THE BLOG

02
Nov

The Competitive Edge for Sales: Dedicated Sales Enablement

Source: Business 2 Community

Does your organization have a sales enablement strategy?

It should!

No matter the organization size or industry, a thoughtful strategy for sales success—including a dedicated sales enablement (or sales readiness) team and a Sales Enablement platform—is a game changer.

Clients often come to us because they need help closing the divide that exists between sales and marketing, and our platform can help do just that. But, the platform is only one part of the equation, and we were curious how many companies have implemented holistic sales enablement programs across the board, what they consider as sales enablement activities, how effective they are, and how actively are organizations executing them.

So, that’s why we partnered with Heinz Marketing to conduct a study comprised of nearly 450 B2B sales and marketing professionals, aimed at answering those questions, and more.

In the interest of time, we’ve summarized the top five observations we gleaned from the study, which should help you plan your 2016 marketing investments.

1. If you think your sales team isn’t effective, you’re not alone.

It may seem like sales is getting thrown under the bus, but just over half of the survey respondents were from sales departments! This is a clear indicator that sales teams need more help, especially because 60-70% of the buyer’s journey happens before a prospect ever talks to sales. However, it’s the sales team’s job to engage with the customer and close the deal, and only 48% of survey respondents ranked their sales efforts as effective. Organizations with dedicated sales enablement teams scored much higher in this area. It’s worth noting, too, that a good sales enablement program can boost sales’ ability to meet quota by 50%, so the opportunity for improvement in this area is significant.

2. Companies with sales enablement teams perform much better on meaningful business metrics.

Across the board, organizations recognize the importance of sales enablement activities and rank them high in value. Sales enablement teams produce real business results, including:

  • increased conversion rates,
  • helping increase sales productivity,
  • improving sales’ ability to sell, and
  • improving marketing’s ability to deliver the right content to support sales efforts.

Organizations without sales enablement teams report very mediocre effectiveness in sales enablement tasks.

3. Sales enablement drives effectiveness in key areas.

The numbers reliability pointed to the effectiveness of a regimented sales enablement program: 57% of respondents with sales enablement teams reported that their sales efforts were effective or very effective versus only 35% without. Organizations with sales enablement teams were also significantly more effective (by as much as 25%) on key sales support activities versus organizations without.

4. Unfortunately, most organizations are slow to focus on Sales Enablement.

Even though its importance appears widely recognized, only 37% of organizations have a dedicated, focused sales enablement team. It makes perfect sense, then, that 31% of all companies reported that their sales enablement efforts were ineffective. The opportunity here is wildly untapped. And considering the benefits a dedicated sales enablement team brings to sales performance, organizations should make this a priority for 2016.

5. Content is king. But only if it’s in the right hands at the right time.

Four of the eight activities that defined sales enablement centered on content; producing, organizing, distributing, training on, delivering to prospects and measuring content. Solving the “content problem” requires a complete solution, including publishing, organizing, making accessible by sales, presenting or emailing to customer and measuring quality and performance. Without a reliable, structured way to distribute content, all of the other aspects of it become moot. The fact is, more than 70% of respondents rely on email to distribute content to their sales organization, and more than 45% rely on a shared network drive to deliver sales collateral and content—this is not efficient or effective. And without a closed-loop process to measure the performance and quality of content, marketing has no reliable way to improve content effectiveness. Only 12% have a dedicated Sales Enablement solution in place, which would help solve almost every aspect of the content problem, aside from actually creating the content in the first place.

How does your organization stack up in these areas?

If you’re falling short, don’t be discouraged. This is a relatively new area, and the study shows that most organizations have much room for improvement. Think of this as an opportunity to create a competitive advantage, not a problem.

For better sales performance, Make Sales Enablement a priority in 2016.

It’s very clear to us that:

  • Dedicated sales enablement teams deliver results because they help reduce the friction that often exists between sales and marketing and drive towards the common goal— increasing revenue
  • The right Sales Enablement platform can fix the “my sales teams can’t find the content” problem, and focus both organizations on creating better conversations with customers
28
Oct

Build Sales Effectiveness Your Marketing Team Can Be Proud Of

Source: Spiro

Sales and Marketing don’t always get along – but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from each other. As sales professionals, how are we able to best utilize the materials that marketing gives us?

Thinking about such things are people like Alex Lee, Head of Marketing at Cantina. Alex is a stickler for sales and business effectiveness. He’s spent over two decades in sales and sales management – so he’s spent a lot of time pondering on how to make his reps more effective.

Having sat on both sides of the table, Alex was able to offer us some good insight on sales effectiveness. He was nice enough to walk us through his top tips for success.

Do Your Homework, And Apply The Specifics

You need to let the other person know that you’ve done your homework. That means if you’re going to visit them repeatedly on LinkedIn before a meeting (for those of us even on it), make sure you know your stuff when you show up. You should be prepared to talk about the prospect’s business, and about their role specifically.

Alex says that the best sales professionals can do this with ease. They have their content prepared in such a way that it creates a sense of comfort with customers. And this doesn’t mean just regurgitating easily found self service help either – you need to show how the value add applies specifically to the customer.

This will result in trust – and we know that when you can demonstrate that you are trustworthy you are much more likely to make the sale.

Come In With The Right Level Of Energy

Sales professionals should come with energy to their meetings and calls. How off putting is it when you are dealing with someone who is just going through the motions? Imagine if April Ludgate was running all of your sales calls.

This does not mean you should be hyperactive, though. As a sales professional you need to be calibrated to your customer. A natural and fitting enthusiasm will go a long way with building good rapport with the customer.

Have A Repeatable Process (But Break The Pattern If You Need To)

There are many processes and methodologies out there that tell sales professionals what they should be doing next. Effective sales managers will often have repeatable techniques with measurable outcomes that are designed to help their reps be effective. Having a repeatable process is a great way to keep you on track and focused on the important things.

On the offhand chance that all the normal things aren’t working, then sometimes it can be helpful to change it up. Of course you should keep doing all the right things, but sometimes you need to be just a little different to stand out from the pack.

There are many ways you can break the routine. Emails getting stale? Try some hand written notes. Packed schedule? Try communicating after hours or on weekends. Sending gifts to gate keepers and administrators is also an effective way to stick out. Out of ideas of what to send? Make sure to do a quick scan around the office, or a quick poke around on social media.

Learn More

Some pattern breaking is good, especially if you don’t want to sound like a sales robot. Keep in mind – while you’re on your way to world domination, try not to sound TOO much like a sales guy.

28
Oct

4 Ways to Measure Sales Effectiveness Through Social Selling

Source: Inc.

Want a new way to measure every business’s most important challenge?

Without customers and sales you don’t have a business. That’s why every business needs to quantify its sales activities.

Yet accurately measuring the impact of different sales strategies and techniques is often easier said than done.

So here’s a new approach based on social selling. If you’re unfamiliar, social selling is the process of building stronger relationships with potential customers based on understanding their needs and problems (in short, actually knowing the people you hope to do business with.)

I talked with Nick VanWagner, the Director of Sales Insights at LinkedIn, about how you can use social selling to measure the effectiveness of your sales team. (If you use Sales Navigator, LinkedIn just integrated their Social Selling Index to make it easier to track your results.)

Here’s Nick:

Back when the stars of any sales team were the people who made the most calls, measurement of sales metrics was all about quantity. Cold calls made and meetings scheduled were the measures of success.

Sales has grown up since the days of nonstop cold calling, and today, social selling–in which sales people use social channels to build networks and knowledge of prospects–is the place where deals get their start.

That means measurement takes on an entirely different look and feel. Certainly, revenue and deals are still tracked, and are valid metrics of success–but cold calls and emails no longer signify sales teams are efficiently using their time to nurture prospects.

Sales, which was always driven by relationships and connections, now has a new way to strengthen these bonds: social selling. Measure your sales team’s ability to build quality relationships by tracking these skills and activities:

1. Establishing your professional brand.

Do your salespeople take pains to build out their social profiles, and add rich media to engage viewers and teach them about products and services? Are they contributing blog posts that set them up as thought leaders–and that are gaining page views and followers?

Salespeople’s willingness to tell a story about their value to customers is an important indicator of their ability to work with prospects and customers. Salespeople should also spend time thinking about what their brand represents–asking themselves questions like, “What am I most passionate about? What do I have to offer that no one else does?”

2. Finding the right people.

Do salespeople take a strategic approach to identifying decision makers? Do they make use of social channel search and list-building tools to find the right targets and then reach out to them?

Salespeople who make efficient use of their social networks will seek out connections to people who are already connected with their own network (then they can request warm introductions).

3. Engaging with insights.

Part of this skill is being a thought leader, and authoring content that shows customers your salespeople know how to address their pain points. When you become known as a problem solver, you strengthen personal connections. Take the time to identify a pain point and provide information to help solve it.

The other part of engaging with insights refers to how salespeople use the information they glean from social selling relationships. For example, at LinkedIn, our Social Selling Index (SSI) measures sales people’s response rates for InMails, the private messages that one LinkedIn member can send to another member.

If salespeople are crafting InMails so they encourage thoughtful discussion with prospects–as opposed to just doing the hard sell–the open rates for their InMails should be higher.

4. Connecting to people that matter.

Social selling is about quality connections, not quantity. Are sales people getting as many notches as possible on their social selling belts because they want the numbers? Or are they only adding people to their networks who they can engage with to help solve business challenges, and eventually close a deal?

Our Social Selling Index measures this skill by tracking accepted connection requests versus total connection requests sent by a salesperson. A low number of accepted requests may mean the salesperson is not convincing the invitee that the relationship would be beneficial to both of them.

Another way to gauge the value of connection and networks is to measure how many valuable connections sales professionals have at each key account. Multiple entry points into important accounts is critical when you’re trying to nurture a prospect. You can track this metric by looking at social connections, but also by examining contacts within your CRM solution.

Social selling has upended many of the old rules of sales, and in a changed world, measuring sales effectiveness requires a new perspective.

Measuring social selling may require a new approach, but it’s critical for future success.

27
Oct

Where Should Sales Enablement “Live”?

Source: HubSpot

HubSpot previously published an article defining “sales enablement.” According to the article, 75% of organizations don’t have a well thought-out sales enablement process. So, as you build out that process, let’s discuss where Sales Enablement should live, as in which department the function should sit.

Let’s personify Sales Enablement for some words.

Everyone knows a kid from their childhood who seemed to be a wanderer. We’ll call the kid Sal. Sal was the close friend who was always up to nothing and down to hang out. You never knew much about Sal’s history or what he was thinking half of the time, but you know he was a good guy. He was smart, insightful, quick to problem-solve, comfortable anywhere, and your parents seemed to like him.

Sal was always there when you called. Whether it be troublemaking or celebrating, Sal was there to get you into it and through it. He helped you skip school, and even after stealing two PBRs from his dad’s fridge to celebrate the end of a semester well done, he made sure you didn’t disrespect the “home by dinner” rule.

If you haven’t yet caught my drift, Sales Enablement and Sal are the same — they’re always around for support at the end of each day, and at the beginning of the next.

Okay, back to business. Although it varies from company to company, SE primarily tackles the following tasks. Rank these according to importance. Keep in mind that your ranking will likely vary depending on the stage or business goals of the company:

  • Develop strategy
  • Deliver sales training
  • Conduct performance analysis
  • Coach sales team members
  • Find cross-selling opportunities
  • Create sales materials and assets
  • Provide systems and support
  • Onboard new hires

Now that you’ve got that sorted, use the list as a guide to hire your first dedicated sales enablement “guru,” if you haven’t already. For example, at Lesson.ly we decided that training, onboarding, and content creation would be the three absolute best ways to get more to and from our sales team. Our first sales enablement hire was Catrina, who is particularly strong in these three areas. We’ve coined her our “Creative Learning Manager.” Catrina’s job is to act as creator, editor, and liaison of supporting sales materials between departments. She’s Lesson.ly’s Sal.

Sure, sales teams are ultimately responsible for their success (or lack thereof). That said, Sales should never act in isolation. Think about all those good times with Sal. You wouldn’t have had fun without him. You depended on him for new adventures, and him you. And just you treated Sal like a part of your family, SE should be a part of the Sales family.

Because SE intimately understands what Sales needs, and recognizes struggles and bottlenecks, I believe sales enablement should “live” and report up to Sales. Sitting on the sales floor, sales enablement employees hear objections, challenges, and opportunities that can be translated to actionable process and training.

However, just like Sal floated among several groups of friends, SE teams should tap into marketing and product departments when trigger events occur. For example, when a new feature is released, the sales enablement department should be dictating when, how, and why this is explained to the sales team. The SE team taps Product on the shoulder for the details, and translates them effectively to the group.

Same thing in marketing. If SE hears objections or sees lost deals related to “a lack of priority,” they tap Marketing on the shoulder to develop an ROI calculator.

Another reason Sales Enablement should live in Sales is to make it easy for reps to (occasionally) help fuel SE. The best teams take a democratized approach here; people teach and learn from each other. Here are a couple examples:

  • Johnny tends to beat competitor X. Showcase him at the weekly meetings and let him talk about why.
  • Becca gets a great connect rate. Ask her to create a lesson and share with the team.

Have SE take information from these kind of achievements and build upon them for widespread use.

Now that Sal’s grown and gone, you might not know where he is or what he’s doing, but you still sometimes think about how he’s helped you and the lessons you’ve learned in each other’s company. When hiring for a sales enablement team, look for people like Sal who are dependable, communicative, flexible, and insightful. Just like your pal Sal celebrated your highs and sympathized about your lows, a great sales enablement manager who sits among the reps will quickly be assimilated as an integral part of the team.

27
Oct

Top-Performing Organizations Prioritize Sales Enablement, Says Forbes Insights/Brainshark Report

Source: Forbes

As companies look to compete more effectively and grow revenue, sales enablement is a strategic priority among leading organizations today, according to a new report by Forbes Insights, in association with Brainshark. Report data shows that 59% of companies that surpassed revenue targets – and 72% that exceeded them by 25% or more – have a defined sales enablement function, compared to only 30% of underperforming organizations.

The report, “The Power of Enablement: Bridging the Sales Productivity Gap,” contains findings from 216 U.S.-based executives related to how they address the problem of sales productivity. For the C-suite, driving sales productivity and closing the divide between top- and lower-performing salespeople are foremost concerns, with 71% of C-level executives noting that sales productivity is “critical” to future growth.

“Put plainly, sales productivity matters to top leaders today – and it should. Results show that it’s the most important management focus for companies, more critical than any other factor,” said Bruce Rogers, chief insights officer and head of the CMO Practice at Forbes Media. “This report outlines what companies need to do to maximize sales productivity, underscoring the power of sales enablement and the key role content plays in helping reps close more deals.”

Brainshark CEO Joe Gustafson said: “You have to tackle sales productivity from two angles: improving efficiency and improving effectiveness. Through a combination of people, processes and technology, companies can overcome sales challenges, help their ‘B’ and ‘C’ reps perform more like ‘A’ players, and support more valuable sales conversations that drive more results.”

Additional key report findings include:

  • Sales enablement solutions (55%) are the top technology investments for boosting sales productivity – Other key areas included analytics (54%), CRM (53%) and learning technologies (45%).
  • Content is the secret ingredient to sales productivity – Top-performing companies look to sales enablement technology to power their content strategies. Sales content analytics (44%) and easy, instant access to content in the field (41%) are the primary features these leading companies look for from a sales enablement solution.
  • Leading companies provide consistent sales messages. Seven out of 10 top-performing organizations excel at providing a consistent sales message throughout the buyer’s journey, compared to 37% of all other firms.
  • Value and consistency separate top salespeople from the pack – Leading companies identify two defining characteristics of their top-performing salespeople: the ability to sell value over price (81%) and consistency of execution (74%).
  • Sales enablement can’t ignore front-line sales managers – Nearly three-fourths (74%) of leading companies cite coaching and mentoring of sales reps as the most important role front-line sales managers play.
  • Leading companies value sales and marketing alignment. Three-fourths of top-performing organizations have strong alignment between sales and marketing, compared to just half of all other firms. In contrast, 87% of companies below revenue targets report poor sales and marketing alignment.

About this research:

This report is based on a survey of 216 U.S.-based executives conducted by Forbes Insights during the summer of 2015. All respondents were from companies with more than $50 million in annual sales; 34% were from companies with sales exceeding $5 billion. To achieve an added layer of insight, Forbes Insights also interviewed several executives and experts, incorporating some of their advice within the report.