As the complexity in the B2B buying process increases, the new way forward for sales and marketing is through ‘buyer enablement‘ — providing information that helps buyers navigate the buying journey to make a purchase. In this environment, sales leaders will need to leverage new enablement tools to unlock sales performance.
“Buyer enablement is in essence the next evolution of sales enablement,” Melissa Hilbert, research director at Gartner, told sales leaders at the Gartner Sales & Marketing Conference 2018 in Las Vegas, NV. “It provides both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ through prescriptive advice and practical support.”
“To date, sales leaders have focused on improving internal processes to support sales enablement through better training, coaching, and optimized content distribution,” said Hilbert. “But to make buying easier, leaders must improve customer engagement — and accept they need to expand the types of tools used.”
Sellers can’t close deals without satisfying the knowledge and education needs of their prospects
Leaders must better understand the role of sales enablement in this complex selling environment. “Unfortunately, many organizations make the same mistakes they made when selecting sales force automation like throwing money at the problem or adding new tools all the time, said Hilbert. “When, put simply, leaders should focus on providing tools and processes that reduce friction between buyer and sellers.”
Tad Travis, research director at Gartner, shared with sales leaders methods to improve and justify new technology and tools to approach sales enablement.
Progressive content management strategies
In general, sellers use content to persuade, expecting it will lead to action. “Sellers can’t close deals without satisfying the knowledge and education needs of their prospects,” said Travis.
Sales leaders must evaluate tools and the way reps use them. Tools can help sellers to:
- Deploy better content recommendations. These technology systems can give reps guided process steps based on usage patterns and deal attributions, reducing the uncertainty.
- Improve seller’s reach with content microsites. Bundle content in packs that are specific to a client or persona, measure the interaction at recipient and content levels and aggregate account metrics. This is a great system for supporting account-based marketing efforts.
- Measure sales efficacy with content analytics. Track the performance of content by rep or deal in addition to top performing, revenue attribution and usage.
- Measure sales impact with engagement analytics. Metrics like total page views, dwell time, number of downloads and frequency of usage give sales a better picture of what content is more relevant to customers and prospects.
- Build better engagement with conversation analytics. Measure and track content usage as part of the customer journey to understand what content provokes most reaction.
Adopt new sales readiness capabilities
Training and coaching are not a novel concept to any organization. Typically training takes the form of a long, all-day sales kickoff that introduces items and teaches about a new product or coaching that’s done at the front line manager level. Both focusing on speeding the ramp-up to selling. “To better align with the buyer process, tools must focus on external signals and actually helping reps to understand these signals and be able to respond appropriately,” said Travis.
Seventy-one percent of executives surveyed by Gartner said they had plans to deploy sales enablement tools
Technology can increase the business impact of training by providing right-time, right-place opportunities to engage and develop staff and recommendations for improving a particular skill set. Technology that provides a scalable yet personalized approach to coaching develops capabilities rather than just supporting individual deals, allows for progress tracking and helps to cascade the best practices of top reps to others.
Make the business case for the new technology
“Seventy-one percent of executives surveyed by Gartner said they had plans to deploy sales enablement tools to support sales training, coaching and onboarding in the next two years,” said Hilbert. “Seventy-seven percent indicate they were in the process of, or are going to, deploy sales digital content management or guided selling tools in the next two years.”
Sales leaders must benchmark their development plans to properly reflect the change and how far they’ve come. Adoption rates, seller productivity or pipeline conversion rates top the list for justifying sales enablement funding. Use and adoption metrics are most common as they are most directly attributable to enablement initiatives. However, more than one-third of organizations don’t track productivity metrics, and only one-half track performance metrics. To better analyze the impact of enablement investments, organizations should track the outcomes they are ultimately trying to influence.
To ensure efforts to develop sales enablement tools are effective:
- Develop a vision for sales enablement that includes content, training and coaching
- Focus on technology that will improve efficiency, adoption and effectiveness
- Benchmark, implement and track incremental improvements.