Connecting the Modern Seller to the Modern Buyer: The Role of Marketing in Sales Enablement

Digital selling is the biggest change in sales in the last 10 years. Don’t take my word for it, that’s according to Phil Lurie, VP Sales Technology at SAP. Phil supports over 15,000 salespeople globally and, by extension, 30,000 sales channel partners. SAP embraced this change early by investing in a social selling program with LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Grapevine6 that’s delivered over $2 billion over the past 5 years in pipeline growth. SAP has since renamed social selling to digital selling and includes digital training and digital video in the program. Savvy marketers understand this fundamental shift in the sales experience and are providing personalized digital content to sales platforms.

Marketers are also guiding the shift to digital with their expertise learned from living through a MarTech transformation of their own. Buyers are more digital than ever and moving most of the purchase journey on their own, even in complex purchases. Marketing has done an admirable job adapting to this new reality by embracing content marketing and building a MarTech stack – adding capabilities in digital authoring and publishing, lead capture, and lead nurturing. Video, mobile, and interactive content now replace the brochures and spec sheets of yesterday to create a compelling and informative buyer experience.

Read more: 3 Reasons Your Programmatic Team Is Losing You Money

Technology-Enabled Sales Mirrors Marketing to Drive Trust  

Salespeople are still needed in complex purchases because those purchases have become even more complex. Not only are the solutions more involved, but the number of decision-makers on the buyer side has increased dramatically. CSO Insights reports on average 5.8 decision makers are involved in complex buying situations. It’s not just the complexity, but also the risk for the buyer. If you think about any ‘considered purchase’ – whether you’re a business investing in technology or services, or a consumer choosing a financial advisor – as a buyer you may be betting your career or your family’s finances on this decision. It’s no surprise that the LinkedIn’s State of Sales reports consistently find the trust to be the most influential factor in buying decisions.

How is Sales adapting to this new reality to engage buyers throughout the buyer journey? 

The transformation to digital selling is well underway. Just as the MarTech stack accelerated the move to digital marketing, there is an emerging SalesTech stack that is designed to enable digital selling. In fact, the SalesTech stack will mirror much of the functionality of the MarTech stack, only translated to a simplified sales experience that’s personalized to the buyer. This transformation enables modern sellers to embrace digital channels, personalized content, and insights that build trust relationships with buyers.

Marketers will be the experts who guide the transformation to digital channels and digital content. To take a real example, Sales Enablement platforms now allow salespeople to personalize and track engagement with one-to-one content in much the same way web analytics track one-to-many engagement on your website. The implication for marketing is two-fold – Marketing needs to educate sales on extracting insights about specific relationships and opportunities and marketing will need to interpret this data in aggregate to generate insights that inform the content strategy and the markets they target. The upside for sales can be dramatic – CSO Insights reported indicated having a content strategy shows +12.2 points better win rates vs. no content strategy.

At the forefront of the sales, transformation is the Sales Enablement function. A long established role in making sellers more effective, Sales Enablement is now heavily invested in the technology that delivers a digital sales experience. Forrester Analyst Mary Shea covers the Sales Enablement landscape brilliantly and in a recent interview with Justin Shriber, Vice President of Marketing at LinkedIn labeled Sales Enablement a “mission-critical function”. It is a remarkably insightful interview that will help you understand this shift. Sales Enablement is the tie that binds marketing to sales in ensuring the right content gets to the right people at the right time to build the trust that wins customers and is tasked with providing the tools and techniques to enable modern sellers.

In this 5-part series, I’ll cover how Sales Enablement is empowering the modern seller and how marketing plays a critical role. Here’s an overview of what I will cover in each future column:

  1. Social Selling is foundational to a digital sales strategy in B2B and really any considered purchase. Relationship selling is based on trust between the buyer and the seller and an authentic personal brand is critical to developing trust and creating engagement. Encouraging your sales team to share personalized content even by email or with a platform like Grapevine6 is a great place to start. If you’re planning a large social selling program, start with the latest Forrester report on Sales Social Engagement Tools
  1. Marketing creates and shapes the content that sales use to engage buyers. From substance to style, we will review marketing’s role in guiding the buyer journey and why it is more pronounced in a sales-led opportunity. As a follow on to beginning a social selling strategy, start by tracking which content is most often shared and read within those sales channels.
  1. Marketing needs to understand the modern sales stack and its impact on customer experience. We’ll look at best-in-class architectures that deliver a personalized experience for each customer. The best architectures tie together every touch-point in the buyer journey. Start by auditing your customer touchpoints to understand how those are captured and how you can create a 360-degree view of the buyer journey.
  1. Big rewards don’t come without risk. We will talk through the types of risk to consider and techniques to manage when you’re suddenly responsible for the digital footprint of thousands of sales professionals. Few companies realize the scale of their employee presence and the reach. Start with a LinkedIn search for all the sales roles in your company to understand how many possible buyer touchpoints you’re going to need to manage.
  1. In the end, a digital buyer journey is just one part of a digital customer journey. We’ll look at how a thoughtful and personalized buying experience can create an exceptional customer experience. You can start right now by mapping the digital touchpoints in your customer journey and asking the question – how does each interaction inform all of the others?

I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you and welcome your feedback in the comments below OR at @MarTechSeries.

Read more: Loyalty Programs in an Omnichannel World