Inbound Sales Enablement: Everything You Need To Know
By John-Patrick van Rensburg - July 17, 2018
Inbound sales start with identifying exactly who you are selling to. It’s all about taking a broad range of customers and honing in on individual needs, fears, frustrations and emotions. In short, it’s prioritising a buyer’s needs above all else, especially your own. Who is your ideal buyer, where does he/she get his/her information, what is their demographic. Once you know this, the deep digging starts.
(Sālz, i-ˈnā-bəl, men-t)
(As Classified by the Oxygen Dictionary)
Sales enablement is the processes, technology and content that empower sales teams to sell efficiently at a higher velocity. The alignment of sales and marketing to identify best-fit leads and create the shortest possible sales cycle. Also commonly referred to as kick-ass teamwork to win more business
Understanding the demographics of your ideal buyer may have been enough in the past when using traditional outbound sales methods. But the modern buyer has evolved, and to successfully target these buyers you need to adjust your sales process. Gone are the conventional sales methods reminiscent of the fast-talking sales guru’s portrayed in Scorsese's “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Understanding demographics is only a starting point.
Absolutely everything you use to target buyers has to speak directly to your buyers. It has to resonate with their pain points making them feel like you “really get it”. And trust me, once the buyer’s persona research is done it won’t just look like you get it, you will get it.
What is the primary goal of sales enablement?
To provide the sales organisation with the most relevant content, information, and toolset to assist sales to excel at their work. Essentially, to make sure sales have everything they need to succeed in engaging buyers throughout the entire buyer’s journey.
What does Inbound Sales Enablement information look like?
It can take many forms depending on the nature of the business and space the organisation is in. These can be anything from sales tools, sales best practices, CRM, informative content designed to be useful for customers, and many more. Irrespective of what it is, it must be easy to understand and digest by customers. The content should be easy to copy across the sales organisation to replicate that “winning recipe.” Nobody has time to reinvent the wheel continuously.
Before we break down sales enablement any further let’s have a look at buyers persona development and research, without it sales enablement and marketing are both nowehere.
Uncovering your Ideal Buyers Persona
Hubspot classifies Buyers Personas as “Buyer personas are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customers (sometimes referred to as marketing personas)”
The term buyers persona gets flung around like a marketing mantra, but there are some serious misconceptions about what it really is. More importantly, how they are created. This isn’t a new concept by any means, but marketers require a new level of insight as technology is advancing and with it buying habits. And we’ve already mentioned what they aren’t - simple demographics. Although demographics do help in shaping the bigger picture.
There are many ways to go about creating an ideal buyers persona, and we could drone on about it for days, but the first and most important step is to use what you already have. Listening is an essential part of any first meeting. Listen before you speak, you have two ears and one mouth. It’s how you learn about your customers’ goals, concerns and expectations. However, in most organisations, one-to-one communication between marketing and customers is uncommon, but critical for developing an ideal buyers persona.
The science of asking the most relevant and probing questions, and intently listening to the customers’ responses is the core of buyer’s persona research. Using these techniques is the key to gaining access to their mindset and the motivations, trigger moments or tipping points that prompt them to purchase whatever solution you’re selling.
How is the information gathered?
Through one-on-one interviews. These interviews are also the first chance for marketing and sales to work together to align sales efforts in the sales enablement process. Interviews will have to be scheduled with existing, past and potential buyers. Lists of relevant probing questions need to be created, which requires the knowledge of BOTH marketing and sales. Sales teams hold a treasure trove of information although they might not know how valuable it is, just yet.
An expert can elaborate if you require a more in-depth explanation of the research process. The entire process takes a couple of weeks and is the first step to aligning sales and embracing sales enablement within an organisation.
Why Sales Enablement?
Traditionally Sales and Marketing have been on opposing teams, they don’t play nice together (same space & collaboration) and they don’t like each other. Blame shifting is rife and an easy cop out. Sales blame marketing for lack of quality leads and marketing blame sales for not closing quality leads. It’s a vicious cycle, and one no company today can afford.
If sales and marketing are aligned a company sells more, period.
Sales Enablement Statistics
Let’s have a look at some statistics from an independent research study done in the US recently:
On average 50% of sales time is wasted on poor quality leads - if marketing and sales work together to set better qualifying criteria for incoming leads you can reduce wasted (unprofitable) time. Understanding what obstacles sales face daily can significantly assist marketing in creating more relevant media for each stage of the buyer's journey.
90% of buyers agree that they are more likely to buy from someone who provided them with relevant content - Some sales funnels take more time than others, which is why it’s critical to provide relevant content at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Buyers are much more likely to stay with a salesperson that illustrates involvement and isn’t only there to make a sale.
44% of salespeople give up after a single follow-up - persistence is critical in sales. But there’s a fine line between being annoying or helpful. A bit of sales training illustrating the effectiveness of subtler sales methods, as opposed to a somewhat bombastic approach, goes a long way.
An average buyer receives around 80 to 100 emails a day, of which 23% are opened with a click-through rate (CTR) of only 2% - If you’ve ever worked on an email campaign, you’ll know these numbers are very accurate. It’s all about CTR, and getting prospects further down the sales funnel. Chances are you’re not hitting the mark which can be the result of many things. Collaboration between marketing and sales can fix a lot of these issues.
80% of sales require an average of 5 follow-up calls before making a purchasing decision - this comes from way back and hasn’t changed much in recent years. Despite all the online work and content prospects often still require an average of 5 follow-up calls before taking the plunge. Traditional sales haven’t changed in the last 60 years, but a good old conversation still goes a long way. Sales need all the help they can get to make these calls count, marketing teams can help with this.
65% of Salespeople can’t find the relevant content to send prospects - relevant material is of no use if sales aren’t aware of which content is available and where to find it. Classifying which content fits where in the buyer's journey and where sales can easily access it is paramount. Communication between sales and marketing (notice a pattern evolving here?) is again, key. Getting sales involved with content creation solves a lot of this problem. This can take the form of a brainstorming session, or a constructive bi-weekly sales and marketing meeting.
70% of sales information is found online, and 60% of sales decisions are made before speaking to a salesperson - researching and discovering information online has never been easier. Product research is done online, which is why a company needs relevant and pinpoint targeted sales materials that are easy to access and even easier to find.
Sales teams with continuous training sell 50% more - no reason to explain this, trained sales in the know perform better than those who aren’t. Regular training is a necessary and wise investment for any company.
High-performing sales teams without a CRM is a myth- sales enablement strategies combined with CRM implementation help organise and accelerate the sales process. Utilising a CRM strategy increases sales productivity and communication across the board, which has proven to increase productivity by as much as three times. CRM’s on average return $5.60 for every $1.00 spent and can lead to a sales improvement rate of 300% according to research done by Hubspot.
Sales Enablement in Practise
The sales enablement objective is pretty straightforward. It’s all about providing sales with the resources they need to succeed and exceed in sales, but in reality, it’s a bit more complicated. For one, there’s no one size fits all solution.
Some companies might have a lot of content available, while others might not have any at all. Which means that material will have to be created from scratch. New content creation is time-consuming and expensive. But this is nothing to get disheartened over. Relevant and up-to-date content is the first step towards successfully scaling a company (or further scaling.)
There are numerous “first steps” a company can take to kick off sales enablement and is largely dependent on the organisation. But here’s a breakdown of what the sales enablement process could look like practically:
1. Sales Audit
It’s not an audit in the traditional sense of the word, but rather a deep digging of the current sales efficiency. This can be done internally, but often yields some resentment from co-workers. So it is suggested that a third party handle the sales auditing process, incognito.
What do we mean by audit?
When is the last time anyone in the company tracked and tested how long it takes sales to respond to a request for quotation or information? Sales are nine times more likely to convert incoming leads if they respond within 5 minutes or less. For a sales audit, the person in charge of the audit will go through the motions of submitting an online request as any inbound lead would. Sometimes several aliases are used for different stages of the sales process and buyer's journey, different regions etc. as defined by the particular organisation. The process is relatively quick (hopefully for sales) and gives you a brief look at how efficient the sales team really is.
With this information, you can put a benchmark on response time and efficiency of the current sales team, and use this to track progress over the coming months.
2. Content Audit (Sales and Marketing)
Content refers to anything marketing has created to generate incoming leads. It also refers to anything sales are currently using or used in the past to close leads:
- Price lists,
- Video content,
- White papers,
- Case studies,
- Conversation guides etc.
Anything and everything that is being utilised, underutilised, or maybe not used at all. At this point, you’d want to interview sales and marketing individually before putting them in a room together. Sales teams have been known to be overprotective of their sales methods, which is understandable, to a point. But sales often hold vital insights into practices and the content that could be implemented in the sales enablement process.
This rings true for marketing teams as well. Marketing teams could be creating content that is misaligned with what sales are offering. The content strategy could be misaligned with the sales strategy. Before the sales process can be revised a content audit will unearth why goals aren’t being met. As explained, content MUST aid the sales process.
3. It’s time to put sales and marketing in the same room
Armed with all the information you need from the audits it's time to put marketing and sales in the same room. Keep in mind that if it’s a larger organisation, this will be more difficult. In which case you would need to gather the key stakeholders and as many top sales and marketing members possible in the room. Once assembled let them have it out and use the opportunity to garner as much constructive criticism from both teams as humanly possible.
With that out of the way, the two teams can start brainstorming. Once the ice has broken this process usually goes swimmingly, if not you might need more than one session. It's important to have a strong neutral mediator in these meetings to control any heated discussions in a professional manner. Trust when we say it can get heated, but this shows passion and passion is good.
4. Establish and communicate the objective of the sales enablement plan
With all the information, thoughts, ideas and state of affairs, you should have enough to set out a detailed sales enablement plan. Now put it in motion by communicating this across the board. This plan will include an SLA with a revenue goal for both marketing and sales with clearly defined KPI’s and timelines.
5. Sales Training
With a detailed plan in place, training can start. Many companies have annual or biannual sales training. It’s not enough. Sales training is a huge part of sales enablement. It’s where everything ties together and practically enables salespeople to sell more efficiently. Sales enablement training needs to be consistent as well as continuous. At least one formal training a month is recommended. Keep sales informed in a collaboration platform like Slack. It's important to keep sales enablement in front of sales, consistently and continuously.
6. Keep your finger on the pulse
A sales system is only useful if it’s being used. Make sure the CRM is up to date, and sales are leveraging the materials that you have painstakingly provided. Sales programs fail if nobody follows up with how sales teams are using the program.
Ownership and Revenue
Sales and marketing jointly own sales enablement. After all the meetings and collaboration to establish the direction of content, marketing has to take on most of the responsibility to train sales.
Combined revenue goals have proven successful in many organisations. By setting revenue goals for both marketing and sales you’re aligning efforts to upscale. Sales traditionally have revenue goals, but marketing doesn’t. By aligning revenue goals, you’re creating a situation where both parties have to work together as they are now both accountable. Revenue goals are an excellent way of aligning sales and marketing by breaking down walls and creating a common goal.
That being said, marketing and sales working together in the same office achieving the same goals is great in an ideal setting but rarely achieved in practice. There will always be sales and marketing roles. Marketing creates. Sales close. But that doesn’t mean that both parties can’t benefit from sales enablement, by its very definition it’s designed to better collaboration and corporate culture on all fronts. Remember that people don’t like change (or at least they think they don't), but change is critical for growth in all facets of life. So, you might be met with some initial resistance but once the training is put into practical use figures have only one way to go, up.