Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes courtesy of Brendan Cournoyer, Content Marketing Manager, at Brainshark, a leading sales enablement platform provider. For more insights from Brendan, visit the Brainshark Ideas Blog.
Sales enablement is certainly a hot topic right now for B2B organizations. It seems everyone is looking for new ways to increase sales productivity and effectiveness. The question is: How?
As Jim Ninivaggi of SiriusDecisions points out, the concept of sales enablement continues to evolve, meaning different things to different companies. According to the organization’s research, the most common sales enablement functions include the ability to:
- Build sales assets and provide guidelines for how to use them
- Share best practices
- Develop product training
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, of course, but no matter how you define sales enablement at your company, chances are that content and communication play a critical role. More often than not, the brunt of this responsibility falls to the marketing team. So how can marketers – particularly content marketers – enable their sales reps in a way that truly boosts productivity and helps drive more revenuer?
1. Alignment- First and foremost, it’s important that your content is aligned with the sales conversations your reps are having. The truth is, while marketing teams are primarily responsible for brand messaging, it’s the salespeople who spend the most time interacting with prospects and customers.
As sales coach Bob Apollo explained recently, sales and marketing teams have a lot to learn from each other, noting that, “If marketing really engages with salespeople on a regular basis, they can develop a much better idea of what an ‘ideal prospect’ looks like and how prospects make buying decisions – and what marketing can do to help.”
This can include everything from persona-based content that speaks to the unique challenges of specific industries and titles, to promotional resources that highlight the most popular product features with customers. In the end, the goal is to create content that answers the questions prospects are asking at every stage of the buying cycle.
2. Awareness- Many sales assets fail to make the desired impact with sales teams, not because they lack in quality, but because reps simply aren’t aware they exist.
The CMO Council has stated that B2B salespeople spend about 40% of their jobs preparing content for customer and prospect communications. That’s a lot of time that could be spent more productively – especially if the marketing team has already developed resources for reps to use.
To overcome this awareness issue, marketers need to do more to expose reps to the content they are creating. This could be as simple as sending weekly emails to update reps on the latest content, signing them up to their blog RSS feed, or sharing new resources via the company’s internal communications platform.The point is, just because you create something doesn’t mean your salespeople know about it.
3. Access- Of course, being aware of content resources and knowing where to find them are two different things. The ideal scenario is to have a centralized location (or content portal) to house all sales enablement content in an easily accessible and organized way. That way, reps can find what they need, right when they need it.
This is naturally important for prospect communications, as it allows reps to access resources like marketing-approved PowerPoint presentations, product demos and data sheets, client testimonials and so on in a timely manner.
It’s also valuable for informal, “just-in-time” training – an absolute necessity for most sales organizations. ES Research has reported that about 85% to 90% of sales training information has no impact after 120 days. In other words, reps tend to forget the majority of what they learned during onboarding or formal training sessions.
To counteract this, salespeople often need to continuously “refresh” themselves about product updates, customer personas and the like – and they tend not to do this until they absolutely have to (even right before their next sales meeting). For this reason, the faster and easier they can access that information on the fly, the better off (and more enabled) they’ll be.
4. Analytics- Finally, as with all content initiatives, sales enablement efforts need to be measurable. So how is sales enablement measured? The easy answer would seem to be revenue, but as another SiriusDecisions report points out, “revenue attainment can be a lagging indicator” when it comes to measuring the success of a sales enablement strategy.
Instead, completion of sales training and content utilization represent the most popular areas to focus on, though I would tend to put a premium on the latter. (After all, as noted above, training completion doesn’t necessarily equate to learning retention.)
From a sales enablement perspective, it’s helpful to monitor which resources are used most often by reps in the field and why. It can even be a good idea to track the top sales reps in the company and the content they use to close more deals.
Bottom line: the more information you have about the effectiveness of your sales enablement content, the better prepared you’ll be to both create and deliver resources that truly help reps sell.