t always be part of those offline discussions. So, how can they influence conversations when they’re not around? It’s about the messages that you equip your champions with.
95% of B2B purchase decisions are directly influenced by content
According to Demand Gen Report, up to 95% of purchases are directly influenced by content. Presentations, case studies, eBooks, and other sales content and sales tools are a key part of the ‘offline’ decision process. So, if you’re in sales you need to ask whether you are sending messages to your champions that can influence the 20 decision-makers when you’re not in the room.
And if you’re in sales enablement, have you equipped sales teams with the content and tools that they need to generate that influence?
2. Sales Enablement Must Build Trust in Every Conversation
B2B sales people are generally asking their buyers to break the status quo or reorient their internal priorities. So there is something of a leap-of-faith on the part of the buyer. We’ve seen the rise of social selling as a way to support trust development. That is, by giving away value (like valuable content) to buyers and prospects, sales people can build trust that encourages forward movement in the sales process.
61% of sales people add no value to the sales process, according to enterprise buyers
Forrester’s sales enablement group conducted some fascinating research about sales teams. They found that 61% of enterprise buyers thought that the sales people they work with added no value to the sales process. That’s a staggering number. Low-value sales people won’t be invited into closed door sessions. They won’t be invited back on second sales calls. And deals that are close, are going to be deals that are lost.
Building trust is a based on many factors. One that sales enablement teams can quickly influence is by equipping sales teams with effective content and sales tools. Speaking to one company, they told me that a colleague would send the same “manufacturing industry” case study to prospects over and over again. No matter what the industry, persona, or sales stage was. That’s clearly not a recipe for building trust or status as a thought leader with your prospects.
Look at the content that you share (or your sale enablement team provides you to share). Ask yourself, if a sales person shared that content with you, would you call them back? Sales enablement teams must ensure that the content they push to sales teams builds that trust.
3. Make Every Second Count
Another Open Lounge session, delivered by John Barrows, looked at sales people conversion rates. He looked into how much prospecting is required for each sales person to hit their number. John asked how can sales reps improve their performance. At the most basic level, it is either to increase the conversion rates at each stage or increase the amount of time available for each activity.
If you are a sales or sales enablement leader, the question becomes even more pressing. You have a large team, and each percentage increase in sales person effectiveness has a massive impact on your number. And each minute that’s reallocated to core selling activities also brings sales.
So, we’ve seen above that conversion rates can be massively affected by using relevant and impactful content. But what about getting more time to sell? What is a major consumer of sales people’s time?
Up to 30% of the average sales person’s time is spent looking for, creating, or customizing content
Up to 30% of B2B sales people’s time is spent looking for, customizing, or creating content from scratch. Many sales people have recognized and taken a leading role in the use of relevant content as part of their sales process. But the struggle to find useful content means they devote too much time looking for the content they need.
If you’re a sales person or sales leader, ask how many times you’ve said “this content doesn’t fit my prospect” or “I can build more relevant content myself”. Or, if you’re in marketing or sales enablement, have you asked “why aren’t sales people using my content?”
If so, then you need to solve the challenge of pushing relevant content to sales when they need it. And you need to measure which content and tools are effective so you can focus resources on creating the most effective content possible.
4. Repeat Sales Enablement Best Practices
In any sales organization, there will be A, B, and C players. Sales leaders and sales enablement teams work to increase the performance of all or move on. And that’s even more pressing of an issue in companies that are experiencing hyper growth. New employees coming on board need to quickly be productive and sell effectively.
To do so requires pushing proven best practices to all members of the team. When an action is successful and repeatable, you want all team members to have it as a weapon in their sales arsenal. Aberdeen Group’s research showed that sales organizations that encourage best practices across their team have double the quota attainment of their peers.
You can determine what is your best practice content and messaging through measurement. Understand which eBooks, presentations, and other sales content are associated with advancing leads and closed deals. When evidence shows its effect, promote it to other sales team members and encourage that best practice.
Focus on the changing dynamics of the buyer journey. When you do, sales enablement and marketing leaders can help sales teams dramatically increase their effectiveness by promoting messaging and content that has an immediate impact on revenue.