How to build a sales enablement function for a world of digital buying.
Sales enablement has emerged as one of the hottest topics of 2021 and it isn’t hard to see why.
It seems the whole world has switched to digital buying, automated buying processes and virtual interactions in the last 18 months, and, as I covered in a recent article, the window of opportunity for sales teams to make a really positive and tangible impact in the buying process has narrowed considerably.
That means it is more crucial than ever that your sales teams are not just equipped with the right tools and information to fully understand their buyers’ industry, challenges and goals, but also that every enablement service your organisation provides fully mirrors the customer and the path they will go on to make a purchase.
But how best to build or optimise a sales enablement function to operate in a world of digital buying? We have found, in our work with blue-chip clients targeting the top global 2,000, that the best way to approach this problem is to look at it like any digital transformation project and consider the three-legged stool of process, tools and people.
Process: Build hybrid teams for cross-functional alignment
On a cultural level, customer centricity should be at the heart of everything an organisation does. Understanding your customer, knowing their needs, knowing the barriers to satisfying those needs, and possessing a clearly articulated narrative as to how you are the best solution to overcoming those barriers is an expected minimum.
But this goes deeper than culture. Customer centricity needs to be recognised in your organisational structure, too, so that your sales teams know they have the entire organisation behind them and are ready to mobilise on any opportunity that may present itself.
Essentially, what is at the core of this is a recognition that everyone within an organisation is now potentially customer facing. Leaders within the business, product teams, service teams, implementation teams and marketing teams should all be aligned around the key accounts you are targeting and ready to support sales efforts and conversations with buyers. And let’s not forget the extended partner network, too – with organisations outside your own also needing to be brought into this hybrid team structure that is set up around the buyers’ requirements.
Develop an agile enablement process by working back from customer needs and identifying where and when in the process your sales teams need to be augmented by other areas of the business and your partner network.
With human interaction in the digital buying process at a premium – and slowly emerging as one of the few differentiators in the buying process – it is crucial that your teams are set up in a way that builds cross-functional alignment and adds human value to your sales teams’ conversations with buyers.
Discover more about sales enablement with our new sales playbook.
Tools: Put problems before platforms
The range of sales enablement tools has exploded in recent years – and it is essential you get the right kit to solve your particular problems.
Requirements will vary from organisation to organisation, but you will almost certainly need tools that are always-on, fully transparent, data-driven, and optimisable in real time.
The two main points to consider here are alignment to the buyer journey and ease of internal adoption. The classic sales enablement tools of providing training and sales readiness, conversation intelligence, sales content management, and real-time account knowledge are useless if they are not reflective of the buying journey in every sense and – and this point is often overlooked – easy for your sales teams to use.
So put problems before platforms and undertake an extended buyer journey mapping exercise before making a big sales enablement tool purchase. By plotting where in the process your hybrid teams can make an impact you will be able to identify exactly what tools they will need to do so.
Also, including those teams in this planning and purchase process will invest them in it and ensure you have the buy-in required to increase adoption and usage.To discover more about training and enablement, click here.
People: Cultivate the relationships that make a difference to the buying process
The key to selling in a digital world is relationship building. When buying becomes digitised and automated, it is only by bringing human traits like empathy and understanding into the equation.
The first step to do this, bizarrely, is to automate more. This may sound counter-intuitive, but when more of the repetitive sales tasks are automated your sales teams have more time to focus on cultivating the relationships that will make a real difference to buying process.
The rest mostly boils down to insight and understanding. The more you can understand your key accounts, and then communicate that understanding to those accounts, the greater the likelihood you will be successful.
This can begin with personality profiling of your customer-facing teams, to ensure the right salesperson is matched with the right person on the buyer side, and to really develop a human bond should extend beyond professional interests to take in personal tastes, hobbies and interests – anything that can be used to form a real bond.
But this also extends into deal analysis and digging into your own internal data to determine which tactics and approaches have worked best in the past and then into account-specific insight to fully know who is on the buying team and their immediate influencers, what the business objectives are and what the potential impediments are to those objectives being achieved.
There is also a competitor intelligence angle, with a need to really understand how your immediate rivals are approaching the account, what standing they have with key stakeholders and what they are saying.
Throughout all of these tactics it is crucial to keep in mind that it takes time and effort to build a human connection. Even with all the insight and the best tools in the world, sometimes it is just as simple as having a conversation and just listening.
To discover more about how competitive intelligence can power your sales process click here.