Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

How to Practice Sales Enablement

The goal of a sales enablement program is to provide your team with enough knowledge to offer the right product or service to the right customer at the right time.

Sales enablement is a relatively new concept, and its definition has prompted much debated. Is it a role, a function within a company, or is it a task? While it may appear as though sales enablement is a task performed by a sales manager, it is actually a company-wide organizational process that must be well crafted in order to be successful.

As the name implies, a sales enablement program provides your sales team with support to expedite the buying process. A well-defined program will establish insights into accounts, buyers and territories, as well as allow your sales reps to better understand their target audience and prioritize their efforts. The goal of the program is to provide your team with enough knowledge to offer the right product or service to the right customer at the right time. Sales enablement facilitates building trusted relationships and top of mind awareness. If effective sales practices are implemented, sales reps will be able to focus on higher-priority tasks and save time.

In order to properly and effectively do their jobs, sales reps require access to an immense amount of data. At times, this data can overwhelm reps and make it difficult to determine what information is most relevant. A systematic sales enablement approach organizes this data to help reps prioritize their time. This approach can include a list of prioritized customers, for instance whom to contact next based on the quality of the lead and the intent to purchase. It can also include behavioral data that indicates customer interests and intent, as well as tools that trace hot prospects through their buying process, encompassing key activities and key moments in their decision cycle. Finally, be sure to incorporate data that is aligned to those specific buying stages in order to build a trusted relationship with the customer, encouraging them to make a purchase decision. Practicing sales enablement allows your staff to ask themselves, “What can we do to minimize preparation time so we can prioritize selling time?”

You should clearly define your marketing and sales processes before creating your sales enablement program. This stems from the fact that sales enablement is a support technique that reflects your current practices. Discuss with your team how you would construct a map or an outline that displays these sales and marketing practices, so that you can make sure these processes are agreed upon and understood by all. Here are a couple of practices to keep in mind when crafting a successful sales enablement program.

Align marketing and sales performance: Poor marketing and sales alignment may lead to missed quotas, ineffective marketing and sales materials, and longer sales cycles — among other negative repercussions. Using different metrics can potentially mean that departments will end up working on redundant projects or cause one team to reach their goals at the expense of the other. Performance targets for these departments should be coordinated with communal planning and cross-departmental communication. The easiest way to create a shared metrics approach is for departments to take a customer-centric approach and create customer-related metrics.

For example, a simple way to introduce a customer-centric approach is to analyze these following questions:

1. Would our procedures be different if we placed the customer at the center of our decision-making?

2. What procedures would we have to change?

3. How can we start these changes?

4. Would it make us more profitable?

In order to answer the last question, consider customer-related metrics. These are scores that summarize customer feedback results based on customer ratings (poor to excellent satisfaction) or open-ended comments that require analysis. These metrics give insight to the fundamental mental processes of your customers. You can determine an in-house method or use a proprietary customer metric.

Align the buying process and the buyer experience:Sales enablement, at its core, focuses on alignment. By helping sales reps offer the right product or service at the right moment for customers, your team will be aligning sales connections with the customers’ buying process. Sales should understand the buyer journey to help their customers along and help them reach a decision.

Create buyer personas or user profiles for each core target audience: This should go above typical analytics of the demographic, providing information on environmental and behavioral components. Your sales team can help provide insight into your buyers’ intents by careful assessment of recent sales and shared characteristics. Most of this data can be uncovered by conversation — consider providing your sales teams with “conversation maps” that allow them to find these environmental and behavioral elements. A few examples are listed below.

• Creating a web map with a trigger topic that documents the various themes that stem from that trigger.

• Reflection conversation mapping is another way to do this. This model, introduced by Donald Schön, functions by having your sales rep participate in reflection-on-action, reflection-in-action and reflection-for-action practices. These practices encourage continual learning by paying critical attention to the events that inform everyday decision-making. Each of these stages focuses respectively on past, present and future actions and encourages employees to reflect on connections between their feelings, emotions and experiences within specific situations.

Your department should invest in researching these buyer personas to allow the sales team to have both a deep understanding of your customers’ goals and to help them achieve those goals.

Communicate in the right language: Sales teams want to be able to communicate with buyers in a language and terminology that fits the profile. The right conversational engagement is critical for enabling buyers to reach their decision.

• This refers to the customers’ buying process, which is a circular process that begins with awareness of needs, assessment of alternatives, alleviation of risk, decision and achievement of results. Improving conversation expertise will lead to an improved buying experience.

Map your sales collaboratively and effectively: Many sales teams have invested in tools to move prospects forward in a sales cycle in order to close the deal. However, research by the International Data Corporation has shown that many salespeople spend too much time trying to find the right materials. Shared filed directories, data sheets and sales tools should all be easy to find and navigate. Use descriptive file names and other mapping assets so that both teams will be able to improve their usage.

Crowdsource the sales enablement techniques: Encourage your top sales performers to share their tools and tips that work the best. Use sales enablement as team support. Find out what materials your top earners use at each stage of customer buying process, and then use those stories and anecdotes about what they use to make their point.