Friday, June 3, 2011

Ever wondered what sales enablement means?

Ever wondered what sales enablement means? At Friday's Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council's Sales and Marketing Summit entitled Increasing Volume and Velocity through Sales Enablement and Alignment, Brad Holmes, VP and Practice Leader at Forrester Research, told a room full of sales and marketing executives that 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."

Nevertheless, he informed us, this is still the Holy Grail for most companies. Instead, sales people continue to sell features and benefit to buyers who perceive their products as commodities.

The problem, Holmes says is that product, sales, and marketing teams, working in silos, produce a plethora of disparate sales and marketing programs. These initiatives cost a lot, overwhelm the sales force, and fail to address customer needs.

Instead, Holmes says, sales and marketing teams need to collaborate to identify customer problems, and the paths these customers take to resolve them. Only then, will these teams succeed in developing the content it takes to have the meaningful conversations that customers demand from their vendors of choice.

Next, Cynthia Stephens, VP Marketing, and Joseph Murphy, EVP Sales, from ByAllAccounts described how they've collaborated to do just that.
Their process included reorganizing Sales and Marketing to narrow the focus of individual roles, training, and changing the compensation system.
Stephens and Murphy attribute their success to:

- aligning customer sales, marketing, and partner goals,
- Identifying their customers' journeys
- Taking prospects down the conversion path

Major steps include attracting prospects with webinars that offered thought leadership, entering the leads into their marketing automation system, and then nurturing them until prospects accept an invitation for a conversation with Sales. These efforts have resulted in a 250% increase in sales generated from marketing leads. Moreover, 20% of these opportunities close within 30 days.

Kathie Johnson, VP Marketing, and Mike Segal, SVP Enterprise PLM Business Transformation from Dassault Systemes Americas also attribute their success to collaboration between Sales and Marketing. In their case, they paired individuals on the Sales and Marketing teams with each other.

Johnson outlined the four elements of the collaboration: mission, communications, process, and tools. Because her organization is much larger, and the sales cycle is much longer, Johnson noted that Dassault Systemes relies heavily on processes and tools to remove ambiguity and replicate success.

Examples of interesting tools that the Dasssault systems team mentioned include:
- an internal social community platform for building networks and sharing information
- a customer conference that exists purely to close business
- microsites at OEMS that these organizations use to promote Dassault solutions to their own divisions

Their presentation was a great lead in to the final panel on "Tools, Technologies, & Processes that Drive Sales Efficiency. Speakers included executives from Brainshark, Constant Contact, Hubspot, and Oracle.

Dave Fitzgerald, EVP Brainshark, noted that the existence of technology has changed the sales process from one of control to one of facilitation. Nevertheless, he said technology is rarely at issue when problems crop up. It's easy to install, easy to learn, and easy to use.

All of the technologies that Brainshark uses to enable Sales are in the cloud. At $3500/user, he considers technology a bargain.

The rest of his presentation focused on his company's sales process and the metrics he needs to achieve at each stage. Like the speakers before him, he stressed the importance of constant communications. Fitzgerald also emphasized that it's essential to establish the metrics upfront so that you can identify where problems occur if the system breaks down.

Jean-Paul Guilbault, VP of Sales, Constant Contact, explained that his company's average prospect has fewer than 10 employees. Therefore, they rely heavily on mass communications to generate leads and technology to accelerate conversions. Examples include software that prospects can try before they buy and self-directed education through video. Like Fitzgerald, he has a system for identifying who is stuck. This enables him to direct sales people where they will have the greatest impact.

Andy Mitchell, Senior Director, at Oracle also starts with metrics. In his case, the goal is to surface opportunities.

At a macro level, Oracle's business analytics tell the company where to focus the sales force. For example, if a particular geographic territory has a poor economy, Oracle can ratchet down the sales people there, and shift resources to areas that are more prosperous. At a micro level, Oracle uses business analytics to determine on which products to focus--using past purchases by like companies as a guide.

Like others, Mitchell stressed the importance of listening to customers to tailor solutions to their needs. He noted that technology facilitates listening. Because prospects have easy access to product information, online, sales people no longer need to spend time describing or demoing the company's solutions.

Andrew Quinn, "The Sales Doctor", at Hubspot described steps that his company is taking to automate sales data entry. Now, sales people can choose from a menu to indicate why they are disqualifying a lead, or to note what action they took to follow up. Then the system automatically schedules the next event on their calendars.

Similarly, sales people press a button when they close a sale. This then automatically routes appropriate information to an account manager, an implementation consultant, finance, and in some cases a migration team to ensure rapid follow up and billing.

As Quinn notes any customer relationship management system is only as good as the information that Sales puts in it. Perhaps most important, this system gives management an easy way to track sales performance at every stage of the sales cycle.

All in all, it was an informative morning. Thanks to the speakers and panels, the audience got lots of great ideas for leveraging technology to increase revenues. Nevertheless, a key takeaway was that people are more important than ever.

Winning still depends on understanding what customers want--and doing it their way. What's changed is who controls the conversation--and when, where, and how customers get the information they need.

Technology can accelerate that process. It helps identify opportunities; it enables Sales and Marketing to better coordinate their activities; and it frees sales people listen and sell, rather than prospect and present.

Presentations from the event can be accessed on SlideShare. A full recording of the sessions, made available by KnowledgeVision is available here.

Guest post contributed by Barbara Bix, BB Marketing Plus


Drew said...

Excellent session! Looking for copies of the presentations...are they available?

Drew said...

Got 'em; thanks!