Editor’s note: The following is a guest post from Alex Gallia, a content contributor for Process Street. Alex has a professional background in creating and leveraging targeted sales enablement content to produce qualified leads and increase sales efficiency. You find him on LinkedIn here.
The growing buzz around sales enablement
Up until a few years ago, sales enablement was not a function that warranted any serious attention. It was up to salespeople to close deals with overzealous pitching, persistence, and savvy negotiation tactics.
This simply does not work anymore.
The turning tide can be traced back to the growth of the internet in the 1990s when B2B salespeople suddenly had to adapt to a well-informed audience. It soon became clear that the old “rough and tough” methods were no longer going to be effective.
Selling methods would have to become more personalized, value-driven, and focused on listening to the buyer’s needs (rather than trying to convince them what their needs are).
Today, sales enablement is a growing area of focus for almost all B2B service providers — especially SaaS companies struggling to differentiate themselves amid stiff competition.
CSO Insights found that in 2017, nearly 60% of sales leaders had a dedicated sales enablement function. That figure was up from 33% in 2016 and 26% in 2015.
Building the bridge between marketing and sales
So, we know that buyer behavior has changed dramatically over the past few decades. But what else is causing companies to suddenly invest so heavily in sales enablement roles?
According to Brian Favel, VP of Marketing for Veelo, there are three primary reasons why sales enablement roles are on the rise.
The first is the point I just touched on: Buyers now approach purchases in a more informed way. In order to meet the needs of those sophisticated prospects, sales teams need to be trained, coached, and armed with compelling enablement content for each deal stage.
It’s Brian’s next two reasons, however, that are going to be the focus of this post. They are: The importance of quality content and the need for Marketing-Sales alignment. In my eyes, the former is the bridge to the latter, which is the underlying purpose of sales enablement.
In my previous role, I was the sales enablement coordinator for a high-growth SaaS company. Beyond all of the content I created and weekly presentations I gave to the sales team, I felt that the core of my job was to unite departments. Continuous communication was critical to the success of a sales enablement function.
To build the bridge, you need to create quality content and make it easily accessible to the sales team.
So, as we dive into the topic of how you can create enablement content your sales team actually uses, here is a brief overview of what I’ll be going over in the post:
- What exactly is enablement content?
- 3 key differences between marketing and sales enablement content
- How to understand what content your sales team really needs
- 7 types of content your sales team will use (and appreciate)
What exactly is enablement content?
A fundamental characteristic of sales enablement content is that is designed to speak to a prospect at various stages of the buyer journey. Rather than focusing solely on attracting buyers, like most marketing content does, enablement content ushers prospects further down the sales funnel towards a closed-won deal.
In other words, the content’s focus is on convincing rather than attracting.
Enablement content can also have an internal and/or external application. For example, a case study produced with curious prospects in mind could also be useful for training a new salesperson on product features and benefits.
On the other hand, content such as call trees, email templates, and playbooks are only for internal use — strengthening and streamlining sales processes.
Both types are equally as important to advancing the conversation toward a purchase.
3 key differences between marketing and sales enablement content
Top-funnel vs mid-bottom-funnel focus (attracting vs convincing)
Most marketing content is geared toward attracting prospective buyers to engage and ideally reach out to learn more about the product or service offering. This is, of course, tremendously important, but is not the goal of sales enablement content.
Rather than attracting new buyers, enablement content is focused on convincing leads and opportunities that the offering fits their needs better than an alternative solution. In other words, it is content designed to educate prospects on exactly how the product or service will deliver the value they expect.
This represents a mid-bottom-funnel focus as opposed to a top-funnel focus.
No fluff, get down to the nitty-gritty
Enablement content needs to be product- and value-driven. Inspirational content such as social media posts, blog posts, and industry research papers are not a component of sales enablement initiatives.
By saying “get down to the nitty-gritty” I am referring to what is to a large extent, product marketing. Examples of product marketing content that are fantastic for sales enablement include:
- Feature overview sheets
- Integration articles
- ROI reports
- Competitive comparisons
- Case studies
- Demo videos
Creating the content is only half the job
Plan the article, write the article, post the article. This is often the standard operating procedure when it comes to creating a blog post. It’s just not that simple when it comes to sales enablement content.
Following the creation of the content, it’s imperative that the sales (and customer success) team have been clearly informed of:
1) where the content is located
2) what value it communicates
3) when and how to use it
The importance of accessibility is often overlooked. If your salespeople can’t find the great content you’ve created, it will be of no use. Research by SiriusDecisions shows that up to 65% of published content goes unused. This is a significant loss for both sales productivity and marketing efficiency.
Salespeople like to work fast. They have a quota to meet and can’t afford to waste time. The last thing they want to be doing is clicking through folders trying to find a specific case study or product sheet.
One of the most effective solutions is to link or store relevant content within your CRM or dedicated sales enablement software. But even if you don’t have the technological resources to create a content library within your sales software, a basic Google Sheet organized by content type and funnel stage can help for now.
How to understand what content your sales team really needs
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph G. Nichols
When you hear that 87% of the terms sales and marketing use to describe each other are negative, you begin to realize that mediation is essential to the success of sales enablement.
It’s easy to sit at your desk working through your day-to-day tasks, but there’s a limit to how much you can actually enable salespeople from the comfort of your own environment. Consistent contact with the sales team is essential to success.
There are two key methods of communication I’d like to mention:
- Establish and maintain a feedback loop
This is a simple but essential step. All it requires is that you make the effort to listen and participate in discussions.
When new enablement content has been released to the sales team, they should have a way of providing feedback on how they are using it and what results it’s producing.
How are prospects receiving the content?
Is it raising more questions than it’s answering?
Can it be refined in any way?
Feedback loops can be created in Slack channels, CRM groups, or even face-to-face meetings. What’s most important is that you have an environment where content creators and salespeople can openly discuss how content is performing.
- Present a weekly playbook
In my previous role, I would present a brief playbook to the sales and customer success team every Monday morning in our weekly kickoff meeting.
Nothing like this had ever been done before I joined, and it soon became a hugely valuable asset to the organization. In the playbook I would go over three main points:
- Marketing activities for the coming week
- Suggestions on how to amplify and complement those activities
- Newly released (and upcoming) enablement materials
In addition to providing the sales team with a central source of relevant, up-to-date info, the weekly playbook opened up an opportunity to better understand what kind of content the sales team really needed.
Every Monday, once I had finished the presentation, we left 15-30 minutes to discuss how the previous week had gone, and brainstorm ideas for what content should be produced in the future. Not only was it an excellent source of insight for me regarding content development, but it also built trust between me and the sales team which helped align marketing and sales.
If the people living on either side of a river don’t trust each other, a bridge will not be built.
7 types of content your sales team will use (and appreciate)
One-pagers are awesome. We live in a time where everyone wants quick, meaningful, and easily-digestible information at their fingertips. No fluff!
There are numerous types of content that can be squeezed into a one-pager. I recommend company fact sheets, product overviews, integration explainers, ROI reports, and case studies.
Salespeople love case studies for a reason. They are real-life examples of how a customer has implemented and gained value from your product.
They can be summarized into a one-pager by using the classic challenge-solution-result format or expanded into a longer document containing more detail and graphical representations.
As a prospective buyer moves into the consideration phase, they will want to know why you are a better choice than the alternatives. How will you provide superior value?
Create content that compares the capabilities of your product to your competitors. A side-by-side feature comparison (example below) is a simple and effective way to do this.
(Process Street offers a comprehensive competitive analysis checklist that I would highly recommend integrating into your sales and account management processes.)
Let’s be honest, writing email templates is not fun. However, it does improve sales efficiency and execution.
There are thousands of situations that email templates can address. Beyond general templates for inbound and outbound sales, you can provide salespeople with templates for specific marketing activities, such as webinars, events and whitepaper releases.
For example, in the weekly playbook I would present every Monday, if there was a webinar coming up, I would include a short and long promo email; a reminder email; and a follow-up email. The sales team consistently appreciated (and more importantly, applied) each version.
Call trees are particularly useful for SDRs who need guidance on how to qualify a lead. They can be difficult to construct, but it is well worth the time and effort. They are also an excellent enablement tool to include in a sales strategy for specific campaigns.
For example, if you are launching a campaign to sell to companies that you know are using a software which seamlessly integrates with your product, a call tree including specific questions and responses regarding that tool will help salespeople engage in a more meaningful conversation and qualify leads more effectively (as seen in the example below).
Example of an SDR call tree for an integration campaign
Campaign brief packets
A campaign brief packet contains a bunch of valuable enablement content, all wrapped up into one document. It is a powerful sales enablement tool that should at least include:
- The campaign pitch
- Pain points by persona
- Discovery questions
- Inbound talk track and call tree
This document is an excellent way to give salespeople the resources and confidence to work on a specific campaign.
I wrote about the weekly playbook earlier in the post, so all I will say is that it is a great way to bring the marketing and sales teams closer together.
By summarizing upcoming marketing activities, showcasing enablement content, and discussing recommended actions, you’ll build invaluable trust between the two teams.
In order to produce enablement content your sales team will actually use, you first need to listen. Unfortunately, a lot of marketers still fail to acknowledge that salespeople are full of insights that can inspire high-quality content.
But by focusing on the concrete facts that communicate the value of your product, making all content easily accessible, and inviting feedback, you’ll set the foundation for a well-oiled sales enablement machine.