In tough economic times, some companies weather the storm others capitalize on the economic downturn to realign, streamline, and prepare for the rebound. Part of a successful transformation should be crafting a winning sales enablement strategy, which will position sellers to take the lead and out-sell their competition.
A winning sales enablement framework will support sellers in their ever changing and complex selling environment. It is comprised of tools, processes, people, and content that, when managed in unison, will deliver value added information when they need it. Benefits to the organization include:
•Decreasing seller preparation time.
•Improving marketing and seller productivity.
•Leveraging knowledge experts and sales leaders to help all sellers become better informed.
•Providing training, mentoring, coaching and contacts every step of the way.
What is a Winning Sales Enablement Strategy?
Sales enablement comprises a set of cross-functional activities specifically targeted at preparing members of a sales team for a successful customer engagement. It establishes the tools and formal processes needed to increase sales team performance, and aligns the people and content to ensure the right messages are being delivered at the right time. Think of this as the same concept as "just-in-time" delivery, but instead of delivering goods, it delivers the right message into the hands of sales at the right time. It is similar in concept to sales readiness sales effectiveness, but tends to focus more on improving the synergies with marketing and pre-sales content.
Still not sure what this means to your organization? Look at it this way: It's your corporate messages that will differentiate you from your competitors and tell customers why they should purchase your product or service over someone else's. If applied correctly, it will help your sellers articulate your 30,000 foot corporate messages at eye level, and ensure they are correctly conveyed to a customer from the first handshake through the closing of the deal.
But it's not easy. Change from multiple facets within an organization is required. It requires agreement to align the tools, messages, processes, and methodologies across product, marketing, sales engineers, and sales business groups. It takes a whole new thought process and commitment to move the organization from document management to content management. And it takes the desire to have everyone within the organization help sales make a sale.
The Four-Legged Chair Analogy
Most organizations start out by implementing a new technology portal (the easiest tactic) and calling it a day. Afterward, they are surprised when the tool isn't adopted and seller frustrations are not alleviated. But the old adage of "garbage in, garbage out" applies perfectly here. Just introducing a new portal won't improve the quality of a poorly written value proposition or update an outdated presentation. And just filtering the massive amount of information through a new portal won't make templates consistent or add a missing brief. Instilling content discipline within the marketing organization, repositioning long established mindsets of content delivery, and timing are paramount to any success. In fact, without this, the tool won't be used and time and money will be wasted.
Another way to think about this is to use a chair as an analogy—The main purpose of a chair is to be a seat. It's most stable and provides the most value with four legs; while it can work with three legs it begins to get a little wobbly. If you try to use it as a seat with anything less than three legs, it's not very effective and becomes too much of a balancing act. Many organizations have one or two legs that work adequately, but not many can claim they have four stable legs.
A comprehensive implementation of the four legs will alleviate some common pitfalls most enterprises encounter:
•Corporate messages go unread and unused.
•People never really adopt the new changes and continue to bypass them.
•Content is not presented to sales in a way that they prefer to learn—they need it now, presented for a specific purpose. They won't attend something they get today intended for next week, next month, or next year.
•Tools don't match collateral delivery or the sales cycle.
•Tools that should build momentum and simplify the buying cycle too often impede it.
The Four Legs of Sales Enablement
All four legs need to be present to move an organization to the next level successfully.
People. Content contributors and sellers will need to change the way they think about content and the way it's delivered. Marketing teams need to understand sales strategies that will drive revenue, identify the critical buying conversations, connect the insights and expertise of knowledge experts to sales reps, and deliver it all when and where sellers need it. Sellers need to break their preferred habit when it comes to content. They have to go and get it as opposed to e-mailing or calling someone else for it. It is also incumbent on the organization to provide constant reinforcement and training to audiences to ensure adoption and understanding.
Technology. Most companies have separate content portals for sellers, sales engineers, and partners, which means a seller needs to learn and navigate through three or more portals to hunt for information. A single, agile portal can serve all three internal audiences seamlessly. A good portal can also help "slice and dice" content so it is presented to users when and how they are using it—by the steps of the sales cycle and in context to region and offering taxonomy.
Another thing to consider is integrating different communication vehicles in this single experience. This is more important now than before, especially as content contributors and knowledge experts are being downsized. Sellers can be one click away from accessing the knowledge experts within an organization by instilling a quick means for sellers to talk to sellers, such as social networking blogs, wikis, presence awareness, and VoIP clients.
Processes. Most companies with multiple portals don't have a unified submission process for posting content. This means duplicate files, redundant roles, and multiple processes. By implementing one submission form and letting the technology post the content, contributors can focus on the experience as opposed to managing portals.
Another option is direct content publishing. With a traditional Web publishing model many folks own documents, who send to gatekeepers of the content, who forward to gatekeepers of the portals, who then cut and paste into various forms for publication. Compare this to a non-traditional publishing model where each content owner has the ability to publish directly to the internal portals, with authorizing agents to serve as gate keepers if the need exists. Fewer hands touch the content, which frees up resources and accelerates the time to publish.
Content. There is so much content being produced many companies don't bother to try and expire or update it. But what does that do to the sales force? IDC reports that as much of 60 percent of sales facing content is never used. This is caused by distrust and is compounded by the fact there is so much clutter sales can't find anything they deem as useful. Companies can use technology to instill life cycle management into their existing document repositories. These systems make it more palatable for the owners, since they can proactively manage their content via e-mail.
Instilling document management principles and best practices throughout an organization will not only save sellers time in data collection, but reduce duplication, eliminate outdated content, simplify information overload, and alleviate archiving nightmares. In turn, any redundant marketing resources can be freed up and realigned to more strategic and productive endeavors.
Every piece of content marketing creates or facilitates should enable a sale. If that doesn't happen, than noone gets a paycheck. Sales enablement will provide the ability to connect the dots between marketing and sales, thus enabling a company to work smarter, reduce the risk of misinformation, and achieve a sales knowledge advantage by adding more value and quality to customer interactions.
As an unanticipated benefit, a winning sales enablement strategy can reduce the learning curve of new sales hires by helping build their networks at an accelerated pace. CSO Insights indicates the time it now takes to get a newly hired sales rep up to full productivity has increased 32 percent during the past four years. It can also move less effective tenured sellers to the right of the bell curve by strengthening their networks and skills. IDC reports sales turnover averages 10-50 percent, and companies spend an average of $20,000 to $30,000 per rep each year on training and asset creation, anticipating success in two to three years. With this type of integrated sales support, any sales person can handle any sales task, event, or obstacle quickly and efficiently.
Industry Expert Opinion
According to IDC, the average company is spending $12,500 per rep per year on sales enablement. They also state through better teamwork and a cohesive focus by sales and marketing, sales productivity will improve by $260,000 per rep per year. It’s no leap to agree increased productivity, effectiveness, and performance in your sales organization will result in higher close rates and reduced operational costs.
The benefits to any organization willing to embark on such a venture are tremendous, and at minimum should yield:
•A reduction in unused documents (estimated that companies spend an average of $20,000 to $30,000 per rep each year on training and sales assets, yet over 60 percent sales documents are
•A reduction in reformatting time (estimated impact of $5,600 annually per seller).
•An improved success rate of sales finding their elusive content (estimated that over $5,000 per seller per year wasted in unfruitful searches by sellers).
•The elimination of duplicated content and a reduction in sales facing portals (estimated to cost organizations over $4 million per year).
Can’t Rest on Your Laurels
A winning sales enablement strategy is more than implementing a new tool and filtering existing data. In today's economy, customers are willing to sacrifice a "perfect fit" for products that are "good enough" to meet their needs. Joe Galvin, vice president and research director from SiriusDecisions stated that the effectiveness of preset collateral (that is produced by marketing teams) diminishes in value after the first or second sales call. After that, the knowledge of the sales team will be needed to close the deal.
Your corporate messages are important to help differentiate you from your competitors. It also means you must rely on your sellers to deliver those messages in a way that resonates with your customer. You need to empower your sellers by providing them access to this knowledge to be successful. A winning sales enablement strategy will help your sellers get there faster and more efficiently.