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The state of sales enablement in B2B marketing

We fielded a series of questions to assess the progress or maturity of

sales enablement programmes in B2B

, and also collected input about the most important influences or drivers for the programme, as well as the most significant challenges. 

When asked about SE, 28% of the respondents claim that their company has an agreed and documented SE programme, and another 45% report that they are in the process of putting one together. The remaining 27% of respondents have no plans for an SE strategy, citing reasons such as ‘company too small’ and ‘sales force too small’. 

These are probably the SMEs that replied to the survey with revenues under £1 million (20% of the UK respondents), under $1 million (18% of North American respondents) or €1 million (10% of the EU respondents). The vast majority (69%) of companies expect to increase their team’s SE deployment in the next 12 months. 

Other, even more recent, research carried out by B2B Marketing indicates that the Covid-19 health and economic crisis is changing the buying process even more radically than assumed, and the changes will probably be permanent, so there is now an increased sense of urgency in SE. Most companies are developing a sales enablement programme.

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Providing content to sales is now almost routine

Providing digital content to and through sales is usually the first marketing activity of SE, and most respondents reported some experience with this process. The options listed in the question below form a higher-level maturity model, from no activity at all (6%), through to the most mature state of collecting data on sales’ deployment of the content (2%). 

The response therefore shows that B2B overall is at the midstage of maturity – perhaps a little lower even, because more detailed responses reveal that many companies offer content to sales as a self-service via Microsoft SharePoint, not the most sophisticated CMS, let alone SE technology available. Supporting seller customisation of the provided content, or collecting data on content usage by sellers, or even consumption by buyers, is now also possible with a dedicated SE platform.

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Brand and content management is the major driver for sales enablement

When asked which factors are most taken into account when developing an SE programme, the respondents assigned a priority list of influences or drivers. Every respondent selected ‘providing content assets to my salespeople’ and 94% of them selected ‘ensuring that sales stay on message’. Third in the priority list, with 85%, was ‘managing a consistent brand message’. Third in the priority list, with 85%, was ‘managing a consistent brand message’. Brand and content management is the major driver for sales enablement.

There were some interesting ‘other’ influence factors also named, spanning from ‘it’s throwing spaghetti at the wall’ to ‘quality of customer experience’. Some of the comments reflect conflict and dissatisfaction between marketing and sales which is disturbing – ‘tracking seller performance on MQLs’ seems a little subjective and not conducive to the commonly-agreed alignment goal in B2B marketing. 

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The biggest barrier to success is adoption

The survey asked about the most significant barriers faced in adopting an SE programme. The response indicates that sales continues to be the most challenging cohort in businesses in terms of agreeing to use business tools: a phenomenon which began with the launch of CRM projects decades ago. 42% of respondents cited ‘adoption with the sales organisation’. 

This is not necessarily sellers resisting technology progress – many of them even have their own digital tools for SE The biggest barrier to success is adoption.

What would be or were the most significant barriers you face/faced in adopting a sales enablement programme? Select up to two. and would be reluctant to replace it with a company supplied system, especially as the company’s system implies monitoring and control. Another challenge, partly behind the adoption challenge, and highlighted separately by the ‘turf protection’ barrier (28%), is the resistance of sales executives to allow marketing so much access to their teams. 

The hurdle of ‘measuring the value’, named as the #2 barrier (33%) is surmountable. Most SE projects can be financially justified through a simple time and motion study of how much effort sellers expend to search for suitable content on their own.

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