President and CEO, Miller Heiman Group
Sales enablement is the strongest force in B2B marketing campaigns. Whether you are a marketing pro, or a sales legend, having the right set of sales enablement tools can amplify your overall ROI from sales campaigns. To better understand the chemistry between B2B content marketing and sales enablement strategies and their immediate impact on business goals, we spoke to Byron Matthews, President and CEO of Miller Heiman Group.
What is the idea behind your latest sales enablement book?
Sales enablement is a trend that’s picking up tremendous speed. In 2013, the practice was only used by 19 percent of companies. By 2017 that number rose to 59 percent. Our research shows that companies with a dedicated enablement program attain revenue goals at a rate more than 8 percent higher than those that do not, which is a difference of billions of dollars for most Fortune 500 companies.
The reason for this book is to provide sales leaders with the tools required to begin and develop a robust sales enablement discipline within their organization. Sales enablement is an organically emerging practice, for which there’s no existing blueprint to guide organizations in kicking off the initiative with clarity. As a result, some organizations are doing sales enablement well, but most aren’t.
In fact, only 35 percent of organizations are succeeding at sales enablement, which has helped 67 of their sales reps make quota — versus the companies that admittedly failed at sales enablement and only saw 42 percent quota attainment.
Miller Heiman Group aims to be the gold standard for what world-class sales enablement looks like. Our organization brings 50 years plus in experience having worked with sales organizations of all shapes and sizes across the world to better equip their sales teams to close deals. It’s the same thing here with sales enablement, just backed by more science.
How do modern businesses strike a balance between their content marketing and sales enablement strategies?
There’s no question that both the content marketing and sales enablement functions are important to the business. The problem is these functions aren’t playing as distinct of roles as they should be, in many cases. Sales enablement content is not to be confused with content marketing, for example. While content marketing’s major function is to generate customer-facing content, its team of writers should also be working to produce sufficient amounts of enablement content to support sales teams with training and coaching materials like playbooks and pricing sheets that ultimately help them to close more deals.
These two groups can better align by increasing their level of collaboration so that content marketing better understands the needs of sales reps and the customers they’re engaging with on the frontlines. Content marketers can then know what content to produce as it satisfies these needs. That’s where sales enablement leaders come into play. Sales enablement leads act as the liaison between these business departments, as well as product management, HR, IT and the legal team. This ensures sales reps get the support they need to best know, understand and accommodate the changing needs of customers at every step in the buyer journey — what we call, the “customer’s path.”
Sales enablement leads can help orchestrate content between departments effectively enable sales reps to be better at their jobs — from building more robust training guides with HR, to aligning on value messaging with the content and product management teams — they do it all.
Properly aligning the organization’s various functions on things like value messaging and go-to-market strategies are essential for a seamless customer experience across the buyer journey. The marketing department may draw leads into the funnel, but it’s the sales team’s job to carry them through to close. That’s challenging when their content and the strategies that go into this material isn’t harmonious.
What are the major pain points for sales reps in leveraging content marketing tools? How could automation solve these problems?
The greatest barriers for sales reps in getting more out of content marketing tools is the disconnect that exists between what they see as an aid in helping them sell and what’s being provided to them currently. Sales reps are probably the most unique employee within the organization in that they are driven almost exclusively by their sales numbers, as that’s majorly how they’re being compensated.
So, it’s when businesses make executive decisions to “improve” the sales function without first getting direct input from those on the frontlines that ruffles feathers and causes pushback from the sales teams. With paychecks on the line, even the smallest of implemented changes can cause friction and defiant behavior by sales teams, resulting in 10-year-old sales decks being used in place of what was rolled out yesterday. In sales, you stick to what you know is working. For that reason, every function that feeds into sales should operate with sales reps and their customers in mind.
Automation can solve for a number of the barriers to sales reps using more content marketing tools to their benefit. AI-powered automation has the potential to equip sales teams like never before. Miller Heiman Group has efforts underway that will play a big part of this unprecedented evolutionary phase in sales.
How can marketers get closer to accurate marketing attribution?
Technology has advanced tremendously in marketing and sales over the last 20 years, with advanced CRM and CMS systems will be the prerequisites to enabling marketing attribution through AI. It’s important to note, however, that for AI to have any true effect on behavioral change internally, there must first be significant adoption of the CRM systems across sellers, as well as a consistency in data entry/extraction.
What efforts is sales making to enable marketers?
The emergence of the sales enablement role and the cross-functional collaboration that brings sales and marketing teams together is mutually beneficial. It allows for enhanced communication that better enables both teams’ performance and ability to drive prospects down the sales funnel and close new business for the organizations. Well-kept data systems will not only aid sellers in closing deals but also help marketing teams better understand the customers they’re trying to attract.
What are the external enablement and internal enablement assets? Could you help us differentiate between the two categories?
I am co-authoring a sales enablement book. In it, we differentiate internal and external enablement assets as follows:
Salespeople move up the relationship spectrum by adding valuable perspectives during every interaction with prospects and customers. But, not every interaction is verbal or even face-to-face. Offering the right piece of customer-facing content, such as a case study or white paper, at the right time can keep the value flowing even when the salesperson isn’t sitting directly across from the prospect.
Content can also be used to build the salesperson’s skills and knowledge. Enablement content is any content designed to help customer-facing professionals prepare for interactions with prospects and customers. Examples include playbooks, battle cards, cost-justification tools and so on. This content could be context-specific, such as a discussion guide for selling equipment into the oil and gas market. Or, it could be a playbook that provides salespeople with an overview of what they need to know, links to related content and relevant value messages aligned to the customer’s point of view. It might also be content, such as a product-launch presentation, that supports a broader enablement initiative.
Who is best suited to design and deliver sales enablement assets to ensure higher ROI?
No single party is best suited to design and deliver sales enablement assets for higher ROI. Content marketers can and should play a substantial supporting role to sales reps in producing ample customer-facing, enablement content. That said, it’s important to clarify that not all enablement content is created by marketing — a common misconception formed by the term “marketing content.”
Content should be developed collaboratively. Sales enablement leads are tasked with fusing the knowledge salespeople and buyers need with their content consumption preferences, all while orchestrating contributions from other functions, like product management, the legal team or HR.
Thanks for chatting with us, Byron.
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