Whether you're in branding, inbound marketing, or social media, focus on the digital journey, voice of the customer, or launches. If you're a marketer in an organization with a direct or channel sales team, your job is sales enablement.
What is sales enablement? If you think it's training the field and producing product brochures, you're only partially right. Sales enablement is arming your sellers with the tools and processes they need to have meaningful and effective conversations with customers and prospects. Simply put, it means providing them with the right content at the right time and place to move a sale forward.
If you're a content marketer, or trying to become one, that definition should sound familiar. That's because content marketing and sales enablement are two sides of the same coin.
The same dynamic that is driving marketers to publish relevant, useful, and educational content in order to break through the clutter and gain permission to participate in customers' digital journeys is the same one that is transforming smart sales people from product pitchmen to thought leaders and strategic partners. That is why sales enablement can no longer be thought of as middle (MOFU) or bottom of funnel (BOFU) content only. Sellers need it all, from awareness, exploration, decision, use, adoption, expansion, and advocacy. And they need it in the same digital, shareable form factors that the TOFU people love so much.
You can still have different disciplines creating all of your content. But if you silo your strategy, if you don't think of content as an interconnected series of conversations moving customers from one phase of the sale to the next -- and you don't make it easy for your sales people to find that content and continue the conversations you've started online -- you're wasting your money.
I can't tell you how many times I've downloaded a whitepaper or e-guide from a prominent sales enablement vendor only to be bombarded with emails and phone calls from reps who want to set up a product demo. Like most customers today, I’m not interested in the hard sell. I downloaded your paper to help me solve a particular business problem. However, if the rep knew what I downloaded, asked me what I liked about it, and provided me with even more relevant information to help me do my job . . . now we're having a conversation. Now we're building a relationship. Now, I'll be happy to take time from my busy day to listen to your product demo, that is if I'm truly a prospect. With this additional data and content, your sales people are also better able to qualify leads so they don't won't waste their precious time trying to sell non-prospects or people who are not ready to buy.
Sellers are not the only benefactors of better alignment between sales and marketing (see smarketing). Marketers are desperate to understand the information needs of customers in order to feed the voracious appetite of today's content-hungry paid, owned and earned channels. Nobody knows your customers better than your sellers. Every customer question, every prospect's concern, every hurdle to a sale they’ve cleared or stumbled on is content gold just waiting to be mined.
If you're a marketer, I encourage you to talk to your sales people. And go to a few sales enablement conferences. You’ll find they sound a lot like content marketing conferences. That's because marketing and sales are trying to solve the same problem: how to connect and influence with the customer in what Forrester calls the "Age of the Customer."
It's why Forrester combined their annual sales enablement conference with their digital marketing forums. And it’s why every marketer is really in sales enablement.