Sales enablement is the winning strategy to achieve a more fluid and interconnected internal workflow and to build a relationship with the customer that is capable of meeting expectations and, above all, of effectively coping with changes in the context in which companies operate.
But what does the expression “sales enablement” exactly mean? According to Gartner, “sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content and tools that help salespeople sell more effectively.” But let’s dig deeper.
A more organic answer to this question could be the following: a specific business approach aimed at improving the market performance of your company.
In a narrower sense, it is a strategy that, among the various activities to be implemented, puts the sales force in a position to be able to create more effective business relationships and to have better performance with customers, thanks to better sharing of information, data, and procedures so as to support its own commercial development.
This definition is also correct, but it leaves out an important aspect: that is, the transformation of the consumer and consequently the necessary adjustment that every company must put in place to remain competitive.
The context in which every company operates has changed…
To understand exactly what sales enablement is, it is necessary to widen our horizon and observe the context where businesses typically operate. At first glance, it is clear that this context has been profoundly transformed in just a short time.
The first and most contingent factor of change has undoubtedly been the pandemic. As Forbes pointed out in a recent article, the pandemic has put the sales sector of every company under great pressure, showing its vital importance for every economic activity as well as the need to radically change its modus operandi, which is probably no longer as effective as before.
The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of society and, at the same time, the digital transformation of companies, which takes the form of implementing innovative solutions in all areas, from production to organization, to sales and communications.
But this kind of transformation is not fully understandable if we don’t also trace it back to the transformation that consumers themselves have undergone over the years, both because of the advent of digital in everyone’s lives and because of the pandemic, which has helped consolidate people’s digital habits more quickly than expected.
As Google noted in a report on the topic, “Consumers have started using the Internet for things they probably wouldn’t have used digital channels for before, or at least not as much. Here are a few examples: ‘rehearsals,’ ‘online classes,’ ‘tea delivery’, ‘virtual pub quizzes,’ ‘live chats,’ and the ‘virtual gym.’ For all of these activities, there has been an increase in search interest worldwide.”
But the transformation of users has not been limited to this. Their attitudes towards companies have also changed: the increasing use of the internet and the possibility of having access to a considerable amount of information in an easy and immediate way has made consumers more demanding and more difficult to “engage” by brands.
In a sense, for those in marketing, but also in sales, it’s easier to attract consumers than to chase them, if you have the tools to do so.
…and as a result, the way a company organizes itself has to change
As we mentioned above, in light of these changes, each company has begun to implement its own transformations in turn.
The first is the so-called digital transformation, but that is only one aspect of a broader, transversal change that affects all of the teams and departments of a company, its internal organization, and the way these groups relate and collaborate.
In fact, it’s increasingly necessary and important to ensure full collaboration between the various departments, namely marketing and sales, which increasingly need to coordinate and find ways to work in harmony in many phases of the business.
For this reason, we speak more and more often of smarketing, as an essential goal for every company that is in step with the times and that above all wants to face the challenges that this context presents (and will present) to all organizations, in the best possible way.
With the term ‘smarketing,’ we are referring to the coordination between these two specific business areas, which are not always able to travel or support each other at the same speed. The reason for this difficulty in collaboration probably lies in the position that these two areas normally occupy within the customer journey.
Marketing has a more strategic role, as it is aimed at building long-term activities and operations, the effects of which are not necessarily immediately apparent in the form of “concrete” results (many of the assets that are worked on and that are usually aimed at increasing and enhancing are not always physical, such as reputation or consideration).
On the contrary, in sales every choice and action is mainly tactical, since it aims to bring immediate results, which almost always concern the sale to the client.
Apparently these two realities do not seem to be able to intersect easily, yet this is precisely the (second) transformation to which all companies are called, which is a result of overcoming these divisions and the creation of a more integrated way of working.
And this type of integration can only happen if you implement a sales enablement strategy.
What does a sales enablement strategy consist of?
At this point, then, the concept of sales enablement should be clearer in theory, but practice it’s another matter. What does better coordination between the marketing and sales departments have to do with sales enablement?
On closer inspection, they have a lot to do with it! As mentioned above, the customers that salespeople target have changed over time and are likely to change a lot more in the coming years.
With sales enablement, you ensure that your sales teams are better equipped to deal with the new types of consumers, making them able to sell in a new, different, and more effective way than before.
Primarily by providing the right data to the seller at the right time. This implies that this information must reach the right salesperson, when it is most appropriate, through the most appropriate channels and in the most appropriate format.
This also means that the actions taken by both departments must be aligned and planned so that they are consistent and, above all, meet the identified needs in the most effective way.
As the above information is almost always in the possession of the marketing team, there must be total synergy between this department and the sales department and total sharing of their resources and expertise.
The union makes a new sales method
This synergy makes it possible to improve the approach with the customer, who in such a digitized, dynamic, and interconnected reality is more and more autonomous in conducting the research and selection of products and services to buy.
By applying a sales enablement strategy, you can effectively adopt an inbound sales approach, which allows you to overturn the classic approach by shifting the attention of operators more on the needs and opinions of the customer.
To accomplish this, it’s clear that constant alignment between marketing and sales is needed.
Marketing is capable of outlining primary and secondary buyer personas and identifying their expectations and main interests in order to understand in advance the type of offer they might be sensitive to and any observations or doubts they might have.
At the same time, sales, who may have greater information on the “real situation” can help improve the phases and steps of the customer journey and integrate the strategy outlined by marketing in such a way that it is more profitable and economically efficient.
However, adopting an inbound sales approach also means drastically rethinking the role of the sales person: it is necessary, in fact, to move from a simple sales role to the more complex – but also more necessary – role of the inbound sales expert, who enters into a relationship with the customer not only at the right time, but already knowing his characteristics and needs, in order to bring him closer to the brand.
After all, this is what inbound marketing is all about: attracting people instead of chasing them through truly relevant content and offers, and being immediately responsive to the needs expressed by the consumers themselves.
Not just information, but objectives
To do this,you will need a constant exchange of information between the sales and marketing departments, and here once again we see the importance of sales enablement, which is not limited to sharing the most relevant consumer data.
Another fundamental aspect is the common definition of objectives, which must be clear and consistent right from the start: this makes it possible to combine more pragmatic actions that are aimed at sales and immediate profit, with a broader strategic vision.
In this way, the efforts of the sales team and the choices of the marketers come together in a single, coherent activity that is highly motivating and, above all, more appealing to customers, who are able to grasp the greater added value generated by the brand and its employees.
Added to this is the joint definition of lead management, which is one of the most important aspects in the context of a sales enablement strategy.
It’s essential to exploit this collaboration to obtain qualified leads, an indication of which prospects could actually become customers and, above all, long-term customers by adhering to the Ideal Customer Profile designated by the marketing department.
In this way, sales enablement allows you to get to know your customers better and to appreciate which ones are most receptive to responding positively to you, maximizing your efforts and, above all, modifying your offer to make it more effective and incisive.
Sales enablement marks the centrality of the customer
This movement toward consumers that a sales enablement strategy encourages allows companies to take advantage of a trend that has become important in the relationship between company and customer, namely personalization.
As already mentioned in one of our previous posts, the context in which all companies are inserted is increasingly pushing them to change their priorities. Choices are no longer made solely to pursue business and economic growth; on the contrary, the customer, who is understood as a person, plays a more central role.
There is even talk of “people at the center of the brand,” since human needs have become decisive for a truly winning strategy. In fact, companies must abandon the purely production-based logic and place themselves in a position to listen to the customer in order to meet his needs and requirements.
Hence the need for a transversal personalization, ranging from the creation of ad hoc offers and products to the approach that must have a specific timing and modalities for each customer.
Sales enablement facilitates precisely this type of personalization, which is the best tool for initiating and pursuing a lasting relationship with people, moving ahead of their requests and, above all, making this relationship something more than a simple business transaction.
In conclusion, sales enablement is the sign of a passage, of a transformation, of a change in the development approach of a company, which no longer works in watertight compartments, but shares experience and knowledge between areas and does so by changing the business perspective, where the person is not the means, but the end of its development.