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ATD Blog

Can Sales Enablement Solve the Rift Between Sales and Marketing?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sales and marketing have the same goal: drive revenue. However, they have different ways of reaching that destination. Sales teams tend to focus on chasing new business and growing the customer relationship, while marketing seeks to engage a broader audience across industries. The sales enablement team, sitting between the two, is uniquely positioned to bridge this divide.

Bringing both sides together is critical because sales and marketing equip one another for success. Making this relationship work requires the sales enablement team to be more than a conduit. Instead, a sales enablement team works best when it is an active participant in the drive to win more sales. Here, we offer a few simple “do’s” and “don’ts” for sales enablement teams aiming to align sales and marketing.

Do This

Facilitate Direct Communication
Sales enablement teams must encourage sales and marketing to communicate with one another. The key is to avoid defaulting to a scenario in which the sales enablement team becomes a “go-between” merely carrying messages back and forth. Consistent communication also prevents an outcome in which the sales enablement team drifts too far to one side of the organization. For example, research from SiriusDecisions shows that, over time, the average sales enablement team has become more aligned with the sales team than the marketing team. This imbalance can exacerbate the gap between sales and marketing. Keep communication going. Keep it balanced.

Balance the Macro-Level With the Micro-Level
Broadly speaking, the marketing team has a macro focus, while the sales team has a micro focus. That is, the marketing team is tuned into industry drivers and popular initiatives across businesses. In contrast, the sales team is often focused on a customer’s unique needs. The sales enablement team must serve both sides. Doing so means helping the marketing team develop customized messaging when necessary. Conversely, the sales enablement team must assist the sales team in delivering insights that resonate with the current market. Moving deals across the line requires both a macro- and micro-level focus.

Develop Measurements That Both Sides Accept
Consult both sales and marketing to determine the metrics that will define sales enablement success. All parties must work from the same set of goals. These goals might require measurements like time to productivity or the length of the sales cycle. These measurements and others should reveal how effective the content and tools are in the drive to win more sales. Choosing a core set of metrics keeps the goal consistent while maintaining accountability. Without consistency, organizations risk falling into the trap of retroactively choosing only the metrics that tell a good story.


Don’t Do This

Lose Sight of the Buyer
It’s easy to lose sight of the customer while addressing the diverging needs of sales and marketing. It’s essential that the sales enablement team understand what the customer wants, not just what sales and marketing want. Staying aware of customer needs is critical to understanding which assets to deploy. Moreover, when the sales enablement team has the buyer’s pulse, they are better equipped to identify the customer’s stage in the purchasing process. This big-picture view helps sales enablement understand the sale’s trajectory. Keeping sight of the buyer requires diligence and effort; it is not a passive process.

Let Sustainment Fall
Sales enablement is about more than serving needs in the moment. Enablement is also about sustaining best practices for a repeatable sales process. Sales enablement teams should not allow day-to-day needs to overwhelm long-term sustainment. Preventing this outcome means communicating with the sales team to understand where skills are lacking, what tools are needed, and how to meet emerging customer needs. Even the most experienced sales professionals need continued training because new competitors enter the playing field and solutions are becoming increasingly complicated. Effective sales enablement teams serve this need by delivering ongoing skill development.


Allow Assets to Go Stale
Some content is timeless; most is not. Sales enablement teams must identify the content that requires updating. They must also determine unfulfilled content needs. Sales enablement must work with both sales and marketing to uncover the gaps in thinking. They must ask, “What is ‘top-of-mind’ for our customers?” Ideas that are widely accepted today will be called into question tomorrow. Remember: many customers are looking for modern solutions that represent new approaches to business challenges and goals. Even material that is consistently effective benefits from renewed language reflecting the most current research.

People often remark that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Sales enablement is the function that makes that sentiment ring true. Optimizing sales and marketing requires a sales enablement team that fosters communication to keep both sides up to date on customer and industry issues while working toward a shared set of goals.

About the Author

Ben Taylor is the content marketing manager at Richardson, a global sales training and performance improvement company focused on helping you drive revenue and grow long-term customer relationships. Our market-proven sales and coaching methodology combined with our active learning approach ensures that your sales teams learn, master, and apply new behaviors when and where they matter most — in front of the buyer.

Ben has an MBA in finance from LaSalle University and more than a decade of business and writing experience. He has covered content for brands, including Nasdaq, Barclaycard, and Business Insider.

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