The Missing Link in Sales Enablement

Posted on February 2, 2015

One of the most popular focus areas for companies seeking to accelerate revenue and profit growth is sales enablement. Depending on the definition you embrace, the idea is that smart companies equip their customer-facing staff with the necessary buyer insights, narratives, and sales collateral/tools to engage in meaningful conversations with buyers and customers to progress the dialog toward a sale.

For many companies, it’s been like a gold rush to find the right sales enablement program to improve sales performance in the hopes of accelerating revenue. Similarly, there are no shortage of companies rushing into the sales training and enablement space to follow the money trail.

Are Modern Sales Enablement Efforts Missing Something?

My friend Scott Santucci (former Director/lead of sales enablement at Forrester Research) has written some incredibly insightful papers and offered up solid frameworks for how companies can get this right. One of Scott’s published Forrester reports highlights how few executive-level buyers believe vendor sales reps actually understand their business and can frame sales conversations around the buyer’s needs as opposed to the vendor’s product/service offerings (think “show up and throw up”).

As a CMO and former Sales VP, I have spent time examining whether the path to increased revenue growth is truly as easy as adopting a new sales engagement framework, sales training model (e.g. CEB Challenger Sale), or sales tool. These are all useful point solutions — but for sales enablement of any kind to work — it must begin with a core value proposition that differentiates the brand from its competitors. What’s more, sales organizations need to be equipped with tangible proof of how their company is helping their customers make more money (e.g. DVP scorecard from Keen Consulting).

Without a measurable value proposition, sales organizations enter into buyer conversations ill-equipped and take on the role of the Emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” That is, they have a false sense of confidence and fail to realize how exposed they really are.

Marketing Might Offer Some Clues

When I think about the biggest pressure facing modern Marketing teams, it’s filling the lead funnel and nurturing marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to pass over to Sales to feed their sales pipeline (of course, only a percentage of MQLs become SQLs). To do this, Marketers face two key challenges: (i) delivering the right narrative to initially engage an early-stage lead, and (ii) delivering enough ongoing value/insight to keep the lead engaged through a nurture life cycle until they become a scored MQL.

A 2013/2014 study of 8,800 brands by Track Maven reveals that though brands have increased content posting to social media by 78% in the past two years, engagement with each piece is down 60%. Recent B2B studies by the CMO Council also reveal something startling:

“…up to 25% of CMO budgets are being wasted on content that buyers simply don’t read because they either don’t trust it or the content is not relevant.”

So Marketing appears to share the same challenge as the Sales organization — namely, communicating a differentiated value proposition that is relevant and quantifiable to both customers and prospective buyers.

But why?

The Trail May Lead to the C-Suite

Companies struggling to effectively “sell value” (role of Sales) and “communicate value” (role of Marketing) may find it is because they have failed to first define value. In other words, is the company operating without a defined brand strategy (which includes differentiated positioning) such that Marketing and Sales are left to talk about themselves in product/feature/benefit narratives? In most cases, I say yes.

I will also contend that the key to accelerating revenue and profit growth is not “smoke and mirrors” messaging or a revised selling approach — its defining, delivering, communicating, and selling a differentiated value proposition that is relevant and measurable. Measurement creates the proof customers need to deepen their relationship with your company. It is the “substance” that many sales enablement programs overlook.

Connecting the Dots

The path to accelerating revenue and profit growth lies in a company’s ability to align and execute four areas as part of a continuous improvement ecosystem:

(1) Define value (C-Suite): value proposition + customer impact + proof points + brand message platform

(2) Deliver value (HR/Operations): corporate culture + customer experience

(3) Communicate value (Marketing): PR + social + content + demand generation

(4) Sell value (Sales): sales strategy + account strategy + sales enablement

Sure, sales enablement is a valuable exercise but it is essentially a framework for communicating value to the right audiences, in the right way, and at the right time to create engagement. The core to successful sales enablement is a differentiated value proposition that is relevant and provable to customers and buyers.

Do you have one?

If not, get this right before embarking on your next sales improvement program. Without it, you are just another brand talking about yourself — and ultimately you’ll be forced to compete on price.

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