Sales Enablement – It isn’t enough to have your marketing content go deep in a segment if leads get handed over to a sales force that can’t talk the talk. Marketers will need to figure out how best to train their field forces so that they have a deep understanding of the specific environment, pains, use cases and users in that segment. Many companies have people with this expertise (either in product management, product marketing, field engineering or professional services) but often there is no process to package up that information for it to be consumed not just by customers in marketing materials, but also by the sales force. Some things I’ve done before to try to accomplish this include:
- Deal analysis and discussion – this can be done as a document or a presentation to the field but the idea is to document in detail the steps of a specific deal from prospect to close including evaluation criteria, deal committee, the evaluation process and how negotiations took place. I’ve found this works best when it’s a sales rep or field engineer presenting directly to the other reps (rather than having marketing do the talking).
- Regulations/Issues/language training – marketing can create sales training materials that pertain to a particular industry regulation or business problem. This training can be delivered in online or over the phone (hint: if you create materials and merely email them out to your sales force they WILL be ignored. I’ve tracked the open rate on emails I’ve sent to my own sales teams, trust me it wasn’t pretty) as long as it’s done live. Don’t be afraid to repeat this training and make sure you determine how a new rep that comes on board will get trained. I also like to publish a glossary of industry-specific terms that folks in the field should know in order to talk credibly to prospects.
- Customer presentations and Q and A’s – Get a customer to attend your regular sales call and/or your sales meetings to talk about a specific set of problems and let everyone in the room ask a lot of questions. I once had a CIO come and speak to my sales team about why she chose a competing product to illustrate how some of our sales tactics were not hitting the mark.
- Whiteboard training materials – People define this in different ways but I would call this anything you can do to help sales do more visual storytelling around your products and solutions. Marketing can create a set of easy to understand diagrams and graphics that sales can use in a discussion with a prospect using a whiteboard, flip chart or on the back of a napkin.
Also on July 12, 2010, Sharon Little wrote a great blog post on Sales Enablement at her blog:
“[…] Sales Enablement appears to be a real thing. Ten years from now we’re all going to be able to say that we were pioneers. […] Joe Galvin of Sirius Decisions […] is a passionate thought leader in the area of sales enablement and arguably years ahead of the rest of us when it comes to seeing what’s possible. […]
- Evolving Requirements – The knowledge required to be a salesperson in today’s environment is constantly changing. Acquisitions, product enhancements, and competitive threats all contribute to a constantly changing environment. At some point, it is too hard to keep up, so many salespeople will stop trying and simply stick with what they already know. A real challenge when you’re acquiring new companies or introducing new products.
- Digestibility – Marketing becomes so intent on getting their message to the Field, that in order to capture mindshare, they create more content and repeat it in various forms. The Field is in “content overload” and they lose their ability to digest it all.
- Sophisticated Buyers – Thanks to the ready availability of information, buyers know a lot more than they used to when contacting sales for the first time. When they are ready to engage, they expect an informed, knowledgeable salesperson. Sales needs to be able to meet them where they are if an effective meeting is going to take place.
- Measuring Productivity is Key– More calls of higher quality is the goal. Drive towards delivering more active opportunities, increased conversions, and higher close rates. Revenue performance is relative, but tied to too many external variables.
What Does a Sales Executive Think About Sales Enablement?
If you’re lucky it’s just now hitting their radar. They want their teams “enabled”, but what does that mean? This is the challenge before you – to help the sales executives at your company to see sales enablement as mission critical. And you’re going to have to define it for them. What is it? How is it different? How do you get from where you are to where you want to be? And what about funding?
What is the Vision?
When all is said and done, what are you building? The goal is a robust, flexible, innovative enablement strategy that takes into account your company’s goals and objectives, growth strategy and culture. Equally important is a plan that is modern, scalable and integrated. Enablement encompasses training, communication, leadership, motivation, and development. Integration among these components is key to enablement.
The real goal is to enable sales to have customer conversations that are relevant and even revolutionary for the customer while ultimately being financially impactful to your business.
Translation, Packaging and Gate-Keeping
As a sales enablement professional, you play a very unique role. Essentially, you sit at the intersection point between Marketing and Sales. It may not feel like the safest place to be, but try to think of it as an adventure. The whole company wants to get to the sales team. For sales enablement to work, they have to go through you. It’s your job to represent their interests in a responsible, effective manner and package information in a way the field can use it, and deliver it to a customer.
Sales enablement utopia is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take awhile, probably longer than you would like; so pace yourself. And since this is unchartered territory, how do you know if you’re heading in the right direction?
- Establish a Leadership Platform – Your executive team is key to enablement success. People crave leadership and enablement cannot happen unless your enablement efforts are aligned to leadership objectives.
- Cleanup Communications – Everyone communicates, right? Exactly. And everyone in your company wants to communicate with your sales team. It all becomes white noise very quickly. Streamline and up-level your field communications. The focus needs to be on the audience. Remove vanity projects.
- Invest in Technology – Technology plays a significant role in enablement. Some combination of audio, video, HTML, Sharepoint, etc. will factor into your enablement strategy. It should be flexible and provide options to support the message and the audience. Invest in foundational technology early and make sure that it is flexible enough to meet your needs over time.
- Emphasize On Boarding – If there is one aspect of training that is critical, it’s getting new hires ramped up and productive quickly.
- Solidify a Sales Methodology – Which one doesn’t matter. Pick one, stick with it and reinforce it. Most of your reps have a favorite – pick that one. Don’t over invest, but be consistent and commit.
- Align with Kickoff – Kickoff should be a year long experience. Use Kickoff to set the stage for the year and reinforce the objectives throughout the year.
- Specialize by Audience – The Field is more than Sales, right? It includes technical teams, channel folks and more. Their needs are unique from Sales.
- Line Managers – Target them as your extended enablement team. Through them you reach the sales team. They want to help their teams and do the right thing. Help them, help you.
- Content Strategy – This is where less is more, governance and a “bill of materials” comes into play. It’s also the point where you need to move beyond the subject matter experts creating their own strategy for content to a uniform, consistent approach that is consumable for Sales.
- Mobile – Your salespeople live on their iPhones and Blackberries, some are even toting around iPads. Emphasize mobile access for all of your deliverables.
- Video – Video is becoming huge and it needs to be simpler than it has in the past. Get your leaders and experts camera-ready and figure out how to use a flipcam and edit on your laptop.
- Be Prescriptive – Bucket enablement into what they must know, extra credit and on demand. Be clear that’s what you’re doing. They will appreciate it.
- Differentiate Between Global and Local – What needs to happen at headquarters versus what is better executed in region? Define it and facilitate strong relationships with the regional teams. They are critical to your success.