by Leslie Hancock
You've probably been hearing the term "sales enablement" a lot lately. It's the new hotness. Well, not so new -- it's been the up-and-coming hotness for a couple years now, and for good reason. A full 75 percent of organizations that have sales enablement functions in place report that it has a significant impact on their ability to achieve business goals like increasing sales performance and revenue. The degree of a sales enablement program's success, though, depends on the company's definition and level of commitment.
What Is Sales Enablement?
Definitions of sales enablement vary, ranging from the recruiting and training of sales teams to the processes and technologies that help generate leads and track sales performance. There's a growing consensus around marketing and sales alignment, though, as the primary driver of a successful sales enablement program. That’s how I look at it because the need for better alignment of marketing and sales has been starkly clear in almost every organization I’ve worked with or closely observed throughout my career, and those companies that have better alignment are easily more successful than those with poorer alignment.
Why Is Sales Enablement So Challenging?
Many companies have bought into content marketing and have ramped up impressive content operations over the past couple of years. At the same time, content-driven approaches like social selling, community building and thought leadership have greatly improved performance on the sales side. Everyone is producing so much lovely content, but they’re still doing it in silos.
There’s a historic disconnect between marketing and sales that’s baked into the process – marketing generates leads and hands them off to sales, returning their attention to generating more leads while sales nurtures leads into prospects and closes deals. However, the modern customer journey demands greater collaboration and alignment between the two functions than ever before.
How Can Marketers Create Content for Sales Enablement?
Right now, 90 percent of content that marketing departments produce is never used in selling situations, and sales reps’ chief complaint is that they can’t find content suitable to send to prospects. Moreover, up to 30 percent of sellers’ time is spent curating or creating content to suit their needs. As a content marketer, I hate knowing that. How many more deals could my clients be closing if their sales reps weren’t spending so much time and energy on content creation? I want to create content that doesn’t just build brand awareness and generate leads – I want to create content that empowers sales teams to close deals as well.
But it’s not as easy as simply being aware of the need for marketing and sales alignment and producing more sales-focused content. We have to truly collaborate with each other, and that can be difficult from a purely logistical point of view. When it comes down to it, sales doesn’t have time to communicate their content needs to marketing, and marketing doesn’t have the knowledge they need to produce effective sales content.
How Can Sales Teams Help Marketing Help Them?
From the marketing perspective, we don’t know what goes on in sales conversations – what questions prospects ask, what objections they present, what message or information tips the balance and closes the deal – unless sales reps tell us. And it’s typically really hard to get salespeople to slow down and tell us what they need. If they’re good at what they do (and we want them to be), their days are packed with sales calls, prospect meetings, and deals. When it comes to content, they’d often rather just do it themselves, thinking it’ll be easier and faster if they do. But it’s not.
Not only could it save a significant amount of sales reps’ time in the long run to collaborate with marketing for sales enablement, it would also reduce the risk of sales reps accidentally using old claims, inconsistent branding, poorly produced collateral that hasn’t been through legal review, copyediting or design, etc. It benefits everyone if marketing and sales work together.
How Can You Get Started with Sales Enablement?
So if your company is one of the majority that needs to improve alignment of sales and marketing, what do you do now? You need a sales enablement champion – preferably an executive empowered to manage the people, processes and technologies of both marketing and sales – who will communicate a vision, prioritize collaboration among the teams, and create a system of shared accountability for those involved at every stage of the sales funnel, from building brand awareness to closing deals. With an empowered champion and executive buy-in, you’ll have a much easier time building a sales enablement program capable of producing aligned marketing and sales content.
Hat tip to Bloomfire, one of my clients, which makes powerful software for sales enablement