Improving Industrial Sales Results with Sales Enablement

Ed Marsh | Mar 23, 2022

How and Why to Implement Sales Enablement for Industrial Sales

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Guide to episode

  1. Sales enablement is a process that helps sales people sell more - by integrating marketing and sales functions and insights, with technology, to help them meet buyers with the right info at the right time using the right channel.
  2. It's different than the traditional industrial model - small marketing team, large field sales team, some clunky tech controlled by IT, and limited, mostly self-serving content.
  3. Sales enablement is built around the buyer and requires integration of both marketing and sales.
  4. It improves the efficiency and effectiveness of sales, but takes work and management commitment to build it.
  5. Marketing and sales technology play a more important role than many may assume. It's a critical piece

Transcript follows:

Hi, I’m Ed Marsh. Welcome to this episode of Signals from the OP. Signals is designed to put new ideas and perspectives in front of busy industrial company executives, in easily digestible brief video chunks.

In this episode, we’re going to talk about sales enablement.

Let’s start with a quick definition.

What is Sales Enablement? - 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.

Now your first reaction may be – “Well, that’s a blinding flash of the obvious. Of course we do that. We have marketing to generate some leads, salespeople to follow up on them and sales management to coach and advise.”

I’m glad you brought that up. Let’s differentiate between the traditional model you just outlined and what best practice is evolving to mean in terms of real sales enablement.

The traditional model is a very linear and siloed process. Marketing may run some journal ads, organize some trade shows, and harvest some website inquiries. Those are passed to sales which is supposed to follow up on those, do separate prospecting, create projects, respond to inquiries, drive referrals, manage projects and close deals. Technology is owned by IT in most cases.

So yes, you have an organizational structure with some designated responsibilities. And that’s your process which you try to adapt to buyers' own requirements.

That’s different than flipping it on its head – with the buyer as the focus. When you think of it from that perspective, this structure that’s a vestige of 1930’s theories of scientific sales and marketing, doesn’t work. What we’re talking about is creating a structure that makes it easy for buyers to help themselves when they want to, and for the strengths and capabilities of marketing, sales and technology to be adapted and integrated to provide a seamless, satisfactory buyer experience.

Let’s be honest. It doesn’t happen much in industrial companies. We can explore a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that it’s a process that draws on thoughtful integration (not just collaboration) of marketing and sales efforts – and further the efforts of two functions that aren’t commonly found in traditional industrial org structures – those of marketing operations and sales operations.

Sales enablement resources can include the right technology tools - for instance a chatbot that lets a rep personally engage immediately on an active prospect’s site revisit, or a CRM view that helps them understand intent at glance, conversational ai to help in coaching on calls, or even sales acceleration to help improve outbound sales effectiveness. It’s also the right content, contextually provided – for instance case studies or educational content designed for each buying team role at each stage in the buying journey. It can also include insights to proactively guide sales approaches, email templates, ideal customer profile and competitive research, or even playbooks to structure conversations.

The collective goal is to help your revenue growth team have more touches and make each touch as perfect as it could be, from the buyer's perspective, for the situation. That could mean marketing interactions, or it could be sales, but it really doesn’t matter if it’s helping the buyer.

But why would an industrial company consider implementing a sales enablement program? And how would they go about doing so?

The first answer is the most important. It’s critical to improve the prospect and buyer experience. Remember that buyers have a single continuum of interaction with your company. They might see a booth at a trade show, engage your chat bot, download a brochure, talk to a distributor, submit a RFQ on your site. Which of those are in marketing’s court and which are in sales’?

Not only is there a lot of grey space there, but the real answer is also it doesn’t matter. The person downloading a brochure doesn’t care if it’s marketing or sales that’s responsible for making that available on the site. They just want the info – rather they want the answers to their questions.

The modern buying journey constantly bounces back and forth between functions that have traditionally been marketing and others that have been sales.

That’s our hang-up, and it gets in the way of the buyer.

So, reason number one to implement sales enablement is to solve for the buyer.

It’s also important because it improves results and increases efficiency. Investor funded rapid growth tech companies can provide a really helpful lab for industrial companies to study marketing and sales best practices. Those companies have short runways, low barriers to scale, and unreasonable growth expectations. So they have to innovate. Sales enablement is a product of that environment – and although you might not be under the same growth pressure, it’s a wonderful model to help foster the integration of sales and marketing, optimize your efforts and improve sales outcomes.

The next logical question is how you would go about building sales enablement for an industrial company.

I can recommend a couple of steps.

First, adapt the organizational mindset. It’s important that everyone understands – and lives – an organizational structure where marketing and sales are both focused on improving byer experience and collaboratively driving revenue. That’s going to take some change management and deliberate leadership

Second, much of the opportunity relies on technology that’s easy to use, readily modified and customized by the marketing and sales operations teams (not requiring work orders from IT, with tiring debates and frustrating cajoling to get it done), and a sales team that’s willing to use the tools to their full capability.

That leads to the third, that you’re probably going to have to upgrade some talent in both departments. At least train and coach to meet new expectations, and in many cases replace or augment with different skills.

The bottom line is that sales enablement is about seamless collaboration between marketing and sales to create an amazing buyer experience and improve the effectiveness of each revenue growth resource you have. That takes content, technology, mindset, and talent – and those will take leadership.

I’m Ed Marsh. Thank you for joining me for this episode of Signals from the OP. If you enjoyed it, please share it and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog