In today’s world of instant gratification, there is a seemingly endless stream of cure-all solutions being peddled by tech companies. They proclaim to automate processes, streamline content creation, and provide deeper insights into the minds of prospects, all while maintaining the promise of improving top line revenue.
Sales enablement solutions like these may seem like a sound investment for organizations looking to fast-track success, but many buyers fail to deliver lasting positive change and don’t achieve the intended ROI.
That’s not to say that sales enablement technology doesn’t have a place in your sales stack! It absolutely does, but it must be used in conjunction with a robust sales process methodology that includes an aligned coaching framework. Only then will you find yourself with a sales enablement strategy that will actually work for you.
If you already have a strategy in place – kudos – take a deeper dive into the tech you should have by your side as well:
There are four guiding principles that will help ensure that the technology you choose works seamlessly for your organization – key to all is properly aligning your people and processes.
Understand the Buyer Journey
Before you can put a sales process methodology in place, you’ll need to understand the buying journey from the perspective of your customers to ensure that the processes you implement and the content that supports them are aligned. For example, you don’t want to talk to a prospect about your solution’s respective ROI calculations before they’ve even made the mental commitment to seek out change.
Generally speaking, every buyer journey will have distinct stages – each with different mindsets, objectives, influencers and decision-makers. The goal of the sales process is to ease prospects through that journey naturally, in a manner that feels more like a partnership than sales.
The buyer journey is dependent on the nature of your product/solutions/services, your industry, the industry of your buyers, relative cost, and many other factors.
So how can you come to fully understand the buying process for your products?
- Ask your customers: Buyer and customer journey mapping are commonplace in business today, and your customer advocates will see your attempts to reconstruct the process as a means of learning, adapting, and becoming closer to them, which they should appreciate. Your customers are a constant source of valuable information – listen to them!
- Use analytics: AI and analytics platforms can provide you with valuable insight into what buyers interact with, what they search for, and where they came from prior to engaging with your content. These clues can help you piece together a journey map.
- Ask the experts: There are consultancies that specialize in buyer journey mapping. They can even help you create a sales process methodology and marketing content that aligns with each stage of the journey.
Align Your Messaging, Content, and Sales Process to the Buyer Journey
Once you develop an understanding of a customer’s buying process, you will know who to talk to at each stage, what topics will be relevant, and, most importantly, what the objectives of each member of the buying group are across all stages of the journey. These insights will provide you with the foundation for your content and messaging strategy.
Here’s an example of how you would drive alignment around the buying journey. Consider the following example of a buyer journey:
The first stage identified in the example above is Prospecting, and in this case we see that the objective of the initial outreach is to help the prospect answer the question “why change?”. The messaging your sales team uses must respect the fact that the prospect is at the beginning of the journey; it should focus on uncovering latent, chronic pain and highlighting it to inspire the prospect to consider making a change.
When the buyer proceeds through the journey to the next phase, Qualification, they have made the mental commitment to evolve their current situation. This is the stage where your sellers will need to demonstrate competitive differentiation and earn front-runner status for your solution.
As the buying process continues, we must recognize that there are others involved in the decision and nothing will happen without gaining executive sponsorship. Unless you’re lucky enough to be working with the executive sponsor from the get-go, you’ll need to prepare to engage them. And that is when the discussion must shift toward justifying the investment. Executives generally won’t care about all the bells and whistles; they want to know what they’re buying at a high level and what they can expect to get in return.
Aligning your messaging, content and collateral, and sales process to the buyer journey will help your sales team work more intuitively and consistently. Sellers who have the capacity to leverage the best information for a given situation are far more effective at building relationships and selling, and they will also be able to give management a more accurate forecast on their pipeline.
[Pro Tip]: When your content is aligned with the stages of the buyer journey and sales cycle, you can more effectively use sales enablement technologies to present relevant content to your sellers within their CRM and help them gain efficiencies. By leveraging your foundational sales methodology, you can accelerate the adoption of and ROI on technology.
Leverage a Standardized Sales Methodology
There are many different sales process methodologies that your organization can choose from (SPIN, Challenger, Sandler, etc.) or, as an enterprising Sales Enablement professional, you can always create your own. Either way, it is critical that you have some form of standardized process in place for your sales reps to follow if you want to set your organization up for success, continuous improvement, and acceleration.
Factors such as the seniority of your team and the enablement budget you have available will dictate the depth of the methodology you use. However, at the minimum you should have the following components in place for your inside sales team:
Many forward-thinking organizations are adapting their messaging to be verticalized and personalized to their audience. That doesn’t mean you can’t still use a formulaic approach for sales processes. The opening or greeting is the most critical touch point your sales team will have with any prospect, so it makes sense to have a strong, proven formula in place to warm up your cold calls and get your prospects to open up. For example:
- Who am I?
- Why am I calling?
- What am I asking for?
- What’s in it for you?
2. 30-Second Value Proposition
Back in the day we called this an “elevator pitch” – a quick and succinct presentation of your company’s value proposition that will pique the curiosity of your prospect and open them up to have a discussion. Here’s how it might flow:
- Introduce latent pain point
- Build that pain with industry stats and stories of how others are achieving market success
- Share a key KPI that highlights the capability of your solution to resolve that pain
- Tell a customer success story to concretely illustrate the effectiveness of your solution
3. Active Listening & Discovery
There is a subtle art in finding the right time to begin discovery, the mastery of which will come with practice and experience. But every sales rep should have some form of methodology available to help them effectively navigate a discovery call. Listening to the customer in order to understand their needs is critical – and methods like SPIN selling are extremely helpful in doing this well.
4. Objection Handling Techniques
Every sales rep will encounter objections, sometimes right out of the gate. You should not only prepare your sales team with common objections that they will encounter, but with a methodology to effectively manage them. Doing so will strengthen the buyer-seller relationship and earn you the right to proceed with the buying process.
5. Closing Techniques
Depending on the complexity of the sale and the sales cycle, closing techniques and the sellers who employ them will vary. Regardless, sales leaders should mentor their reps on the most effective techniques to both accelerate the sales cycle and close the deal.
At the end of the day, the actual methodology that you use in your organization isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you have one and adhere to it. This brings us to the final point.
Coach to Success
Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted valuable research that introduced the “forgetting curve” which models the decline of memory retention over time. Research on the forgetting curve shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, they will have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, 90 percent will be lost.
This means that you must train a methodology to your sales team. There are quite a few exercises that can help with this – role playing to understand the prospect mindset and script creation are both great examples. Regardless of the coaching method you choose to use, you must keep in mind that training needs to be a continuous process, otherwise your reps will not retain the information or adopt the new methodology. Here are a few tips for creating an effective coaching culture in your sales org:
- Develop structured coaching plans: this will enable your managers to collaborate with their employees in order to set SMART goals, quickly assess their strengths, and identify areas of opportunity.
- Develop a call monitoring form that aligns with your sales process methodology: this will allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of your training and your teams’ proficiency levels. For example, the “Opening” section could contain each element of the opening call formula with quick scoring options and the ability to write in comments for further coaching opportunities.
- Set expectations up front: this is the most critical element to driving a coaching culture. When you bring on a new sales rep, share the coaching plan with them on day one – even bring it up in the interview. There will be no surprises for under-performers down the road and it will be easier for your managers to hire and maintain talented reps.
Tying it All Together
Having a sales methodology in place that is aligned with your customers’ buying journeys and reinforced with a proactive coaching culture is the foundation of every good sales enablement strategy. Once these elements are in place, you will improve the chances of adoption and success of sales enablement technologies.
Truly exceptional sales enablement solutions should be able to conform to your sales process and help you accelerate success. World-class solutions will build on this by leveraging AI to drive continuous improvements while personalizing content for both your sellers and buyers.
To learn more about the potential impact of these leading-edge innovations, check out my previous post on how to improve sales execution with an intelligent CRM experience.