At a high level, there are two core components of a sales enablement strategy: the materials and resources necessary to attract, nurture and convert leads and the training and readiness resources that reps need to accelerate deals.
To accomplish both, it’s useful to view sales enablement as an extension of your content strategy.
“All of the content you’re putting out in the marketplace from a thought leadership and knowledge sharing perspective should ideally be relevant to your sales team,” says New Breed’s Director of Services, Al Moore. “Your marketing team should be viewing content in terms of the whole customer journey.
“For example, you might have blog articles geared toward attracting visitors and prospects, sales enablement ‘pitch decks’ aimed at closing leads and whitepapers and proprietary insights that help establish your brand’s credibility,” Al continues. “You might also have training and readiness tools and resources that help sales teams be more effective in delivering your value proposition. The key is having solid content at every stage represented and aligned to your core go-to-market strategy so there are no gaps or silos at any stage in the process. To do that, it helps to view the process as a holistic content stream driven by marketing.”
Best Practices for Creating a Sales Enablement Strategy
Creating the necessary resources only works if they’re being leveraged effectively. Here are some best practices for implementing your sales enablement strategy:
1. Let marketing own the process
Organizations can struggle to identify who “owns” sales enablement — the marketing teams tasked with creating good leads for sales or the sales teams tasked with converting those leads into revenue. Ultimately, marketing is best equipped to drive the process, with continuous input and feedback from the sales audiences they serve.
“Let marketing do the work of creating that core set [of resources] — with input from sales obviously in a feedback loop — but when you have too many cooks in a kitchen and you have marketing owning just the look and feel and sales trying to input what they think is going to resonate for any opportunity, that creates both inefficiency and brand misalignment,” Al says. “It works a lot better when sales inputs into marketing what they want the materials to say holistically, marketing comes up with the overall collateral system, sales uses it, reacts to it, and we iterate from there.”
You want your value proposition and core differentiator to be present at every turn of the process, and those messages start with marketing. Additionally, prospects will internalize the quality and feel of your brand, so it must be present in every touchpoint.
2. Track collateral usage
Sales reps will always be requesting more materials: more case studies, more one-sheeters, more videos. But just because a rep desires an asset in the moment doesn’t mean creating that is the most effective way to invest your time.
“If you get too focused on the anecdotes of a handful of people and you pivot very quickly, that’s going to be highly problematic because it’s inherently unsustainable. It’s based on gut, not data,” Al says. “You need some type of system to measure and track what enablement collateral is actually being used and its influence on converting opportunities.”
What assets are being used in closed-won deals? Those are the types of resources you should be focusing on, not what’s being demanded by the loudest voice in the room.
At New Breed, we use HubSpot to manage and track our sales enablement resources, but a variety of solutions exist for this depending on your organization’s size and needs.
3. Appoint an empowered point of contact to champion the process
Since good sales enablement bridges marketing and sales teams, executive support is crucial. Your executives need to reinforce and drive adoption of both the process and the technology.
“You want your sales and marketing people to know that you value the work it takes to develop an aligned sales enablement strategy and collateral system. You also want them to understand and value the investment you’ve made into your technology stack and analytics,” Al says.
Because sales enablement strategies straddle two separate teams, it can be easy for these efforts to feel disconnected, but the last thing you want is for both teams to go off and work independently of each other.
“Often, individual contributors may be accustomed to doing things ‘their way’ or pick and choose materials they like without buying into the overall strategy. Executive reinforcement of the energy and resources committed to driving the full strategy helps create the buy-in you need to maximize your team’s overall potential,” says Al.
4. Make sure marketing and sales are aligned around the same sales strategy
Does your company use the challenger methodology? A consultative inbound methodology? Some other strategy? Whatever sales strategy your sales team uses needs to be woven into your marketing strategy in order to create a consistent experience for prospects.
“Sales and marketing need to be creating their content and their customer engagement strategy through an aligned philosophy,” Al says.
If you don’t do that, you’ll see a lot of friction arise around the marketing-to-sales handoff because of the disparate experiences prospects are switching between.
Sales needs to understand what the buyer’s journey looks like before prospects hop on calls with them and build on those past experiences. Likewise, marketing needs to understand how sales approaches pitching and selling to prospects so they can prepare leads for those conversations.
“If you’re not effectively enabling your sales team and using your marketing strategy and resources to do that, then you’re creating a disjointed path to purchase for your audience, and therefore they’re not going to be purchasing as much. You’re leaving revenue on the table,” Al says.
Sales can do their job more effectively when prospects have already been educated on their pain points and your offering’s value by marketing, and marketing efforts won’t result in anything if sales doesn’t bring the story home and close deals.
A lack of sales enablement strategy inhibits the effectiveness of both teams.
But, for your sales enablement strategy to have its desired impact, you need to make sure it’s holistic and cohesive.
“If you only view sales enablement as generating collateral to enable sales or if you only look at it as ‘I’m generating marketing and sales ops workflows to enable sales’ then you’re missing the point, which is that sales enablement is part and parcel of your overall content strategy and your ability to reach and guide prospects through your entire funnel,” Al says.
This post was originally published October 6, 2016.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.