Let’s talk about improving your business-to-business sales enablement. Various and often imprecise definitions of the phrase “sales enablement” exist, so I’ll offer this succinct version from Salesforce as our working definition: “sales enablement is a collection of tasks and tools that are intended to improve the execution of key sales activities—activities like making sales calls, pursuing opportunities, managing major accounts, and targeting top prospects.” Those tasks and tools exist at every step of the sales process, so you have ample opportunities to improve your sales enablement.
Sales Enablement in an Inbound Marketing World
The rise of inbound marketing has shifted the context in which sales enablement happens. Patrick Biddiscombe at New Breed Marketing explains, “Today, it’s entirely possible that your buyer has done comparisons, read reviews and completed their journey to a point of brand preference, all by the time they reach a sales rep. That means you don’t need to provide as many traditional sales enablement assets as past strategies required”. It also means that your sales team may find themselves playing roles once thought of as counterproductive to gaining and keeping customers. One of these practices Biddiscombe offers is the tenet of “Always Be Helping,” or ABH. A true focus on ABH may mean that your customer’s needs necessitate a step back from their place in their buyer’s journey, which may also mean a step further away from a sale. Biddiscombe offers an apt sports analogy to further his point:
“So think of the buyer’s journey as a football field. Each 10-yard line is a lifecycle stage, and marketing (and the content provided by marketing) carries your prospect all the way past the 60-yard line. Sales, then, must move the buyer further, but they need to first run a check: does the buyer belong all the way at the 60-yard line? Does that person have the information they need to move forward? If the answer is no, they might need to be pushed back a bit before accelerating to the end zone.”
Sales enablement means meeting your customers where they are and employing the ABH approach. If you do that, you can trust that your newly informed customers will meet with your sales team’s expertise. Once they come to trust their service, they will return to you again and again.
Managing Content Access and Usability for Sales Enablement
In order to help customers along their buyer’s journey, you’ll also need to consider efficiency. Managing sales reps’ access to content is a major hurdle to improving sales enablement. How can a sales rep help a customer along if they’re too busy seeking out the right content?
Consider the time demands on your sales team when attempting to locate and appropriately employ content to facilitate conversions. Then, weigh the opportunity costs to determine if they could benefit from a technology that provides quicker access to content. The folks at Knowledge Tree note that “sales people spend up to 30% of their day building or finding content. If the content that would advance a deal were pushed to a rep where they work, they’d be more likely to use it. That’s sales enablement tooling that makes reps more efficient and effective.”
In other words, usability and access matter. Jeff Day at Marketo offers another look at this issue, and urges better content organization: “The fact is, 90% of content goes unused by sales, according to the American Marketing Association. This is largely because sales simply can’t find it. Is your sales enablement system flexible? Can your content be organized in a meaningful way for your sales team in one centralized library? Flexible content organization and content recommendations based on performance, informed by your marketing automation platform, help keep conversations on point and accelerate conversions.”
Assessing and Refining Sales Enablement
So you’ve made a commitment to the tenet of ABH, you’ve improved your reps’ access to high-quality content… now what? It’s time to take a step back and measure your effectiveness. Instead of looking to traditional data once relied upon–number of calls made, number of exposures to content–Knowledge Tree suggests you move “to a more nuanced approach.” They offer the following suggestions for refining data points and honing in on pertinent metrics:
How many calls connected with decision makers at target accounts?
How much of the sales training was retained?
Which content is most effective at pushing deals forward?
Upsell and retention rates
A very prolific Brooklyn-based printer has a great list of best practices and examples of marketing tools and techniques appropriate along the buyer’s journey here.
Once you’ve gained a clearer picture of your sales enablement efforts, provide your team with valuable feedback. ActOn.com’s whitepaper on sales enablement suggests that “Many sales enablement approaches go wrong because they focus on measuring salesperson effort, rather than buyer impact. Feedback which helps reps understand the impact their actions have on the status of a customer, and guidance on how best to invest their efforts to maximize that impact, will enjoy the greatest adoption”. This focus on effectiveness instead of effort inherently values your team’s effort. At the same time, feedback becomes an opportunity for growth.