Erika Heald, a masterful content marketer, hosts a weekly #ContentChat on Twitter. I had a wonderful time when she invited me to be a guest.
She posed 7 excellent and commonly asked questions about sales enablement strategy and marketing planning, so I wrote a blog post to address them.
Q1: What is sales enablement?
Erika’s first question gets to the core of sales enablement and what it is. There are many definitions out there, but the simplest one is:
“It’s a process of helping sales so that they can engage with prospects at different stages and close deals promptly.”
In a way, the plain English definition of sales enablement is all about sales training and onboarding.
However, the definition has been expanded due to the rise of digital marketing strategy.
Here is my broader definition of sales enablement:
“Deliver a positive customer experience by equipping sales with knowledge, skills, processes, and tools through cross-functional collaboration to increase sales velocity, retention, and productivity.”
Ok, that’s a mouthful.
In plain English: Deliver a seamless customer experience by giving sales what they need to serve their accounts.
In the digital era, delivering a great customer experience is everyone’s job, from CEO and sales down to customer support and front-desk receptionist.
There are many ways to enable sales, including marketing supporting sales B2B.
Check out my blog posts on how B2B marketers can support sales: How to Better Support Sales With Marketing Content and How Marketing Can Support Sales in a Changing Environment.
Q2: Who in an organization should be involved in developing a sales enablement strategy?
Every company enables sales differently. Also, not every company has a so-called sales enablement group or sales enablement team.
Depending on how your organization is structured, many teams are involved in helping and supporting sales, such as sales ops, marketing, business units, product team, and even HR and finance.
Ownership of a sales enablement plan depends on the structure of your company, which means there’s no cookie-cutter picture of what this looks like from organization to organization.
Some companies have a sales enablement team, so they own the strategy end of things.
Sometimes, a big chunk of sales training, messaging, and content support will reside in marketing. Then, marketing should incorporate sales support as part of their plans.
In some cases, HR or business units/product teams own sales enablement (it happens). It depends on the companies.
Q3: What types of content are valuable for sales enablement throughout sales engagements with prospects and customers?
When it comes to sales enablement best practices, it depends on sales needs. For example, in B2B sales, sales folks tend to ask for content support.
They like case studies, solution briefs, and thought leadership content. In other words, something they can share with prospects or customers as a conversation opener or maintain the relationship.
Talk to your salespeople to understand what kinds of content they like to share.
Get their feedback directly from them, whether that means setting up an in-person meeting over coffee, finding a time to get together over Zoom, or sending them a questionnaire directly over email.
If they don’t know, share what you think they need and have them react to what you provide.
I’ve found that asking for their feedback by having something in front of them is the best way to get feedback.
If you have a sales enablement platform or sales content management system, you can check directly to see what content pieces are downloaded the most and how they use the content.
Here’s a recent, detailed list from PAT Research featuring some highly-rated sales enablement platforms.
You can also check out Custify’s list of top sales enablement tools here.
Q4: How can content marketing and sales teams collaborate to map their sales enablement content needs?
After interviewing sales, the content marketing team should do the initial mapping of content based on the sales stages.
Here is one example of mapping relevant content to sales stages:
Then, present it to sales and have them provide feedback. You’ll need to go back and forth on this several times with different sales reps.
You can also do this by products or services, by verticals/industries, or by ideal customer profile (ICP).
Check out this YouTube video if you’d like to know the differences between ICP and Buyer Persona.
Once finalized, share that with the sales group.
Over time, you should get feedback from them on how useful it is. Then, use their feedback to modify the mapping regularly.
Q5: How can you measure the effectiveness of your sales enablement program?
It depends on the scope of the sales enablement that you do. If you have a list of deliverables, I’d recommend that you have KPI (Key Performance Indicators) for critical deliverables.
If your job is more content-based and you have a sales content library, you can track downloads, views, comments, and feedback from your library.
Another way to measure the effectiveness of your sales support is to do annual surveys with your sales team.
They will let you know whether the content helps them or not. Trust me; salespeople are not shy about providing feedback about the support they receive from marketing.
One more note: Don’t wait for the end of the year to provide an update to your sales team. I’d recommend that you provide updates (highlights and lowlights) on a quarterly basis.
If you have done something for them, show them and tell them several times. Don’t be shy!
Q6: What tools have you used to help with your sales enablement efforts?
Again, it depends on how you support your sales team. One tool you should always use to know if you are supporting sales is your company’s CRM tool.
Get to know your CRM well and know how your sales track their success.
For the content marketing team, it’s important to have a sales-centric content library to see what content is most popular or most downloaded by the sales team.
For sales training and onboarding, again, it depends on if your training is online or offline; you use whatever tools are associated with training and onboarding.
For marketing, if you are working on demand gen or ABM, again, articulate your success metrics in the context of MQLs or revenue (pipeline opportunities) impact, and make sure that your back-end is connected so that you can monitor your results on a regular basis.
The tools you use will depend on what activities you do to enable your sales.
Q7: What tips can you share for keeping sales and marketing teams aligned? Are there systems or processes you recommend we follow?
Get to know
- How your salespeople sell
- What tools do they use
- What content do they use
- How they follow up with prospects
Understand them as much as you can.
When you support sales, you need to think like salespeople, not from the perspective of B2B marketers.
Remember how hard you work to understand your buyer personas when analyzing your target audience? That’s the same type of effort you need to get to know your sales team. No shortcut.
The easiest way to be part of the sales team is to attend their weekly or bi-weekly sales huddle call.
Showing up makes a huge difference, especially when trying to understand sales processes in-depth.
The next thing is to share your campaign, content, or demand gen with them, but you need to explain your efforts in a way sales can benefit. So, again, don’t show marketing metrics; show the metrics to which salespeople can relate.
For example: Showing the number of MQLs is good, but why don’t you also show the conversion rate from MQLs to SQLs?
Showing the latest content you create is good, but why don’t you show how sales can use the latest content and provide a helpful email template they can use?
Here is another example – don’t say: “we captured 1000 leads…”
It’s more like, “out of 1000 leads we captured, we did some qualifications, and we identified 10 leads who expressed interest in talking to sales…”
Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it pays off, trust me.
Q8: Where can content marketing teams learn more about sales enablement? What thought leaders do you admire, or where do you seek information?
Check out my Effective Sales Enablement book. (Here is the Amazon link.) If you get the book, focus on chapters 4-7.
Here are some additional sales enablement thought leaders I suggest you follow:
I hope my answers have provided you with some extra insight, but if you have more questions about sales enablement, feel free to reach out anytime!