As a young engineer in the 1980s, I called in a vendor to get some information on their products for an upcoming project of mine. George (let's assume this is his real name) was a very nice, older man who had a significant amount of experience with his firm. Upon meeting him, he carefully handed me a large, black leather book that contained all of his company's products. He cautioned me that these expensive books were very rare, and that I should cherish it since very few were distributed. I must admit that I was initially excited at the opportunity to display this valuable item on my bookshelf to impress my colleagues; but then my cynical side kicked in. Did I mistakenly call in an encyclopedia salesman?
How do we, as sales and sales operations professionals, better prepare our sales teams to capture such an opportunity? IDC's Sales Productivity Framework provides a good foundation for evaluating where you can have the greatest impact in your organization, assessing five key areas: Talent Management, Sales Management; Sales Methodology; Sales Enablement and Customer Intelligence. Let's focus on sales enablement for now:
"The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time in the right format and in the right place to assist in moving a specific sales opportunity forward"
Does your sales enablement effort provide your sales reps with the right language and fluency that's relevant to your customers? Are they confident enough in their ability to let go of the corporate PowerPoint deck and have that deep discussion that's desired by their customers? Here are just a few thoughts to help you along your sales enablement journey:
- Focus on understanding your customers' needs, including: their business and technology needs, what should drive their sense of urgency for addressing these needs, and their buying process.
- Stop the insanity of the one-way push of products to your sales teams (e.g., PowerPoint decks, marketing assets). Better understand your sales teams' explicit and latent needs, and what it will take to improve their ability to connect with customers.
- Assign accountability for your sales enablement initiatives. (e.g., establish a sales enablement lead who's responsible for creating, executing and governing the process)
- Integrate sales enablement with the other parts of the sales productivity framework.
- Intelligence delivery: Do you know that over 40% of marketing assets aren't being used by sales; and the #1 reason for their lack of use is that sales cannot find these assets! There's too much material, the content is old and the delivery technology is outdated and/or lacks support. Establish one source for delivery of knowledge which has a customized front-end based upon sales teams' roles - including traditional assets, newer sources of information such as searchable video and social media, and the ability for reps to rapidly connect with subject matter experts and get their questions answered.
- New rep on-boarding process - a great opportunity to establish new ways of thinking and new habits across your organization.
- Innovative sales plays (e.g., develop an electronic sales playbook; deploy a whiteboard strategy that eliminates reliance on the corporate pitch deck)
- Establish and govern an asset management lifecycle to ensure that the knowledge you're providing to sales reps remains up to date and relevant.
Other ideas? Please comment below. Also, please reach out to me if you would like to participate in our ongoing research. (firstname.lastname@example.org)