Something really magic happens when Sales and Marketing work well together. When one department feeds the other with inspiration, insight, tools and resources, the results can be ground-breaking.
The name of this phenomenon? Sales enablement.
While sales enablement can be hugely powerful for securing and feeding leads through the sales funnel, the process requires the two teams to work in harmony.
What is sales enablement?
When it really comes down to it, sales enablement is a production line of sorts. It’s a production line that creates and converts qualified leads.
Here’s what the process looks like when everything’s running at its best:
- Sales and Marketing collaborate to create truly effective sales enablement related content to nudge prospects along the sales funnel
- Through various channels and touch-points — including content, email campaigns, video, white papers, Webinars, and anything else — the funnel becomes populated with marketing qualified leads
- Sales engages with the qualified leads, leveraging sales enablement material where necessary to convert the lead, deal with objections and make the sale
- Rinse and repeat!
Or another way to put it: Sales enablement is a two-pronged initiative, bringing Sales and Marketing together to collaborate so that the Marketing team can produce effective sales collateral, content, video, infographics, white papers, and really any other material designed to nudge a prospect along the sales cycle. Then, it’s the role of Sales to leverage this material in just the right way and to ultimately convince prospects to sign on the dotted line.
The importance of goals and vision for sales enablement: a story in 3 parts
It is helpful to look at creating a sales enablement strategy in three individual parts.
- Goals & vision
- MQL / SQL criteria (the art of the qualified lead)
- Accountability & SLAs
Part 1: Goals & vision
For sales enablement to grow your business, both Sales and Marketing need to share the same understanding of what success looks like.
- The goal that you’re all chasing is essentially the hard numbers, the metrics. It’s the thing that salespeople tend to really love — and it’s a true sign of upward progress. Not only that, but having clear goals laid out can serve as milestones for your sales enablement strategy, proving that things are going to plan. Goals tend to be numbers based and trackable (like a percentage uptick in your bottom line, or the shortening of the average sales cycle by x days).
- The vision is a little bit more intangible. Think of it like the mythical “big picture”. It’s the way you want things to be once sales enablement is up and running. It’s a vision of the future where Sales and Marketing are effortlessly working together side-by-side (yes… it can, and will, happen). It can be something internal — “We’ll grow the team”, “We’ll move to a bigger office” — or externally facing, e.g. “We’ll be the leading SaaS company in this space”. But, either way, it will help define what success looks like when sales are on the up.
While your sales enablement vision might be audacious and future-facing, you’ll need the milestones represented by more incremental goals to keep motivation levels up. And what’s motivating might differ between departments: Marketing is more likely to be motivated by creative engagement (like views, shares, form completions, number of MQLs, etc.) ticking upward, while the Sales team is more about celebrating winning (like 5 new logos for the client list, or achieving an X% in sales target, etc.)
Part 2: MQL / SQL criteria (the art of the qualified lead)
What exactly is a qualified lead?
At its core, defining a qualified lead really comes down to two distinct questions:
- Which attributes define a person who is a good fit for your product or service?
- Which actions signal when a person is ready to engage with your sales team and/or purchase?
First, how do we define our target audience?
This is a far too big question to answer in detail here. Understanding the target audience is at the very heart of Marketing’s role in the business and a fair amount of ground needs to be covered to truly understand the buyer. Typically marketers will seek to identify and understand the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), the relevant personas (stakeholders) of each ICP including their pain points and challenges and finally the “Job to be done” that the potential customer is hiring a product or service to do.
Of course, each business is unique and ICPs, Personas and Jobs To Be Done will vary greatly. For more detail on understanding your B2B buyer click here.
Next up, and assuming we’ve defined the target audience, how can we know when a prospect is sales-ready?
As most salespeople will tell you, the hard sell really isn’t the best approach anymore.
Where once people enjoyed the back-and-forth of a sales negotiation, the modern sales process is much more understated. This is actually ideal for sales enablement, though, because the entire process relies on a soft sell approach. The content and other materials produced by Marketing aren’t (necessarily) positioned as sales assets, but rather informational pieces.
The modern customer wants to feel like they’ve come to a decision entirely by themselves. When they’ve come all the way from the top of the funnel, with content tactically deployed at key points, the chances are they’ll be sales-ready when they get to the bottom.
At some point in that journey, they’ll switch from passively involved to actively interested.
And it’s here that Sales takes the reins.
Because this switchover point is so unique to each business, it’s almost impossible to tell you exactly when a prospect becomes sales-ready — but it’s a great way to bring your teams together. So, as part of your launch planning, get Sales and Marketing in the same room (or conference call) and have them make a decision, together, about how you’ll define a sales-ready lead.
This way, you’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.
TOP TIP: the best way to identify when a lead is Marketing Qualified (i.e. ready to hand to sales) is to implement lead scoring in your marketing automation CRM.
Part 3: Accountability & SLAs
Now, we’re on the home straight.
Your sales enablement strategy is primed, defined, and ready to be deployed. The final piece to the sales enablement puzzle is maintaining cross-team accountability.
As we talked about in part 1, we’ve got buy-in from Sales and Marketing based on our goals and our vision — and that’s a great place to start. But, as your sales enablement machine kicks into high gear, you need to be 100% sure that it’ll maintain that momentum and continue delivering conversions.
So how do you ensure that both Sales and Marketing stay accountable and invested in the sales enablement process?
The answer is simple: a Service Level Agreement, or SLA.
It’s all very well in those early meetings, when everyone is enthusiastic, to talk about how Sales and Marketing are going to work so well together and make this a success. In reality, that passion can quickly wane — one department might think the other is taking the lead, and vice versa. And, before you know it, the whole sales enablement strategy has unraveled.
An SLA is essentially an agreement in black-and-white that states, in no uncertain terms, that Sales and Marketing will support each other. Not only is this a declaration of support for the same big picture vision — and an understanding of each other’s shorter-term goals — but it’s also a highly specific and prescriptive document that outlines precisely what this support will look like.
Your SLA can become the backbone of your sales enablement strategy, ensuring that all parties are pulling in the same direction and setting the stage for your success.
So how do you actually create one?
It’s easier than you might think. Here’s a quick 3-step guide to creating a Service Level Agreement between your Sales and Marketing departments:
Step 1: Define clear goals for qualified leads
As we’ve discussed, it’s Marketing’s role to deliver qualified leads (or MQLs) for the Sales team to close. In your SLA, you can decide as a team precisely how many qualified leads should be progressing through the funnel, month-by-month.
The specific metrics you choose will be unique to your business, but here are some suggestions:
- X number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) per month
- A specific financial goal for revenue that can be directly attributed to MQLs
- X number of meetings booked or contact form submissions via funnel content
The choice is yours, but the point is that these should all be trackable — and, therefore, easy to hold teams accountable for.
Step 2: Set targets for Sales to follow-up with the leads
Marketing can generate as many leads as they like, but it’ll all be for nothing if Sales doesn’t follow up and close them.
So, when creating the SLA, your second step should be deciding a reasonable window of time for Sales to hop on-board and process an MQL with the goal of transforming that into a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). When your teams are having the conversation about what this time-frame should be, it’s essential to factor in the sales-readiness we talked about earlier. You’ll know your customer better than anyone, which means you’ll also know how much you can chase them (or how quickly) to get the best response.
It’s also worth considering the total bandwidth of the Sales department to ensure time-frame targets are fair, realistic, and not too aggressive.
Step 3: Arrange regular reporting for both Marketing and Sales
Because your SLA is based on hard numbers, the door is wide open for some good old-fashioned reporting and analysis.
This isn’t about naming and shaming, but rather it’s about ensuring that both sides of the sales enablement process are doing their part and hitting their goals.
At the end of the day, sales enablement is built on the understanding that both Marketing and Sales are different entities which operate in very different ways. We know that sales enablement is an incredibly powerful tool, but we also know that it’s being powered by teams who often don’t see eye-to-eye. That’s why the SLA — and the reporting and tracking of its performance — are so important.
As cliche as it may sound, your sales enablement Service Level Agreement really is the glue that holds the entire process together.
The story doesn’t end there — start your next chapter with Growth London
Even once you’ve brought your Sales and Marketing teams together and started to see real results from your sales enablement strategy, the story is far from over.
If you’d like to take your fledgling sales enablement to the next level, squeeze every bit of functionality out of HubSpot, or simply work with someone who really cares about growing your business — get in touch with Growth London today.