Misperceptions of Sales Enablement
When I speak with marketing and sales leaders about sales enablement, I start with a simple question: “How do you define sales enablement?” The most common answer I receive is “content for sales.” Perhaps your definition is something similar. But, that answer only tells one part of the story.
Sales enablement is much, much more than content for sales. Effective sales enablement starts by understanding how it fits into our larger sales, marketing and organizational structures. Even more specifically, we must zero in on how sales and marketing alignment around the customer impacts sales enablement (and it does, in some major ways).
This is why we created a sales enablement framework, to help marketing and sales leaders understand this process and how to move through it successfully. So if you think you know what sales enablement is, you might just have your perception transformed, for the better.
What Is Sales Enablement?
Despite different definitions of sales enablement, at its core, sales enablement consists of the actions taken to enable the sales team to sell and be a catalyst for revenue growth. This does include content, but that’s hardly the end of it. Organizations that stop there miss out on tremendous opportunities to maximize revenue.
Here’s a deeper look at what true sales enablement encompasses:
- Strategy – Setting objectives and KPIs and then defining your explicit sales enablement strategy. I have more on the meaningful KPIs to use below.
- Planning – With your strategy outlined, it’s time to move into the most overlooked piece of any project, planning. Although all the areas of planning are important I’ll highlight two:
- Training – Think about your plan for onboarding new salespeople and keeping tenured reps growing. How do you provide consistent learning as a part of the engagement of the entire sales team? The answers usually include offering the right training, sales coaching and coaching framework.
- Sales methodology – There are hundreds of potential methods a sales team can take to the market, some can be taken off the shelf and others completely bespoke to an organization. Having that methodology selected and developed is a large part of an organization’s ability to enable the sales team.
- Process – Equipped with your plan, it’s time to move into process. Process often starts with the documentation of current state and the ideation of future state that will support the strategy and plan. This also often involves a phased approach to change management. We find that organizations who move forward, even incrementally, are more successful than those that drive toward perfection.
- Sales process alignment: I want to highlight here an area that is often misunderstood. Sales process alignment goes beyond sales methodology and into the entire go-to-market motion. How will you keep the sales team involved in the broader go-to-market activities? Keeping the front-line updated on what is in market is critical in their ability to action on the engagement from those activities.
- Development – Finally, yes. Content. What types of content and job aids are you creating to help your sales teams sell? How is it being delivered and when? What other materials are you providing to your sales team that can help them better reach the buyer?
- Technology support – Another call out here, as sales enablement technology is where people often start, only to realize, they haven’t invested enough time in the strategy and planning phases. Technology can help, but is most effective when implemented as part of a much larger strategy. Also be aware, that, as an emerging category, tools for “sales enablement” vary dramatically. For example, Salesloft’s primary use case is to help sales reps manage prospecting outreach and tasks, specifically teams looking to prospect using three touches: email, phone and LinkedIn, while Seismic focuses on enabling sales teams to more quickly create decks for pitches and leverage content hubs. How will you use technology to support your strategy, methodology and resource plans? This could be your sales enablement content platform, your learning management system or your CRM. Who manages these, and who keeps up the tech to ensure it has all the right processes and content are in place to effectively influence productivity?
- Execution – Time for the rubber to meet the road. Remember that diligence is key to ensuring any organization change takes root. Ensure leadership is prepared to champion and continue to reiterate the importance of sales enablement initiatives.
How the Customer Impacts Sales Enablement
Now that we’ve firmed up what sales enablement includes, it’s important we discuss why sales and marketing alignment is crucial to its success. True alignment between the sales and marketing teams starts with relationships. It means that the teams are in regular communication, and that they are aligned around the buyer. This means they’ve done market research and spent time defining and agreeing upon who their buyers are, what matters to them and what their journey looks like. Only when sales and marketing are aligned around the customer in this way can sales enablement even have a chance of being effective.
This also means that when you’re going through the process and defining your objectives and KPIs, they must be built around the buyer. Then you can define roles and responsibilities. What KPIs have the greatest impact on sales and marketing alignment?
The Most Impactful Customer KPIs
We conducted research with sales and marketing leaders, collecting over 200 data points from 350 marketing and sales leaders on the current state of sales and marketing alignment. You can get the full “Sales and Marketing Alignment Report” here. Our research revealed that the following KPIs serve as critical differentiators for what Leaders in sales and marketing alignment focus on versus Laggards.
As you see above, Leaders in alignment put a high importance on upsell and opportunity value. These results show the overall impact of focusing on metrics not historically associated with marketing ownership, those at the bottom of the funnel, like opportunity value, as well as those past the first purchase, like upsell and customer churn. The other major area of differentiation is the importance Leaders put on brand awareness.
As part of our research we conducted focus groups and during one session, a tenured sales leader said it best, when he said:
“We’re also relying on (marketing), for brand awareness, right? So they’re operating on a whole different stratosphere and the sales folks are relying on them to get the brand recognition so when we go in and make a presentation people don’t go ‘Who are you? I’ve never heard of you.’”
Measuring Your Customer-First Sales and Marketing Alignment
Above we reference Leaders and Laggards in alignment. Our definition of Leaders in alignment demands that sales and marketing teams are not simply driving toward the same metrics. It’s about more than even if they like and respect each other. Instead, our definition of meaningful sales and marketing alignment, our benchmark by which all revenue teams should measure themselves, boils down to two areas: pipeline and revenue performance.
Using these two measures as the axises, we are left with four quadrants:
- Misaligned: High pipeline generation with low revenue growth
- Diagnosis: If you have pipeline, but not revenue, it means you’re not aligned around the right customers. Your pipeline isn’t meaningful, which is why it isn’t translating into revenue. You need to improve your alignment around your buyer in order to fix this issue.
- Leaders: High pipeline generation and high revenue growth
- Diagnosis: Highly aligned sales and marketing teams are able to focus their efforts on the outcomes they’re driving toward. They can achieve this.
- Opportunistic: Low pipeline generation with high revenue growth
- Diagnosis: If your pipeline isn’t growing, but you’re seeing revenue growth, your marketing team is slacking and your salespeople are saving the day. Even if sales is being enabled to some degree, marketing clearly isn’t towing its fair share in this scenario.
- Laggards: Low pipeline generation and low revenue growth
- If you’re in this quadrant, your sales and marketing alignment is almost certainly nonexistent. This is a major red flag that your salespeople are not being properly enabled (or that they’re not good salespeople). You need to rethink your entire go-to-market strategy if you fall into this quadrant, because it means your organization is slowly dying (or at least not growing, which is pretty much the same thing).
How can you uncover where you land in sales and marketing alignment? We’ll be happy to plot your organization on the index. Sign-up here.
With your refined understanding of sales enablement, you can document the right strategy to achieve your objectives and KPIs. From there, you’ll move into processes, then planning, development & execution. If you have additional questions on any of these areas, stay tuned, as our team will be diving deeper into each area of the sales enablement subframework in blogs for the rest of the year.
Meet JT Bricker
As a strategic marketing leader, J.T. leads teams in helping clients design and execute actionable marketing and sales strategies and impactful execution that drive revenue growth and profitability. He works closely with organizations to develop a strategically grounded approach to marketing and sales with a blend of strategy, analytics, technology and creative to achieve growth objectives. J.T. works with the LeadMD team in advising clients on best practices in revenue growth strategies, strategic sales and marketing alignment, account-based strategies, demand generation, marketing technology, marketing operations, analytics and sales management. Prior to joining LeadMD, J.T. held a variety of marketing leadership and strategic consulting roles including management consultant, marketing operations, pricing and offer management, demand generation and analytics in multiple enterprise organizations.