It’s a term you are hearing more and more these days: sales enablement. But what is it? How does it add value to your sales & marketing organization? 

FitzMartin’s Anna Svarney, Will Riley and Sean Doyle discuss the growing use of sales enablement to drive more conversions of late-stage sales opportunities. They discuss a range of topics, from how different companies are structuring the sales enablement role to when you know your business is ready to add the position.

Will Riley:

Sean, you are turtley awesome.

Anna Svarney:

Awh..

Sean Doyle:

Yeah. Thanks, Will.

Anna Svarney:

That’s so cute.

Will Riley:

You’re welcome.

Sean Doyle:

Oh, that is Anna Svarney and Will Riley. There are guests today on Aligned, our podcast for the executives of middle-market companies looking to improve their sales and marketing ROI. You know, a highlight today of the conversation was the practical and actionable ideas Anna and Will shared about sales enablement. So, let’s dive in.

Sean Doyle:

So we really are rolling, we’re speeding. We’re speeding, Vans speeding. Welcome to Aligned. I’m Sean Doyle, your host, with Will Riley, The Director of Sales Enablement at FitzMartin.

Will Riley:

Hey Sean, thanks for having me.

Sean Doyle:

Anna Svarney is the Director of Client Services.

Anna Svarney:

Hello… My go-to is like good morning, good afternoon…

Will Riley:

This is how they are, they’re kind of casual, people are laughing…

Sean Doyle:

I like it though, it’s alright.

Will Riley:

I’m really looking up her name.

Sean Doyle:

Anna usually has more to say on that… So today what we wanted to do was have a conversation about sales enablement and this is in follow up to a podcast that, I guess was a webinar, Will, that you and I did with one of our clients who has experienced sales enablement, seen the results from sales enablement, can put an ROI on it. And after that, the conversations and questions came about, maybe we need to dive more deeply into this. So today I want to define what is sales enablement. Why is it important? And then how is it practiced. And maybe even who owns it. Like who are the responsible parties in the business, or organization that should be involved with this practice, this conversation? First question, who owns sales enablement? Who in the organization should be listening to today’s conversation?

Will Riley:

Yeah, I think it varies from client to client. We’ve seen it where depending on what the resources or staffing situation is within an organization, it actually is a Sales Enablement Director. Someone that focuses on that. Sometimes its marketing lead, so the director of marketing plays a bit of a role in sales enablement or someone from the sales force comes in and actually takes ownership of that. We’ve not had one client with a repeatable internal process in terms of who is the owner.

Anna Svarney:

I also think it varies depending on how your organization is set up. So, you know if it’s a smaller organization that has maybe say a Director of Marketing and a Vice President of Sales, it’s really going to kind of depend on those personalities and what their role really looks like who might own that relationship. But I’d say it’s going to be the person that’s the leader in that area. There are organizations, bigger organizations, that have a true CMO who might be the person that is responsible.

Sean Doyle:

So, it seems like y’alls answers are kind of on an as-is basis, sort of all over the map like there’s no… which leads me to a question like is this even a new thing? Or is this just a new name on the way things used to get done? Why are we even having this conversation about Sales Enablement? What is it? Let’s start with maybe with what it is and then answer the question, is it new and who was doing this role in the past?

Will Riley:

Yeah, I think there’s a little bit, just as we’ve seen with inbound marketing, or lead generation, we pick on sales enablement as the new buzzword in marketing and sales. I don’t think any sales rep ever has not tried to sell more effectively or efficiently.

Sean Doyle:

So, two years ago we’d be having this dialogue about marketing automation technology…

Will Riley:

We really would, we really would.

Sean Doyle:

And then two years later there’s 400 options and we’re worn out by it. Is this just going to be flash in the pan? Or is this… like MAT, marketing automation, isn’t a flash in the pan, right? It’s still around it’s just not a hot subject.

Will Riley:

We’re seeing it, as you know, in sales meetings that people are asking for this…

Sean Doyle:

Well that’s different.

Will Riley:

I don’t think, I don’t think people have asked that in years past.

Sean Doyle:

What are saying? Salespeople are wanting it? Or Sales VP? Who’s asking for it?

Will Riley:

It’s usually a VP or CMO level. It’s not someone at a Director or a Coordinator. It’s someone that’s in charge of a department or that’s leading the cause of an organization.

Sean Doyle:

When’s the first time you heard of it?

Will Riley:

Gosh, it probably was I mean within the last couple years. Like that phrasing of Sales Enablement.

Sean Doyle:

And it came out of your roots and expertise in marketing automation.

Will Riley:

It did, absolutely, because so much of marketing’s role is helping sales and the sales department, salespeople. And I think we were short-sighted as marketers to only say that it was Lead Gen or Demand Gen. You’re even saying words like pipeline acceleration and things like that evolve from marketing focusing on the technology piece of it because if there’s no infrastructure then we can’t really help sales sell more effectively.

Sean Doyle:

Interesting. Okay, I love the word that you just used, helping. I hate that you acknowledge that like we didn’t know it two years ago, but that’s reality. I think it has definitely come to a heightened awareness. Let me take a second to read the definition, that I have in front of me at least. Sales Enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools to help salespeople sell more effectively. So, the foundation of it then is sharing information. So, as marketers it makes sense that we’re sitting in the middle of that because early-stage, we want to break things down into early and late-stage. Early-stage we’re the first people as marketers to get information, right? Some salespeople are going out and finding early-stage leads, but most of them want marketing to provide a lead. So out of marketing automation technology this idea of pressure on marketing to provide leads came about, but then, and I know Anna you’ve dealt with this, lead quality is the next problem, right?

Anna Svarney:

Yep.

Sean Doyle:

So, marketing automation maybe was insufficient in that…

Anna Svarney:

Yeah. I think people that jumped on the inbound and marketing automation craze a couple of years ago, it makes total sense to adopt that as part of your marketing strategy, but in some cases, it was a little bit shortsighted in that it did not take it to the next level of lead quality. What happens when that lead gets passed off to sales. And are we closing the loop and seeing did anything come of these? So many companies marketing departments just focused on number of leads. And so, I feel like the Sales Enablement is a buzz word and it’s something we’ve been hearing a lot of and it’s relatively new. But it’s sort of that next step in maturity for an organization. Sure, it’s standard operating procedure, so I don’t think it’s going to go away but it’s something that I think you have to have the maturity of mastering inbound marketing and lead generation before you can really even get to that point.

Sean Doyle:

So maybe it’s one of those things when you’re interviewing an agency or Marketing Director or an SVP of Sales, you’re listening for this phrase. You’re listening for this methodology and if they’re unaware of it, they probably don’t have the foundation to lead.

Anna Svarney:

Yes, right. It indicates where they are in the spectrum, I think.

Sean Doyle:

That’s interesting.

Will Riley:

Where it really works the best is when an organization is sophisticated, meaning that they have the right tools, technology in place. They have a marketing department. They have a sales force and there’s a regular cadence of meeting, sharing ideas, collaborating.

Sean Doyle:

So, Will, I know you’re working on this thing to be named later, but we’ve been dubbing it the Marketing Maturity Index and you’re building an algorithm of sorts to figure out where an institution is in its marketing maturity.

Will Riley:

Yeah, absolutely.

Sean Doyle:

So, what I’m hearing you say is that there is a baseline of maturity, understanding, that you need to have. I want people to get to look at themselves and say you know what, I have A, B, and C maybe it’s time for me to start thinking about Sales Enablement. What would be that foundation? Maybe it’s even just technology?

Anna Svarney:

Yes, I have a CRM system. I have a MAT system in place. My website is generating leads. If you’re doing those things then yes, because where do those leads go, right?

Sean Doyle:

Can Sales Enablement work, little rabbit trail here, can Sales Enablement work if marketing doesn’t produce leads? I guess in essence it could because it’s still providing information…

Anna Svarney:

Yes, it’s still providing information, it’s a different…

Sean Doyle:

Business intelligence…

Anna Svarney:

Right, I mean, I think the most common way we see it is through lead generation. It certainly can exist without lead generation, it’s just a different avenue. You know, we talk a lot about in our framework for Sales Enablement having an SLA or service level agreement between sales and marketing. Marketing is going to produce this many leads and sales is going to close this many or whatever it looks like. So, you’d have to just get a little creative and think about what that looks like. You know, at the very minimum it’s at least having a weekly or monthly touch base on what are you hearing from your customers. Does this message even resonate?

Will Riley:

Yeah, I think to your point there to answer your question Sean, whatever channels producing a lead, so if it’s the website, if it’s a paid effort, because whenever we’re coming into sales organizations what do all of them go to? Trade shows. That’s one of the number one providers of leads for them. And anyone that we’ve interacted with has said, I need feedback on if these trade show leads are any good or not. They’re asking the same questions when it comes to digital or marketing efforts. So, I do think that there is a role to play even if you’re just utilizing some of those traditional Lead Gen channels like at a trade show, an event, or something like that.

Sean Doyle:

So, a Marketing Director, an SVP of Sales and the Sales Enablement Officer walk into a bar…

Will Riley:

And they hit their head on the bar?

Sean Doyle:

What would the joke be there? I don’t know. I feel like there should be a joke about the three of them. We’ll have to come back, maybe episode two. We’ll have to come back.

Sean Doyle:

So, Anna what I’m hearing is a kind of an insider tip for the practice of Sales Enablement and that’s the SLA. That’s brilliant. I love it. The idea that both groups have to make a commitment but they’re doing it jointly because historically it’s very siloed. Right? You’ve got marketing’s doing its thing, whatever they do. Sales is doing its thing and the CEO always pays attention to that because it’s closer to revenue. And most companies have this last touch attribution model so sales typically gets all the credit and marketing executives, and maybe this is an exaggeration, but they know they should be doing it. But maybe not why and really how it’s adding. So earlier you said something about a closed-loop attribution which technology has enabled. So, what do you have to have to do Sales Enablement? A technology platform that would allow you to follow an individual lead through to revenue and then two, beginning a dialogue between sales and marketing at the strategic level. We’re going to agree to serve each other this way. I doubt, of the people listening, many people have a marketing team that knows exactly what sales is doing, where they are or vice versa. A sales team that knows or even cares what marketing should do. That’s probably an episode later for a dialogue about what sales cares about and why marketing and sales have been siloed. I have this belief system that marketers typically don’t know how to help sales late-stage well enough and they have lost the credibility of sales. Sales Enablement, I think, could face a barrier for most marketers. The sales team wants more information, more business intelligence, but maybe marketers trying to step up to that bar that SLA is great because it would tie you to a commitment. Marketing probably always gets attributed with, you’re all the guys with the earrings and the long hair and you just have fun and do whatever it is you do. We have to do the real work out there selling and making revenue happen. So, I love that idea, that SLA idea.

Will Riley:

Yeah. And I think what, to your point, I mean there are barriers from the marketing team because they don’t know, they may not know how to sell or have never sold before. So, one of the first things that in terms of an intake or onboarding is you’ve got to understand your sales cycle, your product offering, what’s the LTV on a product. I mean a lot of these foundational SVP, you know, level of data. Well, now the marketer has to understand that just as well as they do the different channels and technology on how to get the message out. So, in some ways, it’s a lot harder to get that started because there’s just a learning curve there of internal structure, processes, systems.

Sean Doyle:

It’s good to take effort to do this. Why should somebody listen to even start exploring this? Like what’s gotten y’all the most excited? The results you’ve seen, or maybe a way marketing has been able to impact in a way it hasn’t in the past or a way sale has embraced marketing. What are some success stories?

Anna Svarney:

I can think of one recent success story we have with a client where for a long time marketing has been pretty siloed. The website was generating leads and it sporadically would get feedback from sales or upper management saying nah these leads are crap you know? Y’all know who I’m talking about.

Will Riley:

Oh, that client.

Anna Svarney:

Yeah, but that feedback wasn’t helpful. It needed to be more instructive. But recently with that client we’ve had a little bit of a breakthrough and are getting on the phone weekly with their number one Sales Rep and Vice President of Sales brainstorming ways we can target some late-stage prospects that are on their short term sales horizon and getting the feedback and hearing, it’s like a barrier has been broken down. And they are, you know, they are speaking to marketing as they would another salesperson. So it’s like the perception has changed a little bit that now they do see value in marketing can do and because we have become so ingrained with them and we understand their sales process, they trust us and they are going to work with us that way.

Sean Doyle:

If I remember one of the, that client, you also built a website designed specifically for late-stage leads and Will I think you built a way to communicate only with the executive officers of the target companies.

Will Riley:

Absolutely.

Sean Doyle:

And this is a website that if you Googled it you couldn’t find it. It’s just, I mean it’s not that it’s unpublished, but it’s not designed for someone to explain who the company is or what the products are. It’s designed to meet the needs of a late-stage prospect.

Will Riley:

There was one particular pain that we knew that prospect was dealing with.

Sean Doyle:

Yes, and that was information that we got from sales.

Will Riley:

Yeah, it was. It was through our call. I mean we were sitting around during a monthly marketing report and we were mentioning some of the benefits of cookie and IP based targeting and how we’ve done that with other clients and that we should implement that there and it immediately became an ideation session with the CEO. And that led to this whole campaign and effort.

Sean Doyle:

And so, sitting at the table, sales was there. Marketing was there. The executive leader was there. So, you had this great powerful way to move into which is such a better plan than artists and writer’s kind of throwing some clever ideas or headlines. I mean that just elevates us as a profession. I love that. So, rewinding briefly, Anna you said something about understanding what we call cognitive marketing. A consumer decision journey. Now in our philosophy, we believe a lot of people understand that consumer decision journey, they don’t understand necessarily all the examples of when are specific tactics and techniques powerful and when they’re not. For example, creating awareness with a late-stage prospect is meaningless. So that’s wasted money but creating a helping relationship or pilot project to give it a kind of a taste and see attitude or deep testimonials. Those are lat-stage tools that are ineffective early-stage. So not only do you need to have an agreement on the consumer decision journey which at your company it’s probably called a sales pipeline or somewhere along the path you’ve experienced the process of defining here’s the steps people go through when buying. And anybody’s welcome to use our model, the cognitive marketing model. We’ll give it to you for free. And it’s just a good basic tool. The processes are that next level and that’s where that powerful marketing comes in. That’s where the Sales Enablement comes in and then we call them the nine arrows in the quiver of our toolkit. So those ideas are probably a little bit deeper. So, I think we’ve done a great job of introducing Sales Enablement, but we’ve not done a lot to help somebody know what to do to do this at their office. Can you all stay in the studio for a few more minutes and we could continue this in another episode?

Will Riley:

So busy.

Sean Doyle:

Hang in for one more minute.

Sean Doyle:

Join us again for the next episode. Anna and Will and I are going to continue our conversation of practical, interesting insight. Stuff you can take back to work and apply to your Sales Enablement thinking today. I’m Sean Doyle and this the Aligned podcast.