In most B2B companies, your success as a marketer depends to a significant extent on your ability to help the sales team sell. By no means is this a new development. For decades, many (perhaps most) B2B companies have been “sales driven,” and the primary role of marketing in these organizations was to support the selling effort by creating collateral materials, managing trade show participation, and running occasional brand building and lead generation programs.
Today, marketing is playing a broader and more significant role in the demand generation process in many B2B companies. In particular, marketers are taking greater responsibility for nurturing potential buyers before passing those leads over to sales.
Notwithstanding all of the changes, sales is still a critical part of the demand generation process, and improving sales effectiveness is still an important business objective. If anything, the increased power and heightened expectations of business buyers are driving greater interest in the topic of sales enablement. For example, Forrester Research held its third annual sales enablement conference earlier this year, and other national research/analyst/consulting firms, including IDC, Gartner, and SiriusDecisions are also focusing on this topic.
In my next two articles, I’ll discuss the two most important ways that marketing can support and enable the sales team. First, however, a little background information.
What is Sales Enablement?
Both Forrester and IDC have published “formal” definitions of sales enablement.
Forrester’s definition: Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.
IDC’s definition: Getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place, and in the right format, to move a sales opportunity forward.
These definitions are very broad because both Forrester and IDC view sales enablement as a strategic business function. Under these definitions, for example, sales enablement would probably include sales training, sales process management, and technology solutions, and sales enablement would extend to all “client-facing” employees, not just salespeople. I don’t disagree with this approach, but in my upcoming articles, I’ll focus specifically on how marketing can help sales reps sell more effectively.
Why is Sales Enablement Important?
Sales enablement is important for three very simple reasons:
- Sales enablement is expensive – According to Forrester, companies on average are spending about $135,000 per year per sales rep on sales support people, activities, and processes.
- The selling process in most companies needs improvement – In research by IDC, 26% of business buyers said their sales reps were unprepared for the initial sales meeting, and 31% of buyers described the sales reps as somewhat prepared. Only 43% of buyers rated their sales reps as very or extremely prepared for the initial meeting. A recent Forrester survey found that only 15% of executives say that their meetings with sales reps meet expectations.
- Poor sales enablement is costly – According to IDC, a lack of good sales enablement results in $14 million of wasted sales and marketing expenses and $100 million in lost sales opportunities in a “typical” $1 billion company.
In my next article, I’ll explain how marketers can support the sales team by developing the right kind of sales enablement content.