07/21/2021

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.  

Play 2: Creating Targeted Content 

Upping Your Content Game

If you’ve had a chance to implement Play 1, your sales and marketing teams should be starting to get comfortable sharing responsibilities and staying aligned around your company goals. Maybe you’ve even taken big strides and combined the two teams into one collaborative power-house. But now, with the post-pandemic world of sales and marketing turned on its head, where do you begin? 

A strong and foundational place for your team to start putting their collaboration skills to the test is around content strategy. 

Creating Content for Connection

Good content is all about building connections with your audience. So often we ask our prospects to jump in before we’ve even said “how are you?” But the reality is, people aren’t ready for a partnership with you until you’ve established trust. In fact, according to Focus Vision, B2B buyers need to read thirteen pieces of content before they’re ready to buy. Yes, you read that right, thirteen.

“Perhaps to be expected, the journey is long and complex, with the buying process generally taking between two and six weeks and involving three or four people on the buying team. Over this time, buyers consume an average of 13 pieces of content from many different sources: eight items from the vendor and five from various third parties.” 

-Focus Vision

And even more important than the sheer quantity of content? You guessed it, quality. In their book, “The Storytelling Edge,” Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow of Contently, speak to the power of building connections through storytelling. The way they see it, “If you want people to buy your product, you have to get them to care about your story.” But how?

Joe breaks it down into what he calls the “Story-Brain Checklist:” 

Relatability
Speak directly to your audience and make them feel like they’re part of the story

Novelty
Show and tell people something that they’ve never seen before

Fluency
Make it as easy as possible for people to be engrossed with your content

Tension
Tell a story about the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’ for your customer

Watch his full webinar with Wynter here

So what’s all this have to do with sales enablement? First, your marketing team should be creating assets your sales people actually want to and are able to sell. And second, your sales team should be providing feedback so your marketing team has insight as to what’s resonating with your prospects.

At first, all of this can feel a bit…complicated. Not to mention post-pandemic consumers are engaging with the sales process in entirely new ways. Thankfully, the people on your team already have all the information you need to succeed. You just need to get them talking. 

Narrowing Your Target

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take aim at a target. Before you start writing anything, your sales and marketing teams should agree on WHO your specific target audience is. 

We’ll walk you through an example of a fake industrial manufacturing company. Let’s call them “Sprocket City.”

SPROCKET CITY

INDUSTRY: Industrial Manufacturing
AUDIENCE(S): Engineers, Buyers
TITLE(S): Product Engineers, Design Engineers, Procurement Specialists

Building Buyer Personas

Once you’ve established the titles you want to go after, you can start to build out a buyer persona for each unique type of buyer you’re looking to reach out to. According to HubSpot, “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

SPROCKET CITY

PERSONA A: Product Engineers

Background:

  • Product Engineering
  • 5-15 years in the field
  • Works in a team of 3-5
  • Bachelors or advanced engineering degree

Demographics:

  • Skew male
  • Several hobbies (cars, computers, video games, woodworking, etc.)
  • Live in suburban areas
  • 30-50 years old

Identifiers:

  • Data and research driven
  • Catalog thought leadership resources for later reference
  • Not in many meetings, daily work is mostly solitarily
  • Make decisions slowly

Goals:

  • Keeping costs low
  • Preventing product failure
  • Efficiency
  • Building products with good market fit

Messaging: From speed and cost to market relatability, there are a lot of hurdles to jump through on the way to your next big innovation. Sprockets shouldn’t be one of them.

Establishing Brand Tone

Every way you engage with people through your company matters. What you say, where you say it, your tone of voice on the phone… the list goes on. If you don’t already have clear communication standards established, there’s a large chance you’ll end up communicating an unclear and disjointed message. In our Journey Line process, we focus on first establishing the overarching tone and three core ‘brand pillars.’

SPROCKET CITY

TONE: friendly, authoritative, trusted, expert, best in class

BRAND PILLARS:

WHY: At Sprocket City, we believe a single part should never stand in the way of your next big innovation. So, for as long as you’re in the business of making things work, we’ll be in the business of making things work for you. 

HOW: Backed by 40 years in business, our team of experts bring you along for every stage of the journey as we imagine, design, and build the perfect-for-you sprocket solution.

WHAT: We make custom sprockets.

With this established, you have a framework for every piece of external communication. See the way the tone and content focus translates into other communications: 

LINKEDIN AD: 

Intro Text: A single part should never stand in the way of your next big innovation. Find the perfect-for-you sprocket solution. 

Headline: Sprocket Types by Use Case [Ebook] 

PROSPECTING SCRIPT:

Hi Sally,

I saw you downloaded our latest Ebook “Sprocket Types by Use Case: How to Choose the Optimal Type and Material.” At Sprocket City, we’ve been partnering with engineers for over four decades, helping them imagine, design, and build custom sprocket solutions. Would you be interested to know more about how we can help you with your next project?

Crafting Thought Leadership

Since the pandemic, the old ways of selling (coffee dates, office visits, golf outings, wine and dines) have drastically shifted, making powerful content and inbound marketing more important to sales than ever before. When you produce content that your audience both needs AND is looking for, it makes them feel understood, even from miles away. After all, what better way to start a conversation than around a compelling piece of content? Especially if your prospect isn’t quite ready to buy.

To attract high-value customers, we suggest developing and sharing content on behalf of your sales reps. This does a few key things:

  • Establishes your sales reps as thought leaders in your space
  • Gives your sales reps something interesting to talk and connect about once they’re on the phone
  • Provides value to what you’re selling
  • Can easily link back to your product

But in the world of infographics, ebooks, white papers, and webinars…how do you choose what’s right for your audience and specific message?

Here are some tips:

  1. Choose asset types based on your target personas
    Different people prefer different types of content. If you’re targeting a very busy CEO, they might not have time to read an entire 10 page whitepaper, but could digest a clear and concise, data-driven infographic. Think about who you are trying to reach and what key messages you are trying to get across. Then, test various asset types to see how your audience responds.
  2. Consider the buying stages
    Buyers consume different types of content depending on what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in: Awareness, Education, Consideration, or Decision-making. While someone in the Awareness stage might enjoy an informational ebook covering a relevant industry topic, they’re likely not ready to see your very company-specific sell sheet. Take a look at our chart below where we suggest different content types for different stages of the pipeline.
  3. Bring in subject matter experts
    Your sales and marketing teams should have enough information to cover the basics of your product offering, but sometimes there are other team members that can provide an even more detailed perspective. Consider looping someone in from another department who can bring their specific expertise to the topic you’re covering. This helps your prospect start to know and love your team and start to show what it would really be like to be working with you as a team.
  4. Look at the competition
    Be different. Don’t compare the same two things that all your competitors are comparing. This is the ‘novelty’ piece we saw earlier in Joe Lazauskas’ “Story-Brain Checklist.” You need to show people something they haven’t seen before. And present it with a unique angle that you can ‘own.’
  5. Stay up to date with the times
    Make sure you’re consistently considering the way your audience is consuming information right now. In our current world-gone-digital, things like podcasts, webinars, and virtual demos can help your audience get to know you without ever seeing you in real life.

The same thought process applies for where you share your content once it’s done. Make sure you’re going through the channels where your audience already digitally lives. For instance, it’s less likely Sprocket City’s audience of engineers are looking to TikTok for the latest on custom sprocket solutions, and more likely they’re browsing LinkedIn. 

Quiz Time: Let’s go back to our example. Which asset listed do you think would be the best for Sprocket City and the product engineers they are targeting?

SPROCKET CITY

A: A “sprocket trends” listicle shared on Facebook
B: A highly researched ebook compilation shared on LinkedIn

Closing the Loop

A critical and on-going step in the land of content strategy is feedback. Marketing has clear ways of seeing how different pieces of content performed. We call this data: opens, clicks, views, and even how long someone has spent reading a piece, etc. And sales has specific insight into what prospects are saying. We call this intel: anecdotes from conversations with real people. The trick is to always keep a feedback loop of data and intel between marketing and sales going strong, that way both parties can learn from each other and continue to optimize. 

Here’s an example of some critical prospecting intel:

SPROCKET CITY

PROSPECTING NOTES:

September 29, 2021
Sally Sprockets, Product Engineer
Asset: Ebook
Channel: LinkedIn Ads
3 calls, 3 follow-up emails

Notes: Doesn’t have the authority to make purchasing decisions, but thought the content and product offering was interesting and could be helpful to her business. Referred us to their Senior Engineer, Sam Sprockerton. 

Maybe after reading this, the marketing team does some digging and realizes most clicks and opens are coming from lower-level engineers with little decision making power. From here, they might decide to adjust their targeting to include titles more likely to be decision makers. Or, they might want to take advantage of this segment’s interest and suggest an easy-to-share pitch deck as the next content offering.

With every piece of content, there are endless insights to be had. All you have to do is close the loop. 

Water Break

Phew! Just talking through that play might have you out of breath. But as the new way of selling continues to shift, the last thing we want is for you to be tired and on the side lines. If your team’s not quite ready to take the ball down the field on their own, we’re here to help. Feel free to contact us and we can start strategizing your next move together. 

Play 3: Informed Communication

Smoke signals, cave drawings, messenger pigeons…for centuries humans have found creative (and sometimes surprising) ways to communicate. In the same way it may be hard for us to imagine a pigeon flying cross-country with a note tied to their back, past generations would likely be shocked by the technology we use to connect today. No matter how basic or elaborate, communication tools are vital to relationship building. And in the world of sales these days, the tools you choose to use can have a direct impact on your ability to understand and connect with your audience.

As a digital content marketing and design agency, there are a variety of tools we use everyday to stay aligned, connect with our audience, and build meaningful relationships with prospects and customers.

Below we share a few of the tools we use for both internal and external communication. 

External Communication

First up, building and maintaining relationships with prospects digitally. As you’ve heard by now, the key to doing this successfully is alignment—A.K.A. making sure all your team members have access to all the same information at all times.

An easy way for us to break this down is by sharing the five core stages of our process: Identify, Attract, Engage, Connect, and Enhance. At each stage of our prospects’ journey, we use different digital tools, softwares, and strategies to stay connected and informed. 

Let’s walk through. 

Identify (narrowing target audiences & building lists)

Sparktoro
Application: Identify what channels your audience uses to get information.
Benefit: This tool helps you get to know your audience and where they tend to get their information. That way, when it’s time to reach out, you know you’re meeting them in the places where they already spend their time. 

LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Application: Find accounts and contacts in your target audience.
Benefit: This tool provides access to contact profiles that would be difficult to find elsewhere. So in addition to just expanding your list, you also have important personalized information that can help you connect with specific people. Later, once you’re in the prospecting stage, you can also utilize InMail as an additional channel to reach out.

HubSpot CRM
Application: Keep track of all your opted-in contacts in one place.
Benefit: HubSpot’s free CRM allows you to store all your contacts in one place, segment lists, and keep track of leads at every single stage of their journey. 

Attract (developing content & marketing)

HubSpot Marketing Automation
Application: Send emails, launch ads and post on social media.
Benefit: Managing all your marketing outreach in one place saves time, keeps everything organized, and makes reporting 100x easier (maybe even 1,000,000x?!). Emailing through HubSpot also allows you to email on behalf of multiple sales reps and set customer-specific, automated workflows for any of your targets or lists. 

Sparktoro
Application: Identify what your audience reads, watches, listens-to, and follows.
Benefit: As you develop content, it’s helpful to understand what your audience cares about so you can better connect. Sparktoro allows you to easily research the behaviors and demographics of your audience. 

Engage (monitoring engagement & prospecting)

HubSpot Sales Professional
Application: Prospect directly from the CRM.
Benefit: By calling and emailing directly from your CRM, your sales team can keep track of every single communication made with a prospect all the way from their first engagement to close. You can also build custom, automated prospecting sequences so emails are automatically sent at optimum times and you’re reminded when it’s time to call again. All this is majorly helpful in preventing leads from getting lost in the funnel. 

Calendly
Application: Viewing real-time availability and setting meetings directly in your calendar.
Benefit: Prospects can set meetings quickly and easily at the moment they’re thinking about it. This cuts out the back and forth of scheduling and prevents leads from dropping off. 

Connect (communicating with prospects & closing deals)

HubSpot CRM
Application: Manage deals in your pipeline.
Benefit: When leads come into the pipeline, HubSpot allows you to track them at every stage until close. This includes reminders to reach out with estimates, visibility into overall pipeline value, and even alerts to follow up with leads that have gone cold. 

Vidyard
Application: Record and share video proposals.
Benefit: So often after you’ve made your initial pitch to a lead, they are tasked with sharing your pitch with a larger internal group. Sometimes this means you have to do the pitch again, or your main point of contact does their best to convey the information themselves. Recording your business case presentations on Vidyard allows your lead to review at their own leisure, share with other stakeholders, and digest the information in a way that works for them.

Pro tip: Make sure your presentation deck has enough information to ‘present’ by itself as well. Just in case those stakeholders opt out of watching your pitch and only quickly reviewing your presentation deck. 

PandaDoc
Application: Build, manage, and sign proposals.
Benefit: Pandadoc conveniently connects to HubSpot through an API, allowing you to connect proposals to contacts in your CRM. 

Enhance (reviewing performance metrics & optimizing campaigns)

Google Data Studio
Application: Converting data into customizable informative reports and dashboards.
Benefit: If you happen to be using more than one platform, your team can easily review campaign performance all in one place. This can also be a helpful format to share with external stakeholders who don’t have access to HubSpot or your other metrics reporting tools. 

HubSpot Dashboard
Application: Review metrics in real-time.
Benefit: HubSpot allows you to create custom dashboards so your team(s) can review metrics most helpful to them. This includes attribution reports (where leads and deals originated from), how your sales efforts are doing, what’s working and what’s not. Reviewing your dashboards daily allows you to optimize and enhance your campaigns as you go.

Pro Tip: You’ll notice HubSpot is mentioned at every stage of our process. That’s because we choose to keep everything we do in one place, whether it’s lists, marketing outreach, prospecting, proposals, etc. This allows us a complete view into every prospect and campaign for it’s entire lifecycle. It also ensures our entire team has access to the same information, streamlining all of our communications and ensures nothing falls through the cracks. 

Internal Communication

While it may seem obvious, it’s worth also mentioning the importance of internal communication, especially now that many teams are working on hybrid, or fully-remote teams. In order to stay organized and efficient, and carry out external communications effectively, it’s critical you set clear expectations around what tools are being used and for what purpose.

On a daily basis, our team uses 4 primary tools to communicate:

VIA
Application: Organizing campaigns and projects, assigning tasks and milestones, and providing feedback on deliverables.
Benefit: Important deliverables are never missed. Plus, sales and marketing have access 24/7 to the same key information. 

Slack
Application: Sending small, quick communications throughout the day.
Benefit: Sales and marketing can connect instantly and frequently to close the loop, ask questions, and respond to prospect needs in real-time. 

Trello
Application: Making lists to organize and prioritize client work on a weekly basis.
Benefit: Sales has clear visibility into the marketing team’s weekly efforts and can better predict when they’ll need to be looped in.

Zoom
Application: Video conferencing for quick chats, long strategic meetings (and an occasional happy hour or holiday party).
Benefit: Connecting over video is the easiest way to ensure sales and marketing are on the same page. Frequent check-ins through Zoom help prevent miscommunications and are often more time-effective than back and forths through messenger. 

Pro Tip: Set clear boundaries around the intended use for each tool. Otherwise, it can be easy for important pieces of information to get lost or missed. For example, while our team uses Slack for quick check-ins and to ask each other questions, all final documents and key decisions are always documented in our project management tool, VIA, so the entire team has access to the information indefinitely. 

Keeping Up the Good Work

Now that you’ve made it through three plays, your team should be starting to get in a rhythm. The communication tools we reviewed above, especially those that help with automation, should take some of the weight off your team and make sustaining this rhythm possible. Remember that catching big fish is a long game, so investing in the right technology, even if it means learning a new platform, is always worth it for the time-savings and scalability you get in the end.

How aligned are your sales and marketing teams?