Marketing and sales both work to drive demand and grow revenue. The problem is that they each focus on different areas of the buying process. They do so in silos, guided by a linear process that dictates marketing works on the first part and sales works on the second.
This worked fine until products became more complex, buyers became enabled to self-educate, and buying committees grew. Only 12% of marketers agree they have a successful process from lead to deal.
The inability of marketing and sales to work together and keep pace with buyers has resulted in content that’s irrelevant, fragmented buyer experiences, and win rates that hover around 50%.
More deals are lost to no decision than ever before as buyers are frustrated and unable to deconflict all the information they find via self-education—all while holding vendors at arms’ length until they’re ready to engage.
Forrester Research finds that 62% of B2B buyers say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list — based solely on digital content. Even more (68%) prefer to research on their own and 60% don’t interact with sales reps as a primary source of information.
Buyers taking control of the purchasing process in a complex sale creates a quandary for both marketers and salespeople. It puts the onus on marketing to ensure their content is found, relevant, and helps buyers complete the tasks needed to get their company on the short list. It frustrates sales reps who are no longer seen as an integral part of the purchasing process and who may be called into the conversation too late to differentiate your product in the eyes of buyers who think they know what they want or need.
This self-education also introduces friction and uncertainty. The risk of making a bad decision increases along with the difficulty reaching consensus about how to best solve the problem. So, sticking with the status quo seems more desirable than making the change.
Marketing and sales alignment simplifies the buying process by helping the two disciplines present a unified end-to-end buying experience. Consistent experiences result in a lower perception of risk that builds trust and brings consensus along with it. Buyers say they’re willing to talk to salespeople early in their buying process if they can provide value. Marketing can be instrumental in helping to get reps invited to the conversation earlier—when it makes a difference.
Sales Enablement Brings Cohesion
Sales enablement is intended to provide sales reps with the content, information, and tools/technology they need to improve sales effectiveness, increase efficiency, and accelerate win rates. Both marketing and sales must participate in support of those goals or it quickly becomes a false promise.
Where a CRM is a contact database with a focus on monitoring sales rep activity and used for forecasting pipeline, a sales enablement platform’s purpose is to help salespeople get sales done. Its role is to surface relevant content based on what the seller needs to engage a buyer and provide training and coaching to help sales reps match conversations and interactions with the buyer’s context to help them buy.
Sales Enablement is About Engagement
Given the nature and expectations of buyers, this means your sales enablement platform is not about enforcing your internal, linear marketing-to-sales process, but rather helping you shift to run marketing and sales efforts in parallel given your customers’ (likely convoluted) buying process. Gartner calls this buyer enablement.
Engagement doesn’t play favorites. It’s not about marketing or sales but rather what the customer needs in the moment given who they are, where they are in their buying process, and what problem they’re trying to solve. Sales reps say prospecting is their number one challenge. Sales enablement can help get them in more buyer conversations.
Sales Enablement Provides Visibility for Buyer Enablement
The only way marketing and sales can work together to present a seamless buying experience is if both sides have visibility into what each of them is doing to engage buyers.
Marketers provide content automatically tagged by AI for easy findability by sales. They can see engagement levels for buyers and which sales reps are sharing what content. This provides insight to which content works to help close deals and which is irrelevant or being ignored. Marketers can provide training about how to best use the content to create value that empowers buyers.
Salespeople can easily find content—saving them hours of searching or redundant content creation—and share it with buyers at the right time. They will be alerted when the buyer engages so they can follow up in near real-time to answer questions or provide the next piece of the puzzle.
Sales enablement professionals (or marketers) can provide microlearning videos and interactive training to help sales understand buyers, learn about products, handle objections, and orchestrate buying progress. Sales playbooks and presentation decks are also a click away to keep sales reps focused and on track.
Additionally, buyer engagement reaches beyond marketing and sales teams. Your sales enablement platform should provide access and visibility to others involved in serving customers, including product marketers, customer service, legal, and others as appropriate.
Alignment Brings Continuous Improvement to Marketing and Sales
If you can’t see what’s happening, you can’t work to improve it. Sales enablement facilitates marketing and sales alignment, brings consistency and helps match context to buyers’ experiences with your company. The insights it provides shine a light on how to make those experiences even better by helping the two disciplines collaborate successfully to win more deals—by design.
Originally published on Smart Selling Tools