Sales Enablement – Is There Anything More Important?

19 November 2013

There is an increasing body of evidence pointing to a need for sales and marketing organizations to refocus their combined efforts on processes and tools for comprehensive Sales Enablement. But wait, marketers will protest, Sales Enablement is only one of many aspects of the marketing role. Are we to abandon branding, nurturing, lead scoring, campaign management, analytics, and all of the other critical elements of the marketer’s job? Actually, no – quite the contrary. If we view all of those marketing functions as a part of a continuum, then they will continue to be important. But, if they are not facilitating Sales Enablement, then they are wasting precious resources.

When we read that almost half of sales opportunities don’t close because the customer couldn’t get the budget approved or simply failed to make any decision at all, that is a symptom indicating that they did not perceive the value of the solution to be significant enough to change their current approach to addressing the problem. When we find that sales teams are not using between 50% and 90% of the marketing materials provided by the marketing team then we can conclude that the marketing materials do not clearly and consistently facilitate a valuable conversation with the customer at that time. These sales and marketing problems are failures of Sales Enablement.

Perhaps it is necessary to define Sales Enablement. Contrary to common belief, Sales Enablement is not simply a package of presentations and brochures that is given to the sales team in order to help them close deals.

Sales Enablement is a continuous process designed to arm every customer-facing person in the company (and channel) with the ability to consistently engage in a mutual exchange of value with the appropriate customer stakeholder at every stage of the customer’s problem-solving journey.

When we pit buyers against sellers in a tug-of-war, we mischaracterize the reality of how complex businesses operate today. While vendors define the world as “buyers and sellers”, the people in the buying role don’t think of themselves that way. They are simply solving problems, and one of the steps along the way may be buying something (or set of things) from one or more vendors if they have to. Let’s stop calling them “buyers” and recognize that they are problem solvers. If we have any hope of doing business with them, we need to be seen by them as helping them solve important problems.

This perspective must germinate early on – before the beginning of the “sales process”, in fact. Many people in marketing today are talking (appropriately) about the “buyer’s journey”, but marketing must engage with various constituents in the customer’s company well before they embark on a journey to buy anything. They must be engaged at the very foundational steps of their problem-awareness, even helping them to recognize opportunities for making improvements in the status quo. Once they have been through the so-called “trigger-event”, wherein they recognize that they must take action to address a problem, marketing is now well-positioned to deliver a comprehensive set of helpful tools to inform them about market trends, innovations in products, processes, etc.  And, eventually, Sales becomes engaged in the process as an important resource to answer key questions and help the customer make the right choices.

During this problem-solving expedition, various participants play different roles, and have distinctive information requirements. It is Marketing’s job to understand those roles and to correctly anticipate the breadth of information requirements that each stakeholder has at every discrete phase of their process. Delivering useful information to the right individuals at each stage is a key element of Sales Enablement. When it is time for the Sales and/or Channel team to engage with customers, a key ingredient in a winning Sales Enablement solution is to ensure that these team members are articulating a consistent and accurate message, focused on the needs of each stakeholder based on their role and their stage in the process.

Knowing the customer, the roles and needs of each of the stakeholders in their problem-solving journey, and understanding their information requirements at every step along the way is essential to delivering effective Sales Enablement solutions. Arming the Sales team with engaging, relevant, and consistent resources so that they always deliver value at every encounter with key customer constituents, is the combination that unlocks Sales’ potential to engender confidence and trust with the customer, and win the long-term relationship you are both seeking.

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