What is sales enablement and why should you care?
Sales enablement is the art and science of combining the processes, content, and technology to empower sales teams to sell efficiently at higher speeds.
Great! ANOTHER model. ANOTHER process. ANOTHER tool that Big Brother can use to spy on me, keep his thumb on me, bog me down in minutia, and keep me from selling and earning the money I deserve!"
If you think that then you found this post just in time.
- Rethink The Sales Conversation To Accelerate Sales Enablement, John Reid, ie. See why you don't need another sales model on this episode of The Sales Podcast.
- Process Before Login
Sales enablement is exactly what its name implies:
- Sales / Sell: verb (used with object), sold, selling.
- to transfer (goods) to or render (services) for another in exchange for money; dispose of to a purchaser for a price. (Dictionary.com)
- Enablement / Enable: verb (used with object), enabled, enabling.
- to make able; give power, means, competence, or ability to; authorize.
- to make possible or easy.
- to make ready; equip (Dictionary.com)
According to "Aligned to Achieve," 70% of a buyer's research is done before they talk to sales and 59% of buyers prefer not to talk to sales at all.
If your ideal buyer does end up speaking with someone on your sales team your messaging needs to be congruent as that handoff is made.
If your buyer hears a different message from sales than they heard from your marketing department it will create confusion in the mind of your buyer and we all know that a confused mind says no.
Even if they don't say "no" right away, sorting out that confusion takes time and time kills deals.
Wes, this is no big deal. Marketing can just tell sales what to say since all the wise people are in marketing and the sales teams are just a bunch of knuckle-draggers who only care about their next commission check."
It's that pervasive attitude across companies small and large that leads to the hostility and acrimony between sales and marketing departments.
Why Don't Sales and Marketing Teams Get Along?
Marketing works at the top of the funnel while sales works at the bottom of the funnel.
Marketing departments are comprised of people who think long term. They are building campaigns months, quarters, and even years ahead of time.
They tend to follow the rules because they are spending big dollars on big campaigns to make a big impact so they don't want anyone going rogue on them and blowing up a major ad spend or media buy.
Salespeople are opportunistic. They are coin-operated and they use rule books to set their beers on.
So while marketing automation makes it possible for the marketing department to stay in touch and nurture a web visitor along the ABCDE Buyer's Journey (Attract—Bond—Convert—Deliver—Endear), sales enablement makes it possible for the sales person to stay in touch and nurture a qualified lead along the middle part of the ABCDE Buyer's Journey by making it easy and possible for you to give the right information at the right time to the right prospect to stack the odds in your favor of transferring goods or rendering services in exchange for money, which is just as good as cash. (Channeling my inner Yogi Berra.)
Back in the day—2001 to be precise—I bought myself a Blackberry when I was working for a fiber optic testing company that was headquartered out of Utica, NY.
Being a small company—and leveraging my knowhow of how to Make Every Sale combined with a healthy dose of Southern Charm (and humility)—I sweet-talked the IT department into BCCing all
of my company email to my Blackberry email address so I could get check andreply to emails while on the road, which was 40-60% of the time.
As a result I was more responsive to not only my prospects and clients, but to my internal company contacts as well, which helped me make more sales and more money.
This is what sales enablement looked like in 2001.
Fast-forward to 2004 and I'm with a startup out of Austin, TX who deployed Salesforce.com right after I joined.
Having used other CRMs like Siebel, Onyx, Act!, and homegrown tools in the financial services and retail sectors, not to mention the personnel database I ran in the Air Force to handle our deployments to the Middle East in 1994 and 1995,
I was not only comfortable switching to Salesforce.com, I was looking forward to it.
Wes, you were happy to switch to a CRM as a W-2 sales person? What is wrong with you?
Yes, I was excited to move to Salesforce.com for a few reasons:
- I had nothing to hide from "big brother."
- I had my ducks in a row.
- I was (and am) a fan of THE RIGHT sales enablement technology.
- I knew if I mastered Salesforce while the other sales people complained about it, they'd be the own under the gun from big brother, which meant I'd be free to roam about my territory and sell while they filled out spreadsheets and did pipeline reviews.
Inbound Sales and Marketing
Little did I know that I was already applying inbound sales and inbound marketing to grow my sales as a quota-carrying, high-tech sales pro back then.
It would also be more than a decade before I heard the phrase "sales enablement," but great sales people do their own sales enablement as a matter of course.
We are always looking for ways to shorten sales cycles, cut out redundant, tedious, non-selling work, and hit the bar!
To make that happen at the top of the funnel or the begging of the pipeline, we need to get qualified leads to call or contact us because then you are negotiating from a position of strength.
Oh, you don't like my price? Well you know my price because it's published on my site but you still called me. So are you just trying to drive a hard bargain?"
Oh, ACME, Inc. has a better service? Then why did you call me if you knew that already?"
To make that happen you need to create marketing and sales that people love. THAT'S inbound marketing and inbound selling.
Sure, cold calling works and trade show booths work and sign twirlers on the street corner works...heck, EVERYTHING can work once, even shouting out of your office window and offering a deal to anyone within earshot.
But inbound marketing is how you, the business owner, can use the internet to your advantage.
When you provide helpful content and resources that attract your ideal prospects to you, you're doing inbound marketing, which leads to inbound selling, which leads to the need for sales enablement.
Sales and marketing align
Look, just because someone called you or filled out a Contact Us form doesn't mean they will buy from you.
Sure, the chances are much higher than if you cold called them, but it's still not a done deal.
However, when you do hear from a qualified lead here's what has happened behind the scenes according to Tracy Eiler and Andrea Austin in Aligned to Achieve: How to Unite Your Sales and Marketing Teams into a Single Force for Growth:
- 70% of a buyer’s research is done before they talk to sales
- 59% of buyers prefer not to talk to sales at all
In most companies—yours included—marketing and sales don’t get along.
Let me know if this sounds familiar. Your marketing team love rules, analytics, detailed reporting, they think long term, and want things to work.
Meanwhile your sales people are opportunistic, "coin-operated," think short term (because you're riding their butts in the weekly "sales meeting" that is really just a brow-beating session where the motto is "The beatings will continue until morale improves!), and your most aggressive, foot-in-the-door, get-it-done, don't-take-no-for-an-answer sales people don’t believe in rules, or at least they think the rules don't apply to them.
Sales and marketing is like oil and water. They weren't created built to work together...which is where sales enablement comes in to play.
Sales enablement is a big group hug for sales and marketing
According to HubSpot, sales enablement is the processes, content, and technology that empower sales teams to sell efficiently at a higher velocity. (I bolded that because sales people despise tedious, redundant work, and we all know that time kills deals, so let's git 'r done.)
Since the sales team wants to sell efficiently at a higher velocity they take ownership of sales enablement. In fact, over 92% of the time sales enablement functions live inside of sales departments according to a CSO Insights Sales Enablement Optimization Study from 2016.
But we know that the sales people are not fans of rules and analytics and reporting like the marketing team is.
Can you see the problem?
Marketing has the skillset for the job of building out a killer sales enablement program and they own the relationship with 70% of your prospects who are doing their own homework and research prior to engaging with your sales team.
So like it or not—admit it or not—marketing has a growing influence on your sales and is impacting them in ways you may not even realize.
So instead of calling your teams sales and marketing, you might want to consider calling them “revenue teams.” After all, more and more companies are bringing on CROs—Chief Revenue Officers—so why not create revenue teams to tie your inbound sales to your inbound marketing to your sales enablement to actually enable sales?
To reach and connect with today's empowered buyer, it's probably a good idea, even if I say so myself.
Three elements of a sales enablement strategy
Now that we all agree that sales and marketing need to get on the same page to create this third leg of your sales excellence program, let's take a closer look at what a good sales enablement strategy looks like.
It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to know that goals are important, but sales people usually have one goal: sell a bunch...and maybe a second goal: make a lot of money.
Which is why it's good to have your marketing team help the sales team—now the Revenue Team—create a single goal for the new, single team, and this goal needs to be revenue-focused.
Once you've come to an agreement on the revenue goal you can better analyze your processes, content, and technology to answer the question "does this process, content, and technology help us hit our team revenue goal?"
Target the buyer
Now that you have a revenue target, how will you achieve it?
Why Wes, we're going to work smarter, not harder!"
Well, using a power drill to poke a hole in your wall to hang a mirror is smarter than using a handheld screw driver...but what if you didn't listen to your wife and you hung the mirror on the wrong wall...or you missed the stud and have to drill again...or you didn't use a level to drill the holes for the two hooks you needed and now the mirror is tilting to one side?
That's a good point, Wes. That's why we're going to work harder!"
That's swell. So you'll have everyone come to office 30 minutes earlier, cut the lunch break down from one hour to 30 minutes, and have them stay 30 minutes later each day?
Maybe work half a day on Saturday?
How about coming in an hour earlier each day as well?
There are only so many hours in the day and your people shouldn't feel as though they have to give up their lives to have a job.
Wes, we're not like that. We're family here at ACME Tech Associates Ltd, Group Inc., so we're going to be more productive! That's how we're going to hit that big new revenue goal."
Great. So you'll give cordless drills and extra batteries so they can all drill holes faster?
At the end of the day, the entire purpose of merging inbound marketing with inbound selling to create an optimum sales enablement is to maximize the time your sales people spend with people more likely to buy and minimize the amount of time they spend with those who are not likely to buy.
Inbound Marketing = Content
Inbound Selling = Content + Engagement
Sales Enablement = Getting The Right Content To The Right Prospects Quickly and Easily So It Gets There At The Right Time
To make it so curious prospects find you and become qualified leads who voluntarily provide their correct contact information in exchange for more valuable content requires great content.
But great content varies along the buyer's journey.
Send the wrong information at the wrong time with incorrect calls-to-action or assumptions and the prospect is a gone pecan.
This happens with marketers working in a silo isolated from sales uses marketing language that is nails on a chalkboard with prospects.
Well Wes, where do we get great content for sales enablement? Sales people aren't content producers!"
For years I've been telling sales people that they are sitting on a gold mine. It's in their SENT FOLDER in their email client, i.e. Outlook, Gmail, etc.
Every question sales has ever answered is content, they just don’t call it that.
Every comparison they've created, every objection they've overcome, every tutorial or guide they've pieced together to help a client or prospect over a hurdle is content.
So if the systems-oriented, rule-following, analytics-tracking marketing team can join forces with the relevant/timely content-creating team, formerly known as the sales team, to create the new and improved revenue team to bring about this secret weapon known as sales enablement, the world will become your oyster.
Measuring marketing effectiveness on pipeline creation and routine contribution is great but hard to do. It’s easier to count the number of leads. But if you can do it with a revenue lens, a metric lens, with sales, they are the first to understand that marketing and sales can be aligned and that’s great.“ Bertrand Hazard, VP Marketing, TrustRadius
Sales enablement conclusion
Deploying a sales enablement model in your business is easy.
- Treat the sales team as though they are part of the marketing team and/or consider creating a new revenue team comprised of members of both.
- Detach and look at your current sales process with a critical eye to see what is working and where there are gaps.
- Perfect your sales process and ensure it is centered it around the Buyer’s Journey. For example it may look like
- MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead)
- Sales Accepted
- Sales Qualified
- Pipeline from Marketing
- Pipeline from Sales
- Trust but verify that leads are being properly managed and transferred between the various marketing and sales processes so no leads are lost
Create an SLA (Service Level Agreement) between marketing and sales (if you don't create a new revenue team) so everyone is clear on how they are being measured and what is expected of them
And that's what sales enablement is, what it looks like, how to create it, and how to grow with it.
If you'd like to discuss how my team and I can help you leverage sales enablement in your business contact me here.