Sales enablement is a hot topic for discussion in both sales and marketing departments these days. In fact, I ran a Google search recently on “what is sales enablement” that returned over 1,760,000 results; so a lot of people are writing and talking about it.
Just for kicks, I ran a search on “Pokemon Go” – and you guessed it: 33,900,000 results on that one. I also found a story about two guys who fell off a 75 foot cliff in San Diego while playing the game. Luckily for them, they survived with moderate injuries.
In much the same way, many business owners are in danger of “falling off the cliff” attempting to get sales enablement right for their companies. And the injuries can be a lot more serious if it isn’t done right: lead flow declines, diminishing revenues and cash flow constraints.
How Do You Get It Right?
Let’s start with what sales enablement is courtesy of a really good definition from Scott Santucci of Forrester:
Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.
This definition is loaded with great meaning, but I’d like to focus on the words “selling system” and how the lack of such a system is preventing companies from achieving sustainable gains from their sale teams’ efforts.
In simple terms, a selling system consists of three things:
- A specific, documented process that outlines how the sales team manages the interaction of the buyer’s journey, from beginning to end;
- Content that helps the buyer through each stage of the buying process; and
- Technology including, at a minimum, both a marketing automation and a CRM platform.
Let’s review each in detail.
Documented Sales Process
If you haven’t clearly defined and documented your sales process, this is the time to do it. But where do you start?
If you’re currently closing deals, you already have some kind of process in place to support guiding an unqualified lead to becoming a satisfied client. Select a recently closed sale that’s representative of the bulk of your transactions and work backwards from the close.
I’ll use an example outline from one of our transactions:
- Get signed goals contract from client
- Signed agreement submitted by new client via QuoteRoller, our chosen proposal platform
- Updated agreement based on final discussion/negotiation with prospective client loaded into QuoteRoller
- Submit proposed agreement to client via QuoteRoller
- Discovery call three (if additional data is needed beyond first two discovery calls)
- Discovery call two
- Discovery call one
- Client submits Inbound Marketing Assessment
- Run competitors report on prospect’s top three competitors
- Personalized follow up email triggered by lead score passing 60 points or from a specific form conversion
- Lead moves from Marketing Qualified Lead to Sales Qualified Lead classification
Each of our discovery calls leads us further into the identification and diagnoses of the problems and challenges that the prospect faces. At the end of the discovery process, we’ve gathered enough information to allow us to build a proposal that addresses the pain points and is also tailored to that prospect’s business objectives.
In this scenario, we have – if you count all of the interactions – 11 touch points from the beginning to the end of our process. While we have some sales that require fewer touches and some that require many more, this is indicative of a typical transaction. The timeline on our transactions can range from eight weeks on the short side to a year on the long side, with the average being about four months.
The four most important things to consider when developing your process are:
- Aligning it with how your prospects are buying today;
- Keeping it as streamlined as possible;
- Ensuring that every sales team member uses it as designed; and
- Having the mindset that you’ll always be refining it for improvement.
Once you’ve documented your sales process, it makes it so much easier to look at what the buyer’s information requirements are throughout their journey and it will help you tailor the content for each stage.
For example, our first discovery call focuses on the information we obtain from the Inbound Marketing Assessment (IMA). The IMA has 59 questions that, once answered, give us a good grasp on where the prospect is in terms of "marketing health."
The content we use to engage the prospect at this point is driven by the high priority pain points uncovered by the IMA. Instead of generic content addressing higher level problems, we can get very specific with content addressing those high priority problems.
Along the way, there will be stalls – the points at which the prospect may slow down, postpone or even disengage from the process. These stall points are where you need to have the right content to re-engage prospects and propel them through the succeeding stages of the buying process.
Technology is critical to the strategic execution of the marketing plan, the collection of prospect behaviors to provide sales intelligence and the performance reporting that provides feedback on the plan’s effectiveness.
For the marketing team, the creation, distribution and measurement of content is best managed by an automation tool.
For the sales team, support provided by a CRM tool allows them to manage the simultaneous pursuit of a variety of prospects while supplying critical business intelligence to help direct their sales activities in the most productive way.
In many of the assessments we do for prospective clients, we find deficiencies in the sales process. (Most of the time, it’s a lack of agreement on what the process is and/or lack of documentation – usually both.) The important point here is that the problems created by a lack of a documented sales process are magnified by the lack of technology required to support the process.
We recommend starting with formalizing the sales process through documentation and then finding a CRM platform that is simple enough to use so the sales team really takes advantage of it.