On Sales Enablement

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As I listen to the sales enablement conversation, it sounds like sales enablement is a euphemism for training, skill development and knowledge sharing.

The conversation is heavily influenced by system vendors. These systems improve access to content that delivers selling knowledge and customer collateral.

Reminds me of the old expression, “when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

Clearly improving skill and knowledge are part of what drives sales productivity. But I’m hearing two critical elements that have been missing from the conversation starting to emerge.

Leads Are Part of Sales Enablement

As a sales professional, I think one of the most important elements that enable sales to be more productive is a steady supply of qualified opportunities. Good leads vs. access to content? Give me leads every day.

It is now clear that an automated lead management program is a “must have” for B2B selling organizations. Our colleagues at Marketo are talking about marketing and sales collaborating to drive the revenue engine.

“The new revenue engine consists of systematic, repeatable processes than span marketing and sales to drive consistent, predictable revenue. It recognizes that demand generation is the key source of new customer acquisition, and it knows the primary job of a sales rep is to sell and close business, not create new opportunities.”

By providing a program of formal lead generation and prospecting, supported by automated lead nurturing, marketing removes a large portion of the early stage prospecting and qualifying activities from direct field sales. These activities are time consuming and difficult to balance with working active opportunities. It takes a different personality and skill set to prospect and nurture effectively. For most organizations, this will also lower selling costs.

Support Sales Delivery

The second element of sales enablement that needs to be more fully developed I call the delivery challenge.

Forrester defines sales enablement in part as “a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation.”

IDC defines it as, “The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time and in the right place necessary to move a specific sales opportunity forward.” “Sales enablement at it’s core is maximizing the sales organization’s ability to communicate value and differentiation in clear, consistent and compelling ways.”

The sales job is fundamentally a communication challenge. Communication is a function of message, content and delivery. What’s missing are more in-depth distinctions for communication delivery.

Conversations are a primary sales delivery method. This evokes the image of the rep sitting across the table, or belly to belly with customers.

Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power told me he believes, on average, only about 17% of sales conversations take place live and in person. Other predominant delivery methods include:

  • Telephone
  • Email
  • Print
  • Video
  • Traditional mail
  • Web site pagesd
  • Webinars, web meetings and virtual events
  • Mobile devices
  • Social media
  • Third party delivery

Deliver

A common sales complaint is the challenge of capturing customer attention. Caller ID and email volume create significant barriers to reaching prospects. For years I’ve helped technology companies address the challenge of the “four legged sales call” because sales people cannot be subject experts about all that customers want to discuss. Often, their ability to conduct an effective conversation cannot be improved simply with better knowledge, training or even content.

Bringing customer stories and testimonials to prospects is another delivery challenge. Delivering these messages in the voice of the customer is considerably more impactful than delivering as a sales story or a PDF document.

Each delivery method requires different skills, techniques, and support. The content requirements for each method are considerably different. How messages and content will be delivered significantly impacts what and how content is created.

Sales delivery options have fundamentally changed over the last decade. Entirely new methods have been created. This is why I believe companies need new content strategies and creation methods.

Seeing sales enablement through the communication and delivery lens opens new questions, opportunities and requirements.