Nurturing the Sales Enablement Ecosystem
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What do forests, deserts, coral reefs, and sales enablement have in common? Each is an ecosystem that brings together diverse communities, elements, and resources to cohabitate in a unique environment.
Just as in nature, the sales enablement ecosystem thrives through interconnectivity. Across any company, a wide range of business units are reliant on sales to perform a function of their job duties, and as a result are vying for attention from salespeople.
From the field marketing teams that depend on sales for events to the sales operations teams that analyze productivity and performance data, sales can quickly become inundated with competing messages and priorities without sales enablement to help guide them.
Sales enablement breaks down the silos that separate these departments to streamline cross-functional efforts and help salespeople find the information, tools, and resources they need to be more effective in their jobs.
“There’s an ecosystem of everybody that that seller impacts,” said Bill Parry, director of enablement at Redwood Software. “I want my seller to engage with them…and re-engage with them, so that way there is cross-functional support.”
Here are seven core inhabitants of the sales enablement ecosystem that practitioners must partner with to help salespeople thrive.
In many ways, the responsibilities of demand generation marketing teams and sales enablement intersect. The demand gen team uses targeted marketing campaigns to create awareness and interest for a company’s products or services, as well as nurture programs with current leads or prospects to keep them interested until they are ready to move forward in their buying journey.
Sales enablement is that natural next step in the buying journey, as it is responsible for helping sellers effectively engage with those leads and prospects and guide them through the sales process. To create a seamless experience for prospects at the top of the funnel, close collaboration between demand gen and sales enablement is key.
“[In demand gen], you are crafting the message, you are creating demand, you are positioning your company as a thought leader, you are sharing materials and messages with your customers,” said Jen Spencer, vice president of sales and marketing at SmartBug Media. “Sales enablement is a very natural extension of what you are already doing. It is the next step in that customer’s buying journey. There is a lot that straddles demand generation and sales enablement.”
Product marketers are the subject matter experts on the ins and outs of solution capabilities, competitive positioning, core use cases, and all the messaging and content as it relates to these. This coveted expertise is essential for salespeople to be able to communicate the value of their company’s solution and connect that value to specific customer needs.
If sales enablement is not tightly aligned with product marketing, the two can quickly become perceived by the other party as a barrier between them and the field. Practitioners should take special care to nurture this relationship and ensure that product marketing is deeply embedded in sales training efforts.
“Product marketing does a lot of the training for our sales reps in addition to our sales trainer to make sure that the messaging is landing appropriately for the account executive,” said Lindsay Millar, director of sales enablement at OneLogin.
Field marketing is the liaison between salespeople and customers in direct, face-to-face buyer engagements. For example, field marketers help to create opportunities for direct interaction between buyers and sellers in the field by planning and coordinating events. Field marketing professionals are subject matter experts on buyer behavior and how salespeople are able to attract their interest through messaging, selling skills, and processes.
Since sales enablement cannot be in the field every day with sellers, it is essential that practitioners partner closely with field marketing to ensure that sales messaging and tactics are resonating with buyers in the field.
“Salespeople that are out in the field are all by themselves,” said Laura Welch, director of sales enablement at HP. “They’re talking to new people, they’re putting themselves out there. They’re trying out new messaging that you’ve created in your little bubble in your office and you think is going to be awesome. They’re speaking it and they’re hoping it lands well.”
The communications team can wear several different hats in an organization, from managing branding and social media to public relations and internal communications. Their primary responsibility is to filter through messages from across the organization and distill it into digestible content for a variety of internal and external audiences.
Similarly, sales enablement does this in a more specialized way for the sales organization. They help communicate major initiatives and information from a variety of theaters that sales needs to know to be able to do their jobs effectively. Sales enablement needs to work with the communications team to streamline messaging to the sales team and ensure all sales communications align to the corporate brand.
“There are a lot of different teams who want to speak to the sales organization, and our job as sales enablement is to make sure that they get the right messages, but that they’re not bombarded and they don’t have too much noise,” said Lena Chudasama, senior sales enablement lead at Taboola. “I think communication is really important.”
HR are the gatekeepers for bringing in sales talent, nurturing their professional development, and creating a culture that keeps employees satisfied. From day one, they are responsible for setting all employees up for success with the resources and support they need to excel at an organization.
Sales enablement has historically been heavily involved in onboarding efforts for sales, and as such human resources is often a core partner for many sales enablement practitioners. This partnership is becoming even more critical as sales enablement becomes more deeply involved in sales talent management through things like hiring plans, retention programs, professional development, and competency mapping.
“It’s essential for enablement to partner closely with HR,” said Devon McDermott, vice president of global enablement at CM Group. “For us, they’re part of our onboarding accountability flow. By cultivating a meaningful relationship with HR, we’re able to take a holistic approach to onboarding and go beyond the bottom line and basic metrics and actually develop and nurture our sales team and really our full employee base.”
Sales operations and sales enablement are naturally complementary functions. In fact, at many organizations, the sales enablement function was born from a need within the sales operations function to put more action around the data and insights the operations team collected on sales performance. While sales operations owns a lot of the sales technology, analytics, processes, and reporting, sales enablement drives tool adoption, designs training programs around analytics, and streamlines processes and reporting for the sales organization.
“Sales operations brings deep analytical and strategic planning to the table and they’re very tactical, spotting snags in our process, looking for leading and lagging indicators, and viewing where the future opportunity might be,” said Imogen McCourt, co-founder and chief executive at &Grow.io. “Sales enablement tends to be more plugged into the day-to-day selling environment. We can bring this to life and execute on the things that sales ops might have spotted that need fixing. End-to-end, we operate as one.”
As many companies are faced with the challenge of having to maintain customer trust and engagement month after month, customer success teams are critical to expand on the customer loyalty foundation that is built during the pre-sales experience. That means customer success efforts need to operate in sync with the relationships that sales initiates.
“It is 25 to 40% more expensive to go out and acquire a new customer versus keep the customers that we already have,” said Scott Barker, head of partnerships at Sales Hacker. “So, how do we turn those customers not only into repeat customers, but into advocates?”
By partnering closely with the customer success team, sales enablement can help provide a bridge between pre and post-sales efforts. When these efforts are aligned, organizations are better equipped to improve customer experiences end-to-end and elevate their success as a result.
Sales enablement is a unique function in the sense that its potential is maximized when it has a close relationship with core partners across the business. At the same time, those core partners are better positioned for success with a strong relationship to sales enablement.
That’s why nurturing all the elements within the sales enablement ecosystem is such an important part of the sales enablement role. Through intentional interconnectivity across the ecosystem, sales enablement prospers – helping sales prosper as a result.