With directives from above to grow revenue through sales, groups as varied as marketing, products, human resources, and even sales itself will rally to find ways to support the sales team.
Under this enormous pressure to increase cash flow, much of these sales enablement programs have been misguided—and the result is an onslaught of uncoordinated, inconsistent content.
Sales reps are left to wade through this mountain of information, and they respond to it in one of two ways:
1. They do not have the time or skill to evaluate which information would be valuable or useful to individual buyers, so they dump all of it (or a haphazard selection of it) onto the buyers (also known as the “show up and throw up” approach).
2. They put forth monumental work to pull out the golden nuggets of information for each prospective buyer (also known as the heroic effort approach). Unfortunately, this approach is not efficient or scalable, and according to Forrester, is less than 20% of sellers are even capable of it.
So, with most sales reps operating from a product-focused, spray-and-pray platform, it is no surprise that buyers are not satisfied. They do not feel engaged or understood, and their expectations are not met. In fact, when 418 executive buyers were surveyed by Forrester Research, they gave failing grades across the board for sales reps’ knowledge of their specific business, their role within it, and their unique business needs.
The obvious takeaway here is that sellers need to understand their buyers better, and they need to tailor their marketing approach to the individual buyer.
But how can a sales rep communicate effectively with a buyer about whom she has very little information?
The answer is: She can’t. And that’s where sales enablement in the form of lead intelligence comes in.
The sales conversation does not happen by itself, or in a vacuum. It is the marketing department’s responsibility to enable both ends of this conversation: It must make content available to engage and inform potential buyers on the prospect side of the conversation, and it must arm sales reps with lead intelligence and engagement tools on the sales side.
How content provides lead intelligence
Prospects tell you a lot about who they are and what problem they’re trying to solve by which content they choose to engage with. If you pay attention to these digital cues and use them to offer a prospect more engaging content, you may just nurture that prospect to the point of readiness to talk to one of your sales reps. Nurturing content aimed at the needs of specific buyers during specific stages of the buying process is how marketing enables the prospect side of the sales conversation.
Imagine how much hard work would be squandered, then, if a sales-ready prospect received a call from a sales rep who knew nothing about her, her company, her role, her industry, or the business problem(s) she was trying to solve by engaging with all that content. It is imperative for sales reps to receive all of the information they can get to build a profile of the lead in order to have a thoughtful, fruitful, trust-building conversation with her about her business pains and the possibility of a solution.
The need for sales play books
Companies enable their sales reps on this side of the conversation in different ways, but the common thread among all approaches is information. The marketing department scores and qualifies leads before handing them off to sales for further conversation. It also provides to the sales team, in one format or another, information about each piece of content a lead might engage with. (At Sales Engine, we put that information into a playbook. Each playbook outlines for the sales rep which buying persona and business pain a particular piece of content speaks to, along with talking points and sales positioning tips related specifically to that content.)
Ideally, your sales reps should add profound value to the buying experience. The handoff between digital engagement with content and human engagement with a sales rep should be seamless. Buyers are looking for solutions—they want to be influenced. They just want it to happen in a self-directed way. Buyers can only direct and be at the center of that process if the sales rep approaches the sale as a joint effort to find a solution to the buyer’s problem—not a one-sided sermon about how great the product is.
When a brand can build trust with its potential buyers by enabling both sides of the sales conversation, buyers begin to think of the brand as a partner in finding a solution—not as an aggressive seller making unwelcome advances. If your prospects think of your brand as a partner, you’re on your way to a return on your investment in marketing and sales support.