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How B2B leaders can drive business growth using sales enablement

Highspot’s Richard Langham discusses why applying sales enablement will make content much more effective – and help relieve the pressure to deliver results

Pressure hinders creativity. As a B2B marketer, you might feel like it helps you get more done, but research indicates it results in less creative thinking overall.

This is a problem, because I’m seeing the pressure on B2B marketers to prove your value only going one way – up. You’re now expected to do more than simply fill the sales funnel from the top, and over the past couple of years more attention has been paid to driving engagement at the bottom. In other words, it’s not enough to create great content. Your content must convert.

That said, this is an opportunity as much as it is a challenge, because if your content does measurably convert prospects into leads – and leads into sales – it relieves the pressure on your team, thus earning you greater creative freedom.

Fortunately, there is a new discipline emerging among forward-thinking organisations that helps increase the value and effectiveness of B2B content for sales. It’s called sales enablement, and it works by bringing together content management, sales guidance and buyer engagement capabilities.

Transform your relationship with sales and buyers to make a business impact

The typical buyer journey is fundamentally different than it was even a decade ago. Prospects are self-sufficient, consuming multiple pieces of thought leadership and other educational content before they engage with a vendor.

Similarly, just as buyers have changed, so have the needs of sales teams who require a continual supply of content that helps differentiate what they’re offering. And that content has to count. Any vendor will only have a limited number of touchpoints with a prospect, and even then, are probably one of a few being considered. So, in reality, a tiny amount of a buyer’s time is available to you, to persuade them you’re the right choice.

This is why it’s critical you give sales the right content combined with clear guidance on what to know, say, and show – to use your content effectively on the front lines. Much of modern B2B marketing is about how well you can support sales, and through them, the buyer, to help orchestrate the customer journey.

To achieve this, you must listen to your buyers, which can be done indirectly by talking to sales, too. Once prospects become customers, vendors too frequently limit their feedback loops to product and service development, failing to uncover valuable intelligence for marketing – for example, what finally persuaded the prospect to buy – that could improve your ability to accelerate future deals.

Similarly, knowing what objections may have slowed a purchase decision can be incredibly useful for developing content that converts. These kinds of insights, drawn from buyers and sales colleagues, will hone your focus on content that makes an impact and prevent you from proudly presenting your latest ebook, only for sales to take one look at it and say “thanks, but this won’t work in the real world”.

Create a journey with ‘eureka’ moments

Another element B2B marketers can miss, when working with sales to maximise the effectiveness of content, is simply explaining what’s in it for sales. You have a small window of opportunity to convince sales your material is going to help them and inspire adoption. If you can convince sales your rationale behind the content reflects what they need, and how it helps support their specific goals and initiatives, you’ll see much higher adoption of your content.

The same principle holds with prospects. You’ve got to deliver those ‘eureka’ moments, when they realise you truly understand their problem and can actually solve it. As part of this approach it’s crucial to clarify the process, the exact steps that will take them from where they are today to where they want to be. This is what gets people off the fence. After all, smart buyers know you can’t just drop a new solution, tool or technology into place, and everything becomes magically fixed. Rather, you gain credibility by mapping how they can combine people, tools and processes to be successful.

Embrace metrics that matter

One of the most compelling benefits of a sales enablement platform is access to previously unattainable metrics that actually matter to your business: how is your content being received and used by sales and engaged with by prospects and customers. Without these, you’ll never see the whole picture.

For example, one area of analytics I find fascinating is a sales metric called ‘closed-won deals’, which, for marketing, aligns to a monetary figure called ‘influenced revenue’. Using a sales enablement platform with any CRM will tell you what content was used in deals you won, and when. What were the case studies, the thought leadership, and the proposals that had the highest impact? This is exactly the kind of data that proves the business value of your work and gives you breathing room for greater creativity.

These metrics can also be transformative for the effectiveness of your creative strategy, as well as guiding your regional content strategy by identifying geographic trends about the different approaches that work in one region, but not another. Armed with this data, which doesn’t exist outside sales enablement platforms, you can make smarter decisions at the global and regional levels.

Use technology that complements the human touch

While I advocate the use of sales enablement and other important technology, it can only ever augment, rather than replace, the human touch in B2B marketing and sales. Person-to-person engagement is essential to closing a deal. Buyers need direct assurance their unique needs will be met – and it takes a real person to make that commitment.

Business is high stakes by nature, often leaving little room for creative risks. Pressure is the status quo and more growth will always be the goal. Marketing can deliver content that drives growth and earns the credibility to be more creative by building a close relationship with sales that is founded on sales enablement practices, data and technology.

Backed by continual improvement in content adoption and conversion rates, you can make a compelling argument for your impact on the bottom line – and earn the right for countless creative experiments.

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