Why Sales Enablement Belongs in Your Sales Technology Stack

By Masami Middleton on Nov 15, 2018

“Bold” is the best word to describe the opening of last week’s Seismic Shift, which is the annual customer conference for sales enablement provider Seismic. This year, 500 attendees gathered at San Diego’s sleek Pendry Hotel to share experiences and inspiration around sales enablement. The name of the conference itself -- “Seismic Shift” -- along with some skillful marketing, applies the notion of CHANGE to an industry (sales enablement) in the midst of crossing the proverbial chasm to mainstream adoption, and to the innovators (Seismic customers) who are using the technology to “transform their businesses.”

Seismic CEO Doug Winter shared impressive stats and trends on industry growth and Seismic’s momentum. According to SiriusDecisions, 74% of enterprises increased their sales enablement budget in 2017 and 37% of high performing organizations increased it by 30% or more. 

Winter noted that “something has changed” in their market, suggesting a move toward broad, mainstream adoption of sales enablement solutions. As sales performance consultants, we can attest to widespread pain we see amongst clients who are not fully leveraging sales content nor unified in their sales and marketing approach.  In addition to hefty year-over-year growth for Seismic itself, Winter further illustrated momentum with data such as a 220% increase in sales enablement job titles on LinkedIn in just two years.

Here are four key takeaways we drew from the conference and what we would challenge Sales, Sales Ops, and Sales Enablement leaders to think about as their organization implements a sales enablement solution.

Assess content in the context of how your sales team will use it.

Sounds obvious, right? Solutions like Seismic are meant to enable sales with the right content in the hands of the right sellers at the right time. But for marketers and sales enablement teams, putting the sales team’s hat on creates challenges when they have a vested interest in the content they have created and their sales teams’ use of it. 

Implementing a sales enablement solution is a prime opportunity to step back and confirm the role your content should play in driving sales outcomes. This means ensuring active participation and comprehensive input from your sales team on key content decisions. As with any software implementation, your users (Sales), rather than the admins (Marketing/Sales Enablement), should be the primary influencers of those decisions. 

Extensive interviews with your sales team can confirm which pieces of content are most effective, how they support their sales process, and their use cases for content. The classic questions of the “who, what, when, where, and how” behind your content will help your project team define user profiles, organize and tag content, and present content at the moment of highest impact. 

The good news is you don’t have to get it perfect. Sales enablement technologies like Seismic provide robust analytics and insight on what sales is using and what end buyers are engaging with. This allows sales enablement teams to optimize content over time.

Map content assets to sales process and seller routines.

Sales enablement helps sales reps build credibility by facilitating personalized conversations through relevant content.  Predictive content is one of the most compelling capabilities of platforms like Seismic, in that it can present content to sellers based on situational context, i.e., where buyers are in their journey and/or where sellers are in their sales process. 

A content audit in the context of sales process is a critical part of implementing a sales enablement solution. In addition to inventorying and assessing external marketing content/collateral, your content audit should include internal sales capability content.  This includes sales training and tools (in a variety of formats) for seller on-boarding, on-going training, and stage-specific activities.

By mapping content to the sales process (and the buyer’s journey it supports), your project team can get a comprehensive view of content coverage across deal stages, as well as gaps in collateral or sales training content.

Having defined sales process and business requirements for numerous CRM implementations (or “re-implementations”), we corroborate the power content has when it is embedded in your sales team’s process, daily routine, and productivity tools. Take advantage of the email and CRM integrations of Seismic and others to put content in the hands of sellers where they already are.

Content Strategy and Audit Service

Define success metrics where content is linked to sales outcomes.

Once you're implemented your sales enablement platform, you will likely tout impressive metrics around content upload and usage. 40,000 pieces of content managed! 900 users on the platform! 22,000 content views in 3 months!  However, we encourage you to think about how you can define metrics that directly link to sales success. This could include desired sales outcomes by sales stage, customer/product segment, or sales team. 

Establish baselines before implementation for the sales team metrics that matter to you, then inspect how sales enablement impacts those metrics.  Ideas include:

  • Increased time spent selling
  • Higher win rates
  • Reduction in sales cycle time
  • Increased buyer engagement
  • Reduction in customer acquisition costs
  • Higher revenue per rep 

Your challenge will likely be how to make best use of the treasure trove of data you’ll get from a solution like Seismic. Be sure that your team includes folks with the analytical minds to slice data and draw insights such as how content in each deal stage performs by creator, user, document, group, and close date. 

Accelerate adoption with sales user champions.

Choose whatever name you’d like to call them – “user champions,” “super users,” “advocates.” These should be high performing sales reps who will provide input before, during, and after your sales enablement implementation.  No one has better perspective or more credibility with the eventual users than these champions. 

At Seismic Shift, representatives from the life sciences company Illumina emphasized the importance of these advocates in an entertaining, storytelling presentation.  They suggested identifying those sellers who want it the most and those with a track record of adopting sales technologies. In addition to selecting these super users, they also stressed the importance of sponsors as advocates as well. 

User champions advocate for users and vocalize usability concerns and successes. They will assist with training the sales team and facilitating adoption. They will serve as visible evidence of the success of sales enablement and will be prominently ranked on leaderboards within the system. 

In Closing…

At Seismic Shift, Doug Winter applauded attendees with these words: “You are the early adopters and the innovators. Through your hard work, determination, and tenacity, you have created a new practice in sales and marketing, one that’s about to catch on in massive scale.” 

Sales enablement is here to stay.  If you haven’t already implemented sales enablement within your organization, you will benefit from the exciting advances from innovators like the Seismic community. Take advantage of their enormous investments in R&D and cross-industry customer success. And finally, make sure you maintain a mindset of “content in the context of sales.” 

Masami Middleton

Written by Masami Middleton

As a Principal Consultant with Symmetrics Group, Masami Middleton combines the market focus and execution of a Marketing VP with the critical, data-driven orientation of a seasoned strategist. Masami is passionate about sales and marketing integration and helping organizations take a disciplined approach to defining sales and marketing process and enabling technologies. Over the last 25 years, Masami has served as a strategy consultant and marketing leader from Fortune 500 to start-up environments.

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