Today, more than ever before, buyers are increasingly controlling the burying process. Individuals have changed the way they make buying decisions. For B2B businesses, 70% of the buying decision are made prior to contacting a company. Through consensus buying, employees communicate and come to decisions internally, without sales even aware that they’re a prospect. With this disconnect, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for sales to control the buying process. This is where sales enablement comes in and how it can become a strong tool for your sales force.
Sales enablement is a concept that’s been around for a long time, but it’s a fairly broad and high-level term. That has, therefore, led to some confusion and ambiguity about what exactly it involves. In the broadest of its senses, sales enablement is about how you support your sales team’s efforts through the sales process, but as it pertains to inbound marketing, there are a lot of facets and nuance that go into that.
Defining Sales Enablement
Sales enablement involves a systematic approach to the alignment of sales and marketing in order to implement processes and utilize technology and various other tools to increase overall performance and productivity—always with the goal of increasing sales conversions and revenue.
Now, as stated, that’s very broad and high level. It’s not surprising there’s some confusion about what this term means and, more importantly, how to successfully implement it in your company.
With that in mind, the following is an overview not only of what this term means, but why it’s come about, why it’s important, and how exactly to harness its power to benefit your company.
How Has Buying Changed (and Affected Sales Enablement)?
It’s not news that the buying process is drastically different in the digital age. With the mainstreaming of the Internet and mobile search ability, potential customers are able to do the bulk of their preliminary product and services research before even contacting companies.
This means the buying landscape is now a customer-centric world. Rather than relying on salespeople for preliminary product information, customers can jump online and find that themselves. The zero moment of truth (the moment when a potential customer becomes interested enough in a product to initiate the research phase online) is largely done away from traditional sales teams. It’s done in people’s homes and (increasingly) on their cell phones.
While salespeople used to direct and control much of the buyer’s journey, that control and power are now more in the hands of the customers. Don’t think the shift is that dramatic yet? It’s projected that customers go through nearly 70 percent of the buying process before ever making initial contact with a company’s representative.
Because the process has changed, many companies are changing right along with it. This is seen most notably in the increasing importance of an alignment between your marketing and sales teams. Companies are really starting to recognize the need for more discipline, cooperation, and cross-functional behavior between marketing and sales.
This is certainly not to say sales teams were mistaken or shortsighted in their previous approaches. Previous tactics were highly appropriate and effective for that particular buying landscape. The very geography of sales has changed, though, and sales enablement is simply a roadmap to help navigate and augment success in this new terrain.
Strategy versus Shift
One of the most important ideas to grasp with sales enablement is that it’s not a one-off experiment or some passing corporate strategy. It’s a reaction and shift to a real-world change in how people buy. It’s a full-time commitment to adapting the way you support sales—and think about selling—not just in one specific leg of the buyer’s journey, but throughout.
It is essential to understand, though, that this shift is not necessary because sales was doing the job “wrong.” Enablement is just a way to adapt established selling methods to a market that’s increasingly in the buyer’s control.
Why Is Sales Enablement Important?
When used effectively, this process provides the strategy, necessary communication, and processes to meet your buyers’ needs quickly and effectively. When that happens, it increases sales, results, productivity, and the bottom line.
When implemented effectively, this processes can yield better:
- Alignment of marketing and sales.
- Understanding of the buyer’s journey in today’s market.
- Data and analytics to inform how to go about proceeding with a potential customer.
It also teaches every member of the team how to effectively use techniques, processes, software, and technology to aid sales in that ultimate goal of converting a potential customer into a customer.
Careful attention to analytical data (gathered through the enablement process) can even identify new revenue models or illuminate previously untapped sales channels.
Who Is Involved in Sales Enablement?
Many people think this is an approach for the entirety of the sales team, but that’s actually shortchanging the effectiveness of the process. This idea is for everyone in the company. That’s marketing teams, sales teams, managers—everyone. Enablement of sales is less about a specific formula for success and more about a holistic shift in mentality, and everyone in a company needs to be aware of and on board with this shift for it to work as well as it can.
What Does Sales Enablement Entail?
It’s already been established that sales enablement is a shift in corporate mentality, and it’s going to mean something different for every company in terms of application. However, there are some core, overarching areas that contribute to enablement.
1. Aligning Sales and Marketing
The more strategic cooperation and integration that occurs between marketing and sales, the better a company is positioned to respond to the way people buy today.
A service-level agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales is a great way to explicitly define terms and be clear about expectations, roles, and shared goals.
2. Creating Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is a representation of a potential customer. Successful enablement involves:
- Being aware of personas and their power to help you sell.
- Defining these personas for your industry through careful research (collaboratively between marketing and sales).
- Adapting any established personas to reflect today’s buying landscape.
3. Creating Integrated Quality Content (for Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey)
Salespeople often struggle with having to look for relevant content as well as creating content to share with their potential buyers. In many cases, they waste a lot of time searching through sales content. By producing quality content that is easily accessible for salespeople, you give them their time back to focus on closing sales. This is a major win for a sales enablement program.
The content your company produces needs to be:
- Targeted specifically to particular buyer personas.
- Created collaboratively between marketing and sales. (Marketing should provide the structured process to get targeted content to the sales force, but it’s important for sales to be involved in the creation of customer-facing material.)
- Of utmost quality. It must be engaging, informative, and creative enough to stand out from competitors and grab potential customers’ attention.
- Created for every stage of the buyer’s journey. Content should be available to sales for every persona at every stage of the buying process.
4. Integrating Technology into the Sales Process
Enablement is very much about utilizing the technology at your disposal to enhance the sales process. One of the most powerful technologies is your CRM (customer relationship management) tool and its associated analytics. This lets you track a potential customer’s “footprint.” You can see:
- What pages were viewed.
- What content was downloaded and/or shared.
- How a customer initially entered the site.
Other tools include:
- Marketing automation tools.
- Sales enablement add-ons, such as HubSpot’s Sidekick, PandaDoc, SalesLoft, and many other tools.
You can also harness social media to learn more about your leads. Platforms such as LinkedIn are convenient ways to more fully research your individual leads and their companies. You can even connect and promote your content via social media.
5. Providing Coaching and Training
A successful enablement plan will involve trainings about the inbound process and how to effectively manage and nurture online leads. (This includes crucial aspects such as the appropriate time to contact leads and how to determine that using tools that illuminate where leads are in the buyer’s journey.)
These trainings provide the resources that allow salespeople to educate potential customers and establish that crucial credibility and trust in the brand.
Successful sales teams have always understood that being systematic, structured, and strategic is vital to reaching goals. Successful sales teams have also recognized that adaptation is critical to continued success over time. That is, strategies that worked in one context don’t necessarily translate to every context. The processes involved in sales enablement today (alignment of marketing and sales, creation of buyer personas, use of CRM and other analytical tools, and so on) are merely strategic enhancements and reactions to today’s customer-centric, customer-powered buying landscape. They still foster and promote that ultimate goal of closing a sale and earning revenue.
For more information about sales enablement or how to implement (or enhance) it in your business, please feel free to contact a representative of Brand Fuzion today!