Here’s how leading analyst firm SiriusDecisions defines the term: “Sales enablement’s goal is to ensure that every seller has the required knowledge, skills, processes and behaviors to optimize every interaction with buyers.” In other words, how can I make all the stars align in order to give me the best chance of closing a deal?
Let me share with you the 6 criteria for a modern sales enablement framework:
1) Target the right prospects
Let’s be frank here, modern sales enablement requires a fair bit of work and patience. So it can be extremely frustrating when sales people’s lead nurturing efforts are directed at the wrong buyers – i.e. prospects who aren’t ready to buy, or worse – aren’t interested in what you’re selling.
Sales people want to be sure that all their efforts are focused on those who are most likely to buy from them.
If this is a concern in your sales department then it may be worthwhile to outsource your lead generation. When you outsource your lead generation, you turn over the responsibility to specialists. It’s their core business, it’s what they do. Having more access to better quality data and qualification methods, lead specialists can uncover leads that perhaps your own sales team would never discover – usually at a lower cost than internal sales techniques. So your sales team will only be targeting the most influential sales leads so they can start nurturing these valuable prospects.
2) Align your sales and marketing team’s activities
Sales enablement straddles the worlds of marketing and sales. When sales enablement is carried out in the right way, both departments offer input on how to arm salespeople to have the right conversations with the right people at the right time on the right channels.
Traditionally, support for sales teams has concentrated on the end of the buyer’s journey, when prospects are actively evaluating solutions. But in today’s world, sales people need to hold conversations throughout the whole buyer’s journey – even before they are aware that they have a business issue in need of solving. Because let’s be real, not everyone at a conference or on LinkedIn is ready to make a purchase. There can no longer be a disconnect between sales and marketing teams. When disconnected, generating quality leads can often be low, leading sales people to complain that “marketers may as well hand me the phone book”, while marketers argue that sales reps want to be ‘order takers’, not salespeople.
Creating service level agreements (SLAs) between marketing and sales is the best way to achieve alignment. By putting SLAs in place, you set clear goals and responsibilities. Sales managers will then know how the marketing team will support sales, and vice versa. Furthermore, you ensure consistency as both marketing and sales interact with customers across the customer’s journey.
Consistency will help you assess the health of your business, identify problem areas, fix them, and achieve your business objectives. As your sales enablement processes mature and as you continue to learn about your customer, your SLAs will change. Consider your SLAs to be living documents, and never stop iterating on them.
3) Know how content fits into your sales enablement strategy
Content is a “must-have” for sales professionals. Blog posts, infographics, images, ebooks, videos and research reports are excellent ways to engage with potential customers. As well as that, content can be useful when you’re following up with buyers after a meeting.
To really make an impact during the sales process, the sales team need to understand when to use each type of content and how to position it with their buyers. So, take the time to build a content plan for your sales enablement team. Determine:
- What online persona each seller will have. Then share mostly content that aligns with that persona
- What technology you will use to deliver content to your sales team
- Who will supply this content to your team
- How you will train your sales people to use content effectively (it’s not intuitive!)
- What is the right combination of company-created, curated and shared content?
- Which stage your prospect is in the buying process. The content you share with them changes depending on which stage they’re at.
- How you will divide your team.
Once you answer those questions, you’ll be able to supply your salespeople with content that will spark engagement.
4) Social sell through social media
Social selling is crucial for sales enablement in a sales 2.0 world.
Once you understand where content fits into your strategy, the marketing team has likely already compiled a number of blogs, videos, and/or ebooks, tailored to different phases in the buyer’s journey. However, this doesn’t mean that only marketing can use them.
If, during their continuous interaction with their leads, your sales people notice a specific question is being asked again and again by a number of different leads, they can leverage marketing’s content and pass it along. Again, showing that your company is already aware of their concerns and is ready to answer their questions will build trust with your leads.
By getting to know prospects through platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter, as well through conversations, and by showing that they care by delivering relevant and valuable information, your sales reps can build a relationship with these leads. These relationships can speed up the process of closing leads into full-fledged customers.
But always remember that successful social selling takes more than committing time to listening online, sharing, and posting. Yes, of course you’ll want to read about how to personalize your sales. But you shouldn’t stop there. You’ll also want to make sure you inject urgency and fire into your messaging.
Here’s how to insert ‘fire’ into your interactions: even if you think you’re selling a boring professional service, you aren’t. Always remember that “your product is going to be interesting to somebody”. B2B copywriter Jonathan Kranz discussed how he beat the challenge of marketing a non-exciting product like a drill bit produced by an oil extraction company—by putting himself in the shoes of workers on a Gulf of Mexico rig. Out there, in the middle of nowhere, the wrong drill bit could cost millions of dollars every day, he said. When you think of a drill bit in that context, all of a sudden there’s a lot at stake. By speaking to that need, Kranz helped make drill bits sound very interesting to a specific audience.
Kranz’ believes creating ‘urgency’ is also important. He advises sales people to focus on forming a succinct message that serves as your version of the plumber’s magnet. Sales reps should ask themselves “can I form a concise offer that targets something that people have to address now—fast, an emergency?”
5) Monitor and measure your results
As the saying goes, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Sadly, it feels like you can measure far too much online. So, it is worthwhile to keep your focus on a small set of key performance indicators.
You may want to separate your sales enablement metrics into two parts:
- Performance metrics – How did we do?
For example, how much content did our sales reps share last month? How much interest/engagement did that spark?
- Diagnostic metrics – Which activities are working? What needs to be improved?
For example, what types of content are our salespeople sharing most often?
There’s an important purpose behind these measurements. It will help you make important decisions – decisions that will help your customers and increase your company’s profitability.
6) Remember to always prioritize your prospects
Many firms have their priorities wrong. They focus primarily on their company, their product, their messaging, their key differentiators, etc. They make it all about THEM, and they forget completely about their target audience and that target audience’s needs.
Their poor focus impacts their sales enablement efforts. Instead of helping their sales teams understand their buyers, they focus entirely on helping their sales team understand their product.
According to Forrester’s research, product-focused knowledge isn’t what most salespeople are lacking. By and large, salespeople don’t understand their buyers.
Helping your customers should be at the heart of all your efforts sales enablement – from awareness to retention.
To sum it up
Sales enablement in today’s business world has fundamentally changed. While it was once about explaining your companies’ products and assisting prospects evaluate vendors, it is about helping your buyers. It is about enabling your sales team to engage throughout the whole journey of a buyer, on the channels that they use.
A different buying process means that different criteria is needed. By focusing on the six sales enablement criteria above, the sales department will set themselves up for positive results. It will empower sales people to help prospects, drive revenue, and show their impact across the buyer’s journey.