Blog post

Sales Enablement: Time for Marketing To Evolve?

By Alex De Fursac Gash | May 12, 2021 | 1 Comment

Fundamentally, the field of sales enablement is predicated on providing sales teams with the support they need in order to better engage target buyers.

Traditionally – and quite naturally – marketing has always been expected to play a major role, directly supporting sales by providing client-ready content & collaterals, messaging and customer insights. Indirectly, marketing also plays an increasingly important role towards the top of the funnel…engaging as many customers as possible… and providing (sales-ready) leads for sales reps to chase.

Whilst the dynamic and the success of this relationship between sales and marketing can certainly vary, the underlying principle remains simple…Sales needs marketing’s help.


Marketing’s Help Needed More than Ever  

Over the last few years, Gartner’s findings have pointed towards growing buying complexity in the information era, with customers feeling increasingly overwhelmed with too much information, too much choice, too many channels and (more often than not) too many stakeholders or influencers.

Consequently, because customers are finding it harder and harder to buy…. Sales teams are finding it harder and harder to sell. A Gartner survey found that 77% of customers report their last purchase experience to be “complex”.

These growing buying complexities have been in motion for some time. The global pandemic however has made this journey even harder. For many sales teams – where the nature of the job often depends so heavily on the face-to-face (F2F) channel – the global pandemic certainly disrupted things. Whilst some of the disruption may well be temporary, this experience has also accentuated some of the more profound areas of help needed by sales teams as customers’ digital needs and expectations have risen substantially.

Because despite the expectation that more and more business will return to being done in person, the pandemic forced both businesses and customers alike to experiment with digital in way many had not attempted before.

What did profoundly change from a sales and marketing perspective was that it suddenly mattered more than ever that we were ‘excelling’ in terms of all of our digital engagement, including: the content we share, the user experience we provide on our website and other channels, the messaging we design, and of course the impact we have in virtual F2F touchpoints such as meetings and events.

Put simply, whilst much will probably return to normal post-pandemic, customers increased expectations of what constitutes a good digital experience will not. Consequently, this increases the need for marketing to support sales teams and to provide an effective holistic and multi-channel experience.


Three key things Marketing Can Help With

Improve digital discovery through site experience. People are increasingly more willing to explore as we progress through the information era. Gartner’s Global Customer Buying Survey revealed that the need for customer agency has never been greater. Practically, this means providing a digital experience that boosts customers’ feelings of agency (specifically: control, capability and confidence).

Marketers can support customer-driven discovery by offering tools, content, and digital experiences that support exploration. A digital model that lets customers decide what path they want to explore based on their personal needs, for example, can offer an expanded, exploratory path for those who don’t know what they want to buy and another, more direct path for those who know exactly what they want.

(see Optimizing conversion by harnessing customers’ exploration habits)

Create digital content and experiences that are relevant and impactful. One of the biggest benefits of creating a successful marketing-sales relationship is that frontline teams have deeper insight into client concerns and questions, which can inform the creation of actionable and helpful content.

This requires marketing to do two things. First, to jointly map out the customer buying journey with sales. Gartner’s research suggests that effective journey maps adopt two principles: a) that they are brand agnostic in nature (i.e. that reflect how customer buy irrespective of you as a brand); b) That they are limited to only the relevant buying jobs/tasks (i.e. less is more).

Second, to conduct a content audit. This serves the purposes of removing/creating new relevant content (when/if identified in the customer journey mapping exercise), as well as to atomize larger existing pieces of content. Breaking down larger pieces of content or delivering bite-sized steps allows you to address more targeted questions at different stages of the buying journey, as well as a more accurate lead generation score

(see Ignition Guide to Planning and Conducting a Customer Journey Mapping Workshop)

Collaborate with sales to establish a joint lead scoring system. A sales and marketing collaboration on lead scoring can give rise to a more accurate, useful scale of customer readiness that makes marketing content creation and sales outreach easier and more impactful.

Lead scoring strategies have evolved over time and typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Fit Based Scoring, where customers that meet explicit fit criteria are qualified as leads.
  • Engagement/Fit Threshold Scoring. Combining Fit with the Engagement of a customer (time spent with marketing materials) qualifies good leads.
  • Buying Journey Scoring, where points are assigned based on customer progress through stages of the buying journey.

This last one is by far the most effective. Instead of scoring leads by low effort (e.g. opens an email), medium effort (e.g. follows link or browses site) or high effort (e.g. downloads ebook), revise the lead scoring criteria to correlate with how the customer is using the content based on their buying journey (see Delivering on Marketing’s Promise to Drive Sales).

For example, a large whitepaper titled ‘Everything you need to know about topic xyz” might be worth considerably fewer lead gen points because while it is traditionally considered a “high effort” customer interaction, it might only resonate with people at the very early stages of their exploration and discovery.


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1 Comment

  • Alex, thanks for sharing this insightful guidance. Overall, I agree with your research findings, based upon my own experience helping tech product marketers create impactful content assets.

    That said, there’s a remaining challenge that needs more focus — the symbiotic relationship between buyer enablement (self-directed information discovery) and sales enablement (seller-facilitated assistance). Both are very important for complex enterprise technology procurement.

    Also, I’ve witnessed the problematic tech marketing transition from ‘product-centered’ narratives to ‘customer-centered’ narratives. In particular, the emergence of everything-as-a-service offerings is a difficult transition for IT sellers that are more used to transaction-oriented point-product sales scenarios.

    Traditional IT vendors likely have a huge re-training and mentoring goal that will require thoughtful consideration during 2021 and beyond. I welcome your thoughts on this topic.