What is Sales Enablement and Why it Matters More Than Ever
Last summer, I was invited to a BBQ at my friend’s house. We’ve known each other for a few years through a mutual friend, but it was the first time I was meeting partners and spouses.
When I was making the rounds of intros, my friend’s husband leaned in with a grin and said, “I’ve heard ALL about you.” The blood drained from my face and every misstep I’d ever taken in life flashed before my eyes. What did this guy know about me? Well, it turned out to be completely innocuous and he was just being friendly. What a relief!
What does this have to do with the current landscape of the B2B buyer journey? Surprisingly, a lot. By the time your sales team has the chance to talk to the buyer, they’re going to know a heck of a lot more about you than you are of them.
How do you avoid that sinking feeling when you get on a call and the prospect is armed with questions exposing every one of your shortcomings and faults?
In this post, you’ll learn what sales enablement means today, its elaborate connection to the new B2B buyer journey, and how your organization can adapt for success.
What is Sales Enablement?
“Enablement” is an old word that is gaining in popularity over time. It is defined as, “the process of rendering able, competent, or powerful; the state of being so; concrete something by which one is enabled, a qualification.”
It’s commonly used in an empowering way, making it possible for something to happen.
Sales enablement is a process of resourcing your sales team to make it close more deals faster. It helps salespeople and partners (via direct and indirect channels) engage in targeted ways across the different stages of the B2B buyer journey.
Sales Enablement as a Product of the New B2B Buyer Journey
The Traditional Sales Funnel
Traditionally, marketers were tasked with activity at the top of the sales funnel — how many leads coming in and converting — and they were largely hands-off once sales accepted those leads.
Sellers, on the other hand, controlled the sales process by engaging leads in a series of pitches, demos, and discovery calls, with the hopes of closing the sale with a golden handshake. In the past, this sometimes led to a disconnect between sales and marketing messaging, leading to confusion and distrust to the buyer.
Things have changed with new sales and marketing methodologies and technologies — there is more accountability on both sides. Tools like CRM systems have transformed the way sales and marketing teams work together. Forrester reports that 50% of teams improved their productivity by using a CRM.
CRMs record and analyze all contact information, communication, and service issues giving a complete perspective on your customers that can help inform your sales and marketing strategies.
The New B2B Buyer Journey and What It Means for Sales Teams
Sales teams need to adapt to today’s drastically different commercial landscape. B2B buying behavior is rapidly changing and traditional sales approaches no longer do the trick for today’s buyer. Gone are the days of cold calling, overselling, and pushing deals. Instead, say hello to inbound selling, lead qualification, and listening to your prospects.
The new B2B customer buying journey is complex, long, and variable — it doesn’t play out in a predictable, linear order. Products and solutions are more complex, meaning that multiple stakeholders and influencers are involved at various stages; and each stakeholder requires a different set of information to convince them of the value of your solution.
Your Buyer Controls the Sales Process
More and more, sales teams are first engaging with prospects further down the funnel. They have less power to influence customer decisions. B2B buyers are making their own way through the buyer journey — vetting out vendors well before making a purchase or reaching out to sales. Gartner reports B2B buyers spend only 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers.
To further complicate things, the buying decision is rarely left to one person. There are anywhere from 6 to 10 decision makers who influence the purchase — each with their own research to consider and buying criteria. This is exponentially complicated with competitors coming into the market, each with their own options and solutions expanding with new technology, products, suppliers, and services emerging every day.
An Abundance of Information
Paralysis by analysis is a common ailment that afflicts B2B buyers and drives them to choose to stick with the status quo. Also commonly known as do nothingism, this is the bane of every sales executive. The abundant availability of high-quality information through self-serve digital channels makes it easier than ever for buyers to do their own research. But at the same time, buyers are overwhelmed by the amount of information out there — spending almost half their time researching independently and offline.
As more and more of the buyer journey becomes self-directed, brands are losing customers before their sales teams even get a chance to pitch. Buyers don’t distinguish between “sales content” and “marketing content” – they just see one brand.
If messaging is sloppy, inconsistent, and contradictory, your prospects will lose trust in your brand and go elsewhere. You need to provide critical decision-making materials that are consistent across all channels.
How Sales Enablement Can Help
While sales is the emphasis of sales enablement, the function is multidisciplinary. It sits alongside marketing, sales, human resources, and customer success teams and arguably has the most complete picture of the buyer-seller relationship. Most B2B organizations have a focus on sales enablement which often finds a place within revenue or content teams.
As more of the buyer journey is self-directed, organizations need a customer-centric approach to selling. Your content should speak to specific stakeholders with a concise message that articulates your ability to understand and solve their problems. Otherwise, your buyers will lose interest and go elsewhere.
The best sales enablement strategies involve stakeholders working together to create a set of resources to close more deals faster.
The Best Sales Enablement Strategies…
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