Digital has changed the role of sales enablement
There is now a clear drive by companies in most B2B sectors to optimise the customer experience, leading to digital content marketing processes such as customer intelligence and analytics, deeper persona research and personalisation, and interactive media.
This improves the experience for both established customers and potential buyers.
However, even with these digital buying experiences, B2B still relies greatly on human interactions, particularly when salespeople meet buyers to discuss a complex purchase or project, or just routine orders for replenishment supplies. In addition to this, digital buying experiences also affect how sellers exchange information with buyers and have, more importantly, changed the expectations of buyers. Just as in the consumer world, B2B buyers now prefer to research products themselves rather than ask a vendor sales rep for information.
This new buying paradigm shifts the roles and focus of B2B marketing and sales. The balance of customer interaction has edged towards the former and the role of sellers has changed: they are part of the buyer journey dialogue instead of leading it. Instead of product features, they are often asked about how a product can be applied to a specific use case or other business-orientated questions. Or they are expected to explain or elaborate on some of the digital content that the buyer may have already researched.
The savvier marketers have already extended their digital marketing processes to directly support sellers with this information, bringing at least these vital benefits:
- Productivity. Both marketing and sales benefit. Sellers can leverage good digital content, provide value to their contacts, and be a channel for marketing messaging.
- Brand/message management. The governance process is automated, although some customisation must be allowed to enable sellers to personalise content. But there is also much more that marketers can provide to sales. For example, customer intelligence on organisation, intent and research history; or content that can be finalised and tuned by the seller.
Marketing now has an opportunity to cement its alignment with sales by providing those essential services in a digital form. Already, in many companies, the concept of sales enablement (SE) is expanding from its more historical function of organising sales training (usually by a department within the sales organisation), to a more ongoing, on-demand collection of services (including training) provided by many colleagues, but actually mostly by marketing staff. Depending on the organisational structure and business objectives, this emerging role is set up either within marketing or sales – sometimes both. Often, there is no dedicated resource however, and the work is spread across many shoulders. SE processes are also now supported by specific software platforms and there are around 30 SE specialised vendors active in the market, though many companies elect to provide some SE services through their existing marketing automation and CRM platforms.
B2B Marketing surveyed 177 marketers to find out the state of sales enablement
In April and May, we surveyed 177 B2B marketers in companies of all sizes, small and large, and across all industries, about their SE programmes and challenges. The survey was truly international, reflecting the readership and following of B2B Marketing:
- 42% of the companies surveyed are based in North America
- 32% in the UK
- 16% in the post-Brexit EU
- 10% in other countries
78% of the respondents were B2B marketers by job description, while 11% even identified themselves as SE professionals (9% working within marketing).
We also collected similar data from 40 marketing agencies, 92% of whom offer SE services.
This report discusses what SE should consist of, and provides guidance on the organisational and process elements of managing SE effectively. It provides a snapshot of B2B’s SE progress, including the most common platforms, plus an overview of some of the challenges faced by practitioners. While it will reveal some industry secrets, plenty of statistics and peer-to-peer advice, the main aim of this report is to ignite a conversation by providing actionable advice. The advice can, hopefully, help to open the debate in your company about the benefits of investing in a SE programme. In addition to staffing, there are now also many software platforms dedicated to SE process automation.