What's the best way to get a better return from your demand generation activities? The answer is to make sure you’re not dropping the ball in the final stages of the buyer journey where your sales team need to push deals over the line.It’s all too easy to focus effort in the top-of-the-funnel marketing activities that drive traffic and leads. Seeing positive metrics from this can give you a false sense of confidence in your investment in marketing as it feels like you’re getting a return of some kind.
But leads that don’t convert to sales are of little use when it comes to your business’s bottom line.
What you need are the systems, content and processes in place to help sales reps turn leads into genuine sales opportunities. This is where a focus on sales enablement comes in.
Sales enablement is the iterative process of providing your sales team with what they need to effectively close deals. That could include sales content libraries, tools, training, templates, and more.
How one brings these into play can naturally look very different across businesses, but here are a some best practices that can act as a solid foundation to help you maximise your sales efforts.
Align Sales and Marketing
Setting up your sales and marketing functions to work in their own functional silos is an outdated way to operate. Forward thinking SMEs understand the importance of bringing these teams together and ensuring maximum alignment.
When sales and marketing teams work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates. (HubSpot)
Sales and marketing alignment is simply a fundamental rule of successful sales enablement.
As prospects go through their unique buyer journey, they will likely have interacted with various elements of your business' marketing activity before engaging with sales. Marketing is doing the job of warming up leads for sales and it’s important to optimise the experience of moving through that journey. When marketing and sales are fully aligned and share the same vision for that experience, the better it will be.
To achieve this, sales and marketing need to be focused on the same primary goals, roles between the two functions need to be clearly outlined.
Simplify Communication Between Sales and Marketing
Enabling continual dialogue between the sales and marketing teams is critical to keeping them aligned and learning from each other.
Marketing need to understand about the quality of the leads they bring to sales, as well as understand common objections. These can then be addressed on landing pages and in lead nurturing comms.
Setup good online channels to enable easy communication. A great tool to use for this is Slack. You can use it to create dedicated conversation channels between the two teams and integrate it with your MarTech tools and CRM to set up alerts and notifications when leads and MQLs drop in.
Also have the teams meet regularly to share insights and ideas to improve performance across the sales funnel. This would be an opportunity for the marketing team to share the content roadmap and upcoming campaigns so sales can leverage new marketing activity with their target accounts. Sales can also offer insight that informs how to best engage target accounts with optimal messaging that resonates well with buyer personas.
Where possible, members of the marketing team should also periodically shadow sales calls or demos. This gives them a valuable opportunity to spot where the conversations aren’t going so well and identify content ideas that can support the sales process.
By creating a continuous feedback loop between sales and marketing, they will collaborate better and learn what is working well and what isn’t to get the best results.
Develop Killer Sales Enablement Content
Providing good educational content at the right time can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing a deal. It’s the sales rep’s job to know what sales resources to share and when, but it’s marketing’s job to produce quality content that prospects find useful.
Marketing need to understand what content is missing in the sales process. To identify this, run a content audit which maps your existing content to the buyer journey. Then you’ll be able to spot any gaps that need filling and add them to a content roadmap.
Consider what types of content can best support sales conversations. These could include product sheets, case studies, testimonials, business cases and ROI calculators. These will all be valuable assets for the sales team and can also be used for inbound marketing efforts, particularly to attract individuals that prefer to independently learn about your product or service in more depth before talking to a sales person.
Creating good content is one thing, but having it be easily accessible in order to maximise its usefulness is important, too. The upfront investment in creating an organised shared library through which sales reps can easily find content can save a lot of time and money in the long run.
Sales reps spend around 31% of their time searching for and creating the content they need.
Make sure the investments you make in creating good content don't go to waste at the moment it should be most useful.
Additionally, create templates for content that can be customised based on buyer needs and requirements. Templates for content like product sheets and business cases can be easily personalised to address different use cases. Minor customisations can go a long way to closing a deal.
Creating good sales enablement content should always be an iterative process. Continue to evaluate the effectiveness of sales enablement content and learn what gaps need to be filled for different buyer personas.
Institutionalise the Practices of Your Best Sales Reps
There will be something that your highest performing sales reps are doing that’s working well for them. Find out what they are and institutionalise it as part of the training for other sales reps.
You could also simply have your high performing sales reps hold informal training workshops with other team members to share their tips and tricks.
Leverage Sales Automation
Automation is about doing more with less. With a sales automation tool, one sales person can do the job of many.
Sales automation empowers sales to operate at a new level of efficiency. It means being able to send personalised emails at scale which are tailored to personas and customer needs, automating a series of communications over a fixed window of time, automating follow ups, and much more.
The more commonly used sales automation software will allow you to create email snippets and templates. If your sales teams are sending regular emails, email snippets (sections of text) that can be easily inserted into emails if sales reps tend to repeat themselves often....t, having email templates that reps can use without needing to edit the style and formatting will help save a lot of time in the long run.
The reporting functionalities of sales automation tools will allow sales leaders to have greater visibility on sales performance, so make sure you’re utilising them. It will be provide insight into what personas respond best at certain times of day, when the best time to call is, and what kind of messaging is resonating best with prospects.
Use Chatbots to Improve Qualification and Conversion
Some are still unfamiliar with how chatbots work and how they can benefit your business, but many forward-thinking SMEs that have taken advantage of them now consider chatbots an indispensable part of their conversion toolkit.
Using appropriately targeted chatbot playbooks on key pages of your website can provide your visitors with the vital information they need to get them ready to talk to sales. They can also be used to collect valuable qualifying information about a prospect before handing off to a sales rep.
The ultimate benefit of chatbots is that they can save sales reps a lot of time qualifying prospects, and only handover more qualified website visitors that reps can then have more meaningful conversations with.
Provide Continual Training
As your sales team evolves and learns from experience, it’s important to continue training them to keep skills and knowledge up-to-date and consistent within the team.
Having everyone following similar best practices and processes will keep the team aligned and working efficiently together. When sales reps start to operate in their own world, any carefully systemised processes that you’ve developed go out the window. Sales enablement systems and sales best practices are there for a good reason.
Think carefully about what type of training approach will work best for your team.
Research has shown that without regular learning and reinforcement, 70% of what is being taught is forgotten within 24 hours. Coming up with ideas for bite-sized training that happens on a regular basis will be more effective as this will help with information retention.
Any training resources should also be put into a shared library so reps can easily refer to them later.
Make Reporting Transparent
Sales enablement involves taking advantages of the opportunities that technology presents within the sales process, and reporting is a key part of that. The more transparent the performance metrics are, the easier teams can hold themselves accountable.
The more they understand how to analyse the data, the more effective optimisations can be. This means having a reporting solution that covers performance across the two teams.
Of course, you can report on endless performance metrics but that can become overwhelming and unhelpful. So make sure you highlight the metrics you consider to be true indicators of performance, and what metrics you need to make meaningful optimisations.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sales enablement, however these best practices will set you well on your way to success.
It’s important to identify what sales enablement strategy will works best for your teams, and sometimes that may take some experimentation over time.
Consider these best practices as a foundation for building a good sales enablement approach for your business. It’s not straight-forward to implement all of these, many will require the coming together of a multitude of skill sets in your business.
What's undeniable is that the long term benefits and operational costs saved as a result of your investment in sales enablement will be quickly evident when it’s done well.