Sales acceleration and sales enablement are like peanut butter and jelly. A sandwich with only peanut butter is acceptable, but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is so much better. Businesses that use a sales acceleration strategy without sales enablement will likely find the results satisfactory, but they’re missing out on a level of success only the addition of sales enablement can provide.
But what are sales acceleration and sales enablement? Who is responsible for them? And why should you use either? Read on to learn the answers to each of these questions.
Sales acceleration is speeding up the sales cycle by shortening it.
Sales acceleration tools bridge the gap between marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM). Marketing automation and CRM can make the sales process more organized, but they don’t necessarily make it any faster.
The process of sales acceleration uses data management, predictive analytics and sales automation to empower those in your organization who interact with prospects and customers the most. Using existing data and predictive analytics, reps can more easily identify lead quality, anticipate lead behavior and determine the best ways to nurture the lead. Nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in qualified sales opportunities compared to non-nurtured leads. The sales automation component allows reps to focus on their main priority—closing sales—by handling the more tedious tasks in the sales process.
Here’s an example:
Your business provides call routing software for call centers. Walter has been tasked with finding a way to improve the efficiency of his company’s contact center, and Eva, who works for Walter’s competitor, is looking for methods to decrease turnover at her call center.
During his research, Walter views four of your blog posts and downloads two of your eBooks entitled, “The Best Practices for Call Centers” and “How to Improve Customer Satisfaction in Call Centers”. Eva views one of your blog posts and also downloads “The Best Practices for Call Centers” but stops there—this is her only interaction with your brand.
Walter and Eva are now both leads, but while Walter is in the early stages of the buyer’s journey, Eva has gone a completely different route. Your sales rep, Moe, is assigned both Walter and Eva.
Using the data management and predictive analytics aspects of the sales acceleration process, Moe determines that Walter’s own engagement with your brand—as well as the behavior of past prospects—indicate he is a good candidate for your solution, so he filters him out as a high quality lead. Working with those same tools, Moe identifies Eva as a low quality lead with a small probability of purchase and therefore prioritizes his time to nurture Walter.
Two weeks later, Walter downloads another eBook called, “How Call Routing Software Increases Efficiency in Call Centers” (which he’d received via a drip email marketing campaign) and then requests a demo of your solution.
Since Moe’s evaluation of Eva was correct and he didn’t sacrifice his time trying to convert her to a sale when she wasn’t going to buy, he’s able to promptly reach out to Walter. He uses the sales automation element of sales acceleration (in this case, templated emails) to start his conversation with Walter. Moe schedules a call with him and, taking advantage of the data he has acquired, addresses his individual concerns, discusses how your company’s solution can solve his particular pain points and closes the sale.
What some companies don’t realize is sales acceleration starts with the interview process. Hiring managers need to take personality and communication style into account when speaking with candidates. Having all of the information a rep could ever need right at his fingertips doesn’t do a whole lot of good if he doesn’t take the approach that best suits the personality of your target buyers. Consider conducting a mock sales call during the interview to see how the candidate will interact with prospects. If their style doesn’t work with selling your solution, they may not be a good fit for the company. Not every rep is a great fit for selling your solution.
The sales team.
Most sales teams are familiar with the oft-cited statistic, “70 percent of a buyer’s journey is completed before they speak with a sales rep,” but what does that mean? It means B2B buyers don’t need reps to educate them; they’ll take care of that themselves.
What buyers do need is for a rep to demonstrate his value by acting as a helpful adviser, not a pushy salesman. Reps must be informed about the industry as a whole and the overall environment in which their company’s solution lives, rather than only being knowledgeable about the solution they sell. They also must understand their customers’ challenges so they can offer the most relevant content and guidance. Successful reps have acknowledged how the internet and social media have altered the buying process and adjusted their strategy accordingly.
A sales team's ability to connect with prospects will play out when it's time to choose between your company and a competitor. The buyer is more likely to sign with a rep if he has established trust with them and proved he truly understands their unique situation and wants to fulfill their specific needs. Timing is also important. Research shows that 35-50% of sales goes to the vendor that responds first. When reps use the tools of sales acceleration, they can more easily respond at just the right time with the right message to convert leads into customers. This "zero moment of truth" is the point at which sales reps become outstanding sales reps.
Sales enablement is about empowering your sales team with the knowledge they need to turn prospects into customers. The employees in charge of sales enablement (knowledge creators) need to communicate with the sales team (knowledge consumers) and be confident the data they’re providing is 100 percent accurate and easily accessible.
“Accurate” and “accessible” are two important words. If a prospect asks a rep a question and then is forced to wait while the rep digs through email threads or Dropbox folders or chat logs to find the answer, the prospect will likely become irritated and question the aptitude of the company. Similarly, if the rep can quickly locate the answer, but the data on which they base their response is outdated, it can hurt the company just as much.
There are a lot of elements of a sales call your reps can’t control, so it’s crucial to help with the factors they can control. Your reps are the face of your company; make them look good.
Here’s an example:
Celia is the Director of Operations at an online retailer and is looking for a project management solution. She’s done weeks of research, is ready to buy and has narrowed her list of providers down to two: your company and your main competitor.
Celia schedules a call with your competitor and is connected with James, with whom she has had no prior correspondence. James struggles to answer Celia’s questions about project management strategies in the retail sphere and gives her product specs that contradict what she read on the company’s site. He’s unable to demonstrate how his company’s solution helps resolve Celia’s particular issues and merely lists general product features. Celia is less than impressed and ends the conversation.
Mike, your company’s sales rep, has exchanged emails with Celia before their phone conversation and provided helpful advice as she moved through the buyer’s journey. During the call, Mike references topics he and Celia had discussed via email and gives her additional tips regarding the issues she had mentioned previously. With your company’s latest spec sheet and relevant industry resources in front of him (which the sales enablement team had updated that week), Mike confidently explains how project management software is perfect for online retailers. He then goes on to list the specific capabilities of your company’s software that can resolve Celia’s unique pain points. Celia, this time very impressed, tells Mike her company would love to buy your project management solution.
The marketing and product management teams.
You can think of the sales enablement team as the foreman to the construction site that is a sales call. Your rep is working to build relationships, but they need the right tools. The sales enablement team/foreman provides the equipment (the information), and the sales rep/builder can effectively engage prospects and close the sale.
And even before a rep contacts a lead, it’s important your marketing efforts are attracting the kind of prospects with whom reps should be speaking. All marketing content should target the appropriate buyer personas so the leads coming to the reps are high-quality. A lead pipeline full of buyers who aren’t experiencing the issue your solution solves wastes everyone’s time and effort.
Smart marketers and product managers recognize the importance of collaborating with the sales department. They understand they play an integral part in the sales process because they guarantee reps have what they need to close deals.
Undoubtedly each rep will be taught the ins and outs of the company and its solution when they start, but in the dynamic B2B sphere with new competitors entering and leaving the marketplace every day, your reps must be aware of any new developments (both internal and external) that will impact their conversations with prospects.
In other words, sales enablement is an ongoing operation. The goal of sales enablement is to create fluid, adaptable processes for organizing and distributing information that can scale with the business.
Sales acceleration and sales enablement can have a profound impact on your company’s revenue growth, efficiency and profitability. They encourage your sales and marketing departments to work together and help your sales and management teams become more accountable by directly measuring activities and results. When sales acceleration and sales enablement are implemented correctly, the resulting snowball effect will deliver not only improved sales but also increased customer lifetime value.