If You Want To Hit Your Revenue Goals For 2019, Sales Enablement Must Be A Top Priority
The percentage of salespeople making quota has dropped from 63% to 53% over a five-year period, according to data from CSO Insights.
What’s driving this drop? It’s primarily changes in the buyer journey, the massive amount of information available to buyers and the continued inability of companies to adjust their sales process accordingly.
The way prospects behave isn’t going to change anytime soon, and it’s likely that buyers will take an even more active and independent approach to how they buy products and services. But that doesn’t mean business leaders can’t have a major impact on how their sales teams perform and how effective their company is at hitting its revenue goals.
One proactive step you should be taking is making sales enablement and alignment of the sales and marketing functions a top priority in 2019.
As a recent CSO Insights study shows, companies that aligned their sales process to the customer (buyer) journey achieved a 13.6% increase in quota attainment, and companies with a formal sales enablement charter saw an 10% increase in win rates on proposals submitted.
What’s behind this wave of sales enablement, and how can your company take advantage of this new trend?
What Exactly Is Sales Enablement? What Services Are Available?
Want to know what sales enablement is? A ton of articles define it. For one example, the research firm Aberdeen Group defines sales enablement as “a strategic alignment of resources and actions to produce effective, efficient sales operations.” It’s a little academic for me, but you get the general idea.
Our sales enablement practice lead, Matt Cook, describes sales enablement as a strategic customer-centric approach to improving and updating the technology, processes, knowledge and content that empower sales teams to help them sell more efficiently at a higher velocity.
This description is something we all can use. It highlights what can be done and the expected business outcomes.
When it comes to services, those are as diverse as the companies leveraging sales enablement to drive results. But on the surface, sales enablement services can be grouped into some high-level areas.
- Sales and marketing alignment (SLAs) – Make sure both teams are focused on the same revenue goals and the same prospect experience. The service-level agreement (SLA) ensures that marketing is producing enough high-quality leads to drive the sales team’s targets, and then the sales team is handling their leads in a proactive manner. Everyone in both sales and marketing is on the same page and rowing in the same direction.
- Sales process redesign – Your sales process has to be mapped out on paper and illustrated in a visual way if your goal is to create a remarkable experience for your prospects. Every touch point, call, email, message, piece of content and team member interaction must be designed to add value and make your prospects feel safe. Sales process redesign projects start by documenting your existing sales process and then adding, upgrading and enhancing it so that it delivers the desired experience. This work always identifies gaps in content, communication, training, scripting, scoring and qualification that leads to some of the other elements of sales enablement described below.
- Content for the sales team – CSO Insights reports that about 20% of the content sales needs is created by sales in an ad-hoc way. This isn’t going to produce improved results. Once marketing and sales is aligned, marketing should be producing 100% of the content for sales based on an audit of the questions sales gets from prospects. Content should be buyer journey stage specific, role specific, industry specific and challenge specific.
- Communication for the sales team (calls and emails) – Everyone in sales has to tell the same story with the same words and using the same tone. Creating email and call templates that give salespeople the basic messaging and story while allowing them to customize to fit the specifics of the prospect’s requirements is the key to ensuring that story is told consistently.
- Qualification methodology – What defines a high-quality prospect? Everyone should be using the same qualification methodology and vocabulary. We teach pain, power, fit, but several qualification methodologies and scoring models take the objectivity out of the process of deciding if a prospect should continue in your sales process or be dropped out. This is a requirement in 2019.
- Lead score modeling – This is more of a marketing tactic, but it has a major impact on sales. You want sales spending their time with the best prospects, and lead scoring provides insight into who they should be working on and in what order.
- Sales technology and automation – With all of this new content, qualification, lead scoring, email templates, sales process upgrades and increased communication requirements, it’s no wonder CRM and sales automation software products are exploding on the scene. Marketing and sales technology are must-haves to keep reps efficient and effective.
- Sales analytics, metrics and dashboards – Sales is quickly becoming just as scientific as marketing. The use of leading and lagging indicators, custom-tailored metrics that help determine ROI on sales upgrades, and metrics for milestones and productivity all contribute to substantially better win rates.
- Sales commission plans – More times than not, when we get into sales enablement with clients, we find that their comp plans are rewarding the wrong behaviors or overpaying and double-paying reps when they don’t have to. This is also especially challenging when you have doer-sellers getting compensation for sales activities. A full review and recommendations on how to adjust compensation is key to successful sales goal attainment.
- Sales territory alignment – The major issue in this service area is mostly about equitable territory assignment and making sure that all the territories are designed to provide similar opportunity to all the reps. But this can also be about lead distribution process and the sequence when territory is not the primary assignment criteria.
- Sales team management best practices – Sales teams don’t always use best practices when it comes to meetings, process review, deal communication and working with the marketing team. We’ll help clients set up the daily, weekly and monthly reviews necessary to keep the deals coming in and the team improving their performance month over month.
- Sales team training – Perhaps not the same training you are used to, but rather training associated with rolling out a new sales process, new sales content, new sales technology and new sales qualification techniques. This kind of training is important to getting your sales team to understand, use and provide feedback on these new initiatives.
These sales enablement services represent 90% of what our sales enablement practice does with clients. While there are always additional requests for help like proposal development and pitch deck creation, these are the areas where sales enablement makes the biggest impact on your drive to hit your revenue numbers.
How Are Companies Using Sales Enablement?
It’s a good question, and for a lot of you, it’s the right question. Most people think about sales enablement as the traditional sales training and sales coaching services you’ve been buying for years.
Every couple of months an outside sales trainer or sales consultant comes to the monthly sales meeting and provides training on using LinkedIn, asking better questions, using qualification techniques or networking at events.
Or perhaps to you it’s ongoing sales coaching for those reps who appear to have potential but are struggling to hit quota. This includes pre-call huddles, post-call huddles, weekly coaching on their sales activities for the week and so on.
When CSO Insights asked what sales enablement services they were using, 68.1% of respondents said training. However, 58.5% mentioned sales tools like value justification and ROI tools, while 52% said content services. For the first time in the history of their study, the top three services changed, indicating that sales enablement is changing too.
Coaching was mentioned by 50.9% of the respondents, while sales process improvements ranked as the fifth most popular sales enablement service. CRM/sales tech was mentioned by 37.3% of the respondents, an all-time high for their survey.
How Does Sales Enablement Fit In With Today’s Content Marketing Initiatives?
It makes sense to spend a little more time talking about a few of the areas above in much more detail, and content is one of those areas. The sheer amount of content and the use of content in marketing has tuned your prospects into expecting content from sales.
Their experience with content on the marketing side is expected to continue into sales. Just because there’s a handoff doesn’t mean they expect the experience to change.
You need to arm your sales team with a mountain of content, and that content needs to adhere to some of the same requirements we use when creating marketing content:
- It needs to be in various formats, like written, video, graphic and audio.
- It needs to be designed by role, so if you’re talking to the CFO, you have CFO content, and if you’re talking to the CEO, you have CEO content.
- It needs to be industry specific, so if you have three verticals, you have three different content tracks that align to your verticals. This is a good reason why you should be focusing on one or two verticals to start rather than trying to support every industry.
- But most importantly, sales reps need to be able to deliver content in context. This means when the prospect shares their main challenge or concern, content is available to address that specific concern, and that content is easily accessible and easy to distribute.
- That content also needs to be trackable and its effectiveness measured on a regular basis. Stop using content that is not moving deals forward, and add onto the types of content that are engaging prospects and supporting accelerated deal flow through your pipeline.
How Do Traditional Sales Training And Sales Rep Coaching Fit In?
Traditional sales training and sales coaching do have a place. While the CSO Insights report is probably a little bit self-serving (CSO Insights is the research division of Miller Heiman Group, a sales training and sales coaching firm), providing ongoing sales training and giving reps access to regular sales coaching is going to make them better reps and improve their ability to hit their quotas.
From our perspective, sales training and sales coaching are more aligned with the changes to the sales process, the use of content, and salespeople’s ability to ask great questions and qualify prospects using any new qualification techniques. Regular training is always going to produce better results.
What About Technology, Software And Metrics?
You can’t build a revenue generation machine that produces scalable, repeatable and predictable revenue growth month over month without technology and metrics. You just can’t do it.
You need platform technology like a CRM system, and you need data analytics dashboards to aggregate data and help you find the insights necessary to make changes to your process in real time.
But you also need automation tools to help your sales reps follow up with prospects, create a consistent experience and tell the same story regardless of rep.
Most importantly, you need to know your numbers up and down your revenue cycle. How many new inquiries or contacts do you need each month to hit your revenue goals based on your conversion rates all the way through your sales process? That is a number you should know.
When you do know it, how can you improve those conversion rates so that your sales execution is more efficient and productive? Basically, how can you do more with the leads you have instead of always looking for new leads?
Once you can drive new leads and improve your ability to close the best leads you’re already getting, that’s when the magic happens, your company grows and you look like a revenue superstar.
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