The Sales Enablement Ecosystem: Aligning Sales and Marketing to Win

by Orrin Broberg, on Jun, 9, 2015

Across articles, blog posts, and white papers, experts in both sales and marketing agree: one of the most important organizational endeavors for business-to-business companies is aligning sales and marketing teams.


Disparity and tension between these two areas have been problems since the advent of the fields, but the changing landscape of sales and the evolution of the customer have made enterprise alignment even more essential in recent years.

Individuals on both sides of the sales ecosystem have to keep pace with the changes by evolving along with the customer, but they also have to be cognizant of a growing need to evolve together.

The New B2B Customer

According to Forbes, by the time a potential B2B customer reaches out to your organization, 80 percent of the purchase cycle is already done. Customers don't reach out for information as they used to because research tools are readily available through means such as the Internet. In fact, Christine Crandall notes that many B2B buyers balk when it comes to reaching out to an unknown or new vendor. Instead, she says, "buyers prioritize relationships and trust over product and price."

Statistics published by Sales & Marketing Management provide a similar story—around 60 percent of buyer decisions are made prior to any interaction with sales teams. What does that mean for sales and marketing teams?

First, it means the sales force must tackle an evolved role with the customer. Second, it means that the traditional methods of lead prospecting from marketing aren't always going to result in revenue.

Relationship and Expertise over Knowledge

While sales teams do need to be knowledgeable about their products, building a relationship with the customer is more important than product specifications. Customers in any industry – and especially B2B customers – already have access to basic product details. They don't care that a salesperson can spout exact measurements by memory.

Instead, the client is looking for someone they can trust—someone who understands their needs and can offer solutions to meet those needs.

  • Instead of listing product features, sales people have to be able to show a customer what each feature does for them specifically.
  • Instead of convincing a customer they need a product, sales must take the time to understand what the customer needs.
  • Instead of spending the majority of time cold calling, today's B2B sales department must spend time growing relationships for lasting trust.

In this environment, a relationship isn't all about client calls and lunches. It's about establishing yourself as an expert in the client's niche—not an expert on a product line. B2B customers buy from individuals and companies when they feel like those people and groups understand the inherent workings of the client business.

One thing customers don't want, however, is a know-it-all salesperson. "The best salespeople know that their expertise can become their enemy," says Selling Solution author Mike Bosworth. When salespeople are tempted to instruct buyers on what they need to do, Bosworth suggests instead offering a story about some peer of the buyer.

Marketing's Target Audience

So, what does all this mean for marketing? Michael Brenner notes that "Sales is the customer of marketing." If the sales team must become an expert in the client's industry, then marketing certainly needs to understand something about sales.

According to MarketingSherpa, a major disparity between lead generation and usefulness still exists. Around 60 percent of marketing staff are sending all leads to sales, even though less than a third of those leads end up being qualified. Dropping useless leads on another department creates more work for that department without providing additional value—not a customer- or team-centric approach. Brenner says marketing departments should work to understand sales needs and provide the best possible leads.

A Seamless Strategy from Marketing to the Field

At the same time, the responsibility for success doesn't reside with marketing alone. Marketing can't improve lead processes or enable sales with better collateral without communication. Instead of blaming each other for failures in hitting targets or driving positive revenue trends, sales and marketing professionals must work together to create a seamless strategy.

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Alignment of marketing and sales resources must be intentional—it requires discipline and the use of technology from both sides. You can't simply set organizational goals and hope that, in pursuit of those overall goals, that sales and marketing naturally align.

Purposeful alignment requires that the functions work together, using data, research, business intelligence, and technology to enable field sales and drive the entire marketing and sales process to success.

Data-Driven Processes

No matter how you approach sales and marketing processes, the goal is to sell. In today's competitive market and demanding economy, the goal is usually to sell in a cost-effective manner. "You have to generate revenue as efficiently as possible," notes founder Dave Elkington. He says to do that, "you must create a data-driven sales culture. Data trumps intuition."

From initial marketing decisions to the final customer approach, every decision in your sales stream should be made after looking at the data. That's especially true when creating marketing materials or presentations.

It's no longer enough for experienced marketing professionals to base campaigns on feelings, experience, and guesswork. Marketing departments must base campaigns on demographic data, previous trends, and research from focus groups or other customer interactions. Data-driven resources are more likely to enable sales reps in the field.

In addition to traditional data opportunities, such as a review of historical campaigns and market surveys, marketing departments can interview members of the sales force directly. Why guess at how sales resources are working when you have hands-on experts in the same building. Ask sales employees:

  • How certain marketing resources work for them
  • About potential client reaction to various resources
  • Whether leads are panning out
  • What they would like to see in terms of marketing resources
  • Whether they feel truly enabled by the resources offered

Selling Solutions

Instead of selling products, everyone should be selling solutions. "Research by CSO Insights clearly shows that many teams need to get better at selling solutions, outcomes, and business value," says Yusuf Tayob, the Global Lead for Accenture. Field sales reps can sell solutions without matching collateral, but when strategies are aligned, they don't have to. New trends in sales enablement involve targeting collateral to specific client and channel needs.

Channel Chargers CEO John Boyken notes that today's market requires more organization and thought in the generation of marketing packages. It's not enough to create an all-inclusive package—sales reps must be able to pull from disparate resources to customize presentations for every potential client.

Luckily, technology allows marketing organizations to create such tools without the expense historically associated with flexible campaigns. By launching mobile applications for tablets and devices, marketing departments can provide sales reps across the field with real-time access to all available resources.

No longer are sales reps relying on static documents about the product. Instead, they can present solutions-based information that is of value to the client business.

Intelligent Lead Generation

Dropping unqualified or low-value leads on the sales department isn't a viable strategy in today's market. Every aspect of the marketing and sales stream must work toward quality as well as quantity – and in many cases, quality over quantity. Nowhere is this truer than in lead generation.

"Use lead scoring to determine who you send to sales and when you send them to sales," says Engagio CEO Jon Miller. Lead generation and timing must be aligned with both organizational goals and sales capability. If goals are to land three big accounts in a quarter, for example, then leads should concentrate on high-quality, likely clients. If the organization is trying to add as many new clients as possible, leads should target low-hanging fruit.

Lead strategies shouldn't be static, and development of strategies should not be a marketing-only endeavor. Get subject-matter-experts from sales involved in the process, and keep communication lines open.

Once a strategy is devised, marketing and sales teams should work together to monitor it for success and make changes as necessary to facilitate the best possible performance in both areas.

Use Media to Your Advantage

"Every company has a vision. But can your sales reps clearly articulate it? Probably not. Why not create a welcome video from the CEO or a founder just for new sales reps?" suggests Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group.

Bertuzzi's suggestion can be taken further than a brief introduction for new sales people. Sales collateral delivered via digital means is a great way for field sales to introduce the client to products or solutions, but it's also a good way to keep the sales force educated or engaged with the overall process. From product training to simple marketing messages, videos, PDFs, and PowerPoints can be sent to both in-house and in-field sales reps with the click of a button.

Digital media lets organizations create a seamless approach to marketing and sales and is particularly helpful in situations where sales resources are scattered across multiple locations.

Be Consistent

Miller Heiman's chief research officer, Joe Galvin, notes, "The issue of consistent and clear communications is one that technology can solve." Using digital media is just one-way technology can be used to create clarity and consistency. Other ways technology assists with seamless sales strategies include:

  • The ability to deliver new information about strategies or products in real-time
  • The ability for outside reps to speak or communicate directly with marketing staff from any location
  • The ability for teams in multiple locations to work together on strategies, communications, and presentations for a consistent message to clients

Mobile Technology Solutions for Sales and Marketing

Real-time access to marketing information is one of the most popular areas of mobile sales investment. This gives field sales reps the ability to access the right information at the right time and right step within the sales process – keys to moving the process forward.

It's not just about investing in the right piece of tech, either. Chad Udell from Float Learning points out that content decisions go hand-in-hand with technology decisions. "Convert your best existing content into a mobile, usable, fresh user experience," says Udell, which means "rethinking what is the best and most relevant information."

Organizations can use technology to create a competitive advantage in the sales process, but only if sales gets involved in the tech decisions made by marketing. When both functions aren't working together on technology and sales enablement, money is left on the table, and the organization is outclassed by competition with a more streamlined approach.

One thing that organizations have to remember is that tech alone isn't a solution. "Carte blanche" approaches for marketing technology are going to wane as economic resources shrink and competition remains strong. Instead, organizations will need to take a rationalized approach to marketing and sales, maintain budget-friendly campaigns, and keep technology footprints within set boundaries.

Tips for Using Mobile Tech in Sales Enablement

With the right tools, organizations can create and implement successful, seamless sales and marketing strategies even in challenging environments. First, organizations should choose tools carefully. Jumping at every offer on the market wastes money, spreads resources too thin, and clutters the pipeline. Other tips include:

  • Choosing technology that integrates with other CRM, CMS and Marketing Automation systems
  • Training all staff on technology and not relying on trial-and-error learning
  • Encouraging field sales to use technology when preparing and presenting to clients
  • Choosing technology with inherent communication capability
  • Testing technology to ensure it works across necessary devices and computers
  • Testing sales collateral and other resources to ensure it can be delivered, accessed, and used with existing technology

Raelyn Kritzer, a channel manager, says that vendor partners want role-based capabilities when they access portals and product education tools. Without role-based search or access abilities, she says vendors often give up looking for information within a few minutes and call a sales rep.

This client-side situation works in-house, too. Portals, applications, and other mobile resources have to be friendly and organized, or field sales reps aren't going to use them. They'll call in to the home office instead, or not seek further information at all. The first situation impedes productivity for everyone; the second makes for growing ignorance in the sales force.

Choosing Mobile Resources for Sales Enablement

The right mobile resources help marketing staff by enhancing productivity, adding creative capability, reducing administrative labor hours, and making it simple to get resources into the hands of sales reps. It helps sales staff by opening communication lines and providing on-the-go marketing support. Some other things to look for include:

  • User-friendly interfaces
  • Secure data storage
  • Strong vendor support
  • Ability to access applications from any location
  • Ability to use resources on multiple mobile and computer operating systems or platforms

Enable Mobile Sales Forces with Mobile Technology

Carol Cohen, a manager of the learning program at Hewlett-Packard, said, "Mobile devices are everywhere. We need to align our learners to the capabilities of those devices.” Jim Ninivaggi of SiriusDecisions said, "A rep’s knowledge must continue to be fed over the long term in order for productivity to grow."

By combining those two thoughts, you can arrive at a conclusion that is valid for every B2B organization: Mobile devices are now an inherent part of the sales process, and organizations must learn to leverage those devices and resources to feed the sales force with education, information, and appropriate collateral. In an always-on world, sales and marketing teams can no longer afford to be disconnected.

Aligning sales and marketing goals, resources, communications, and efforts—and enabling field sales with seamless strategies—is the only way organizations can achieve long-term and consistent wins in today's marketplace. To do this, sales and marketing teams must forget about traditional rivalries and begin to work together, from joint decisions about technology to daily communications about resources and needs.

Let's talk about how we can help you bring your teams together to enable sales, contact us today.

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