As a training professional, many expectations are placed upon you. In addition to having strong organizational and presentation skills, you have to become an expert in numerous roles and specialties. When it comes to sales enablement, these demands can be even more exacting.
When a sales manager approaches learning and development, they usually qualify for it:
- for onboarding
- in response to a promotion or transfer
- for the launch of a new solution
- to address a shortcoming in performance.
The request will come with what the problem or scenario is as well as recommendations of how to address these issues.
In response to these requests, training content traditionally focuses on software, products, and process. You are asked to cover what tools are used by the company; instruct about the range of products or services the company offers; and review the preferred steps to complete a sale and who needs to be notified, and sign off on agreements, contract terms, and so forth. Problems in performance are assumed to be solvable if knowledge is transferred about these areas.
What is rarely, if ever, included in these requests, is the suggestion to involve the marketing department and data in the analysis, research, or presentation of solutions.
This is the missing piece.
Sales is about listening and solving problems, not pushing solutions. Marketing, especially for customers, begins this process. Despite organizations frequently talking about customer experience (CX), silos still exist among marketing, sales, and service. Yet each of these departments is customer facing. There needs to be a unified customer experience of the brand, product, service, and culture.
Customer Experience and Marketing AutomationMost companies employ some form of marketing automation. Tools like HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, and Pardot/Salesforce Marketing are key to a great customer experience, shorted sales cycles, ongoing market research, and insights into potential quality issues.
Marketing automation leverages cookies to track what people do on websites and social media. While respecting GDPR and privacy protections, the page views, clicks, downloads, and flow of viewing information of individual customers and potential customers is available. These marketing automation tools will generally have a widget that can be embedded in the sales department’s customer relationship management (CRM) database or even have the CRM for the sales department be the same one the marketing and service departments use, such as HubSpot.
When a sales professional goes to the CRM to review a lead, contact, or company, they can see information about what pages someone has looked at, what information they have downloaded, any support tickets submitted, and so forth. Before even making a call or sending an email, they can identify what are the challenges the potential client faces, what issues are of primary concern, if there are other parts of the organization that may also be affected by problems, and what sort of decision process someone is going through.
What matters in terms of sales enablement is that anyone involved in the sales process needs to be actively reviewing the data in this widget. Data about how someone became a lead is the most certain way of building trust and rapport with customers, which will then help salespeople close deals.
For example, if when looking at the marketing widget information of a lead for an enterprise learning management system, the sales professional looks at the title of what whitepaper was downloaded, they may see that the potential client wants to learn more about integrations with other technologies. Then looking at the title of the person who downloaded the offer, the salesperson can determine if this is someone with IT responsibilities who wants to have a technical conversation or someone in the training department who may have to meet certain tech requirements but might not be as much of an expert on types of APIs, hosting, and the like.
By then looking into the history of pageviews, the salesperson should look to see what led the person to the company’s website to begin with and the order of pages reviewed once on the site. For example, was it a review site comparing different LMSs, a LinkedIn post on a particular topic, or a search ad based on a particular keyword? These give the salesperson an immediate insight into what is the primary pain point and objective of the potential customer. Following the chain of pages viewed afterward, subsequent downloads, webinars watched, any social media following, and so on, the degree of interest and urgency can be determined.
Thus, in that critical initial conversation, the examples and word choices can align with the needs of the potential client. This makes for a positive CX and helps the salesperson listen and solve for the problems of the customer rather than push a standard script.
Regularly monitoring this sort of CRM widget is helpful to ensuring existing customers are also satisfied. When your knowledge base and service tickets are also integrated into the CRM, sales can identify potential issues. If many people across multiple companies are searching and viewing the same article on the knowledge base, then there might be a technical issue.
This is also a great way to identify features that should be developed quickly—concrete market research at no extra cost. If multiple people within one organization seem to be searching for similar topics or submitting tickets, it is a good time to see if there are issues with the implementation, for example, or to offer retraining. These proactive steps (and creating reports to monitor most of these issues) can help improve retention by addressing a common sales issue.
Working With MarketingMarketing departments develop content plans with these sales practices in mind. Working with sales departments at the outset, marketing departments should create a range of content that sales departments can easily identify to alert which major approaches to take. Price? Timing? Customization? In addition, especially if working with an integrated system, like HubSpot, where marketing, sales, and support departments are tied together, the three departments need to work together to understand the common types of issues and what it usually takes to turn around a problem.
In this case, can a marketing department create content for the knowledgebase or website pages or even run a webinar that addresses some of the more common issues, decreases the load for the support team, and can be tracked and reported on? Can the support department check a button to alert the sales representative when a call is logged for a type of problem that frequently leads to a cancellation? Can there be greater disclosure up front about common challenges and the workarounds the company offers? In the age of social media, it’s better for the company to own it and be its own spokesperson than to leave it to disgruntled customers.
To close, training professionals need to assume one more role: referee. When asked to support sales enablement, the job doesn’t begin on the playing field. Rather, it’s in what happens behind the scenes before the game begins and during those commercial breaks. The missing piece is to train sales professionals about the benefits they’ll experience by using the marketing data made available to them—that is, rapid trust and rapport, shorter sales cycles, and insight into the decision-making process of new leads.
You can help salespeople improve retention rates by coaching them about being proactive by reaching out to at risk customers based on service tickets and knowledgebase activity. You can bring the marketing, support, and sales departments together so that each group can better understand what information the others need to fully support a great customer experience and truly satisfied, long-term clients.
Sales enablement needs to begin before the sale begins.