Sales Enablement: Focus On Customers To Lower The Cost Of Sales

 In Sales Alignment

B2B Marketing teams are often asked to help drive revenue while at the same time lowering the cost of sales. And when both of those things don’t happen, there is plenty of blame to go around. I have often discussed the need for B2B Marketing to focus on driving real results. I support the notion of sales as the customer of marketing. But exactly how can marketing teams help manage the costs associated with sales support?

At 2pm ET today I will be participating in a Focus roundtable  discussion on Sales Enablement: Boosting Sales Performance while Reducing Sales Support Costs. They have asked me to bring the Marketing perspective on how to improve sales and marketing alignment, how to improve adoption of CRM systems and ultimately how to improve sales performance. In preparation for the discussion and for those of you who cannot make it, I would like to outline my thoughts here.

According to wikipedia, Sales Enablement is:

The process of arming an organization’s sales force with access to the insight, experts, and information that will ultimately increase revenue.

In my career, I have played the role of a sales person, a marketer and a B2B buyer.  And I would bet the biggest reason why some sales people have trouble performing: they simply don’t focus on the customer. But ask a sales person why they are short on quota and you may hear that marketing isn’t passing quality leads, the CRM system stinks or the company processes don’t support them.

Now there are plenty of more qualified experts and lots of information that can help you determine the best practices in deploying CRM systems, Marketing Automation and Sales Force Automation (SFA) software. In the end these are tools – a means to an end. In my experience, it is not the tools that are to blame for poor sales performance.

It’s the process and the perspective that must come first. I have already discussed How To Align Marketing With Sales but here are 7 Cs for marketers to follow to drive sales performance and lower the cost of sales.

Customer Focus. In the 7 Steps To Sales And Marketing Alignment I suggest marketers go on sales calls and I also suggest we need to speak to a customer in order to create great content. For sales enablement to work, it must focus on meeting customer needs. Marketing can help here by driving customer insights and intelligence into the sales organization. When marketing and sales align around the customer, magic happens!

Common Process. Whenever someone says that their CRM system (or any system) is not working, you can almost always point to a poorly-defined process. We all have images of the rock star sales phenom. But the truth is that successful organizations have rallied around a common process in defining their go-to-market approach, lead acquisition, scoring and nurturing and funnel stage management.

Content. Marketing must provide great content to sales. Having the right collateral or case study mapped to the buyer journey is extremely important. The delivery systems are obviously important and there is plenty of discussion in B2B organizations around their “sales portals” but none of that matters if the content stinks.

Centralization. Most large B2B organizations have dedicated sales operations teams. And many smaller organizations centralize around the “all hands on deck” approach. But the vast majority of B2B organizations need to intentionally focus on centralizing the sales enablement function. Sales people will want “concierge” service and while marketing needs to treat sales as their customer, it is important to provide a standard level of support in order to keep costs down.

Communication. To me this can be the single biggest reason for lack of alignment between sales and marketing. When we form strong relationships with sales, bonded by common goals and driven by joint business planning, sales and marketing both win.

Customization. Sales needs to be able to find what they want, when they need it. When a deal is at stake, it is too late to decide to create content. Sales Force Automation and Marketing Automation tools can assist here but only if the customer content needs have already been mapped to the buying cycle, the content has been created and even field-tested by sales. Tools can then be brought in to help drive the content customization each buying process requires.

Collaboration. Often forgotten, collaboration is not something sales teams are born to or want to do. However, winning organizations will have higher performance and lower costs when they can enable best practice sharing, drive feedback into all the points above and communicate the insights of win-loss analyses.

Sound confusing? Just focus on the customer. And you will drive sales performance and lower the cost of sales. Now go sell something.

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  • Miko

    Good article!

    According to numerous studies, the facts are that:
    – Only about 3% of prospects are ready to buy right now
    – 5% of prospects are purely doing research
    – 92% of prospects are those “maybe later” guys

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Miko, those are great stats to support exactly what we are saying!