From Data-Driven Marketing to Data-Driven Sales The Increasing Need for Sales Enablement
B2B Sales Contribution
The importance of sales contribution, especially in B2B, is believed to have significantly decreased. This is due to the general perception that 67% of the buying process happens online, and the idea that 57% of the buying journey is complete before the customer ever makes initial contact with a potential supplier.
Digital channels are typically thought of as prospect engagement resources, with sales entering the picture after having generated a ‘qualified lead’ ready for follow-up. However, research by SiriusDecisions (2015) showed that buyers are interacting with sales representatives more than 50% of the time in the earlier phases of the buying cycle, indicating that sales within B2B is still very important.
As a result, marketing is deemed to get into alignment with sales even at the very start of the buying cycle, and carry this relationship all the way through. It’s evident that human interaction is a core element of B2B buying, and that the rise of digital marketing does not mean these interactions fade away.
So what exactly does this mean for B2B marketing departments? It means they need to:
- Drive alignment between outbound marketing and sales messaging, generating consistency and speaking the same language.
- Educate sales on how marketing programs are built around personas and buying stages, and what criteria are key influencers to decision makers.
- Enable sales to access marketing content, data, and analytics, so they can respond to prospects with the right message, at the right time.
- Educate and equip sales with the proper tools to ensure consistent and exact information supply, enabling sales to access the right information, at the right time, at the right place, for the right prospect, and bring across the most propelling message.
The alignment between marketing and sales can be captured within the grand scope of ‘sales enablement’, a relatively growing function within B2B. The definition of sales enablement differs per organization based on size, industry, culture and so forth. Sales enablement is best defined as a guiding principle, and has countless descriptions like:
“A strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system”. (Forrester, 2015)
“Ensuring that every seller has the required knowledge, skills, processes and behaviors to optimize every interaction with buyers”.
Digital vs. Human Interaction
In April, 2016, INCITE group conducted research among more than 1,000 of its readers. This research revealed that sales enablement, together with creating a ‘single customer view’ (read our previous blog on the shift to 1:1 marketing) and content marketing, were the three biggest issues for marketers in 2016.
Creating a single customer view, meaning the process of pulling together all possible datasets – from across different teams and departments – into one, comprehensive, illustrative view of the customer – empowering a personalized approach, is a largely digital execution. Sales enablement on the other hand, is more of an in-person execution, utilizing a ‘digital’ single customer view methodology, but is generally focused on human interaction, which, as indicated earlier in this post, is still very relevant in the B2B sales process.
The key goal to successful sales enablement is to give sales access to the data and insights marketing teams are now collecting, and supplying them with the proper tools to execute on this information. Doing so will create an easy to understand, prioritized view of the hottest, most engaged prospects and accounts, allowing sales to work more efficiently, have a more personalized and relevant interactions with prospects, and increase sales success.