How to Create & Scale Success with Sales Enablement
by Robin Tinker, on Jul, 31, 2015
Support Your Front Line and Improve the Bottom Line
Any organization can suffer from a breakdown in communications between departments which results in individuals working on differing goals.
With a lack of integration between departments and inconsistently applied internal processes, even though separate departments are exuding effort and using their resources, a sales team may fail to deliver as expected.
Presentations and materials lack specificity to the needs of the sales team and clients. Sales is unsure of how to express what would benefit them the most. There is a lack of alignment with marketing strategy as it pertains to those out in the field with platforms that are difficult to access and use.
Would any company want their sales team interfacing with clients without having all of the necessary support and information at their disposal to close a deal?
It often happens that training, strategy and support systems are not fully accessible to those out on the field, but any business can benefit from using resources and user-friendly technology to assist their sales teams. So how do you create and scale for success through sales enablement?
Improve Company Traits to Drive Success
Companies want sales to execute to plan. In reality, the sales team is only one small part of often large organizations that can be weak in executing strategy and rollouts in general. Executives can and should learn to be more effective within the organization. Better processes will naturally create desirable productivity outcomes in their departments.
According to Harvard Business Review, executives can work on four areas to improve execution—clarifying decision rights, designing information flows, aligning motivators, and making changes to structure. The Harvard Business Review completed a survey on more than 26,000 people in 31 companies to identify the traits that make organizations effective at implementing strategies.
Specific traits that fall within the scope of clarifying decision rights and designing information flows are at the top of the list of The 17 Fundamental Traits of Organizational Effectiveness. The first eight traits are listed as ranked and can impact directly on sales enablement and any associated platform and mobile device rollout:
- Everyone has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which he or she is responsible.
- Important information about the competitive environment gets to headquarters quickly.
- Once made, decisions are rarely second-guessed.
- Information flows freely across organizational boundaries.
- Field and line employees usually have the information they need to understand the bottom-line impact of their day-to-day choices.
- Line managers have access to the metrics they need to measure the key drivers of their business.
- Managers up the line get involved in operating decisions.
- Conflicting messages are rarely sent to the market.
Clear structure and open communications are imperative for better operations. These methods assist the entire company, but for our purposes they enhance communication and create consistent messages between sales, sales ops and marketing. Consistent branding, messaging & updated product information are easily accomplished with Modus's platform and immediately available for reps to use in the field.
[Tweet "Sales needs accurate info quickly in order to tailor messages for prospects"]
Employees must understand their role and responsibilities clearly. Clarify for staff on who they can go to for help resolving a specific concern. Avoid wasting time and energy in-house with various staff members trying to determine the right person to assist sales on a particular problem being experienced in the field. Sales needs accurate information quickly in order to tailor messages to their clients and prospects. Ensure that messages going to market are not at odds with each other. It's tough for a business to succeed without the free flow of information between departments.
Delivering Content in Context
Soft skills can be just as necessary as analytics in profitable communications. Useful communications have the ability to respond to a person’s question with information that helps address the problem. Messages are not one-size-fits-all but are as individual as the people and the issues themselves.
Sales conversations should be relevant to client needs and any questions posed. If a prospect asks about pricing, show them pricing info. When prospects are looking to understand more about the products, have product specs on hand. Listening to the prospect will help direct the conversation in a way that is productive for them and does not come off as “too salesy.”
Avoid steamrolling through a pitch and potential sale, disregarding the interests and questions of a prospect. Be authentic during communications. Listen to what clients are saying. Relationships between clients and sales should benefit clients. Become a valued resource. Be the person they call when they need real answers. It is not only about the sale but about building a long-term relationship with clients. Authentic communications and trust are necessary components of this relationship.
This is all "common" sales knowledge, but are you using it? Do your sales teams have the time to focus on what matters?
Salespeople can be very busy. Each team needs information that answers their questions. Do not require everyone to thumb through a manual or pdf for their particular area. Besides, audiences tune out to generalized presentations and communications that do not apply to them. It also wastes their time and reduces productivity. Sales teams require information that is relevant to their focus and responsibilities.
Inc. provides an excellent list of presentations to improve communications with employees and peers. Jamie Walters, Founder of Ivy Sea, and author of Big Vision, Small Business, and Sarah Fenson, Ivy Sea’s former Client Services Manager, are authors of the article, A Crash Course in Communication. A few minutes of reading can help any professional begin to review their own soft skills and think of ways to improve their communications.
A conversation is an exchange that requires that “we listen and speak skillfully, not just talk mindlessly.” No individual or organization can afford to go on autopilot and spout out generalized information that fails to meet the particular needs of each individual and team. A few key takeaways are to:
- Ensure that clients feel heard, their thoughts and experiences can help to explain areas that require some form of redress before proceeding. Insights into the areas that have been missed, failings within the industry, or issues within your organization can drive real change to improve company and product performance, business relationships, work culture, and more.
- Remember to communicate from a positive mental framework. Change is stressful, especially when a person feels a loss of control over a situation. Create a practical schedule to meet your needs but give those making the change all of the support that they may need to make the shift. If the first time is unsuccessful, remember that even initial failure teaches powerful lessons. Reflect on what happens and learn of ways to improve an approach and response. At the end of the day, we can only control our reactions to a situation. Learn what you can and implement stress reduction strategies to clear the mind, refocus and come to people from a place of calm and understanding.
Enhanced communications--delivering the right message at the right time and actively listening to others--helps to build stronger relationships and healthier communications with prospects, clients and within an organization. Tailor your presentations to meet the needs of staff and clients and upload them to be available for all necessary parties. Staff can improve soft skills on their own timetables.
Create Alignment between Sales, Sales Operations, and Marketing
How can a gulf in understanding exist between sales, sales ops, and marketing? Most organizations would agree that sales are a top priority. Yet those same organizations can spend money, time and effort on operations and marketing initiatives that result in little tangible sales.
Marketing should be informed by the emotional drives and obstacles of prospects. In fact, there are two main psychological factors that motivate customers to buy. Sales teams are in the right place to funnel information to marketing and operations in order to shape the marketing message, but they need the right tools.
Jeff Shore’s article in Entrepreneur, The 2 Psychological Factors Motivating Customers to Buy, reveals that a customer’s current dissatisfaction, paired with a well-shaped future promise, can help prospects make the leap to purchasing.
Salespeople are on the front lines to ask the questions that uncover what is going on in the minds of potential clients. Their input needs to be given more weight. Sales are able to find out the pain points of leads. Some sample questions are:
- What motivated you to begin shopping?
- What is not working for you in your situation?
- What made you think that you need to change?
- What causes you distress when you consider buying?
Marketing can focus on creating a promising picture of the future after the purchase and implementation of a product. Shape marketing efforts to deliver materials and support that will help sales show prospects how a product or service will solve their specific problems and create quantifiable benefits.
Potential clients need to get over the blocks of cost and fear. We know that future promise and current dissatisfaction are the biggest motivators. So gathering information from prospects and sharing information throughout marketing, sales and operations will get everyone on the same page and be of real use to sales and potential customers.
Retro movie quote alert!
The Captain in Cool Hand Luke said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” It takes effort to unlearn old behaviors, and even the best of technology will not help departments currently working in isolation be cured overnight. It takes a shift to an ecosystem of sales enablement.
Inc. writer Geoffrey James' humorous take on the friction between sales and marketing departments is found in his article, Why Sales Hates Marketing: 9 Reasons. A sense of superiority, little belief in the sales team, few quantifiable measurements on the impact of deliverables on actual sales and profits, and no understanding about what it takes to make a sale are only some of the issues that sales teams attribute to marketing.
It doesn't have to be this way. Rework the marketing team, get clear on the priorities of your organization, teach marketing associates more about sales and vice versa. In short, enable these teams to work together, to increase sales.
Erik Laurijssen, CMO and Vice President, Platform, Alliances, and Channels at Luma Technologies, offers the following commandments for sales and marketing alignment:
- Commandment 1: There shall be understanding between departments
- Commandment 2: Marketing extends beyond your front door
- Commandment 3: Empowerment is not the same as autonomy
- Commandment 4: Embrace technology, but don’t count on one fix
- Commandment 5: There shall be repeated measurement
Change takes time. Change takes effort. Change takes a buy-in from stakeholders and users. More cross-functional support, clear understanding of roles and the full use of technology by end users to collaborate will improve productivity and enable sales to meet objectives. What steps is your organization prepared to take to create the type of alignment needed for sustainable growth?
Platform Selection Criteria
Choose a sales enablement platform wisely. A technology that is easy to use and can be integrated with existing processes and platforms. Employees can't be expected to use a platform that is not effective for their needs. Companies must find a platform that helps meet the overall objectives derived from the rollout’s business case. Seven questions to ask your vendor and yourself are:
- Is the platform built for my use case?
- Can it be tailored and ready to implement quickly?
- Does it integrate easily into my ecosystem? The platform should be able to talk easily with other technologies currently in place within the organization.
- Can it adapt to future needs? The platform should have an adequate level of flexibility to meet future requirements.
- How user-friendly is it? Sales should be able to get onto the platform and intuitively be able to use it without a manual.
- Does it provide analytics? Analytics are an important tool for determining areas for improvement and overall success. Information such as what content is resonating with prospects can give organizations real information on sales performance and ways to support the sales force and enhance their abilities or address the issues preventing them from closing a deal. Information is only as good as how it is used. Get business value from the analytics of the platform.
- Does it meet the following requirements: scalability; security; support compliance; and localization? Such a platform will win the IT department’s seal of approval during their implementation phase.
Think carefully about the platform selected, develop the why behind the change, create benchmarks and quantifiable measurements, and generate overall expectations from the technology chosen. Give those metrics to your sales team on a user-friendly mobile app and support their efforts to exceed expectations.
Building a business case begins with the first implementation of a rollout. Answer the questions: Why change? And why now? Taking these steps enables a business to reach outcomes that impact top line and bottom line metrics. It also helps invested parties gain clarity on the benefits expected from the platform. This insight motivates people to learn the platform and adopt it. It is important to estimate the quantifiable effect that the platform will have on a specific function or process.
Be detailed about the impact expected. This requires research into the business, suitable benchmarks for comparison and a practical and achievable number that can be attained by the company. Remember that outcomes are a priority for executives. Address revenue, cost reductions and profit in the business case to resonate with them as well.
Metrics: Is the Rollout Working?
Starting with a wall-to-wall implementation of the rollout without a business case leaves success up to serendipity. Often, it is better to start an “experiment” with a selected high performing group of marketing and sales.
A targeted use case creates clearer benefits and expectations from using the platform. Selecting high performers helps to acknowledge their contribution to the organization and companies know that they have a group that is invested in their own and their company’s success.
The initial rollout within selected areas helps to provide feasible benchmarks and expected value for other sales teams and support departments. Measure the sales enablement platform rollout with benchmarks for performance that will clearly establish the improvements before and after deployment.
Aberdeen Research found that companies that implement best practices throughout sales teams doubled the quota attainment of peers. How will that impact on your organization’s bottom line?
Working with a select high-performing group will provide data and metrics to demonstrate progress and improvement. Metrics can show improvements in the length of time to close a sale, as one of many useful results of the rollout.
Correlations between key areas can show other teams that implementation of the various functions of the platform resulted in better marketing and operations support, shorter time to close, reduction of interruptions to sales teams and increased sales productivity.
The initial data will help motivate new users in the consequent waves of employees being added to the platform. The following waves of teams benefit from having platforms already seeded by prior users and experts. This will help shorten onboarding time with new users to the platform. Inadvertently, those that are helped by the platform are usually those that want to help others. Employees can share their experiences with the platform and how-tos with incoming waves of teams and departments.
Communication is a priority in a successful rollout. Salespeople need their support on the go. Individualized mobile apps from Modus make that essential information exchange possible anywhere and at any time. All of the benefits of organizational change, in-house technologies and the latest metrics are available for sales teams and their clients. On-brand presentations and assets can be uploaded to address their current needs.
As attributed to R. H. Grant, “A salesman, like the storage battery in your car, is constantly discharging energy. Unless he is recharged at frequent intervals, he soon runs dry. This is one of the greatest responsibilities of sales leadership.”
Give your sales team the full support that they need wherever they are with Modus.
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