Tl;dr - Effective sales enablement strategy is important to guide the planning and implementation of enablement tactics and tools. It also plays an outsized role in supporting the strategic corporate initiative of integrating marketing and sales to create better buyer experiences and improve results.
Sales Enablement is a Strategic Inflection Point
Sales enablement is the structured process and integrated tools, content and tactics that help position salespeople to most effectively engage prospects in complex sales and close more deals.
Sounds more like tactics than strategy - a distinction upon which I harp, right? But here's why it's the latter.
A fundamental focus on buyer experience is critical to revenue growth success. This doesn't diminish the importance of superb sales skills and extraordinary marketing. Rather it highlights the importance of integrating the functions around the buyer experience (journeys, teams, personas, ICPs, etc.) in order to achieve revenue targets.
And that is contrary to the mindset, organizational structure, and resource allocation in many companies where the default is often a set of legacy internal silos that dictate the buyer experience.
Sales enablement sits squarely at the intersection of manufacturing marketing and industrial sales. Therefore, optimizing the sales enablement strategy is significant in implementing and demonstrating a strategic shift toward buyers.
In other words, the effort of focusing on the right tactics creates enterprise-wide awareness and focus on this strategic business imperative.
Sales enablement success is built on three areas of planning and implementation.
- a deep, abiding understanding of buyers
- sales process and methodology - rigorously created and followed
- executive management involvement in planning and execution
Let's look at each in more detail.
Important Foundations for an Impactful Sales Enablement Strategy
These three elements will form the foundation and guide the tactical execution of sales enablement. Together, they also create the environment and mindset that will support the strategic corporate objective of integrating sales and marketing around buyers.
There's a lot to do here - and it's not a task, but rather a process. Buyers' expectations and habits are constantly changing as behaviors and enabling technology evolve.
Qualitative and quantitative research is required to understand the following topics:
- buying teams - size, titles, roles, how decisions are made, inherently conflicting priorities, etc.
- ideal customer profile (ICP) - which account attributes can be clearly correlated with closed/won deals vs. which are unrelated or correlate to closed/lost deals
- buying journeys - including the five decisions
- buyer personas
- win loss analysis - what deal attributes can be reasonably correlated to binary outcomes, deals lost to no decision or indecision, competitor involvement, length of sell cycle, profitability, re-orders, higher LTV (lifetime value) etc.
Understanding these details will guide the effort to determine where friction points exist in the buying process. (This is an example of the work that a product marketing team supports.) This understanding will guide the priority of sales enablement implementation. Additionally, details such as the buying team role, stage in the buying journey and competitive impact will inform the sales enablement content topics and the implementation tactics.
Effective B2B Sales Infrastructure
Effective implementation of a sales enablement strategy requires accountability to sales process and methodology, and consistent coaching in the proper use of sales enablement content, technology and tactics.
This requires at least:
- effective sales process - clearly defined, incorporated into CRM, periodically refined, constantly coached and trained, sales team accountability
- effective sales methodology - (more in the difference between process & methodology here)
- strong sales management - consistent, effective coaching of reps on the process, methodology, and integration of sales enablement into both
- sales technology - CRM, sales force automation, sales acceleration, and DCMS (digital content management for sales) tools that simplify and structure the use of sales enablement materials
There's ZERO value in a sales enablement effort if the sales team is accountable and effective in its implementation.
Integrated Marketing and Sales
Management must fully integrate all revenue growth functions. This means constantly articulating the importance of integration, manifesting the corporate commitment through resource and staffing adjustments, incorporating KPIs into job descriptions and performance reviews, and also modeling it with their own behaviors.
- every forecast meeting, pipeline review and strategic account discussion should consider potential application of sales enablement and involve marketing
- win loss analyses that are circulated should include a sales enablement category
- content creation budgeting should include a targeted line for enablement content
- sales and marketing leaders should brief the board on integration progress and KPIs for the enablement initiative
- enablement should expressly include current customers - both for the actual value and as a manifestation of the corporate strategy
- circulating anecdotes of wins that can be tied to integration
- public mapping and discussion of buying journeys that oscillate between traditional marketing functions and those of sales, and attribution KPIs
- designate a "buyer proxy" from both sales and marketing functions to add the buyer's voice to all marketing and sales discussions
These are simply examples - you'll find many more as you gradually shift the organizational mindset.
Converting the Sales Enablement Strategy into Tactics & Tools
While the sales enablement strategy is primarily about planning, and the significance of integrated marketing and sales impacts corporate strategy, the implementation hinges on tactics and tools. A grand strategy without the right tools will fail.
So what are the tools of sales enablement? They include technology, content and specific implementation tactics.
Content must be guided by an editorial calendar that plans specific pieces (articles, videos, webpages, offer documents such as buying guides, etc.) Each piece must be designed for a specific combination of buying team role/persona, stage in buying journey and sales goal - according to priorities agreed by marketing and sales. And each piece must be accompanied by a brief to the sales team on how and when to use it (situational as well as practical.)
Other enablement tools include sales video scripts, sales cadences, and chatbots- each also targets specific situations.
An important area of content is "de-risking" content that's focused on helping sales preempt and address buyer indecision.
Technology should focus on helping marketing put the right enablement tools in front of sales at significant points in the lead management and sales process, and on helping the sales team to be efficient and effective.
And every tool & tactic must be coached, role played, rehearsed and measured by sales management.
Backing into Corporate Strategy
Sales enablement is a revenue growth tactic. A sales enablement strategy will ensure that investment in enablement is intentional and effective.
But it plays a much larger potential role. Sitting at the intersection of marketing and sales, the enablement topic can be used by management as a fulcrum to drive the important corporate strategic initiative of integrating sales and marketing around a buyer mindset.
In that way, the seemingly minor topic of sales enablement strategy punches well above its apparent weight.