It’s time for a serious talk about investing in sales enablement.
Oops. I heard it again.
Another partner “wondering” out loud (complaining) about the value received from the firm’s investment in marketing. It was another one of those “show me the money” types of moments.
She wasn’t focusing on how the department was building the firm’s brand or her personal brand. She appreciated the bump in website visitors and blog readers, but didn’t understand how it affected her book of business. She acknowledged that the firm’s social media footprint was as good or better than any of the firm’s competitors, but certainly wasn’t about to go on a tweeting marathon.
Her filter, like that of many partners, is that she equates the value of the firm’s investment in marketing in terms of how it directly contributes to top line growth.
She’s not wrong.
Less Branding, More Sales Enablement
Perhaps it’s time for accounting, consulting and other professional service firms to reevaluate the role of marketing and move the pendulum away from branding towards sales enablement. Let me make this clear: I am not in any way suggesting that your firm abandon branding. In fact, I would argue that all of those “over the transom calls” you get from someone looking for someone like your firm to address a need or issue are directly related to the branding and positioning activities your marketing department put into play.
Today, with the explosion of technology for marketing analytics, it’s certainly easier to measure the effects of brand spending on firm visibility and awareness. Did you know that with the right CRM set up the right way, it’s even possible to see an “audit trial” of a prospect’s digital interactions with your firm from initial engagement to a closed sale?
There’s a lesson here for marketing departments if you need to constantly justify your existence and budget: measure and report. For example, we just prepared a report for a client that showed for one partner over the last year, his niche practice got 40,000 website visits, his blog posts were viewed by over 2,000 people, and his bio was viewed some 1,400 times ….. and they crushed their top line niche revenue goals.
So, keep your branding efforts in play, but it’s time to start thinking about shifting more marketing dollars and resources into sales enablement strategies tactics, tools and technologies.
What is Sales Enablement?
Simply stated, sales enablement consists of processes, tools and technologies that give rainmakers – be they partners or business developers – information, content, and the means to close more sales, faster.
The foundation of sales enablement is an understanding that:
(1) marketing needs to find and bring leads from marketing qualified to sales qualified status with lead generation campaigns, and materials that can range from drip emails to sophisticated eBooks to proposals to successfully engage buyers throughout the buying process,
(2) the function of the business developer or rainmaker is to shepherd prospects from sales qualified lead to new client, and
(3) marketing needs to provide proposal writing, sales collateral, and other marketing communications materials to assist the sheparding process
It’s about selling more effectively and directing marketing budget and other resources to that end.
According to Scott Albro, “Sales enablement is less about sales and more about the buyer. The field of sales enablement is predicated on providing salespeople with what they need to engage their target buyers. As such, it’s important to remember a simple tenet – provide sales with the resources the buyer wants. It’s also important to understand when the buyer wants to leverage these resources.”
But does sales enablement really work?
Research done by Aberdeen shows that companies with the best sales enablement practices and tools average about a 14% annual increase in deal size or contract value, and a growth rate that’s three times greater than companies not doing sales enablement.
And, in a recent survey done by Demand Metric, 75% of respondents said that sales enablement made a moderate or significant contribution to their sales successes.
Here’s the Rub: Sales Enablement is the Responsibility of BOTH Partners and Marketers!
Sales enablement is not a marketing-only or “set it and forget it” set of tactics. Its success is dependent on a strong working relationship between marketing, partners, and business developers, each with a set of responsibilities and accountabilities that can be measured. Just as marketers can’t be consumed by a branding-only mentality, partners can’t sit back and do nothing, expecting sales opportunities to fall into their lap and criticizing marketers for ROI.
If you want more new business closing faster, be prepared for some hard work and what could be a shakeup in the traditional way marketing resources are being used and in the way that partners get involved in the buyer’s journey.
Up Next: A Deeper Dive into the Tactics, Tools and Technologies of Sales Enablement
Over the next couple of blog posts, I’m going to explore sales enablement in a bigger way, starting with an exploration of how your firm can do a better job at aligning marketing and business development, including agreements on:
- A well-defined set of sales objectives, including goals for top line sales dollars, new clients, proposals, leads, and website visitors
- Funding infrastructure for the processes, tools and technologies that will be used in sales enablement
- A content strategy that places the right type of content into the hands of the right type of buyers at the right time in their buying journey
- The characteristics of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
- The characteristics of a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)