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?