The term “sales enablement” carries an implied question: Able to what, exactly? If the only answer your marketing leaders offer is “sell more, faster,” then they’re likely overlooking the nuances of converting leads into customers.
The most critical element of B2B sales is trust. Products like enterprise software and technology tend to be expensive, business-critical tools that organizations rely on heavily for long periods of time. Vendors must prove they can be reliable partners for the long term. Effective B2B sales enablement strategies involve more than lead generation campaigns and call scripts. They offer sales reps the tools they need to create a relationship.
Building Credibility at the Bottom of the Funnel
Many marketing leaders underplay the relationship component of B2B sales, or miss it altogether.
But look at the data behind B2B purchases, and you’ll find that interaction with sales makes up only a fraction of the buying process. According to Gartner, B2B buyers spend 45 percent of their time researching purchases, and just 17 percent meeting with potential suppliers. When they vet multiple vendors, buyers might spend only 5 percent of their time with each one.
If a prospect is talking with your sales team, the good news is that your branding and promotion have worked. The prospect likes what they’ve heard and seen so far and wants to know more. Successful sales enablement acknowledges that sharing your business’ credibility shouldn’t stop now that the lead is passed on to sales.
This is when the marketing team needs to equip your sales staff to support more in-depth conversations that answer your prospect’s number one question: Can your company and its solutions be trusted?
Prospects in conversation with sales need objective evidence that can convince their organizations your solution will solve their problem. Marketing can provide critical support to convince target companies that you can provide reliability and value over the long term.
Sales Enablement Activities That Build Trust
What do prospects at the bottom of the B2B funnel really want from the sales team? From our experience, the following content helps reps make the best case for closing the deal:
- Case studies describing current customers, your contribution to their success, and why they continue to work with you.
- Reference calls and site visits where prospects talk directly with your existing customers.
- Earned media in respected outlets that describe your products, leadership, and culture.
- Analyst reports from independent consultants that research your solution and how it compares to others in the marketplace.
- Value analysis to help quantify the value your solutions offer. This can include numbers on ROI, compliance, safety, or other metrics buyers are likely to request.
- Financial statements that show you have the capital, insurance, and other assets needed to be a reliable long-term partner.
- Project management and implementation guides to help prospects understand how your solution will fit into their current tools and processes. Potential customers want to know what integrating your product will look like for them.
Whenever possible, marketing should provide these items in formats that can be personalized to the prospect and the specific solution being proposed. Personalization can be as simple as a note or email sent along with the item or as complex as a template with extensive options for customization by sales reps.
Why Companies Miss The Mark With Sales Enablement
Most marketing activities and materials are built for promotion—building awareness among large numbers of people. They are created, designed and distributed to support one-to-many communication.
In contrast, sales enablement activities need to support relationships and trust-building on a one-to-one or a one-to-few basis. As such, they need to be approached differently.
Some marketers are reluctant to invest heavily in sales enablement because they see this type of small-scale outreach as inefficient or reactive. Sometimes it is. But that’s the nature of building trust between individuals.
Misalignment between sales and marketing also stems from their differing priorities. Marketers’ KPIs often center on leads or engagement, while reps are only rewarded when they close a sale. As a result, sales teams might be reluctant to collaborate extensively with their marketing colleagues when that time could be spent speaking with prospects. Sales reps might also guard their customer contacts out of fear that the marketing team’s involvement will interfere with their relationships.
These cultural conflicts reduce the organization’s odds of generating effective case studies, earned media, analyst reports, and other content that supports future deals. Frequent coordination and goal setting at the leadership level can establish trust internally and encourage more effective coordination of the sales content that will support future wins. For companies willing to go a step further, business leaders in CFO magazine and Harvard Business Review even make the case for group incentives for sales teams, as opposed to individual sales rep commissions.
Relationships Build Success
Of course, the most effective way for marketing professionals to meet a sales department’s needs is also the simplest: Ask.
What current sales enablement materials do they use? What do they ignore? Where are their pain points? What do they wish the organization could do better to show the value of the product? Don’t assume the sales team necessarily views the sales funnel or even assumptions about your ideal customer the same way that marketers do. A willingness to listen and learn can help erode the barriers that keep sales and marketing from working together effectively.
At the end of the day, both teams need to answer the question, “What is our best way to repeatedly build trust in prospects who are already aware of and interested in our solutions?”
It’s not a question that either side can answer alone. Marketing doesn’t own the customer relationship, and sales doesn’t have expertise in content, advertising, or analyst relations.
Only by jointly addressing the question of customer trust will a business build a sustainable sales enablement strategy that supports business relationships and leads to more closed deals.