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The sales profession is going through a transformation. Social, mobile, and digital media are helping buyers become better informed and raising their expectations. And the purchase process has become longer and more complex. These forces are making selling more costly, collaborative, and consultative according to Joe Galvin, who is Chief Research Officer of the MHI Research Institute. “Its common knowledge there more people are involved in the decision. But our research shows that more importantly, a rising number of sales resources are now involved in complex opportunities. This results in a creeping increase in cost of sales and makes collaboration even more critical”
To help salespeople drive growth in this challenging environment, businesses are investing millions of dollars in skill development, value selling content and sales enablement technology. The goal of this sales enablement investment is to help salespeople consistently communicate customer messages that are designed based on what the customer values.
But executing on this sales transformation formula without strong support from marketing has proven tricky and expensive. Recent sales benchmarks show most sales organizations are not generating the top line sales results they were looking for after investing millions of dollars in sales training, technologies, and content. Recent sales benchmarks show most sales organizations are not generating the top line sales results they were looking for after investing millions of dollars in sales training, technologies, and content. Executive buyers surveyed by Gartner still feel most salespeople focus too much on “product pushing”. The top barrier to sales success remains the inability to communicate value messages according to a survey of sales executives by the MHI Research Institute. The same study shows that only 23% of sales teams rely on their sale enablement systems as the single source for content and information. And most of the content created by marketing is not used by sales because it is hard to find, and does not do a good job of motivating customers to buy, driving cross sell, or disrupting the customer mindset.
Why has sales enablement failed to live up to its promise of delivering fast and measurable top line results? The problem is not the technology. There are hundreds of viable technology solutions – sales portals, sales applications, learning management systems, and CRM systems – that can efficiently deliver the right message to the right person at the right time to advance a sale. And research shows that value selling and messaging approaches can deliver superior sales performance when sales and marketing are aligned.
Our experience executing dozens of sales enablement programs suggest the missing ingredient is the buy-in and support for sales transformation by the Chief Marketing Officer.
Senior marketing leadership is critical to successful sales transformation because sales enablement programs and technologies need well designed, organized, targeted, and actionable content to run effectively. Value messaging skills will not be fully embraced until marketing starts writing content that delivers and supports that message for the last third of the buyers’ journey by salespeople. And sales enablement technology will not work very well until marketing engineers the content it creates to be easy to find, customize, and deliver to the sales person.
A best practices report by Forbes Insights describes this “content problem” facing the Chief Marketing Officer in greater detail. The report explains why the quality, organization, and effectiveness of your marketing content directly impact the ability of your organization to drive top line sales growth.
The report suggests that marketing needs to take on a bigger role in making sales enablement a success. This will require the CMO to pursue a higher degree of sales and marketing alignment and develop new disciplines. According to Joe Galvin of the MHI Research Institute , sales and marketing alignment is important because, “The easiest way to ensure consistency is to agree on a common foundation for all enablement content services – we call this the customer core approach. Ideally such dynamic value messaging frameworks are defined and operationalized with marketing to ensure a consistent approach along the entire customer journey”
Ultimately the marketing department will have to solve this content problem. Marketing has a bigger budget, better skillset, and stronger mandate to define the brand value proposition and create the content to support that value message than sales. The most effective marketers will align this content with the buyers’ journey, and package it to be delivered through sales channels to drive more measurable sales outcomes. According to Mr. Galvin, “the challenge facing the CMO is to align the open market messages broadcast through brand and demand generation strategies with those customized and delivered by the sales person much later in the buyers decision journey”.
The problem is that the degree of marketing and sales harmony required to accomplish this is largely an aspiration perpetuated by the people who promote sales transformation technology. The practical reality is that most marketing departments are not currently structured to support sales enablement. Marketing develops content in a highly fragmented fashion. Content is planned, budgeted, and created to serve a wide range of agendas: product launches, demand generation, brand development, and feeding social media. According to MHI research “Content and training services are rarely integrated in a way that ensures consistency. Instead, different functions own various areas, and their enablement services are often disconnected and fail to equip the sales force effectively.
So until the Chief Marketing Officer decides to resource and support sales enablement – the vision of marketing and sales alignment that is so essential to sales transformation will not be an operating reality.
The Brand Publishing Institute report – Ten Steps To Building A Brand Publishing Center of Excellence suggests several practical steps marketing executives can take today to better support the sales transformation and realize results this year.
- Take “ownership” of the content problem by assigning a person or task force to take ownership of the content problem and provide governance to the content supply chain. This step alone will boost the utilization and impact of your sales enablement investment by ensuing more of your current and planned marketing content directly support sales conversations and core competencies.
- Better organize your content. Create a content architecture that helps your organization structure marketing content so it can be more easily planned, sourced, targeted, distributed, and reused by the sales organization to support real selling situations. A good content architecture will help marketing to manage the key points of failure in the go-to-market process where poorly organized marketing content limits the effectiveness of your sales force.
- Define a process for creating, managing and distributing content.Best in class CMO’s are creating cross functional teams to establish a publishing process with systems that help create, manage, distribute, and track content efficiently through a wide variety of sales channels, programs and devices
- Package and target your content assets to make if fast and easy for salespeople to access the best content assets needed to support all aspects of a specific sales interaction. Leading marketers are assembling marketing content into sales playbooks that help salespeople reinforce value messaging in sales calls, execute on targeting actionable, and reinforce competencies in live selling situations.
Stephen Diorio is a Partner in Profitable Channels and the author of the book “Beyond e: Twelve Ways Technology is Transforming Sales and Marketing Strategy”