The single biggest challenge that sales and marketing leaders face is 'to meet the annual revenue targets.' How do they meet this challenge? Would giving fancy brochures and sales-kits be enough to help sales people go into the field and sell? The answer to these questions is not straightforward. It requires a coordinated effort by various departments – the marketing, sales, operations, HR, as well as information technology department to drive sales within the organisation in this changed world. And, sales enablement definitely means more than just equipping sales people with right collaterals and information.
According to a recent report by the Aberdeen Group titled, "The State of Sales Enablement: Eliminating Ambiguity”, successful organisations follow three methods of sales enablement. They are:
- Content-based sales enablement
- Technology-based sales enablement
- Training/education-based sales enablement
The report shares that best-in-class organisations adopt all these three methods in varying degrees, to support sales people and drive revenue targets. Let us examine what each of these methods mean in the context of an organisation.
Content-based sales enablement:
We are living in a knowledge-based economy. When sales people go out to sell in the field, the knowledge they acquired during the initial training may not be sufficient. After all, market dynamics change, competitor’s strategy might change and therefore, the selling strategy has to be dynamic. It is hard for sales people to do this on their own. Companies can support them by making this knowledge available to them, and this is the gist of content-based sales enablement. Best-in-class organisations:
- Create dynamic resources based on changes in the company's strategy, market conditions, competition or industry, and make it available on-demand to sales people.
- Ensure that marketing content is customer-centric and talks about the value that your products/services bring to customers.
- Establish rapport with prospects and customers through engaging conversations in social media.
Content-based sales enablement is by far the easiest and feasible form of sales enablement as existing resources can be put to use to create the required resources. Existing sales collaterals can be refined and reformatted to create engaging videos, apps, or digital guides that can be easily accessible by sales people. Hence, it is not surprising that the Aberdeen report states that 52% of respondents practice content-based sales enablement.
Technology-based sales enablement:
Technology-enabled sales enablement refers to all the tools and software programs used in the sales process. We are familiar with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and sales force automation software programs that handle the whole gamut of sales and marketing activities. In addition to these traditional tools, new age tools such as HubSpot (a powerful tool to keep track of leads and estimate the ROI of your marketing efforts) and CustomShow (that goes beyond PowerPoint slides to create engaging presentations, and online meetings) provide valuable resources to enable sales force. Best-in-class organisations:
- Have tools and technologies to obtain valuable customer insights and behaviors
- Have mechanisms to analyse, track sales & marketing efforts, and return on investment
- Use technology to optimise and expedite sales process and customer service
Most organisations use technology to some extent for sales enablement. However, what is essential to evaluate, is the effectiveness and efficiency of the system. Bulk email campaigns were a norm some time ago, but this no longer works in today’s world of spam filters. Technological tools today focus more on selective and target marketing, based on the company’s buyer personas.
Training/education-based sales enablement:
As shared earlier, in today’s knowledge economy, the need for continuous learning cannot be ignored. Sales training, product training, and sales process training are common training programs any sales person goes through on joining an organisation. However, the need of the hour for organisations is to think beyond one-time or annual training events. The focus now is more on on-demand and just-in-time and personalised training programs that cater to individual needs of sales people. E-learning or mobile learning supplements traditional classroom training programs to empower sales teams for sales interactions. Best-in-class organisations:
- Create engaging and interactive online learning modules that are short and factor the time constraints of a sales person
- Use technology platforms to host and make available learning resources that sales people can access
- Focus on extended enterprise training to include dealers, distributors, and customers along with their sales force
Organisations that focus on continuous and ongoing education of their sales force as well as their extended stakeholders succeed in driving better sales. According to a report by Accenture, merely investing in training does not work wonders. Good on-boarding, training reinforcement, and making learning an integral part of the sales activity help in achieving the desired results.
Aberdeen’s report points out that best-in-class companies are more likely to practice all three methods of sales enablement in varying proportions. It may not be possible (or relevant) for organisations to adopt all the three methods of sales enablement in equal measures. However, it is good to evolve an ideal mix to integrate all three forms in the best possible way that works for your organization.
By Asma Zaineb, Asma has over 10 years of experience and spearheads Smarketing that integrates the efforts of sales and marketing to drive business results. She is currently working for CommLab India, a global e-learning company that has been providing custom learning solutions to more than 100 organisations in 30+ countries.