2021 Sales Enablement Playbook

By Dean Clarke

Proven Plays to win the Sales Game

Welcome to Halftime

Time to reset and relaunch your sales and marketing strategies.
It’s no secret that the past year and a half was one of the wildest business times on record. As we enter the second half of 2021, things are just starting to normalize, but they’re hardly what anyone would call normal—especially when it comes to business development

No matter which industry you’re in, there’s a good chance that you’re thinking about what you learned from this past year and what you can do even better today and into the future to start boosting sales again.

Think of today as halftime in the big game. You have an opportunity to take a brief pause to reflect and reprioritize. 

As marketing and sales experts, we know a thing or two about helping businesses just like yours kill it in the business development game (just ask our clients!). But along with you, we’re adapting how we’re going to sell in our new world and specifically what new strategies from this past year we want to bring into our playbook for months to come. So, over the next few months, we’re going to crash your halftime locker room huddle to help you explore The Key Sales Enablement Plays that we hope can help get your revenue generation to thrive better than ever before. 

And since you and your team are also out playing in the field, hustling and putting in the blood, sweat, and tears, we want to hear your ideas, too! Together, let’s come out swinging and tackle some of the biggest challenges hitting businesses head-on in this wild, post-COVID world.

Intro: The Pre-Game Huddle

Just like a great quarterback executes a tested and proven offensive play, or a veteran basketball coach taps into his playbook to bring his team to win the championship, your sales team needs that same strategic foundation to always go back to. From the conversations we’ve been having and what has been working for us we’ve landed on that backbone, that foundation, that will bring our sales game into our new world. 

It’s all about Sales enablement. Your goals are simple: to drive revenue, to improve ROI, and to actually convert leads from the top of the funnel to closed deals. But, this takes two special teams—sales and marketing—to drive the revenue for your company. The challenge? They’re not always on the same page.

So how do you bridge that gap between “Hello” and “Yes”—especially if you have a long sales cycle? And how do you ensure that marketing is providing opportunities and sales is actually closing them? It’s what we like to call “sales enablement on steroids.” 

But first, what is sales enablement?

Well, it depends on who you ask. Since sales enablement is a relatively new concept, top business experts have created their own interpretations of what this fancy new tactic actually means. The one thing in common they all share—it’s about enabling sales to drive more revenue. 

If you ask Elay Cohen, the former Senior Vice President of Sales Productivity at Salesforce, he’ll tell you that sales enablement is the practice of aligning your people, processes, and priorities. Sheevaun Thatcher, head of global sales enablement at RingCentral has a slightly different take and focuses on alignment, assets, content, and tribal knowledge. And research powerhouse, Gartner, chalks the “modern sales enablement movement [up to] pushing forward programs that are always on, data-driven, and optimizable in real time.” HubSpot states that sales enablement is the iterative process of providing your business’s sales team with the resources they need to close more deals. These resources may include content, tools, knowledge, and information to effectively sell your product or service to customers.

So which definition of sales enablement is actually correct? Well, they all are, since there really is no one-size-fits all approach. Over the next few months we will introduce what we have seen as The Key Sales Enablement Plays and please share what you see working at your organization. 

Play 1: Alignment and Process

The Power of Alignment 

Aligning marketing and sales is not a new topic. We’ve been discussing the importance of this for over 10 years and yet it’s still worth talking about as it is one of the main drivers of revenue generation at any company. The one thing that just about every sales enablement professional (including us) can agree on is this: sales enablement requires the careful alignment of your marketing and sales teams, resources, and strategies. And both teams are doing everything they can to work together towards reaching the same goal. Let me repeat, everything marketing and sales does is so they reach the SAME G-O-A-L. One team, one mission. And that goal is driving revenue. When marketing and sales teams are both aligned here—there is nothing that can stop them. 

And when there’s a lack of alignment between the creators of your marketing strategy and the team out there pounding the pavement, it isn’t just a company culture issue, it’s a financial issue, costing your business cold hard cash. In fact, according to G2, “Sales and marketing misalignment costs businesses $1 trillion each year in decreased sales productivity and wasted marketing efforts.” Say it with us again, ONE TRILLION DOLLARS. 

So how do you build alignment? This is the million (or trillion) dollar question! Remember that gap between sales and marketing we talked about earlier? Well, it’s a very real thing. While sales and marketing teams, in theory, have the same goal to sell products or services, they often take very different paths to try and achieve the same mission. This can result in two siloed departments who often have no idea what the other is doing or may not agree with the other team’s approach. And worse? With this type of traditional siloed approach, you may end up with teams that don’t see eye-to-eye, blaming the other for not carrying their weight, and everyone loses. Especially your bottom line.

Getting these teams in sync is critical. In fact, according to the industry insiders at Marketo, having aligned sales and marketing forces can make a company 67% better at closing deals. So it’s important to keep them in step, every step of the way as you work through your sales funnel. To do this, you’ll have to implement major cultural shifts within your organization, changing behaviors of those who may be stuck in their ways, and be accountable as an organization to these “new ways.” And if we’ve learned anything from 2020 it’s how to be grateful for what we have and take some time to look at what is worth keeping and what we need to change—this takes humility, wisdom and collaboration. 

A recent Forrester article shared some of the key lessons the year 2020 taught sales professionals. Sales teams mounted an epic learning curve to embrace technology in ways they never would have dreamed of doing, which changed the relationship between marketing, inside sales, and outside sales. Because of this, we’re seeing the lines between these departments completely blurring. And one of the most interesting dichotomies is seeing sales become more of a science than an art while at the same time becoming more human.  

Better use of data will strengthen sales teams overall and lessen reliance on individual sales heroics. Though selling is becoming more data-driven, people ultimately still buy from people. Sellers need to empathize with buyers’ personal and professional circumstances — both during the pandemic and beyond.”

– Mike Pregler, VP, Research Director at Forrester.

And last but not least, what may seem obvious but needs to be said—the strength of a great marketing and sales department starts with who you decide to put on the field. In Jim Collins, Good to Great – he says one of the key 7 steps is to focus on First Who, Then What: It’s imperative to get the right people on the bus [or field], then figure out where to go. Find the right people and try them out in different seats on the bus [or  positions on the field]. With the right people, you can weather any storm that comes your way as many marketing and sales teams found out in 2020. 

Once you have your teams on board with developing a sales enablement plan, one of the biggest roadblocks we see clients hit is a lack of TIME to build out the game plan while you are still out on the field playing. It all starts with having a clear process. 

A Process Made for Dream Teams

It can often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to make sales enablement work. 

Both marketing and sales teams today are overwhelmed with what is falling on their plates. Marketing is being asked to do more and more with less resources. Sales is often asked to spend 60% of their time on non-selling activities.  

Our advice? Take a look at your marketing and sales pipeline and determine who owns which portion. Then, commit to track these key KPIs and have a plan in place to address what the responsible team will do if you are not hitting them. Keep a scorecard and meet every week to discuss leading and lagging indicators to ensure you are staying on track. And brainstorm together each phase of the pipeline.

Here’s our pipeline breakdown and tactics we deploy when our threshold numbers are lagging. Note that the middle sections are owned by BOTH marketing and sales, so it’s important to determine which specific tactics and strategies are owned by which team.

Sound a bit overwhelming? Yes—to us too. So… how do we begin? Aligning your team and clarifying your marketing and sales processes can seem like a lot to take on.  So here are a few ideas: 

  1. Assess how aligned your marketing and sales teams are – knowing how big the gap is will help you determine what to do next. Take our free assessment today.
  2. Hire an in-house business development resource. Also known as a BDR, someone that really knows their stuff when it comes to business development can be worth their weight in gold. Just make sure to find someone that’s knowledgeable in your industry who can demonstrate past results and a long list of connections.
  3. Combine forces. Instead of running your sales and marketing teams as two separate entities, consider putting them together so that they operate as a more cohesive, collaborative team marching towards the same goal. To make this truly successful, you may need to bring on new leadership talent with the experience to get a joint team thriving.
  4. Outsource.  Many companies are making the decision today to outsource their non-key competencies. And marketing and sales fits that bill for many organizations. Find a partner that can help you. Here at Figmints, we have a proprietary offering, called SalesAmp, that identifies your audience, generates content that positions you as a thought leader, can handle all of your marketing or supplement where you have gaps, and follows up on leads and nurtures those leads until they’re actually ready to have a meeting with your sales rep! We work with your marketing and sales team – aligning their efforts and helping get leads into the top of the funnel and moving them through to opportunities.  We call it bridging the gap between “Hello” and “Yes.”

Interested about how SalesAmp can help you identify, attract, engage, and connect customers directly to your sales team? Put us in the game coach, and give us a call today.  

How aligned are your sales and marketing teams?