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IDC describes sales enablement as: “A systematic approach to increasing sales productivity, by supporting reps with the content, training and analytics they need to have more successful sales conversations. Getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place, and in the right format, to move a sales opportunity forward.” That covers most of the bases, but for the practically oriented, it’s perhaps easier just to think in terms of ‘improving sales conversations’.
According to The TAS Group, as many as 67% of sales reps fail to reach quota every year. Sales enablement, then, is a useful approach to ensure the company can achieve its revenue targets by driving more successful sales interactions every time and at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Supporting the sales force isn’t news to marketers, of course. In fact, it’s the reason most B2B marketing departments came into existence. But in most companies, there is some degree of conflict between Marketing and Sales. Sales might not feel they have the content they need to sell effectively, while Marketing believes it delivers great content to Sales that isn’t being used. In many cases, sales reps go back to using outdated content or create their own, potentially damaging the brand and certainly losing valuable time.
A key source of frustration for marketing teams, in particular, arises when they proudly generate a stack of leads through costly and time-consuming campaigns only to find that Sales doesn’t use them. Or when Sales leave marketing materials on the shelf (Forrest Research claims as much as 90 percent of such materials go unused because they’re out-of-date, irrelevant or difficult to customize). In fact, according to Forrest Research, most of the white papers, presentations, videos, brochures and so on generated by B2B marketers aren’t considered helpful or desirable by prospective buyers, with three-quarters of executive and technical buyers responding that they get too much vendor information, much of it ‘useless’ (Make Sales Conversations an Integral Part of Your Content Marketing Plans). And like any expenditure over time without sufficient, demonstrable returns, a poorly calibrated content machine is a ticking time bomb under the CMO’s chair.
Another issue is that Sales often can’t find what they need for a particular sales situation – and they’re likely to start looking just a day or so before the call. Yet, while Marketing may have collected plenty of useful items, they usually don’t have the tools to structure and provide access to it all. Instead, it’s distributed across in-house servers, Sharepoint, on Dropbox and, for hard copy materials, in boxes stacked in closets around the building – and it’s hardly likely to be tagged so salespeople can know which items apply to different prospect types or stages in the buying process.
With the sales team challenged to find content and choose which pieces are applicable to their prospects, who can blame them for trying to do things their own way? In the words of Jeff Fritz, CEO of Storyworks1: “Sales wants a curated showroom, but Marketing gives them a disorganized warehouse. It is hard to find the relevant materials, so salespeople end up defaulting to content they have on hand.”
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