Tl;dr - Sales enablement is like the middleware between marketing and sales. In a world where sales effectiveness turns on sophistication and nuance, sales enablement is the key to putting the most important insights, tools, process recommendations, and content in the hands of sales at the right time to impact deals. And it's confoundingly difficult to get right.
What is Industrial Sales Enablement?
Industrial sales enablement is the process of maximizing industrial sales effectiveness by providing capital equipment sales people the right tools, content and technology as well as appropriate data insights and contextual coaching. In complex sales like capital equipment, industrial sales enablement is a culture that joins manufacturing marketing and sales in collaborative achievement of company revenue targets. Industrial sales enablement is a core component of the Overall Revenue Effectiveness™ framework for industrial manufacturing revenue growth.
OK. That was simple. But why does it matter? Because revenue outcomes require optimized sales efforts which in turn require insights, data, process, and content that is typically provided by marketing.
The reality is that those marketing contributions are rarely provided to sales in a contextual and usable manner. Great sales enablement can do so, and in turn significantly enhance sales' effectiveness. But that starts with a sales enablement strategy, built on sales enablement tools and a sound sales process, and true integration of sales and marketing teams.
Let's break that down
Not Enough Leads vs. Inadequate Effort
With the possible exception of management mindset, most companies' biggest barrier to revenue growth is the enduring low-grade donnybrook between manufacturing marketing and sales.
You've heard it. You've likely lived it. You might have read about it recently in this article on sales and marketing alignment.
Sales often asserts that they don't have enough leads from marketing, and further, that those they do have, are junk.
Marketing counters that sales doesn't follow up on the leads they provide.
And with that, both retire to their own corners and track their own metrics. Intransigence prevails and revenue results are impaired.
Of course, they are both often right. And that's what makes this conflict so intractable.
The good news is that thoughtful and creative application of marketing automation can provide sales enablement support that can help sales:
- improve effectiveness and efficiency
- fully leverage the tools that marketing creates for them
- maximize lead potential
It can also help marketing:
- understand which leads, campaigns, and tactics generate genuinely good or poor leads to gradually improve lead quality and return on marketing spend
- empower sales with better leads, information, and tools
In aggregate, it helps the company:
- improve accountability
- increase revenue
- understand what works, to focus resources where they're effective
- create a unified revenue growth function with collaboration and shared purpose
Of course, this isn't to promise kumbaya perfection. You'll still have:
- experiments that fail
- personality conflicts
- some folks who will likely need to be replaced because they stubbornly and ignorantly cling to old models (sales counting dials, marketing counting site visits)
- a journey to the outcome - not a quick resolution
So how do you start to build successful enablement?
Built on Marketing Automation - Simple but Hard
The core tools will be technology and creativity.
The required technology is user-friendly and robust industrial marketing automation which is defined by the American Marketing Association as "software and technology to expedite and improve repetitive or time-consuming marketing activities". (Download a free guide here that takes a deep dive into creative applications and how we help companies implement the HubSpot suite of software.)
In other words, it's technology that's built on the same database as your CRM which logs a wide range of customer (e.g. page visits and email opens) and employee (e.g. calls and emails) activities; incorporates those logged activities into scoring and alert models which notify reps when certain combinations of activities occur; and then can be used to prompt sales activity and to make contextual recommendations on how to optimize that activity.
We can think of marketing automation implementation in a maturity model.
- In its simplest form, automation might automatically alert a sales rep when a visitor from a company where there's an open sales opportunity visits the website. Similarly, it could automatically route a current prospect involved in a deal to the right sales rep via chatbot.
- Typical uses involve automatically segmenting leads and alerting reps to new high-value leads from their territory, while automatically emailing the lead on the rep's behalf (as though it came from them.) You might also notify a rep when a contact email bounces so they can check to see if the person has moved to a new company.
- More advanced sales enablement would prompt reps (via notification or real-time dashboards) to prioritize a prospect when certain contact and company criteria are met over a rolling period - e.g. #marketing emails opened, # of contacts visiting the site, # of form fills, # of chat conversations
- In very advanced situations, workflows are constructed which provide contextual coaching to the rep. These can be built in conjunction with sales management to define the circumstances and the suggested action steps. For instance, if a contact from a company on the target account list downloads a certain document (say a bottom of the funnel vendor comparison guide) then the workflow might take the following steps automatically:
- update the lead score and status
- send the rep a notification email complete with a description of inferences drawn from activities, suggested questions to ask, suggested content to share, and a list of buying roles not yet identified in the company
- connect to a database to import contacts that fit those roles, assign them to the account owner, and enrich automatically from other sources
- add the contacts to paid ad campaigns with appropriate messaging based on the activities
- automatically launch a "sequence" or "cadence", from the sales rep, with contextually appropriate messaging for the circumstances
- schedule tasks for social touches or other research with the other possible contacts
- schedule a task to look for social connections that could be used for team selling and too populate an opportunity playbook/relationship map
- automatically add the company to a chatbot routing list so that any contacts receive appropriate routing and messaging
The full range of possibilities is limited to a small degree by technology (platform selection and feature set) and to a much larger degree by creativity and collaboration via sales and marketing integration.
Here's a really important additional point. If all your sales is based on ad hoc interactions with very loose pipeline categories and some general sales guidance (e.g. ask questions), then you'll never pull this together. A formal, refined sales process will inform the enablement steps and provide the framework around which the collaboration will occur. Absent clear definitions of leads and Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs), rigorous opportunity qualification, clearly outlined sales process, formal hand-off criteria (e.g. from marketing to BDR to sales rep) and other similar details, the discussions around how to automate and increase effectiveness will devolve into squabbles.
With those guidelines, though, it's possible to build iteratively and to work on the highest payoff scenarios first.
The good news is that the compelling need to boost effectiveness, and therefore to invest in CRM and marketing automation, can serve as the trigger to wrestle with some of these other issues that are having an unrecognized impact on performance.
Don't misunderstand. You'll have to lead...
It's much easier to map out the process and adapt the technology than it is to actually implement. Habits are hard to break and change creates tension. This will be a senior executive change management task. After all, the perspective and behavioral preferences of people that work in marketing and sales functions will be somewhat divergent. That's OK. And their silos are probably ossified. That's not OK and will take direction and leadership from you to overcome.
If you have the right people in both areas (including sales folks scientifically evaluated), and earnestly pursue sales and marketing integration, you'll have the foundation you need for progress.
Pushing through the early resistance will yield an integrated team, executing collaboratively to deliver a better buyer experience and improved results.
Those improved results translate directly to revenue. The revenue combined with the satisfaction of a growth team as well-engineered as your products will make the work worthwhile.
With these capabilities in place, you'll be able to replicate best practices, react quickly to changing opportunity and account conditions, and remove many variables from the revenue growth process.
Sales enablement is a key component of the Overall Revenue Effectiveness™ model, and critical to creating a predictable revenue growth engine for an industrial business.