Episode 12: Jen Spencer on Enhancing the Buyer’s Journey with Sales Enablement

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we are here to help professionals stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs.

Our guest today is Jen Spencer, VP of sales and marketing at SmartBug Media where she leads the sales, marketing, and brand strategy. Throughout her career, she has built many sales enablement programs from scratch and we are so excited to be hearing from her today.

Jen Spencer: Of course, of course. I love it.

SS: So, I want to jump a little bit over to the conversation that you led at the Sales Enablement Soiree. We really kind of had you focused on the content component. In the panel, you had actually mentioned that the lines are starting to blur between marketing content and enablement content. I would love your opinion on how they differ and then also how they work together.

Jen Spencer: So I think when you’re creating content, you should be thinking about that buyer’s journey, so they’re moving through stages of awareness, consideration, decision, and then you’re getting into evangelism. And there is content that is more appropriate in some stages than they are in others. So, that’s when we see something like a blog that is very educational is going to be something that is more an awareness stage piece of content because you are just trying to attract people based on a pain they’re having.

If you are talking about consideration stage content, now someone knows they have pain, they have to figure out if they want to do anything about it, and the option is always still no, I’m not going to do anything about it. So, if you’re trying to show them that there’s a better way, then you’re still continuing to educate them not just on your product or your solution, but on what happens if you don’t do anything. And then into decision, decision I think gets split into kind of two different areas. It’s intent and then actual decision. So, the intent is “I know I have a problem, I’ve recognized that there’s a solution, now I have to figure out which solution I am going to select.” So, if that solution is on software, now there are five different companies that do the same thing, and then kind of deciding to move forward with an organization.

So, why do I explain all this? I’m explaining all this because everyone moves through that buyer journey at a different pace and with a different level of understanding. So, if I have previously purchased – let’s use, for example, I’m going to pick on Gong again – call recording software. This is a purchase I recently made and I have previously purchased that software. So, my buyer journey was very different the second time around than it was the first time that I purchased that.

The first time I was stressed out about the legality, I was stressed out about how exactly it was going to function, that was what I was worried about. The second time around, I already knew all of that. I felt comfortable with it. But earlier on in my buyer journey, I wanted to get into the weeds of what the product actually did, and I didn’t want to talk to a sales rep. So, whereas in my first time buying that software it was more appropriate for the sales rep to be educating me on the functionality of the product.

My second time around, I wanted that information a lot quicker. I think that’s where we’re seeing the marketing demand gen content and the sales enablement content kind of blur. It is based off of where that customer is in that person’s journey, and there is nothing about the number of visits I’ve made to your website or my job title that will tell you I’ve already purchased software like this before and I’m not at the 12th grade level, I’m at the Ph.D. level of this purchase.

SS: You mentioned this at the Soiree as well, so I wanted to dive into it. That’s the follow on question. But you mentioned how sales and marketing leaders are struggling to meet buyers where they are in their buyers’ journey and you called out some great points there. How do you think enablement can really help address that issue though?

JS: We need to, first of all, make sure that we are providing customers with access to the types of tools or resources that they are looking for, and the fact is that in a digital world it’s really easy to make things available to people and kind of test and see what works and what doesn’t and turns things on and turn things off. So, let’s say there was some kind of a calculator-type tool or some kind of resource that you were previously kind of keeping to yourself and you weren’t making it more publicly available, what’s the harm in making it publicly available? Actually, you can start to gather some data on how that sort of resource is used, for example.

The other piece is making sure you are providing your sales reps and anybody really, for that matter, who is interacting with customers, so your customer success team, and we’re talking about sales reps and picking on them. Your customer success team probably has some upsell goals and churn goals as well, so we need to be enabling them and making it very easy for them to connect pain or connect opportunity with the right kind of content or material that the customer would need. We need to make it easy for the customer on their own to find it but then also that the sales rep or customer success rep or whatever role that is, that person has easy quick access to what is going to help them serve the customer better. I think we are not as forthcoming culturally about how hard it is because we sometimes we come into the “check the box” culture.

We were just talking about this internally. Here at SmartBug, our own knowledge base, for example, has gone through multiple different iterations. And we still are not satisfied. We haven’t found the solution that really makes it effortless, as effortless as possible, for our team to get the information they need to properly serve our prospects and our customers. So it’s something that we are constantly iterating on. Now, I happen to work for a company that doesn’t mind being five or six months into something and going, “hey, this isn’t working, let’s change it.” But I also recognize that’s not the norm. So, being comfortable with cutting the line on projects that you’ve started or maybe investments that you made that you thought were going to make sense, and just really tracking what’s become actually useful and being really honest about how useful it is. You should be able to log into systems and you should be able to see how many times a certain piece of content or a certain resource has been used and by whom. And if it’s not being used, is it a training issue or is it a system issue?

SS: That’s perfect. That’s great feedback and absolutely true. I also want to ask, and this is deviating a little bit but just knowing your background with Allbound, I would love to just get your take on the difference between kind of direct sales enablement and then channel sales enablement. What are some of the challenges that are unique to the channel sector?

JS: Channel has been really interesting for me because I worked at Allbound, right, where it was a true enablement and sales product for channel. Before that, I ran marketing at an organization that sold 80% of its business through channel, so I was on that end of it. And now, I’m in a position where I am a channel partner of many organizations and it is painful. It is very, very painful. I mean I kind of knew, but now I really know.
So, the biggest thing is – and I’ve said this before but it’s still very, very true – you need to treat those channel partner sales reps like they are your sales reps. They need to be an extension of your team. So what I’ve noticed is, well, here’s the pricing documentation and rules of engagement we have for our internal team, but we don’t share that with our partners. Well, why? That doesn’t make any sense. So you really need to treat your partners like they are part of your team and make it easy for them to access resources that are necessary.

There is an organization I am a partner with. Just today I said, “I just want to verify that this is the most accurate pricing document” and he said, “you know what, no, we rolled out a new one.” Luckily I asked because otherwise, I would be setting both myself and my partner rep over there up for failure because I’d be sharing – in this case, the pricing increased – so I would be sharing a lower price point with this potential customer who is then going to get blindsided by an additional price. It is going to position me as not really knowing what I am talking about. Ultimately, they would end up wanting a discount because they knew that other price had existed at some point, which they should ask for. So, I think that’s one of the hardest things that I see also for partners.

Partners are typically partnering with many organizations and it is easy to forget that you’re not the only one. I mean, we are partnered with so many technology companies that I had to create a whole separate sales pipeline in our CRM to keep track of all of the referrals we are doing because we had no system of record for checking as a whole what commissions we were owed or what stage things were at. We are working with direct reps at all of these different organizations. So, I had to create a custom field in the deal record so I can keep track of the individual rep and I can kind of report on that because I’ve got my CEO who’s asking me about it, who’s saying yes, it’s great for us on paper to say we’re partnering with these companies, but what is it doing for us bottom line-wise? And these are all separate organizations, so there’s no one tool that’s going to come and solve all this.

It is tough, and I think the thing that organizations need to do is have some empathy for those partners, understand kind of what they are going through, and try to make it as easy as possible for them to get access to the resources that they need, and never be in a position where they are going, “do I have the most accurate this, or the most updated that?” That should never be a question.

SS: Absolutely, absolutely. Expanding beyond channel and because you raised this earlier before, and it’s an interesting topic around doing enablement beyond sales. I’m curious to hear your perspective, though, on if sales enablement, no matter where they sit, does span the entire go-to-market team. It seems like it would be challenging because all of those different functions execute relatively differently. Like, how do you enable marketing and how do you enable customer success in ways that are similar but different from the way that you have to enable your sales reps?

JS: It’s a really good question, and it is something that we deal with regularly in our organization. Mostly, that’s because I have three sales reps who are responsible for bringing on new business but we have like 35 strategists who are basically in a customer success type of role that are working day in and day out with customers, and are responsible for keeping them as customers and growing them as customers and what have you. And those people aren’t salespeople by nature, right? They’re not at all. That’s not what we’re hiring for in that position.

So, what we do is we do have that knowledge base that I mentioned. It is a little sick, so it’s not ideal. But we do have kind of a knowledge base where we are keeping track of all of our processes and those resources, but then we are doing kind of spin-off trainings that are very, very focused depending on the role, and that is something that we just recognized that we have to do as an organization. Some of the core material might be the same regardless of what their function is, but there are going to be scenarios, there is going to be training with different role-playing, there are going to be just different situations, so it behooves us to just dedicate some separate time for those particular functions.

SS: Thanks for listening. For more insights, tips and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is something you would like to share or a topic you want to know more about, let us know. We would love to hear from you.

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