Sustainable revenue performance ensures your organization is meeting its goals and finding its success into the future. Yet achieving profitable revenue year after year is no simple task. There is no golden egg or one solution. You will time and again meet internal and external challenges.
Yet with a well-oiled revenue engine, any challenges you come up against will be mitigated or side-stepped altogether.
At Mereo, we have developed a unique approach to revenue performance that leverages the inherently interdependent operational disciplines of demand progress, solution marketing, solution management, sales operations and sales enablement.
This week in the holistic revenue performance series, we will dive into sales enablement and how this piece of the revenue performance Blueprint™ will help you achieve an unfair share™ of the market.
Common Sales Enablement Pitfalls
There is often confusion around what sales enablement truly encompasses and what the purpose of a sales enablement program is.
And it is hard to explain: Every organization has and needs a unique sales enablement strategy that makes sense for its culture, its goals and its buying audiences. At the most simplistic level, though, sales enablement is what it says it is: An organized and company-wide effort to enable sales channels (front-line sellers and leaders), in order to:
- Better align with the buyer’s journey.
- Enable and empower salespeople to serve buyers.
- Synchronize an organization around consistent sales methodologies, formalized processes and value messaging for a united effort of selling no matter the department.
- Help departments work cross-functionally to get your solution in the hands of the right buyer.
Sales enablement programs can be powerful. But there are many forces that can tug at the thread and unravel the efforts, the potentials, the impact. Leadership beware of the following:
Misalignment Among Sales, Marketing and Product Teams
According to HubSpot research, one in four companies indicate their sales and marketing teams are either “misaligned” or “rarely aligned.” And this misalignment is costing B2B companies 10% or more of lost revenue annually.
Perhaps departments have a different understanding of the target buyer. Maybe everyone is working from a different business plan or differentiated value messaging platform. There are formal, common sense sales enablement tools that can help close these detrimental organizational fissures and help your people work together in united strength.
Sales Tools Gap
Are the sales resources your marketing department creates simply going unused by sales? The answer is likely yes. According to research conducted by the CMO Council, salespeople invest upwards of 40% of their time creating presentations and other sales cycle content. That is two days per week. Two days salespeople could be making calls, getting face-to-face with buyers, closing deals. This is a major inefficiency an effective sales enablement program can address.
Technology has enabled us to achieve so many efficiencies and overcome yesterday’s barriers. Yet, the value of in-person interactions is not going by the wayside. Quite the opposite. Many organizations commendably commit to regular sales training, but their programs are often mainly online. Salespeople are not engaging with training content as they go through modules as well as they would in-person, active and interfacing with other people. They are not getting one-on-one or face-to-face experience that is necessary for real-world selling with a buyer. They are going through the motions without any true leveling up occurring.
And in situations where salespeople across the organization are brought together — such as at sales kickoffs — there are often missed opportunities to train salespeople in solution value messaging, new sales methodologies, intensive skills workshops as the focus rather goes to celebrations of past achievements and a look to the future’s goals — without the skills and plans to get there.
The most effective sales training curriculum blend instruction, exercises and role-plays across modalities (e.g. in-person, eLearning, ride-alongs) with ongoing coaching.
Sales Enablement Strategies to Win
Think of sales enablement as a three-legged stool. One leg is supported by sales processes and buyer-seller activities. Another leg stands firmly with effective techniques for selling – and enhancement of the requisite skills. The third leg includes value messaging, where sales are enabled with a compelling solution value propositions including differentiation that an entire organization has aligned around.
Effectively Leveling-up Sales Skills
Sales training has been a popular prescription for dried-up pipelines and below-par performance. While effective when properly administered, there is ample amount of malpractices and over-promises when it comes to sales training.
Sales training is never a once and done event. Leadership must require continual opportunities for improvement of their salespeople’s skills. They must provide opportunities to practice effective listening, differentiated value messaging, responding to “no” and more common situations they will find themselves in. Regular formal sales training programs aside, leadership must also reinforce sales training often at meetings with check-ins, practicing in “ride-alongs”, and assessing and dissecting real sales moments in order to ensure sales are at a level required for revenue performance scalability.
Cross-Organizational Solution Expertise
Every single individual in your organization who interfaces — directly or indirectly — with your buyer needs to be a solution expert. This includes your salespeople, your marketing team, your customer service professionals.
There is a large distinction between having knowledge about what solution you offer versus why it is relevant and compelling to your buyer. Formal playbooks serve as an single reference point for aligning your entire organization around your solution’s differentiated value messaging as it pertains to your target buying audiences – that often begins with fundamental elements such as the ideal buyer profile, pains and discovery questions for buyer personas, solution differentiators and proof points, client value stories and objection reframes.
Enabling Valuable Sales Tools
There is a special art to creating sales tools that salespeople can feasibly use and that will resonate with your target buying audiences. Leadership must first align its organizations around goals, targets, messaging frameworks and more in order for sales kits and tools to be revenant and worthwhile. What does sales need for its buyers? How can marketing develop tools sales can customize per buyer to make a compelling case for your solution? Where are the gaps? This is a vital leg to the sales enablement stool and has the potential to take buyers from engaged with sales to ready to close.
Real Results Realized
Axway was in a transformational period to a subscription-based solution. Leadership knew they would need to revolutionize how it launched products, educated sales teams and spoke with its customers. Yet, the organization was struggling from common pitfalls that would impede the implementation of these changes:
- The organization was fragmented by geography and departments, resulting in disparate messaging and go-to-market disconnect.
- Current salespeople lacked formal skills and conversation training. They were accustomed to pitching products and rarely looked to engage buyers to understand their needs first before communicating a compelling value proposition.
- The go-to-market strategy lacked alignment between product, sales and marketing teams.
Read their sales enablement story featured in the March Issue of Top Sales Magazine to learn how they managed to:
- Realize growth in marketing-generated opportunities, up 53% in 2017, 58% in 2018 and 28% in 2019.
- Support commercial momentum of the subscription business, which saw 7.5% growth in 2018 reaching revenue of €3 million, and 17.2% growth in 1H 2019 reaching revenue of €23.1 million. Organically, the business grew by 4.4% year-on-year.
- Improve sellers’ confidence and capability to engage prospects in effective conversations by 33% overall instilling value-based selling approaches and employing Axway value messaging through an in-person and eLearning sales enablement curriculum.
- Employ an interactive training approach as part of sales kickoff that leveraged sales-selected target accounts as the focal of exercises. 49.7% of these registered opportunities progressed to close by utilizing concepts and techniques learned and/or honed at the kickoff.
- Increase marketing and sales enablement content at sales kickoffs from 1.5 hours in 2017 to a full day of content in 2018, to 2.5 days of content and enablement in 2019, refocusing on education and preparing to succeed in the year to come.
- Experience growth in return on marketing per business closed by 76% in 2018 and 41% in 2019, for a total of 148% cumulative growth from 2017 to 2019.