There is a popular conception that a sales team is just a bunch of workers sitting in cubicles, making one cold call after another to try and find someone willing to buy what they’re offering. It’s a representation that’s popular in TV and movies, usually followed by a plucky hero refusing to read from his script and losing that sales job before moving on to bigger and better things.
Those who work in sales know just how far off base this characterization is, of course; any company trying to rely solely on this type of behavior would find itself failing against competitors with much stronger sales strategies. It pains us to even refer to cold-calling mills in the same paragraph as the phrase ‘sales strategy.’
Sales enablement is a huge deal in the modern age, and if your company doesn’t have a sales enablement strategy in place then you’re not much better off than those cubicled stereotypes. If your sales team doesn’t have access to all of the tools and assets that it needs to effectively market your products on calls and in other communications, your company’s entire sales strategy will suffer.
What Is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is the alignment of marketing assets, guidance and other relevant content that is necessary to optimize the effectiveness of your sales department. It can be seen as a synergy between your marketing department and sales, with the intent of providing sales reps with everything they need to succeed. The very name speaks to this, as the alignment of assets better enables the sales staff to do their jobs.
This alignment isn’t a one-time workflow adjustment, of course. Sales enablement is effective because it is designed as a workflow strategy, with both marketing efforts and proper training coming together to support the sales staff. This is why creating a workable strategy is so important, since the strategy dictates how this support will continue over time to the benefit of your company’s sales.
Aligning Sales and Marketing
You have to have your marketing team on board when you develop your sales enablement strategy. There are three primary components that you should consider when trying to understand how a sales enablement strategy works:
- Marketing workflows: Knowledge of marketing efforts and access to current marketing assets is important for sales staff, especially at the beginning of a new marketing push. If potential customers have previously heard of a product or service, it is likely a result of the current marketing; to stay on-brand, sales representatives need to know what that marketing contains and how it is targeted.
- Sales guidance: Guidance is important as it provides sales representatives with the knowledge to better make use of marketing assets. This guidance may come from the marketing department, but it can originate from other areas as well. Clear and concise communication is an important part of delivering guidance to ensure that there aren’t any misunderstandings or confusion among the sales team.
- Education and training: Proper training ensures that marketing assets are utilized properly and that all guidance from other departments is fully understood before being used in calls or other communications. Training efforts should be ongoing as new features or marketing angles are introduced for existing products.
The combination of marketing assets, guidance and training provides sales reps with a wealth of knowledge. It’s not just general product knowledge, either; this funneling of information informs the sales team about both the products being sold and how the company is marketing them.
This enables the representatives to paint a more complete picture of a product and its benefits while still aligning with current marketing efforts and promotions. More importantly, it grants them a better understanding of who it is that they’re seeking a sale from and what the most effective means of pursuing that sale is.
Developing an Effective Sales Enablement Strategy
There’s more to creating an effective sales enablement strategy than just combining current marketing efforts with a bit of training. To really create an effective strategy, consideration should be given to the target audience for the sales push and which features or assets they are most likely to be interested in.
Data from marketing should inform the sales department, giving your representatives insights into potential customers that they might otherwise not receive. It’s not enough for sales to know how to use the data it receives from marketing; an effective sales enablement strategy requires the sales team to really understand what the data means..
This requires analysis that highlights the parts of data that will inform your sales staff about not just selling the product but selling it specifically to the target audience. Allow marketing guidance to influence lead generation, since studies have shown that marketing-generated leads have a 67% greater chance of actually resulting in a completed sale. Take the time to see what the data is, how it’s relevant to the sales process and start developing your process from there.
Once you see how the data can inform your sales efforts and improve sales efficiency, your strategy involves creating supportive guidance and training techniques to serve as an ongoing boon to the sales team. Your enablement strategy can train, support and provide reference to sales representatives as they field calls, draft emails and use your marketing-derived leads to bring more sales home.
Strategy Evaluation and Revision
One important thing to remember about your sales enablement strategy is that no single strategy is a one-size-fits-all solution. You cannot simply create an effective sales enablement strategy and assume that it will remain effective indefinitely into the future. To keep your sales department performing at its peak potential you can’t be afraid to examine and adjust your strategies to stay on top of market trends.
Metrics and sales analysis plays a large part in this ongoing evaluation. Look at your sales figures and see whether they have any apparent momentum. Obviously, an upward momentum is ideal as it shows that your enablement strategy and marketing-derived leads are having a positive impact on sales figures.
A stationary or an unstable period with a lot of ups and downs demands more attention, and revisions to guidance or training efforts may be required to get your company’s sales on the right track again. If sales start to decline or develop a negative momentum, though, it’s time to take a good hard look at your enablement strategies because it is highly likely that something is no longer working.
In some situations, minor revisions to your strategy and your marketing workflows may correct the problem. In other instances, changes in your sector may require you to restart the alignment process and create completely new guidance and training materials to account for new competition, industry shifts or other major disruptors.
Always start with the smallest possible actions to correct any strategy issues that may erupt. If that smallest action is a major overhaul, don’t worry — the goal is to solve your strategy problem with as little effort as is necessary. It just so happens that sometimes the smallest effort is a pretty big one.
Developing and maintaining an effective sales enablement strategy is an ongoing process, but the resultant sales figures still make it worth the effort. Just make sure that your marketing and sales departments don’t become segregated or too caught up in their own tasks to work together for the overall benefit of the company.