Building a Sales Communication Plan
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When it comes to sales communication, there is a delicate balancing act that must occur between quality and quantity. For reps to be able to effectively communicate with buyers, they must be armed with the right content and information at the right time. However, too much information from multiple sources runs the risk of inundating reps with noise and distracting them from the revenue-driving actions they need to take to move the buyer forward in their journey.
With a solid strategy in place to guide teams through when and how to most effectively communicate to sales teams, practitioners can help streamline communications efforts to ensure that reps have the resources they need to succeed.
“Effective enablement requires excellent communications,” said Andrew Quinn, vice president of sales productivity and enablement at HubSpot.
Learn how to build a robust sales communications strategy, from setting goals to identifying actions, defining roles and responsibilities, establishing a mix of formats, and outlining cadences. Download our Sales Communication Plan tool at the end of the article to begin building a strategy today.
The first step to any successful plan is defining actionable goals. For sales communications, it is important to ensure that every piece of information or content sent out to the field has a clear objective tied to it. This will not only help reduce noise for reps, but will also help enablement establish more meaningful rollout plans, including clear actions, stakeholder roles, formats, and timelines.
For each scenario, such as a product launch or kickoff meeting, list out one to three objectives that the sales communication can help achieve. To help ensure that these goals are actionable, practitioners can outline these as SMART goals:
- Specific: Explain what it is that the communication should accomplish.
- Measurable: Include clear metrics that can be easily tracked and determine whether the objective was achieved.
- Attainable: Consider the steps that would need to be taken to execute against the goal.
- Realistic: Ensure that there are adequate resources available to take the necessary actions.
- Time-bound: Set deadlines to guide action.
Based on the scope of the scenario, the size of the goal and the subsequent flow of actions necessary to achieve it will vary. For example, communicating a new sales methodology to the field may encompass objectives that are rooted in change management, while smaller scenarios such as the release of new industry research will often encompass goals that can more easily fit within reps’ existing processes. By framing each objective in terms of what can realistically be achieved given the resources available within a specific time period, practitioners can better plan for communication flows both large and small.
“Not everything is a huge major change initiative,” said Quinn. “Some things are a bit lighter in nature and they’re easier for the sales team to take on, to adopt…In really thinking through what is the full suite of communications we need to make, we can then run shorter communication sequences based on the degree of change that we did.”
In alignment with the defined objectives, practitioners can then outline the critical actions that need to be taken to bring those objectives to fruition.
While the crux of this section of the plan relies on what needs to be done, it is also important to consider what not to do, or what actions to avoid in order to increase the chances of success. In doing so, enablement can not only put plans into place to move toward the end goal but can also help eliminate redundancies and thereby improve the efficiency of communications efforts.
“There are things that will slip through the cracks where it would have been better to run something by another team before rolling it out to sales or worse, it turns out two teams were unknowingly working on the same or similar issue and duplicating some efforts,” said Renee Tily, vice president of sales enablement at TechTarget. “It’s bound to happen every now and then, so when it does you just need to regroup and revisit the guidelines that were outlined, see if anything needs changing, and then see where the communication breakdown happened.”
With intentional and purposeful actions defined, it becomes easier for all the internal teams that are involved in communicating to the field to align and collaborate without duplicating efforts or overwhelming sales.
After specifying the actions that need to be taken, enablement can partner with other teams across the organization to establish clear roles and responsibilities in delivering the communication to sales. In addition to designating who will do what in communicating to the field, stakeholders that need to be involved in approving communications efforts or providing feedback should also be defined in the plan so that enablement knows who to engage at various levels.
For example, roles could include having cross-functional teams such as product or marketing providing messaging and resources to enablement, then having enablement aggregate and package the key content, submit the communication proposal to sales management for final approval before distributing, and engage top-performing reps to provide feedback shortly after the communication is delivered.
“When all of these communications were approved by sales management as the things their sellers needed information on, the rep proceeds then with consistency so that they know what to expect and how to use the information,” said Tily.
Roles and responsibilities will differ for each scenario based on the key stakeholders involved and the scope of the communication. However, building some consistency into the processes that stakeholders must follow in order to communicate effectively to the sales teams can help build trust with reps.
“By building these [communication] vehicles over time, building the sense of trust the sales organization…when an organization decided they were just going to go directly to the sales team, the sales team would then look at that communication and ignore it,” said Quinn. “Then that organization would swing around and go, ‘can you help us move this through?’ Then we would build that relationship.”
The format in which information is delivered can greatly impact how it is received and digested by the recipient. Therefore, selecting the appropriate method or channel through which to communicate requires deliberate thought and planning. The format will depend on the level of urgency, depth and density of information, and preferences of stakeholders.
Some types of communication formats to consider including in a sales communication plan include the following:
- Newsletter: Consolidate pertinent information on a specific topic from stakeholders across the business into a short digest of the latest news, sent through email or made available in a centralized location.
“We have a sales digest, a weekly newsletter that has a video component, and links to various documents and summaries that the sales team and the sales reps in particular use to stay on top of all the changes that are happening inside our organization,” said Quinn.
- Meeting: Whether in person or virtual, this could encompass presentations to the sales team or meetings to facilitate small group discussions.
- Sales Play: A source of truth on what to know, say, show, and do in specific scenarios, a sales play can provide a vehicle to help reps turn insights into action in buyer interactions.
- Video: Through a pre-recorded video or podcast, enablement can provide quick information to be consumed on the go.
Finally, setting a regular cadence for the communication can help create trust with reps as they can know when to expect certain types of information. For example, perhaps a newsletter is delivered monthly while a short podcast episode is released weekly. Establishing consistent cadences can increase the likelihood of reps consuming the communication, as it will not occur as a disruption to their routines and processes.
“We have a very deliberate communication sequence to make sure that the sales organization is very aware of what’s going to be coming down the pipe from enablement,” said Quinn.
Additionally, not every communication will be recurring. There may be standalone communication needs for one-time scenarios that arise. In any case, however, it is important to specify key dates and deadlines in the plan so that stakeholders and collaborators can all be held accountable to the same timeline.
Whether daily, weekly, monthly, annually, or standalone, cadences for sales communications ultimately must align with the rhythms of the business to adequately capture the attention of reps and avoid distracting from important stages of the sales cycle.
By outlining the what, why, who, when, and how behind key communication scenarios, enablement can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of communications to the sales organization.
Ultimately, building a sales communication plan is an iterative process that will require continual refinement as the needs of businesses and the state of markets shift. With a defined plan in place, enablement can better prepare the sales team with the information they need when they need it while responding to changes with agility.