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Marketing to the rescue! How sales enablement is redefining B2B marketing and sales relationships

B2B buyers have always been hard to reach, but CV19 has just made them a whole lot harder, and that creates a big problem for salespeople. Fortunately, marketers have the solution, and its called sales enablement. Here’s what the attendees of our recent B2B Marketing Leaders virtual roundtable about their approaches to sales enablement to help sales hit their targets

B2B marketers have, historically, struggled to get excited about sales enablement. It’s something that’s been around for a while, but always waiting in the wings, never taking centre stage – that’s my perception of it at least. To date, no CMO or marketing director has ever said to me “we’ve just done a great sales enablement campaign” or “Sales enablement is going to be my number one priority this year.” It’s just something that’s happened in the background.

This may be because the entire term is decidedly unsexy – and what’s worse, arguably it accentuates the lingering negative stereotypes of marketing in B2B as just being a sales support function, without strategic input or responsibilities.

Whatever its historical image problems, attitudes are shifting, both quickly and profoundly. In a world defined and dominated by CV19, where access to customers has become exponentially more difficult, B2B organisations need sales enablement like never before. This was why we ran our recent B2B Marketing Leaders virtual roundtable on this topic, and why attendance was extremely strong.

As ever with our roundtables, attendees came from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds, and the discussion was wide-ranging and varied. Our lead analyst Peter O’Neill put some context around the issue, but revealing some of the key findings of our Sales Enablement report, which is out now. Here are my key takeaways from this meeting.

1.     Alignment or enablement?

There’s a lot of confusion about what is S&M alignment and what is sales enablement. A lot of the things that people thought was enablement would arguably be better defined as alignment. However you describe it, it was clear that most attendees need to do some work on the fundamentals of the relationship with the sales function.

2.     Getting beyond the basics

Even where marketers are clearly focused on activities that should be described as enablement, much of this was what you might describe as ‘foundational’. For example, there was a lot of discussion about content tagging and archiving in a way that makes salespeople aware of existing resources are available, rather than looking to create better new resources.

3.     Much closer collaboration

In the wake of Covid-19, some marketers reported providing support to sales on a really close interpersonal level. For instance, prospect meetings are obviously a key part of the sales process, but these are now all being done by phone or Zoom, and sales people are struggling to adapt to the lack of body language etc. B2B marketing leaders attending the roundtable report helping their sales colleagues to prep better, structure the calls better, be more to-the-point in their dialogue and follow-up better.

4.     Opportunity knocks, or knocking for opportunities

Enablement will also be critical for companies addressing new audiences, new markets, or launching new product lines – and we’ve seen many companies do this at record speed as a consequence of CV19. Sales professionals that are highly confident in known markets may be a fish out of water when entering new territory. And this applies both to companies who are doing this as a result of existing markets drying up, or those whose who are finding new opportunities because their offerings are in extraordinary demand.

5.     It’s innovation, but not as we know it

Perhaps naively, I was hoping to hear about a flood of examples of deployment of immersive new channels or technologies to replace things like face-to-face meetings or events. But whilst some marketers are dabbling with such innovative technologies or activities, they are the exception rather than the rule. Where innovation is occurring, often more at the administrative or management level, with new technologies enabling marketers to better manage the content that is available, and make it easier to access by salespeople.

6.     The devil is the data

Data has often been the Achilles Heel of B2B marketers, and its much the same with sales enablement. Even though data is one of the best and most obvious ways that marketers can enable sales people, and although there are a wealth of technologies available to do just that, there was scant evidence of such things being deployed for this purpose – or possibly even a recognition of this as an opportunity.

7.     Expect resistance, but make it easy to comply

Where it is used, technology can improve access to sales enablement content, or availability of it, and provide insights about who is using what. But as a function, sales is often the slowest adopting new technologies – especially those enforced on them. Ongoing training and dialogue are vital to ensure the sales teams understand new technologies and their benefits, as is ensuring terminology used on such platforms is consistent and correct… otherwise users won’t know what they are searching for.

8.     Culture can kill any transformation.

This is why marketing’s first and foremost audience is the internal one, for any transformation project. Changes in the nature of sales, and the relationship between sales and marketing require continued communication – and not just between the two functions in question, but across the business as a whole.

9.     Death of a salesman?

Coronavirus has accelerated the long and oft-predicted death of the salesman as we know him/her – or at least their transition to something else. Technology is removing basic repetitive tasks, and enabling some sales people to be reprogrammed or re-orientated consultative sales people, offering broader and more objective solutions. For this to be successful, marketing will need to have a major input.

10.  New relevance for marketing

Marketing’s prestige and standing could benefit hugely from the fallout from CV19. Whatever kind of transition companies are making in the current circumstances, it’s hard to imagine them doing it without marketing playing a pivotal role.

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This article is written by Joel Harrison and originally published here

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tanya

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