A number of us on the Magnetude team have been involved in sales enablement since the term was just starting to get popularized in the B2B tech sector around 2006. To level set, we often get asked by clients to define sales enablement in the first place, as to many, it’s still a nascent term. We like Brainshark’s straightforward definition: “A systematic approach to increasing sales productivity, by supporting reps with the content, training and analytics they need to have more successful sales conversations.”
In the enterprise space, most successful companies have embraced sales enablement as a critical priority for a number of years now. And in fact, a study by Forbes & Brainshark notes that 72% of companies that surpassed revenue targets by 25%+ “have a defined sales enablement function.”
But smaller B2B firms can’t always afford all the bells and whistles of a comprehensive sales enablement function. And truth be told, they don’t always need it. But by understanding the discipline of sales enablement and the best practices that do apply well to smaller firms, it’s possible to reap some of the same benefits.
1. Content: What content do sales reps need to move their prospects through the buying cycle? What content will prospective customers seek out to help inform their purchase decision?
The content can take many forms, from case studies to whitepapers to videos and more. The key is to be effective in understanding what content you have (by audience, decision-making stage, etc.), what gaps you have in your existing content inventory, and how to prioritize and execute to fill those gaps. By now, we all know that 70%+ of the buyer’s journey happens before a buyer even talks to Sales, so the focus needs to shift to looking beyond the categorization of “Sales Tools” and to the concept of “Buyer Journey” content planning and content development.
2. Analytics & Sales Technology: What visibility does Sales have and need into what their prospects are doing? Which pages on site are prospects visiting? Who’s downloading which content? Who’s responding to email campaigns?
Having the right marketing and sales technologies in place is often the starting point to ensure you have a single view of the buyer and closed loop reporting. Our recent blog post covered some of our favorite sales technology investments. Once basic reporting is in place, the real value comes when determining what to do with it. For example:
3. Training: What knowledge and education does my sales team need to more effectively engage with and sell to our target market—a stronger understanding of our solution? A deeper view of the customer and their pain points? Do they need to be better equipped to handle objections or understand competitive positioning?
While sales training is an extremely important function, it is often an area that gets neglected in smaller firms due to lack of resources. In reality, firms with small sales teams usually don’t need to invest much to train their reps. Perhaps all that’s needed is a solid sales presentation, good documentation on objection handling, and an arsenal of client success stories to infuse into sales discussion.
But firms planning for a faster growth trajectory who expect to build up their sales team can create a lot of efficiencies and faster ramp times (translating into a faster ROI on new hires) by investing in a basic sales onboarding and ramp toolkit.
Additionally, for any firms who rely on channel partners to drive sales, training and enabling those partners is critical—and also an often neglected area. Our recent post on B2B channel marketing & sales covers this issue and provides recommendations for fueling channel programs.
A bit to the left of true sales enablement…
While these don’t fall directly into the sales enablement camp, brand awareness and demand generation are certainly functions to keep in mind in support of reaching Sales goals.
4. Demand Generation: For many sales people, lead generation is what they think of when they think of marketing. Solid demand gen programs will help drive awareness, interest, and engagement with the types of prospects that Sales need to engage. These programs should be aligned with an organization’s growth strategy, with sales targets, and with needs and preferences of the target buyer.
Demand generation spans a range of channels including email marketing, website conversion optimization, digital advertising, and events—to name a few.
5. Brand Presence: Last but certainly not least, a company’s brand presence is critical to enabling sales. Branding can unfortunately get downplayed as marketing ‘fluff’ in some environments, or a luxury investment not suited for smaller firms. But having a strong brand presence is what gives Sales the credibility in the market to get their cold calls answered and their companies into the choice set in the first place.
Investing in branding does not necessarily mean writing a large check to a creative agency for a new logo (though sometimes firms surely do benefit from that), but rather, there are numerous ways a firm can help build up its brand presence bit by bit, over time. Examples include having a polished look & feel (website, collateral), an active and thoughtful social media presence, engagement in relevant local events and associations, or with the right influencers—and more.
While the areas outlined above are not exhaustive, they provide a robust starting point for firms looking to make improvements to how the organization can support sales. Magnetude’s Sales Enablement Workshop can also help CEOs, Sales leaders and heads of marketing quickly rally around a plan to drive growth through a focus on the right activities. Contact us to learn more or get the conversation started.