What is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement operates at the intersection of marketing and sales to increase marketing efficiency, accelerate sales, and enhance customer experience by leveraging content and technology. It helps marketing teams pass better quality leads to sales, allowing sales reps to focus on higher priorities. This effort drives a steadier, more predictable sales pipeline.
What Will You Gain By Reading This Post?
In this first of a 3-part series, you will understand how different players in the buyer’s journey are interconnected and delivering the right message at the right time to the right audience is critical for their success.
Overview: Closing The Gap In Your Buyer's Journey
All decision-makers have one common goal: maximize revenue in the shortest amount of time. The difference between those who achieve and the ones who struggle is the ability to understand changing buyer preferences.
Increased customer sophistication requires higher levels of coordination between marketing messages and sales conversations to deliver a consistent enterprise story.
Until recently, conventional wisdom dictated that marketing and sales be a unified function, for their outcomes depend upon each other. However, over the last decade, the gap has increasingly widened with each team responsible for a different measure of success - lead generation and brand awareness for marketing, and deal closure for sales.
It might sound intuitive, but the challenges without an established handoff can be insurmountable for many organizations.
Marketers and sales reps are still at loggerheads over the definition of a 'qualified' lead.
Many organizations still struggle to achieve a standard definition for a ‘qualified’ lead. This problem is often exacerbated by solutions that are designed to address either marketing or sales, and evolving customer needs to explore and research independently.
Enterprises that implement platforms and processes to establish collaboration between sales and marketing teams will be able to capitalize on the increased revenue opportunities that such platforms bring to the table.
The Widening Gap: People
Marketing leaders are accountable for revenue generation, along with their sales counterparts. Therefore, it is vital to align marketing activities with sales goals to maximize revenue generation.
Organizations with tightly-connected marketing and sales processes ensure prospects have a consistent experience through various channels across their decision-making journey.
As companies expand their product and service lines across multiple geographies, there is more to marketing than setting the four Ps: Product, Pricing, Place, and Promotion. Marketers not only manage all aspects of marketing from content creation to event planning, but need teams skilled in audience segmentation, targeting, messaging, positioning, and technology.
Each marketing sub-function operates independently with independent goals and budgets, with little more than hope to tie back to their parent unit. For example, the event marketing team might focus on getting more leads from events and conferences, while the social media team might want more views and impressions.
A typical enterprise with multi-functional marketing roles is likely to resemble a myriad of interconnected nodes.
This disconnect is resulting in content creation that isn't solving buyer needs. The 2019 B2B Buying Disconnect Report by TrustRadius revealed that vendor-produced content was the least trustworthy source among a host of other sources. Marketing collateral such as case studies, blogs, eBooks, white papers, webinars, websites, etc. hovered around the 2.5 point mark while referrals and product demos ranked more than 3.5 on a 4-point scale.
The Bottom Line
Marketers will need to understand how the buyer’s journey has changed and how the traditional way of producing content will not resonate with their target audience. The only solution is to align with sales teams to create more customer-focussed trustworthy content that can help you gain an edge over your competitors.
The Sales Rep
Marketing and sales teams need to coexist to maximize the value created for the enterprise. However, defining a qualified lead that marketing can pass to the sales teams to pursue further is still a challenge for most. Regardless of the processes and technologies that have emerged over time, the problem is still far from being solved.
In the first conversation, there is a stark difference between what buyers and sales reps want to discuss.
Many sales teams have developed more specific organizational roles, each tasked with a different sales objective, to address the customer’s movement through the sales cycle.
As a result, this is resulting in sales conversations that are far from what buyers expect. A HubSpot survey of Asian buyers revealed the stark difference in between what customers wanted to discuss in the first call versus what sales reps wanted to discuss. In some cases, the difference was as big as 36%.
The Bottom Line
It is time that sales reps adhere to processes that are in line with buyer preferences. If sales reps were to cater to what their buyers prefer, they would not struggle to sell.
Today, buyers dictate the buying process. They are more well-informed than they were ten years ago, but still, lack vital information about products and services that only sales reps can provide. According to Forrester, 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before purchasing.
On the other hand, sales reps have their struggles to identify key executives who can approve purchase transactions for their company. But whether they’re selling to a customer with 50 employees or 50,000, reps rarely find a unilateral decision-maker.
Corporate Executive Board surveyed more than 5,000 stakeholders involved in B2B purchases and found that the likelihood of closing the deal drops to less than 50% when there are more than five decision-makers involved. This group includes diverse functions such as IT, Marketing, Legal, Finance, and Operations, amongst others.
More often, they discover that the authority to make decisions rests with groups of individuals — all of whom have different roles with different, and often competing objectives. Gartner divides B2B buyers into six distinct “jobs” before actual purchase. These six roles are non-linear - meaning each job is involved more than once in 'loops' and not necessarily in a step-by-step manner.
Reaching consensus between these groups and closing deals has become an increasingly complex, frustrating, and lengthy process for both customers and the vendors. It is because sales reps lack insights on developments within the customer organization after they’ve shared content. They don't know which decision-makers are engaging with their content.
As a result, sales reps fail to help their stakeholders see shared interests and find common ground. But, knowing their buyer's intent, sales reps can explain their value proposition better and share suggestions they are best equipped to provide.
The Bottom Line
Sales reps need valuable content to connect customer stakeholders that help them identify the best solution to solve their problem.
The Widening Gap: Technology
According to a DNN Software Report, over 70% of 300 marketing executives working for mid-size companies say marketing has become more challenging. This is despite all the technology solutions available (more than 7,000 independent marketing technology solutions mare currently documented).
Over the past few years, there has been a surge in the number of tools designed to help marketing specialists do their jobs better. Many tool providers address specific parts of the problem, leading to challenges integrating them to the existing enterprise tool suite.
Within a decade, marketing has become one of the most technology-dependent business functions, after years of being one of the least. Scott Brinker, a leading marketing technologist, found in his research about 1,000 service providers under various categories offering marketing technology solutions in 2014. By 2019, this number had swelled to 7,040.
DNN software research found that on average, marketers use more than 12 tools, and over 10% use more than 31 tools to manage just their campaigns and data. The same report states that 59% of marketers surveyed need an expert ('mini-CIO') on their team to help manage marketing technology, an increasing new concern in the industry.
However, despite the presence of so many stakeholders, tools, and platforms, businesses cannot still collaborate across teams and functions. Hence, the reality is that:
- 24% B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing team grow their revenues 24% faster over three years, and profits by 27% — source: SiriusDecisions.
- Businesses that are better aligned grow annual revenues by 32%, while less-aligned companies experience a 7% decline in revenues — source: Forrester Research.
- Businesses with closely-aligned sales and marketing teams had 36% customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates — source: MarketingProfs.
If any of the above statistics convince you, then it is time for you to do something about it.
Connecting The Dots
Enterprises that acknowledge the marketer-sales rep-buyer- disconnect move fast to improve their messaging to craft a story that resonates with their audience. It helps them gain a clearer understanding of which content to use and when, whom to target, and how to present.
Aligning marketing and sales teams around the customer is critical to reducing the sales cycle and increasing win rates. A loosely-knit sales and marketing structure will result in an incoherent communication to the customer and confuse them instead of guiding them. Marketers and sales executives who aren't aware of this can bid farewell to their chances of providing value to their buyers.”
Read the second part of our Sales Enablement Series to know why this is resulting in missed opportunities for businesses globally.