SalesmanI had a lively discussion yesterday with a coworker about the definition of sales enablement. She was arguing for 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.” That seemed a bit too narrow for me; I suggested Forresters’ “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.” Sales success is more than just making the sale; it also involves supporting the client, delivering as promised, and creating an environment that encourages, even assures, repeat business and a good reputation.

Whichever definition you choose—and you may prefer to craft your own—sales enablement is broadening our concept of what it means to support a sale, while bridging long-standing gaps between sales and marketing. The transition into “sales enablement” thinking is partially due to a paradigm shift in how we think about sales, but it is equally influenced by the availability of new tools on mobile devices that are shaking up the way we do business.

For the time being, let’s think about sales enablement as the process of giving any employee who interacts with clients the training and resources necessary to make or support the sale. The traditional methods of training and performance support still apply—instructor-led training, elearning modules, brochures, sales collateral, and so forth. But as technology is adopted is to supplement or replace many of these traditional methods, we’re seeing more use of mobile devices as a sales enablement tool. Here are the some of the ways mobile can be used to support sales training and performance:

  • Training
  • Integrated CRM
  • Pitches
  • Demos
  • Signing documents
  • Access to content
  • Playbooks
  • Process review
  • Real-time email to client
  • Remote employees
  • Feedback tool to marketing on client response to marketing tools

As we look at that list, it becomes apparent that sales and marketing are coming together in one platform to equip a sales rep with tools that will “move a sales opportunity forward” and “optimize the return of investment of the selling system.” Those brochures become animations on a mobile device. New content can be moved out to sales reps in an instant through an update. Marketing can receive feedback from the field and nimbly move to respond and benefit the entire sales force.

As a practical matter, sales and marketing need to come together at the table to design the mobile tool, along with IT and learning/training. With a common purpose and shared design ideas for the mobile tool, sales and marketing collaborate to create a new alignment and strategy that enables the vision from headquarters to align with the needs and experience in the field. One app can contain a full library of resources for the sales rep, while at the same time showcasing marketing materials designed to engage the interest of the client and move the selling process forward. Animations and other types of multimedia can be designed both to inform the client and as an educational tool for the client’s business. For example, the same anatomical animation can be used by the sales rep with a physician, by the physician with a patient, and as part of a free-standing informational app in the App Store for patients to download on their own device.

So what does this look like? A sales rep walks into an appointment with exactly the right material at her fingertips to introduce a new product, address objections, show comparisons, follow up on previous conversations and orders, and “ink” the deal with the buyer’s fingertip on an iPad. The app has both internal and client-facing content, organized intuitively and elegantly, and the design of the app adds as much to the sales rep’s credibility as the content she presents. Content can be reviewed in the car before a meeting, requested white papers emailed at the moment the client makes the request, and notes added to an imbedded CRM immediately after the call or a rating/evaluation of marketing materials’ effectiveness sent with ease.

Sales performance apps can bring sales and marketing together in a match made in App Heaven; everyone should live happily ever after.