Sales and marketing have always been one team, but it seems like Inbound makes it a bit easier for everyone to understand the connection. Still, there are places we all get hung up occasionally.
Effectively enabling your sales team by providing content is one of those places.
How do you deliver qualified leads with the content you create? How do you, as a marketer, pass content to sales that will help your reps move their prospects through the funnel? From relevance to usability, there's a lot to consider. But given the right assets and an established process, your sales reps will have what they need to arm their champions, and help the right information reach the decision maker.
Sales Enablement Best Practices: The Beginnings
When sales enablement originated as a concept, it was much more internally focused. There's a long story here, and it involves the emergence of varied and highly accessible technology and the resulting shift in power for the buyer, but we don't need to go into that right now. What you should know is that today, the sales process needs to be mapped to the buyer's journey. It wasn't always that way.
Today, it's entirely possible that your buyer has done comparisons, read reviews and completed their journey to a point of brand preference, all by the time they reach a sales rep. That means you don't need to provide as many traditional sales enablement assets as past strategies required.
Rather than giving your sales reps a book of one sheets and script cards about the product alone, you're instead shifting your thinking, considering how to put the right content (mapped to the journey) in your rep's hands so the rep can help your prospect continue that content journey.
That's especially true of Inbound leads. Inbound sales enablement isn't wildly different from outbound sales enablement; it's just nuanced. Though you certainly can use Inbound tactics for outbound marketing, using outbound sales enablement processes for Inbound Marketing isn't advisable. Knowing that, it's time to consider which best practices have emerged alongside, or as a result of, Inbound Marketing.
Always Be Helping
The ABH model of sales means that sometimes (oftentimes), your sales representatives will need to meet prospects where they are in their journey, and even move them back a bit. Aside from being helpful, this is just good practice: according to MarketingSherpa, 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, but only 27% of those leads will be qualified.
So think of the buyer's journey as a football field. Each 10-yard line is a lifecycle stage, and marketing (and the content provided by marketing) carries your prospect all the way past the 60-yard line. Sales, then, must move the buyer further, but they need to first run a check: does the buyer belong all the way at the 60-yard line? Does that person have the information they need to move forward? If the answer is no, they might need to be pushed back a bit before accelerating to the end zone.
And your prospect has gotten as far as they have because of content. So why would you not use that same method or procedure for sales? If content stops with (at least) 40 yards left, it can be jarring, ending the journey before the big acceleration begins.
As a marketer, you'll need to think about what content, aligned with the journey, can accelerate the buyer through those last 40 yards. And that brings us to the first best practice of sales enablement:
Provide Content Relevant to Different Stages of the Funnel
Your assets shouldn't just be relevant to your buyer at those different stages, but also to your team. What can they use to accelerate?
So often, a sales rep hears an objection that is completely manageable to address — if only they had the right asset. It's important to anticipate objections, even tracking common ones, to create better content that will respond to challenges so your sales reps always have it on hand.
Use Data to Understand What's Working
Let's say that your sales team has a whole series of email templates that includes two for every funnel stage. You could run a report to find out exactly who on the sales team sent which template and when, and find out if one template is significantly outperforming the others in click through rate and/or conversions. Using data to discover your successes allows you to create better assets for the future, and refine your current ones to near perfection.
Read Digital Body Language
You can also leverage another type of data: the digital body language of your prospects. Your sales reps will want to consider whether they gave their prospect a choice of what content to consume, how the prospect responded to that choice, and how to adjust accordingly.
Leverage Your Website
Your website can be a powerful sales tool. Leverage it to introduce your prospects to intriguing content based on their funnel stage, even as it changes, not as a brochure. Importantly, you can also use your site as an asset or repository of assets for your salespeople. To the last point:
Let Your Sales Team be Gatekeepers
Sales enablement is really champion enablement. Your salesperson should provide everything a prospect needs to help their higher ups make a decision. As a marketer, you'll need to provide everything your salespeople need to do that. But that means sales should act as the gatekeeper.
Strategic choices about where online content is located mean sales can still introduce prospects to those — and this is important — live assets. Imagine a sales rep was on an amazing call and their champion was ready to make the pitch, but really needed an up-to-date competitor comparison first. If your salesperson is the gatekeeper, they'd know that an online battle card would be the best bet, and direct their champion accordingly.
Scalable, Usable, Measurable
A sales enablement asset is only as good as your sales reps' ability to use it when they need to. Any asset you create should be scalable and usable. And of course, you need to be able to measure reactions to it, too.
Choose an Owner
It can be hard to find the right way to put these best practices into place and maintain them. A safe bet is choosing a sales enablement owner. Someone with experience in product marketing who thoroughly understands the buyer's journey could provide the perfect balance to drive your sales enablement program forward.
Added Tips and Tricks
These best practices provide some guidelines for sales enablement success, but we want to hear your best tips, too. What does your organization do to determine the best assets to utilize? How do your sales reps know what tool their champion needs?
Patrick Biddiscombe is the CEO of New Breed. He also spearheads our Revenue department and his background and skills in sales and inbound strategy has contributed immensely to the success of New Breed and our customers' growth.