Posted: January 29th, 2013 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Content Development, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Sales Training, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
During a recent conversation with a valued client whose job role is Vice President of Sales Enablement, she shared with me some of the challenges her organization is facing as it transforms to be more customer-centric. She said, “Sometimes I think my job should be called ‘VP of Internal Selling.’”
How true. While many of us may not be quota-carrying salespeople, we are all in the business of helping our peers and colleagues visualize a better outcome through our ideas and perspectives. In fact, in Daniel Pink’s newest book, To Sell Is Human, Pink explains that each of us spends 40% of our business time in “non-sales selling” activities, such as persuading and pitching to a variety of audiences.
Pink reminds us that, “Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.” That’s an interesting perspective reversal from the notion that selling is a dying art and that salespeople will eventually become extinct. In fact, between 2000 and today—when online commerce was supposed to show signs of a decreased need for salespeople—the total number of sales jobs actually increased across the US. And, two million more new sales jobs are expected by 2020.
To Sell Is Human is an interesting and validating read that reinforces the fact that, as sales enablement professionals, our jobs have never been more visible—or more important. It is also true, however, that salespeople must be relevant in their interactions with customers, or they will not survive in today’s competitive, self-service climate.
Every client we serve is laser focused on solving the sales enablement challenge by building better tools and resources to support seller and buyer journeys. Those most successful have integrated marketing, thought leadership, and campaign strategies into their sales toolsets in a way that supports truly unique and differentiated interactions with customers using messages that are consistent and unified.
Stay tuned for the upcoming webinar on our Thoughtful Selling™ model, which provides a framework and system for creating truly unique and differentiated value conversations for salespeople.
Posted: November 7th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Presentations, Sales Enablement, Sales Training | Tags: sales conversations, selling tools, whiteboard selling tools | No Comments »
Whiteboard selling tools are the latest craze. With good reason — they eliminate “death by PowerPoint” (or need for any supporting technology) and enable sellers to have more intimate, interactive conversations with their customers and prospects using nothing more than a writing surface and pen.
Problem is, they’re popping up everywhere, and sellers are being inundated with new process and techniques.
At Launch International, we’ve had the opportunity to create and/or work with dozens of whiteboards, ranging from business-focused high level conversations to the most technical of discussions. We’ve rolled out whiteboard tools to global organizations, and trained dozens of partners and sellers nationwide on how to use them. We’ve watched sellers both shine and struggle as they take on this new medium and determine when/how to successfully include it in their selling style.
It’s a transition for them, and it’s hard work to learn a whiteboard and present it well. So, we owe it to them to make sure it’s on target, and to create it with the end goal in mind.
We’ve identified commonalities across these whiteboards and categorized them into three groups:
- Scoping whiteboards explore pains and challenges throughout client organizations. These are typically used at the early stages of a sale because they help drill down to specific issues a target may be facing.
- Impact whiteboards demonstrate solution value across the organization to show how disparate groups or units could benefit from a more integrated solution.
- Transformation whiteboards illustrate a new way of doing business based on the value of your solution. These could show maturity curves, timelines, or even benchmarks across competitors and the market.
PROS(of well-designed whiteboards)
- Creates interaction between seller/buyer
- Carries a conversation from a business need to a solution response
- Is natural, so sellers easily can present
- Infuses differentiation, “sparklers” and proof points along the way
- Builds consensus and logically carries buyer to next steps in the process
CONS(of ineffective whiteboards)
- Don’t clearly define points of interaction, so they become a drawn presentation
- Don’t clearly identify when to be used in the selling process, such as using a technical whiteboard in an introductory conversation
- Scripts language and flow that causes presenters to struggle Is not unique. If you remove one vendor name and add another, would you have the same whiteboard?
- Does not actually do the intended goal: Gain approval from the audience to move to the next step in the buying process
Posted: June 15th, 2011 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Client communication, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Sales Training, Thought leadership | Tags: align sales and marketing, buyer's journey, demand gen, mapping, messaging, sales content, Sales Enablement, sales enablement job | No Comments »
Author’s Note: This blog originally appeared last week on the Savvy B2B Marketing blog.
For more than two decades, I’ve made my livelihood supporting salespeople. Twenty-five years ago, I was known as the product manager who could be counted on to launch products and provide salespeople the tools they needed to find, cultivate and close deals in the shortest possible time-frame. They sold my stuff because they knew I’d make sure they knew theirs. Salespeople don’t like to look stupid, and they don’t have time to waste.
I’ve always fundamentally believed that your salesperson is your first and most important customer. As such, when I think about enabling sales, I think about employing many of the same strategies used to engage customers. In fact, sales enablement professionals can learn a lot from their demand gen colleagues.
The true test of sales enablement success is measured in sales performance, not only in dollars, but also by how salespeople perform across each stage of a selling cycle. That means crossing pre-defined checkpoints efficiently and effectively, leveraging resources and removing obstacles along the way.
Much has been documented recently about mapping sales tools to selling stages to ensure content coverage. (That’s something we’ve done for years.) But one thing many organizations have yet to recognize is the similarity in this process with the one used to acquire customers. In fact, the strategies we use to nurture prospects along a defined path are directly applicable to how we enable salespeople in complex selling environments. And by applying some of the same methods, marketers can monitor and move specific solution areas into top-of-mind positions across specific types of sellers, and based on organizational goals.
The graphic below shows a typical buyer’s journey from awareness through repurchase stages. The top section represents marketer stages and the bottom section represents seller stages.
Consider a customer acquisition strategy that might include:
- Prospect segmentation
- The development of target personas
- Sliced and diced databases
- Testing and measurement plans
- The development of multi-tiered messages and multi-touch strategies, such as those involving social media, direct mail, telemarketing, and events
- And more
Then compare it to a typical sales enablement effort where sellers are blasted by the sales tool fire hose at time of product/solution launch. The tools are created using a “one-size-fits-all” approach to playbooks, battlecards and scripted presentations (for example) without regard for the type of seller they are, their role in the sales process, the other things they also sell or the level of product/solution knowledge expected. That’s like sending every campaign element to a prospect in a “one and done” blast and expecting them to buy.
While many organizations are just beginning their sales enablement journey, more mature ones realize that the days of one-size-fits-all enablement are gone. And, such strategies as seller segmentation and seller nurturing are as important to the enablement process as buyer segmentation and lead nurturing are to the customer acquisition process.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Have you established a sales enablement program?
- Do you have documented processes and best practices in place?
- Have you mapped your sales enablement assets across your organization’s documented sales process?
- Have you worked directly with sales to understand what your sellers need and want?
- Does your organization have different types of sellers performing different roles in the process? If so, do you tailor enablement tools specific to their role?
- Do you provide sellers with a suite of enablement tools at solution launch, or disseminate tools over time?
- What mindshare tactics do you use to keep solution information fresh for sellers?
- How many different forms of media or different types of venues have you used to provide information to sellers?
- Are your demand gen campaigns synchronized with the conversations sellers are having with prospects?
- Do you track tool usage and retire unwanted or underutilized assets?
Because sales enablement is a new discipline within most companies, building best practices can be a challenge. (In fact, there are more than 1,600 sales enablement positions open right now.) Remember that some of the best sales enablement talent could be right down the hall in the demand gen department.
What’s your formula for enabling sales?
Posted: February 24th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Content Development, Sales Enablement, Sales Training, Thought leadership | No Comments »
The Forrester Technology Sales Enablement Forum was everything Forrester said it would be: a true “meeting of the minds” for sales, marketing, and product managers who know it’s time to take their seller enablement to the next level.
Once we all got done talking about process and strategy and technology platforms for sales enablement, the conversations always led to content: we have lots of content, but we don’t know what to do with it? When should it be delivered…and when…and in what form?
In my content-centric head I developed three “must-do” sales enablement activities for IT vendors to jump on this quarter, in order to make immediate impact on the organization:
- Be honest about what you have. There was lots of talk about guides, papers, and portals: what they were supposed to do, and why they’re not working. In the end, it was clear that much of what we provide salespeople was created because “someone said they needed it at some point in time” Now’s the time to assess and reset based on a more strategic approach to creating content.
- Align your assets around the conversation. Without getting too hung up with sales process or methodology, most sale cycles follow a predictable path: they look; they touch; they think; they buy. That’s where Forrester’s outcome selling model comes in handy; we need to be focusing on helping customers achieve their desired outcome. Your salesperson should be there to say all the right things to get them to the next step.
- Create a real sales playbook. I heard it multiple times over the two-day session: “My sellers don’t know how to position my product.” And while that could be a messaging and positioning challenge, it could also be a sales process problem: sellers simply don’t know how to progress an opportunity from discovery to purchase.A sales playbook helps sellers understand what to DO and what to SAY at every stage of the sale. Like many of our clients, you may have battle cards and sales guides that address specific selling hurdles, like qualifying questions and handling objections. But have you truly shown your salesperson a best-practice approach to progressing your opportunity to purchase? That seemed to be the big question for Forrester attendees who came through our booth looking for content strategy and alignment help.
When the dust settled and we all jetted away from San Francisco, I definitely saw new life breathed into the hearts and souls of my sales enablement peers.
Are you doing the “must-dos”? Can you start with just one? Let me know if we can help!
Posted: February 24th, 2011 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Content Development, Sales Enablement, Sales Training, Thought leadership | 1 Comment »
Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum last week in San Francisco was a real eye-opener for me. As someone who has dedicated more than two decades of my professional life to sales enablement (long before the term existed,) I was encouraged to see a quality turnout for Forrester’s inaugural event.
Sales enablement is not for wimps. And while it may be reported as the top initiative facing CMOs this year, it’s not a passing whim. Sales enablement is real, it’s complex and it’s going to force organizations to rethink how they staff and what they produce.
Forrester Principal Analyst Scott Santucci presented an outcome selling — a go-to-market approach where you design your value communications system to optimize the value your customers realize — strategy as a way to deliver on buyers’ need for results. It seems to me companies have been trying to get their sellers to focus on results for years. For example, I remember meeting with one of our very first clients, nearly 19 years ago now, who was complaining that their salespeople were pushing product. They didn’t understand how to solve business problems, sell solutions or present results. Ina recent meeting with (completely new people at) that very same client, they still had the exact same complaint.
So, is sales enablement just today’s fix to satisfy an age-old problem? That’s the eye-opener part for me. By jove, we may have figured this out! A successful sales enablement initiative requires a business process change authorized and executed from the executive layer. Anything less will remain random acts of sales enablement (another Santucci term).
Oh, and yes, Santucci’s right about the outcome selling strategy. He and his colleagues talked a lot about “muscle memory” and the need to help organizations overcome entrenched behavior. If I can speak with the same marketing organization over the course of twenty years and listen to the same complaint about seller behavior, I would suggest that the problem isn’t only a sales problem–it’s a messaging problem. Organizations need to rethink how they build and deliver messages and content across buyer- and seller-facing outlets. (PS – that’s what we do.)
Bottom line? It’s a great time to be living in my sales enablement bubble. The next few years are going to be tons of fun. And if you plan to play, you better bring your A game.
Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Content Development, Sales Enablement, Sales Training, Thought leadership | No Comments »
A few weeks ago, I asked the community members of the LinkedIn group I run (Sales Enablement Content) “where sales enablement lives.” I was purposely vague, as sales enablement means many things to many people. Each organization’s culture, history, and hierarchy really determines their own approach to sales enablement.
However, “content” rang true across all answers to the question. It’s content that really drives meaning and value to sales enablement. While enabling technologies like portals, playbooks, and other software solutions are indeed important, the old “garbage in, garbage out” motto remains in the sales enablement space.
The challenge, of course, is know WHAT content is right, and HOW to we get it to the salespeople to enable the conversation. It’s there that process and technology take over. They’ll both be subjects of future posts.
Posted: July 28th, 2010 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Content Development, Sales Enablement, Sales Training | Tags: content, Sales Enablement | No Comments »
Sales enablement is taking center stage in most marketing organizations–and with good reason. Companies realize that, despite truly unique and compelling differentiation, people ultimately buy from people. So, making sure your salespeople can cut the mustard in front of prospects and customers is critically important…not only to gain the trust needed to close a sale, but to build loyalty and keep customers for life.
I belong to a LinkedIn group called the Sales Enablement Leader Exchange. One of the discussions you’ll find there is a rolling conversation where people define their interpretation of sales enablement. Dozens of responses produce definitions that reinforce how we’ve sufficiently diluted the term to a placeholder for all the things that don’t fit nicely into a traditional corporate infrastructure. It’s a system. It’s a process. It’s a commitment. Etc.
Even though the term resists a single definition, we can safely agree that sales enablement is about building efficiency (sell faster) and effectiveness (sell more). Fundamentally, it’s about delivering content to a salesperson at the right time/context of a sales process. And when they receive this content, they know what to do with it.
The right content at the right time to an able body who can then deliver it through conversation.
Interestingly enough and despite all the focus, the benefactors of many sales enablement programs (that would be the salespeople) are frustrated. They are watching their employers invest in people, process and technologies that take all of their company’s existing collateral and training tools, and populate them into enterprise class content delivery systems. They’ve invested in automation, often without assessing the actual process itself.
First rule of process automation: Don’t automate a process that isn’t proven successful. The result of breaking the first rule: Garbage in, garbage out.
We recently completed a client engagement where we interviewed their top 50 salespeople and identified commonalities in how they leverage resources throughout their successful selling processes. We categorized content assets into valuable, could be valuable with improvement, and unnecessary. And, we identified gaps in the portfolio. We then created a content architecture that ensured right-time delivery via whatever delivery model they chose.
Because of our 18-year history in sales enablement (which pre-dates the term itself), we also were engaged to create all missing assets and improve that which could be salvaged. After three months of effort, we were able to launch to the various sales organizations (in the form of a playbook) a documented and proven methodology for successfully carrying a prospect to a sale…complete with proof points from their peers. It remains the gold standard for this company today. Similar efforts are happening in organizations that are actively engaging key salespeople in the creation and definition of their enablement programs. If your salespeople aren’t buying your sales enablement program, you’re not in business.