5 Sales Alignment Misfires and How to Avoid Them

6201656785_5696d80beb_zContributed by Lisa Dennis

Getting Sales Enablement right isn’t a sure thing. There are many different views of what it should and should not be. Expert advice abounds – as well as expert definitions. Two good definitions that carry a lot of weight in the technology space are IDC’s:

Getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place, and in the right format, to move a sales opportunity forward.

Another view of sales enablement that many technology companies look to is Forrester Research’s:

Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips ll client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.

While both of these definitions make sense, I often wonder if we are not too focused on our own sales teams and not enough on the buyer. If we thought about this as buyer enablement, would that change how we approached it? Thinking about how to enable buyers to do business with you should be what enablement efforts are all about. Yet, the following misfires often occur in efforts to arm the sales team to engage with buyers.

Misfire #1: Equating Sales Enablement with Just Sales Collateral Creation and Delivery

Enablement discussions often center on content. Knowing what is available, where it is, when to use it – the questions are consistent and tend to typify one of the biggest disconnects between sales and marketing. But content creation and delivery is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to arming sales people to engage with buyers.

Redirect #1:  Focus on the Buyer, not on Marketing or Sales

How do buyers want to engage with your company? What content types and formats fit the personas you are trying to attract? What tools and technology do your sales people have to help them conduct conversations, meetings, and build their own thought leadership position with their buyers? How are sales people taught to use the tools and materials they are given? What assets are available for sellers to use at each stage of the buying cycle? Each of these questions speak to a framework that is needed so content can be best leveraged throughout the buyer’s journey. Content alone cannot serve up the right type and depth of buyer engagement.

Misfire #2: Adopting a Top-Down Approach to Sales Enablement

One of the challenges of enablement efforts is figuring out who has ownership of the design, implementation and management of the program.  Does sales own it – via a sales operations or sales enablement team? Does marketing own it – via marketing operations or field marketing? Often senior management, or the CxO will mandate the effort and the solution, which can result in a top-down design that may not be grounded in field reality. While that seems like a blunt statement, the selling environment has undergone massive changes over the past ten years – and many senior executives may not have a first-hand understanding of what is really happening in the field.

Redirect #2:  Identify and Engage a Sales “Poster Child” To Help Deploy

The best chance a sales enablement program has to succeed requires field involvement and input before, during and after a program is built. Consider polling the entire sales team at the beginning of the design process. But to ensure that their input doesn’t get lost, and to help with development and buy-in, get someone (or two) from sales to actively participate on the design and deployment team. This should be built into their sales objectives, and there should be compensation tied to a successful roll-out. This isn’t an “add-on” responsibility while they try to meet their quota. They need to have this built in to their job, without penalty.

Misfire #3:  Defining Content from a Marketer Point of View

Who decides what content is needed?  Seems like such an obvious question – but having conducted hundreds of marketing and sales content assessments, I can tell you that the gaps that typically exist in content assets speak to a one-sided view of what is needed. So if we don’t rely on marketers to define content, does that mean we ask sales instead? Well, it certainly helps to get their input – but it isn’t an either/or proposition. One of the biggest gaps I typically see is that content is not designed for every stage of the buyers’ journey. Most content skews heavily to the early stages of Awareness and Building the Business Case. But there is little or no content available at the end of the cycle, particularly in narrowing the field to a short list, and making the final decision.

Redirect #3:  “Install” Content and How to Use It with Sales Team

So if you asked buyers what they need to see at each stage, you’d have the best chance to design and deliver content when it is needed by the buyer – and really enable sales to work with buyers armed with valuable tools to drive the decision process. Once you’ve defined this and developed the content, you must make sure that each sales executive is trained on how to best leverage this Buyer/Content framework. Just pointing to a portal, or showing them were they can “self-serve” is not enough. You need to literally “install” it with the team – show them what, where, when, and how.  Have one of your sales “poster-children” help you deliver that message via hands-on training.

Misfire #4:  Sales Enablement Is Not Goaled And Measured

Given the time, resources and expense that an effective sales enablement program takes, knowing that it is working, and where to make adjustments if it is not, is extremely important. Depending on combination of components in your program, the metrics may not be obvious or easy to get. Often measurement centers only on what’s easily available, or centers on the most obvious measurements like how many times a piece of content was accessed by a sales rep. Defining both quantitative and qualitative measures will really be crucial in assessing effectiveness.

Redirect #4:   Define Enablement Metrics WITH Sales

Nothing is worse than touting success metrics that are only meaningful to yourself. The metrics need to be developed with both “sides of the house” so that they are meaningful and can point to both successes and areas of weakness that need to be addressed. Self-serving metrics serve no one.  So work with your sales lead(s) to determine both quantitative and qualitative measures. How should enablement tool usage be looked at? Can you gather testimonial information from sales executives who were successful in buyer engagement using enablement assets? Beware of only including metrics that senior management asks for, or that marketers are able to get. This needs to be a multi-disciplinary approach to have value for the company as a whole.

Misfire #5:  Don’t Publish Results of Sales Enablement Efforts

One of the areas that many marketing teams struggle with is communication of marketing results. Enablement teams – separate or not – often suffer from the same problem. Everyone is so busy enabling, publishing results can be challenging. Having the right metrics (see Misfire #4 above) has to be addressed the right way to lay the foundation for avoiding this misfire.

Redirect #5:   Announce Deals Won and Highlight Enablement Contribution

Rather than just publishing marketing-centric results, think about how you can tie enablement activities back to deals. Through a combination of content usage metrics (by sales), downloads – opt-ins by prospects, and interviewing sales reps who have closed deals – you should be able to pull together a monthly “billboard” that can help connect the dots between field successes and enablement activities. If you measure, you need to publish and announce. It keeps the eye on the connections needed in the buyer journey – and where in the marketing and sales process attention must be paid.

Lisa_DennisLisa Dennis brings over 30 years of marketing, sales experience with B2B companies. She has a strong background in B2B strategy and execution in technology, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, and professional services. She is a writer and national speaker on both marketing and sales topics. Her core expertise includes sales enablement programs, and building customer-focused value propositions that sell. She has worked with Akamai, Citrix, CSC, Dell, HP, Hitachi, IBM, Informatica, Progress Software and many others. She has been a guest blogger for Mass High Tech, and TechTarget, and is a co-author of 360 Degrees of the Customer – Strategies & Tactics for Marketing, Sales and Service. She currently serves on the board of Sales and Marketing Innovators.

Find Lisa on Twitter @knowledgence and on LinkedIn, and access her complimentary eBook Rise Above the Chatter.


Target image used with rights from Flickr Commons.

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