It’s 2017: What Is Sales Enablement?
“Sales enablement” is one of those moving-target terms that, over the past two decades, has more often than not become the square-peg buzzword everyone wants to fit in their product’s round hole. What makes sales enablement tricky to define has a lot to do with the number and diversity of teams asked to align behind sales-enablement initiatives.Initially, sales enablement was coined in response to the disconnect between marketing and sales teams. As Brainshark’s Jim Ninivaggi put it recently, sales enablement was marketing’s answer to “the content problem.”
The first companies to deal with this problem developed solutions that would allow marketing to understand 1) how marketing collateral was being used by sales teams and to what effect and 2) how leads generated by marketing were performing for sales (setting into motion the great “qualified or not” debate of the late 2000s).
Of course, these intentions sounded great in theory, but they tripped over the fundamental issue of getting all a company’s content ducks in a row. As you might have guessed, the saturation of content we’ve seen in recent years isn’t limited to our search engines (*cough*—Google—*cough*) and inboxes.
Marketing teams are churning out enough content to make a seasoned librarian’s head spin. With every piece of collateral generated to satisfy a prospect’s question or a customer’s concern, another asset is added to a salesperson’s “arsenal.”
When you place sales enablement on your radar as a goal to be fully realized, you begin to wonder if true alignment between sales and marketing is even possible. And what does that mean for the other teams being looped into the sales-enablement conversation?
As Jason Liu, CEO of SAVO, told CMSWire, “sales enablement is not an endpoint, but a journey.” Now that sales enablement is less a buzzword and more a discipline, the need to define it lessens in importance.
For marketing agencies like yours, the question isn’t whether or not sales enablement is right for you—or even what it is—but if you’re ready to begin your sales-enablement journey.
What Are the Benefits of Sales Enablement?
Anyone who has spent time marketing or selling in the agency world knows that situations can change multiple times in an instant. When you are dealing with creative concepts like most agencies are, you tend to be exposed to the more capricious side of executives. Very often, though you might be championing the benefits of data, clients are making decisions based on gut reactions.
Sales enablement, with its pillar of real-time availability, allows your team instant access to tried-and-true content that’ll provide it with support in even the most uncertain deals.
Gives Insight Into Your Sales and Marketing Process
There is no shortage of data out there about how long a customer spends researching your product before making a decision to take action. While this blind spot can be somewhat accounted for using analytics tools on your website, the revenue-generating data starts to appear once conversations begin between your sales team and a prospect.
Sales enablement provides executives with insight into how well your teams are performing and which proverbial levers are going to have the greatest impact if pulled. For example, if a particular piece of collateral converts to the high heavens on your site, but those leads then fall out of your pipeline faster than oil into the Gulf of Mexico, you are presented with an opportunity to address a major disconnect that could change how well your business performs this year.
Saves You Money on Bad Practices
When you live and die by billable hours, efficacy is your guiding dogma. B2B companies employing sales enablement often cite increased sales efficiency as a positive byproduct of their investment. However, according to Brainshark, “sales leaders will focus on ‘effective’ over ‘efficient’” in 2017.
By knowing which levers to pull, you end up knowing which levers you shouldn’t be pulling anymore. Sales enablement, when implemented appropriately, can help you identify practices and technologies that aren’t adding any value to your business.
Are You Ready to Start Your Journey?
Sales enablement has finally reached a point where it’s beginning to stabilize as a practice. As the cream of sales-enablement solutions rises to the top, it’ll be easier to understand which approaches are having a positive impact on your peers’ businesses and which are just draining hard-earned budgets.
Like any change management, bringing sales enablement to your company will require a team effort. We can’t tell you whether or not you should be using sales enablement, but we definitely think you should be having the conversation with your leadership in sales, marketing, and ops about how you might incorporate some of its practices to improve your business in 2017.