The buyer dynamic is changing. B2B customers are more informed and empowered than ever before and often delay engaging with sales teams until they have either fully defined their needs or identified specific solutions. The pressure to meet quotas and revenue targets is growing as sales people struggle to make a lasting impact with buyers. An effective sales enablement strategy could mean the difference between survival and success. Bringing competitive advantage to businesses and helping sales teams deliver real value to customers.
In a nutshell sales enablement is about taking a more holistic approach to customers through a B2B sales organisation. It is not just a new term for sales training, or a phrase for marketing collateral, or a different name for CRM systems – it is a combination of all of these elements, driven by the customer and the customer path.
For sales leaders at the beginning of their sales enablement journey, a good place to start is to define the level of their relationship with customers. Not only benchmarking the kind of relationship they currently have, but what kind of relationship they want in the future. One renowned tool for this is the SRP Matrix from Miller Heiman’s research arm, CSO Insights https://www.csoinsights.com/blog/the-2019-sales-relationship-performance-srp-matrix/
The matrix illustrates two critical elements: the depth of relationships companies have with their customers and the extent to which the sales process is formalised and adopted.
The hierarchical matrix sets out five levels of relationships, starting with Approved Vendor, moving up to Preferred Supplier, Solutions Consultant, Strategic Contributor or the highest level of Trusted Partner. When the customer relationship has been identified, the sales director can then make a decision about whether the company is happy to stay at that level with the buyer or if they want to aim further up the scale.
Categorising the level of sales process the company has with that customer is also key. Analysing the levels of relationships and processes in tandem will help businesses to prioritise their sales enablement initiatives. Is the sales process documented or adopted? Is it enforced and reinforced? Is it tracked on an ongoing basis? The answers will determine whether the process is random, informal, formal or dynamic and can be used by the marketing and sales management to ensure it is mapped to the customers’ buying process.
All businesses looking to improve their sales enablement operation should scrutinise their internal processes. For example, are there fundamental processes in place for face to face sales call execution, or for opportunity management to resource the big deals, funnel management and account management? A critical area to include is the coaching set up. Is there a formal coaching strategy to develop the right behaviours so sales managers can sustain and build deeper relationships with the customer?
Prioritising coaching and managing it correctly is an important element of sales enablement programmes. The recent study by Michelle Vazzana from her book Crushing Quota showed that the best leaders actually spend less time coaching their sales team. The reason is simple. The most successful companies use their coaching time more wisely. Planning formal coaching sessions that are forward-looking and focus on the seller’s future decisions and activities. As opposed to the ad hoc ‘inspection’ style of coaching that analyses the past and is based on gathering factual information.
If an organisation wants to see a real return on its sales enablement investment it needs to have a solid plan in place for coaching the relevant behaviours that will tally in with the customers buying process. Timely and proactive coaching sessions that concentrate on the early part of the sales funnel to help qualify opportunities, rather than the later stages helping to win them.
Examining customer relationships, sales process maturity and coaching methods are all vital steps in creating an effective sales enablement strategy. Sales leaders can ensure their teams are equipped with the right information and tools they need to provide real value to buyers. Using a tried and tested framework allows organisations to quickly identify how they currently operate and what levels of relationship and process implementation they need to correlate with their customer’s buying processes. It is no coincidence that studies into some of the most successful global companies show that the deeper relationships with customers and the more formal the sales process, the better the sales results.