Moving beyond Sales Enablement

Moving beyond Sales Enablement

September 2019 | Marketing Operations

Changing sales models and the need for account based marketing, have changed the relationship between sales and marketing.

Few Sales reps are genuine experts concerning the industry in which they work. Most good reps know a lot about the products they're paid to promote but rarely have more than a skin-deep knowledge of market changes and industry trends. Such knowledge is the domain of pre-sales engineers who in technical fields are frequently called upon to prove in-depth knowledge and to provide the necessary expertise needed to flesh out the customer specific details of a solution.

Marketers are also rarely genuine experts about the industry in which they operate That typically does not matter, because they don't need to be, so long as they have access to the people in the business that are. Marketing can play many roles in an organisation, but one of the most important is branding and positioning.

Audience Matters

Sales are generally only speaking to a small group of decision makers directly involved in a purchasing decision, marketing is frequently tasked with speaking to the entire marketplace with an audience that has a wide range of roles and responsibilities. The ability to distil market trends into language understood by a non-specialist audience is essential, as is the ability to provide a unique spin on the issues of the day that makes sense to a technical audience. Speaking to the broadest audience is critical to what marketers do, but is not always a skillset that Sales are required to have.

Yet, Sales are increasingly being asked to sell end to end solutions rather than just the base product. There are valid reasons for the business to demand this. In most industries, it deepens the customer relationship, inflates deal size and overall profitability by enhancing the attach rate and bundling multiple products and services together, including partner ones in many cases. In doing so, Sales reps are asked to step well outside their comfort zone. It is therefore incumbent on marketing to support their colleagues in Sales when making that transition, but also in recognising the limitations of it.

The Alignment Priority

Sales and Marketing alignment has been a big topic of discussion for years, and its importance has only grown in light of the ABM boom. At its core, Account based Marketing is about developing account-specific messaging and a bespoke solution offering throughout the funnel, rather than by merely providing a generic message at the top of funnel marketing pitch and then delving into specifics further down the funnel when Sales enter the conversation. True 1 to 1 messaging isn't affordable or scalable for all except the very largest of potential customers, but far more can be done than in the past. The key is to align the marketing-led solution pitch with the product led sales conversation that Sales are having with the same stakeholders.

Sales automation and sales enablement have been a growth area for both marketing operations and sales operations teams in recent years. The whole market segment has expanded beyond lead activity dashboards and campaign sales guides into fully fledged cross-channel playbooks. Reps now have the ability to accelerate deals by triggering automated campaigns that address specific products or buyer profiles when the conversation starts to stall or stray outside their comfort zone.

Control vs Collaboration

In an organisation with high sales and marketing alignment this is a great way for the two departments to work together to close deals. In badly aligned organisations this can lead to overlapping content creation and internal battles about where the sales hand-off actually is. Placing control over bottom of funnel campaigns in the hands of sales is an essential way of building trust with the sales teams, but this does not mean that campaign design and content production needs to be.

Collaboration is of course vital to ensure that the campaign content is trusted and will be used. Sales led nurtures have been tried many times in many different organisations with very mixed results. Marketing designed sales nurtures traditionally have a very low adoption rate because sales don't trust the content and don't want to lose control over messaging at a critical point in the sales process. Education and confidence building helps bridge the gap, but ultimately sales teams need to feel as though they have equal or greater ownership over sales content and messaging otherwise they will stick to the traditional product led sales pitch they are familiar with. That is an outcome nobody in the business wants.

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.