Sales enablement is a discipline that nearly every technology and service provider attempts to master, but only a small percentage actually achieve this goal. Yes, there are some obvious culprits from a lack of centralized content to resource constraints to a disconnect between product marketing and sales. But as B2B buyers continue to flex their muscles and demand more value from the interactions they have with provider salespeople and the content they receive, another problem typically makes itself clear. Sales enablement is often a one-sized fits all proposition, where training, content and process is built around a single track (or sometimes dual-track based on technical/non-technical) model.
If a customer’s buying journey (and your corresponding sales process) is complex and you’ve reached a stage in growth and maturity to warrant hiring specialized sales roles including pre-sales, lead development reps, hunters, farmers, industry or domain experts and overlays, then you have a set of people with vastly different needs in what they should learn and what content they should read. But far too often, sales enablement strategies fail to take this specialization into account. Training and content are primarily designed for the hunters, since they have the most prominent role in acquiring new logos. When the strategy is more specialized, it becomes two-track, where more technical training is delivered and content created for the sales engineer. But that strategy still leaves out a wide range of customer-facing individuals, including those that are viewed as highly influential by prospects.
The ideal approach is one that looks at all the different roles involved in the sales process and designs training and content specifically for each of them. That is the subject of my new research note (subscription required), part of the latest installment of Gartner’s Future of IT Sales special report.
While this may seem like a lot of extra work, it doesn’t have to be. Not every role will need separate training and content all of the time. Some of it can serve multiple roles and the amount needed will also vary by role and situation. But the benefits can be significant. For example, if your technical or domain experts are better equipped before they engage prospects, win rates and/or sales velocity should increase. When content and training is designed for farmers (whether account managers or customer success managers), it can become much easier to identify and close additional up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
As I discuss in the research note, one of the reasons this doesn’t consistently happen is that sales enablement is treated as an ad-hoc, rather than strategic ongoing process. When a new product is being launched or an annual sales kickoff is being planned, many providers focus more on the specialized needs of the different sales roles. But unless you take a consistent approach to sales enablement and treat it as a critical, strategic process, only a small portion of the broader sales team will be optimized in a way that allows for competitive advantage.
The note also provides additional recommendations to improve the effectiveness of sales enablement programs and includes a great case study from the CMO of Juniper Networks. This is a topic we will continue to explore throughout the remainder of 2015 and into next year.
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