Still, with all the electronic footprints, cookies, and pop-ups in our daily digital lives, why don’t we have a better grasp on how our messages and assets are playing out in the field? To get a handle on this conundrum, let’s take a look at sales enablement capabilities and processes that Best-in-Class companies deploy to make their customer acquisition battle a fair (and transparent) fight.
Sales enablement is a relatively new discipline, borne out of 21st century marketers’ realization that they are measured, judged, and often compensated less by their activity volume, and more by how they measurably impact actual sales results. With stronger relations between the two lines of business already proven (by Aberdeen’s research in Sales and Marketing Alignment: A Primer on Successful Collaboration) to benefit organizations on the whole, our latest research demonstrates that an increased level of shared visibility between sales and marketing practitioners also contributes to better business results.
Rhetorical Question #1: Should Marketers Keep One Hand Tied Behind their Back?
Such visibility takes many forms, and inspires many questions: What happens to the leads that marketing generates for, and passes to, sales? What marketing campaigns are pending that will create more buzz in certain geographic markets or around specific products? And, which messages, assets, and collateral developed by marketing does the sales force most (and least) extensively put in front of prospects and customers?
When we take a look at Aberdeen’s Best-in-Class companies identified by the sales and marketing alignment research referenced above, 60% of these top performers indicate that “Marketing has extensive visibility into the sales team’s utilization of content / assets.” This percentage is only half as robust among under-performing firms, with 31% of Industry Average and 28% of Laggard companies indicating the same proficiency. The takeaway here? Better performance is directly correlated with enhanced clarity around “which half of my marketing budget is working.”
No job role in the enterprise spends more time in direct contact with B2B customers than the account managers and sales reps, the folks who develop relationships with, and sometimes also provide ongoing service to, customers. Marketing often focuses on one-to-many communication, while sales is all about the one-on-one.
Thus it follows that when marketing teams enable sellers with content for different conversational situations – industry verticals, buying personas, product lines – they do not automatically know if, when, or to what extent their content is used, let alone how it is consumed. This is where sales enablement solutions can bridge the knowledge divide.
Figure 1: Better Content Deployment Visibility, Stronger Business Outcomes
The results of creating this enhanced visibility are evident in Figure 1, which showcases a wide variety of KPIs that speak to both marketing and sales advantages in any competitive enterprise. Companies reporting a better sense of connectivity between the marketing “creators” and sales “deployers” are able to accept and convert more marketing-provided leads, generate higher marketing contribution to actual revenue, and simply sell more goods and services. Additionally, high content-visibility companies lead others in annualized improvements in company revenue, average deal size, and marketing contribution to sales pipeline.
So, let’s take a deeper look at the knowledge management and process capabilities that Best-in-Class firms, and these high-visibility marketing / sales environments, more aggressively adopt on their road to revenue.
Rhetorical Question #2: Should the Needs of the Customer Impact How We Manage our Tribal Knowledge?
In today’s golden era of the customer, when the buyer’s journey holds such a disproportionately large sway over how we market and sell to them, few core business competencies are as important as the gathering, management, and accessibility of the collective wisdom within the enterprise.
Figure 2: Knowledge Capabilities: Letting Customers Drive Data Management Decisions
In Figure 2, we see four knowledge management capabilities that, within our sales enablement research, are more heavily adopted by Best-in-Class companies than All Others. Figure 2 doubles down on the importance of these best practices, showing that our high-performing subset of companies, with expanded visibility into sales content utilization, also prioritizes the following:
Shared access to marketing automation databases
This is a competency that a majority of all surveyed companies report, although Best-in-Class firms lead others by 24% (73% vs. 59%) in deployment rates.
If we believe that the traditional roles of marketer and seller are less siloed than in the past – that increased knowledge and cross-trained skills flow more often between the job personas in the 21st century enterprise – then it makes sense for front-line sellers to have at least partial access to the marketing automation system. This allows them to understand in more depth the content consumption behaviors of their target audience.
Knowing who has seen, downloaded, registered, or clicked on marketing-generated, one-to-many content enables quota-carriers to customize and personalize their one-to-one conversations more effectively. This “reverse visibility” creates a powerful ecosystem in which marketers and sellers alike more effectively collaborate on customer acquisition based on real-time, hard data concerning content consumption.
Ensuring a single view of the customer
Aberdeen research, most recently in Customer Engagement Has Evolved. Can Your Sales Team Keep Up? (September 2014), has shown again and again that companies must create and maintain a single view of the customer. Why? Because it provides a seamless customer experience while minimizing confusion and inefficiency within the selling / providing organization.
By a 78% margin (71% vs. 40%), highly content-visible companies are more effective than non-adopters at ensuring that the marketing automation system, customer relationship management (CRM) platform, customer service, and contact center applications are all normalized to avoid “multiple versions of the truth” when it comes to customer data. Whether someone’s role is in marketing, sales, or service, a unified customer view empowers them to perform more effectively, and enhances the customer experience as well.
Centralized proposal content for personalized sales conversations
We reported on this best practice in From Lead to Close: Best-in-Class Sales Acceleration Techniques that Win (November 2014), and, frankly, it just makes sense. Nevertheless, less than one-half of both Laggards (48%) and low-content-visibility companies (42%) adopt this knowledge management capability.
Considering the fact that 24% of all sales opportunities “leak” into subsequent selling cycles, the importance of minimizing the non-selling time of reps and channel partners is critical. Better content management practices directly feed into more efficient, time-sensitive sales activities and results.
As a final note, the 61% adoption gap in the last column of Figure 2 showcases the value of enabling Sales to leverage Marketing-generated intelligence. A truly collaborative relationship between these lines of business is defined by a circular, rather than linear, flow of information and insight: marketing creates content; sales utilizes it; marketing understands what works best; marketing adjusts messaging to better inform sales – and eventually the customer – in an optimized fashion. A truly virtuous circle!
Read the full report here.