Tl;dr - When deals were done face to face, sellers answered buyers' questions directly. Today they often don't have that opportunity. Sales enablement content is material created through a collaboration of manufacturing marketing and industrial sales that helps reach specific buying roles with important messages at specific points in the buying journey. It's a virtual sales multiplier.
What is Sales Enablement Content?
In the good old days of sales (pay phones, Day-Timers, and Rolodexes), salespeople operated on their own. Sure, marketing created some print collateral. Weak reps relied on line cards. Strong ones had file boxes in their cars with data sheets and brochures that they would use judiciously as compliments to strong sales skills.
Today markets are different. Buyers engage electronically. Buying teams make decisions by consensus among a dozen members many of whom never meet with sales. And reaching and communicating with buyers asynchronously is less conducive to great sales conversations than traditional direct meetings.
Sales enablement content is a set of tools that the manufacturing marketing team creates to support sales activities in prospecting, selling, and closing business. It includes a wide variety of signals and materials each of which is specifically designed to address specific situations for buyer persona and stage in the buying journey.
Typical sales enablement content includes presentations, email templates, phone scripts, prospecting and nurturing cadences, direct mail materials, snippets for SMS and chatbot conversations, and marketing automation driven contextual coaching based on observed intent signals. Sales enablement tools include alerts to reps when specific contacts or companies visit the website, open emails, open proposals, etc.
Sales enablement content is material that's created to help sales teams sell effectively in today's markets.
Why is Sales Enablement Content Important?
How can you sell to people who don't want to be sold to? There's a lot of advice out there suggesting not to sell, but rather to help. Fine, makes sense. But how do you reach someone with ideas and insights if you're not in direct communication?
It's really, really hard.
Whether it's a prospect to whom your reaching out, a member of a buying team in the shadows, or a customer who isn't aware of some of the capabilities you offer.
Sales enablement content enhances your ability to reach each of them with specific messages that will resonate with their perspective and priorities. It's a force multiplier for the industrial sales team, helping them connect with buyers with whom they never have a chance to shake hands or even meet over Zoom.
In other words, sales enablement content isn't just important, it's critical to success today because we actually get to meet with so few buyers.
How to Plan and Execute the Creation of Industrial Sales Enablement Content
Most companies create their sales collateral based on the topics they want to discuss. That means the technical details of their products and the history and awesomeness of their company.
While technical buyers will require some of that information at specific points in the buying journey, those are not the reasons that companies buy, or don't. Buyers have goals and priorities.
Sales enablement content strategy is built around those buyers' considerations.
Strong sales enablement content needs to speak to the buyers' questions, concerns, and goals - by persona, and at each stage in the buying journey. For example, the plant maintenance team might not prominently participate in the buying team, and you might not have the opportunity to meet them, but they have a huge impact on your success.
Prior to a formal project, they understand the maintenance-related costs of competitors' machines and current operations. Content to help them quantify and articulate that can help your team create projects.
Early in a project, they will have questions about parts availability, longer-term support, documentation, service availability, and training.
And as a project nears the vendor selection stage they'll have more specific questions about each of those as well as warranty and other topics.
So their questions evolve as the project moves. If they were always in the meetings and felt free to ask questions, your sales team would be able to answer. But they often aren't or don't. So those questions have to be answered proactively - in a way that increases comfort with your solution and potentially raises questions about competitors. And all of it has to happen virtually.
So the content needs to speak to them about their concerns and be created in formats that make it possible for your sales team to share it directly if they are identified, or to help your deal champion share it internally - content to help them sell to their colleagues on your behalf.
This maintenance example illustrates the importance of planning the entire body of content. This is built on buyer journey mapping and qualitative interviews with buyers.
With a clear understanding of each role on the buying team (often >10!), and their questions/concerns/considerations at each stage in the buying journey, then you can plan the content required in each case. In the example above, it could be a checklist, explosion drawings, parts lists, a guide, or a short video tour of your knowledge base and ticket system, or info on consignment parts, etc.
You can't create it all at once - realistically with 10 buying team roles, 5 distinct stages in the buying journey, and auditory/visual/kinesthetic learners, you might have 100-200 pieces of content to make. So you'll have to prioritize.
The content has to be created as a collaboration between marketing and sales, and the digital asset management system (DAM - for storing, updating, accessing, and sharing content) has to be trained and easy to use.
Industrial Sales and Manufacturing Marketing Integration to Power Enablement
This is among the most important reasons it's so important to fully integrate capital equipment sales and industrial marketing. Neither group can implement enablement efforts individually. The creation is a joint effort in planning as noted above. Feedback and quantitative measures need to flow, and content needs to be updated as required by market changes or insights into what works/doesn't work as well.
Properly using the content will require sales enablement training. Certainly, the DAM should be built into CRM to make it easy, but controls like versioning, trackable links, intent signals and viewing stats should be explained to sales, provided via real-time alerts, and available in a contact detail record to inform sales actions and calls.
Some types of enablement content (like presentation decks) may be customizable, but there should be clear organizational guidelines on how that's done and what's acceptable.
Lead scoring, opportunity qualification, and pipeline stage can often incorporate insights from sales enablement content interactions, and marketing automation should include workflows to provide contextual coaching to sales based on inferences of enablement engagement that the manufacturing marketing team observes and tracks.
This video goes into more detail regarding implementing sales enablement.
Using Enablement Content to Drive Revenue Results
Effective sales enablement content pieces are powerful tools.
But only when used correctly.
That's why training and collaboration are so important, and it's critical that every member of the sales team is clear on how industrial sales enablement content fits into the sales process and how to use it in the context of the sales methodology.
It's easy to indiscriminately distribute enablement content to the wrong folks at the wrong time. This can actually negatively impact sales success, and at least cost your company the opportunity at differentiation by seeming to be like competitors that just vomit up information.
So after all the effort of planning, creating, training and mapping enablement content to the sales process, it's important that pipeline reviews, activity tracking and coaching sessions consistently explore and reinforce proper use.
Sales enablement content pieces must be viewed and discussed as specific assets with specific sales purposes to advance projects through the sales cycle. They're not casual support pieces to be treated in a cavalier way (even if they often are created to appear informal and simple!)
Measurement, Tracking & Impact of Enablement Content
Like blog articles and sales questions, some will be very effective and others not so. And you'll invest material resources in enablement creation. Therefore you'll need metrics to understand the effectiveness.
KPIs to track include:
- sales reps' adoption and use
- prospect engagement
- correlation between specific enablement content and sales milestones (meetings, deals, closed/won, etc.)
- consumption (e.g. specific pages in documents, slides in decks, % of video watched or sections rewatched, etc.)
You'll have others as well, but the point is that you want to track what's used, what's effective, and what contributes to revenue as well as which members of your sales team use it effectively.
Sales Enablement Content is an Additional Member of Your Revenue Growth Team
This content sits at the intersection of marketing and sales. Manufacturing marketing helps plan and create the material, provide the technical framework to deliver it and track it. The industrial sales team adds it to their sales process and workflows.
And it's all about helping buyers make informed decisions.
The days of company image brochures and machine data sheets are over. Today, growing buying teams, convoluted buying journeys, and virtual research and buying mean that you need enablement content to speak on your behalf with meaningful messages even when your sales team can't.