Article

Know Your Customer: 4 Revenue Roles that Sales Enablement Serves

| 12 Min Read


Sales enablement is not just about helping salespeople – its about enabling the entire sales motion. From pre-sales, to post-sales, channel and partner sales, and sales support roles, sales enablement is equipped to support each in delivering excellent customer experiences.

“Sales enablement has the ability to deliver competency development and readiness to all folks who directly interact with our buyers, or folks who influence those interactions with our buyers,” said Peter Ostrow, senior research director at SiriusDecisions.

In order to effectively enable each of these roles, it is important for sales enablement practitioners to understand the nuances between them and how to best serve their unique needs.

Pre-Sales

The pre-sales teams include the roles that typically come to mind when one hears the term “salesperson”. These are your account executives and sales managers responsible for closing deals and bringing in new customers. Additionally, many organizations also utilize business development representatives to help identify prospects, garner initial interest, and nurture the relationship in the early stages of the sales process.

It goes without saying that these roles are critical to a company’s overall growth, as they are the frontline players directly responsible for securing net new revenue. And in the digital age, they are also roles that are getting increasingly more difficult.

“We have social, mobile, cloud, and big data,” said Tiffani Bova, global customer growth, sales and innovation evangelist at Salesforce. “The World Economic Forum calls it the fourth industrial revolution. We’re far more connected than we’ve ever been. Our customers are far more informed and enabled, and the pace of change is not slowing down. Because of that, the power has shifted from the seller to the buyer.”

Because of this dynamic, pre-sales teams are often the core audience for many sales enablement initiatives. Through onboarding, ongoing training, coaching, sales plays, and more, sales enablement is able to help improve sales proficiency, productivity, and overall performance. When designing sales enablement programs for a pre-sales audience, keep in mind the following characteristics:

  • They need to adapt quickly to change. Keeping up with the buyer in a rapidly evolving market requires salespeople to constantly stay informed on industry trends, competitive intelligence, company information, and more.
  • They are quota-driven. Salespeople are accountable for making their number each month and quarter, and the growth of the business depends on their ability to do so.
  • They need to have excellent relationship-building skills. It is increasingly important that the seller can deliver value and build trust with buyers in order to stand out from the competition.
  • They need to be armed with data and facts. Since many buyers enter conversations with salespeople already having researched the market and potential solutions, it is essential that sellers have the facts and data to back up claims and manage objections.

Post-Sales

With the fast-paced business environment today, many companies have to regain customer loyalty and engagement month-over-month. This means that pre-sales teams are often only the first point of contact for a customer. After the first sale, post-sales teams such as account management, customer success and services are critical to keeping the customers engaged and ideally finding expansion opportunities.

“Due to enabling this ‘secondary salesforce’, this is why sales enablement needs to focus not just on the pre-sales but also the post-sales organization,” said Emily Garza, director of account management at Fastly. “Because that’s where a lot of the organic and follow-up growth is happening with these ‘land and expand’ type deals.”

In working with post-sales teams, there are many sales enablement programs that in name are similar to how pre-sales teams are enabled. For example, new hires on post-sales teams still require robust onboarding, training, and coaching, but the concepts covered will differ from those taught in pre-sales. While pre-sales will need to learn how to identify the ideal customer profile, post-sales need to learn how to navigate conversations around renewals and present opportunities to upsell.

Just as pre-sales is focused on engaging the right customer, post-sales is focused on driving value and increasing the lifetime value of that customer. When delivering sales enablement programs to post-sales teams, consider the following characteristics:

  • They need to have a deep understanding of the customer. The post-sales organization is responsible for getting to know customers throughout their life cycle, understanding why they bought the solution initially, and tying that information to growth opportunities.
  • The customer expects personalization. While pre-sales might be able to utilize more generic materials or information in customer conversations, there is an expectation that post-sales teams know their customers on a more personal level. Therefore, it is important that messages and information can be tailored to each unique customer.
  • They need to be a customer advocate internally. Working with other internal teams across pre-sales, sales support, marketing, product, finance, legal, and more is critical to ensure customers have a seamless experience. They are also the key liaison to ensure customer asks are elevated and ideally moving forward.

Channel/Partner

Many companies also utilize partnerships with other agencies or vendors to recommend and sell their solutions. These partners represent a large opportunity for companies to reach new buyer personas and markets outside of their typical pool of prospects. In fact, 63.5% of companies leverage partner sales, according to CSO Insights, and 75% of the world’s B2B trade comes through the channel.

But working with channel partners is not without its challenges. For example, since partner sellers aren’t in the office with your team every day, they can often be neglected or overlooked. Similarly, they are often partnering with multiple organizations, and it can be difficult to remember that your company is not their only priority. This makes it all the more critical that they receive their fair share of attention from enablement.

“You need to treat those channel partner sales reps like they are your sales reps,” said Jen Spencer, VP of sales and marketing at SmartBug Media. “They need to be an extension of your team…make it easy for them to access resources that are necessary.”

Keep in mind the following characteristics when designing enablement for channel and partner sales reps:

  • They should always know what the latest and greatest information is. Ensure you update your channel and partner sales reps in the same manner that you update your internal teams. They should always have access to the latest materials.

“Organizations need to have some empathy for those partners, understand 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,’” said Spencer. “That should never be a question.”

  • They have less time to dedicate to sales enablement activities than your internal teams. Channel and partner sellers have other priorities than just your company’s solutions, and therefore cannot be expected to spend the same amount of time in enablement activities. It is important that all time spent with channel partners in sales enablement activities is highly efficient and effective.
  • They need to understand the voice and positioning of your brand. Since they are further away from your company, emulating the voice and tone of your organization will be less natural. Spend time ensuring they understand the core messaging of your organization so that they can deploy it as intended.

Sales Supporting Roles

Most sales organizations also include supporting roles that help drive action on the technical side. For example, sales engineers are often needed to demonstrate more complex aspects of a solution and answer specific customer questions about the ins and outs of products. Also, sales operations professionals are key to analyze data and keep track of core metrics.

Sales supporting teams are critical to ensuring that the customer has access to deep technical expertise as well as creating a streamlined experience behind the scenes by spotting opportunities to improve processes. With support from sales enablement, these roles can help build customer trust and confidence and improve the performance of the sales organization.

“Sales enablement tends to be more plugged into the day-to-day selling environment,” said Imogen McCourt, global director of sales operations enablement and training at Argus Media. “We can bring this to life and execute on the things that sales [support] might have spotted that need fixing. End-to-end, we operate as one.”

In creating sales enablement programs for sales support roles, the following characteristics can be helpful to understand:

  • They need detailed technical knowledge. While pre-sales, post-sales, and channel sales reps require more readiness around customer conversations and relationship building, sales supporting roles need to go deeper under the hood of a company’s solutions and be more data-driven in their approaches.
  • They should understand the company’s growth strategy. Since they need to be close to the solution and performance metrics, it is important that sales support roles know the vision for future releases and offerings.
  • They need to know what has worked in the past. Having a strong understanding of customer use cases for specific pain points and requirements is essential to position the company’s solution as the best option for the customer’s needs. Similarly, it can help operations professionals better set and track goals for what success looks like.

As sales enablement continues to mature in many organizations, it is important to think of sales enablement beyond just the sales teams – in the traditional sense. Post-sales, channel/partner sales, and sales support roles can also benefit greatly from enablement programs.

“Most often when I talk to sales leaders about what their dream is when it comes to having a world-class sales enablement team, it’s to have that be the impetus for creating a best-in-class sales organization overall and a selling team that has a reputation in the market of being the very best,” said Sharon Little, senior director of GTM enablement at Amplitude.

Expanding sales enablement to serve the entire revenue organization is becoming a new standard for what good looks like. By tailoring enablement programs for each of these audiences within the revenue organization, sales enablement can help ensure that customers are supported throughout their entire life cycle.