“Every year we make significant investments in TV spots, sales leads, marketing materials, new technology… yet we can’t seem to get any marked improvement in sales results,” says every Sales & Marketing Executive at the end of each year. You are not alone.
Companies strive for top-line growth, but can’t figure out how to align their sales and marketing organizations to invest enough in those closest to our customers: Sales, the “frontline face” of your brand to your customers. Most sales and marketing teams try to equip the sales force with tools and assets they need to be successful, but only as a fractional part of their overall marketing budgets.
So they default to throwing traditional methods and individual tactics – training, job tools, collateral – over the proverbial fence and pray that the frontlines will understand how to use them (or actually use them at all) and integrate into their day to day. Unfortunately, most methods don’t meet the demands of today’s sales force and our discerning B2B and B2C customers.
Why do companies typically spend the least amount of time worrying about how their often-brilliant strategies will translate on the frontlines, let alone how to coach to, measure and continually improve results on the job? Why do best-laid plans often overlook connecting in the “human element” in bringing strategy to market?
Sales Enablement can be Tricky to Define.
While nearly every organization today has some sort of sales enablement function, only some are formalized as such, many report into different departments, and almost all are different. This has left us without a common, universally accepted definition of what sales enablement truly means.
“A systematic & integrated approach to helping frontline teams prepare for customer interactions, engage effectively with their audiences and advance sales opportunities to close.”
(or as we like to call it, packing parachutes)
The key to all of this? Powerful content and communications. The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time and in the right place.
Why is it so Hard?
- Companies want top-line growth. But they don’t typically invest enough in those closest to the ground to truly affect it. (hint: it’s the frontlines)
- Sales is the frontline face of your brand. Yet most companies look at equipping the sales force with the tools and assets they need to be successful as a fractional part of their overall marketing budgets.
- Marketing is terrified of Sales. So they spend months building brilliant ideas in a conference room without talking to those with their ears closest to the ground. Then they spray and pray.
- “Spray and Pray” is not a sales strategy. But companies still default to throwing training, job tools and collateral across the proverbial fence and hoping the frontlines can integrate them into their day to day.
- Sales doesn’t use your stuff. Not because it’s not good or helpful, even. But because they don’t know how to use it in THEIR world, using their sales process, as part of their day to day. So they “roll their own,” in their basement, using a dot-matrix printer 5 minutes before they leave for the appointment. (don’t tell compliance)
So nothing changes. Marketing blames sales for not implementing strategy. Sales blames marketing for not getting enough leads. Operations blames anyone who’s left. No results, no changes. Year over year over year.
What can you do? Align the stars between strategy, execution & results.
- Align marketing & sales goals and messages. Keeping the line of communication between sales and marketing open and healthy is a key component of sales enablement. Not only does it help reps become better informed on the company’s product, customers and overall brand messages, but it also helps ensure that the content generated by marketing is relevant to reps and aligned with their sales conversations.
- Get the right information to the right sellers at the right time and place. Powerful, disruptive content and communications are key. The foundation.
- Maximize all touch points and channels. Soften the ground with savvy buyers. Get insights out there that don’t tie directly to your trying to sell something.
- Don’t overlook the human element. Frontline face to your brand is THE most critical customer touchpoint. So please stop throwing things over the fence to them. They hate that.
- Get out on the job. NOW. Newsflash: Salespeople don’t know everything (even if they say they do). Get out and train on-the-job, show them how it fits into their worlds (not yours). Jump in the car to do ride-alongs, Side-jack into calls, coach reps, coach their coaches and managers. Encourage. Stay the course. Help them succeed. At the least, you’ll be more relevant as you evolve your strategy.
- Track, measure, adjust. Rinse and repeat. Don’t let shit get stale. Weave into the fabric of your organization. Commit to it as a LT culture change and plan of attack. Kill off “flavor of the month” projects that don’t fit into your overarching game plan (see item #1 above)
Need Some Quick Wins?
Try these sales enablers as a start to keep your brand top of mind and your sales people as thought leaders in the marketplace.
- Content: The more assets reps have at their disposal, the more prepared they’ll be to effectively engage with prospects and customers. Videos can be a powerful tool for nurturing opportunities as well as on-demand communications, white papers and case studies. Similarly, approved and compliant PowerPoint presentations or product demonstrations are especially critical for live and in-person conversations.
- Messaging: You don’t want your sales reps to sound like robots, but there is nothing worse than a sales team having different messages about your value proposition, products and differentiators. Create sales messaging outlines that hit the “high points” that you want consistently told in the marketplace.
- Competitive Information: Sales reps shouldn’t have to go in on their heels when a competitor is brought into the conversation. Equip them with what their competitors are doing, how they differentiate themselves and their offerings. Don’t forget to make it simple and easy to update!
- Technology: If you have the foundation right -content, messages, competitive information – then using technology to help tell the story becomes a way to differentiate your sales reps with the slog of other sales reps your customers are talking to and seeing every day. But don’t let it be the “answer.” It has to be well integrated, rolled out correctly and supported continuously to get the most out of your investment.
- Training: Whether you are onboarding new hires or providing resources for existing reps to access on the go, you need to create content that’s engaging and promotes learner retention. For example, since people are generally better at retaining information they can both see and hear, our customers have found on-demand video to be a valuable training asset when used along with other in-person traditional learning formats.