Sales enablement: How marketing can empower sales with content in 2018
With content at the heart of it, Ott IIves outlines which sales enablement materials, tools and best practice will have sales and marketing working better together
Although it has a different meaning for different people, 2017 was a great year for sales enablement.
No matter how you define it, one thing is certain: without the right sales enablement processes, technology and content, you won’t see an improvement in results.
The last element is key. Creating the right content that solves the right challenges is what truly empowers salespeople. This article will outline how to empower your sales teams to serve their leads in 2018 and present the tools that will save them time while they do it.
1. Position salespeople as thought leaders
Helping your sales reps make the mindset shift from 'salesperson' to 'expert' is a huge step.
Sales reps typically only engage with leads as part of the buying process. Engagement starts when marketing delivers leads and ends when they close the sale.
By transforming salespeople into thought leaders, you help them add more value during the sales process. By positioning them as trusted experts, you build trust faster, closing more sales.
It all starts with positioning. Salespeople need to start creating content, which is something marketing can assist with today.
Provide training on how to create blog posts. Start with a simple framework:
- Focus on how-to information: Take common challenges and objections from leads and turn them into topics.
- Simplify the layout: Teach salespeople the anatomy of a compelling introduction. Start with three to five sections only. 'Three ways to do X' is a simple framework to kick things off.
- Promotion: Teach them how to share the content through their social channels. Provide further training and scripts for email marketing.
Social platforms and online communities are also opportunities to build their personal brand and positioning. Show them how to answer questions on Quora, spark conversations on LinkedIn and engage with leads through Twitter.
Optimizing social profiles is a foundational first step. For example, encourage salespeople to change their job title from 'sales executive' to 'expert' or 'specialist'. Make sure their profile summary provides value and communicates benefits. It shouldn’t be a list of tasks they execute.
Jack Kosakowski, US CEO of Creation Agency, uses LinkedIn to share a mix of other people’s content as well as short videos where he gives sales and personal branding advice.
Thought leadership is about two things: giving value and building relationships. Give your salespeople the power to do both.
2. Sales enablement tools and training for social media engagement
Social selling can be a tough grind. Keeping up with LinkedIn updates, tweets, and online conversations can be a lot to handle.
Provide your sales teams with the tools to automate and streamline social selling processes. These processes should be both reactive and proactive (which ties closely with thought leadership).
Start by identifying the communities occupied with your buyer personas. LinkedIn groups, forums like Inbound.org and even subreddits on B2B topics have many active members and discussion.
Analyze each community and how they work. Create standard procedures for salespeople to follow. Show them how to identify the conversations their prospects are involved with and provide advice on how to add value to these conversations.
Keeping tabs on every opportunity is a lot of work, especially if there are several contacts in each account. This is why social listening tools can be invaluable.
Mention, for example, will give you real-time and daily digests of keyword mentions across social platforms and other media, including your target accounts.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is also an effective tool for keeping tabs on stakeholders. It provides real-time insights on your leads, including activity (e.g., posts and mentions) and job changes.
When considering new sales tools, start with your problems and objectives. What are the biggest challenges salespeople currently face? Find a tool that solves these challenges and helps engage with leads effectively.
3. Organize discovery meetings
Meetings are critical when aligning the goals of sales and marketing teams. Your salespeople need to understand what you are doing and why. Discovery meetings are the best platform for doing this.
You should keep the initial meeting casual. The objective should be to communicate what you want your teams to achieve and the frameworks you’ll create to help serve them.
The purpose of the meeting should be to identify points of friction throughout the sales process. Get both teams to describe their perspective on the sales funnel. If there are discrepancies, open a dialog to find out why.
Work together to create a universally understood version of the funnel. Once it's mapped, identify points of friction across each stage. Here are some common challenges and proposed solutions:
- Lack of MQLs: Experiment with new traffic generation approaches. Optimize your paid media (PPC, Facebook ads, etc.) to attract more qualified traffic. Invest in a lead nurturing system (if you haven’t already).
- Lack of qualified MQLs: Where quantity isn’t a problem, quality might be. Look into how you nurture traffic and evaluate your lead scoring systems.
- Lack of SQLs: Fix leaks at the bottom of the funnel by collaborating with sales to create more effective content. Identify common objections and work together to create FAQs, ebooks and blog posts that help to overcome them.
Together, you can then work to define the ideal lead. From there, it’s a matter of implementing the proper systems to nurture them.
4. Optimize your lead nurturing systems
Ask any salesperson in the world their biggest woes, and one of them will usually be “getting quality leads from marketing”. In fact, recent from B2B Marketing found that 48% of B2B marketers don't score the leads they send to sales.
Many marketing teams focus on acquisition while neglecting retention and lead nurturing. According to Budget & Trends, 78% of marketers focus on lead nurturing. That leaves 22% who aren’t doing it at all.
Furthermore, separate research from MarketingSherpa shows 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales, with poor lead nurturing being the culprit.
Having a lead nurturing system that provides the right content to the right segments can help increase your lead-to-close ratio. Not only that, but you’re more likely to generate more revenue from individual leads as a result.
Lead nurturing must happen at all stages of the funnel. Developing the right content that attracts the right leads is the fuel to an effective process. It’s also important for sales to manage their email lists with the help of your content.
Content formats can include ebooks, webinars, case studies, and other bottom-of-funnel content. When sharing this content with leads, sales must make a connection with their issues. Help them familiarize themselves with your content and how each section solves specific challenges.
Finally, curate industry news that affects your different buyer personas. Create a process that communicates this content to sales, so they can use it as a vessel to nurture their leads.
Three elements to successful sales enablement content
Successful sales enablement and lead nurturing boils down to creating the right content. When creating content, you should keep these three principles in mind.
1. Focus on the challenges
Back in the day, content was centered around pushing products and services. Benefits would be communicated with scarcity and social proof to persuade customers to buy.
These days, the best content solves problems. And this is true at every stage of the funnel. Therefore, you must enable your sales teams with content that adds value. Content that gives practical advice in order to solve those challenges.
As a result, your salespeople will build their reputations and establish themselves as true thought leaders. Selling is easier when your salespeople are positioned as a trusted expert.
2. Make it personalized
Get specific with your content. While account-based marketing has been proven to be effective, we don’t have time to create content for individual companies.
Instead, create scalable content by focusing on industry and persona challenges. Building customizable content templates that sales can amend, edit and add to can help them create truly personalized content.
3. Support all stages of the funnel
Don’t just focus on top-of-funnel content. Hold discovery meetings to work with sales and create the right content. Uncover the objections that are stopping leads from progressing through the funnel.
Having an accurate outline of the sales process will provide a roadmap for your sales enablement content. Identify gaps in your content by evaluating your existing content and seeing how you can improve it with your new knowledge.
Remember, sales enablement must be a collaborative effort. Without insight from sales, you risk creating content nobody needs.
Download this free report to find out how B2B marketers handle prospects and leads, and how aligned sales are with marketing when it comes to acting on the leads they're sent. We’ve also explored marketers’ knowledge of predictive marketing, and the potential benefits such tools can bring.