Sales enablement is the delivery of the right information to the right person in the right format to assist in moving sales opportunities forward. Sounds pretty simple, right?
It isn’t. Assembling the right sales message is a complex process in a large distributed marketing organization — especially in regulated industries.
Four or five distinct processes and roles are involved, and without clear planning and a smooth process built on a technology platform designed to streamline the process, it can seem nearly impossible.
- Marketing creates the information.
- Management (legal, compliance, HR) reviews it.
- Marketing publishes it (through a sales portal, or in some less efficient way such as sending an email with a file attached).
- IT or a webmaster posts online portions of the message (landing pages, downloadable collateral, etc.).
- Sales receives it and either uses it as is, or modifies it (often by laboriously recreating it).
Some communications channels (like video, advertising, or POP displays) almost always involve both internal and external people and processes and can have many more steps.
Sales aren’t really enabled until the sales message wends its way through all of the processes, because no message reaches a potential buyer until all the steps are complete.
In December 2010, IDC published a report titled, Content Management and Sales Enablement Survey Results. In the report, IDC’s CMO Advisory Practice research analyst Gerry Murray writes, “Sales enablement is the new battle cry for B2B organizations looking to grow faster than the overall economy in the next three years.
“More leads are required, they take longer to close, and there is tremendous pricing pressure. As a result, companies must make the best use of every opportunity to interact with their customers and prospects. That means getting the right information to the right reps at the right time to make the most of every sales opportunity.”
Few marketing or sales executives from distributed marketing organizations would quarrel with IDC’s findings, says Edgar Rodriguez, executive vice president of marketing at Distribion. “We’ve got over 100 customers, and nearly all of them embraced our distributed marketing platform because they needed a way to deliver dynamic content to the sales force quickly. They wanted to empower sales to modify, customize and personalize marketing messages without jeopardizing brand or regulatory compliance.”
IDC vice president Michael Gerard told the audience at the company’s 2010 Sales & Marketing Conference that over 40% of all marketing assets created by corporate marketing are never used at all by sales teams, and that in the research firm’s surveys, some sales organizations reported that as much as 90% of the assets created by their marketing peers were never used. Why? Usually, Gerard said, it’s because sales can’t find them when they need them – and if they do find them, they’re in the wrong format and it takes too long to modify, customize, or personalize them for the sales opportunity.
A distributed marketing platform solves this costly problem by making it easy for sales people to find, customize, and personalize marketing messages. At the same time, the system automates approvals, compliance, tracking, reporting, and message testing.
A sales portal or storefront where collateral is stored is just part of a true distributed marketing platform. To make a bottom-line difference, the sales enablement effort has to include an active communications flow between marketing and field or local sales – to sell them on using the sales enablement tools that have been created, and train them on using the technology to drive sales.
The user experience can make a big difference, Rodriguez says, when it comes to the success of a distributed marketing platform. Users need a simple interface that makes it easy to find material – and they need tools that really are easy to use, he adds. “It isn’t enough to say, ‘OK, here’s an email system – go out and create HTML email campaigns.’ You want your sales people out selling, not sitting around creating marketing messages. So you have to populate the system with templates and messages that are ready to use.”
The best systems are constantly updated and refreshed with new messages, so that a sales person who uses the system can always find assets to use in lead generation, lead nurturing, and campaigns. IDC’s Gerard told his audience in Framingham that it’s important to make sure that the messages are delivered in the format that sales wants and needs.
For instance, marketing may create a great PowerPoint presentation with all the data that sales needs, and post it on the sales portal. That’s great, but when it’s time to make a proposal to a client, the task of turning the PowerPoint slides into a Word document required to respond to an RFP shouldn’t rest on the sales person’s shoulders – Gerard says there should be easy access to the content in multiple formats, to eliminate the time and frustration needed to convert it.
How much time does your sales force spend creating or re-creating marketing materials?