We’re not here to tear apart your tightly aligned sales and marketing organizations, but there is a fundamental tension between the two disciplines: marketers need to make high-performing, broadly focused, reusable content. Salespeople need to have pointed, unique, and very specific conversations. Those are two diametrically opposed job descriptions.
Lately, we’ve seen sales asset management solutions defining themselves as sales enablement platforms, but is content really the only thing that helps sales reps do their jobs?
It’s time to admit that content problems are not sales problems. But what does that mean for sales enablement? How can we disentangle sales asset management from sales enablement, and marketing from sales?
The role of sales asset management
At the highest level, sales objectives and marketing objectives are the same: drive revenue. However, their tactics couldn’t be more different. If sales is about having a series of individual conversations, marketing is about casting a wide net. Sales-specific content is often only a part of that net. Because a marketer’s focus is divided, a sales asset management or content management solution is a requirement, as it’s designed to provide content creators with valuable insight into who’s using what content, and how.
A truly great sales asset management solution allows the marketing team to be able to generate bigger insights into their content. Knowing who’s using what at the individual level is important, but being able to see the correlational trends in that data is exceptionally valuable. You might have a 40% open rate on an asset (a terrific engagement level) — but what’s the correlated deal closure rate? Is there an asset that’s generating more questions than it answers… and is it slowing down your sales cycle? Are the prospects you’re influencing with an asset generally SMBs or enterprise?
Somewhat counterintuitively, sales asset management should be about creating a better-performing marketing org; one that’s able to move fast, and be responsive to changing trends. A sales asset management vendor may offer bells and whistles like a built-in editor or a specific CRM integration, but if it doesn’t give you actionable insights into how your content is performing at every level — in a way that empowers your marketing team to create better-performing sales content — it’s just another place for assets to become siloed. While that may be helpful to individual sales reps, it’s toxic to your sales and marketing organizations as a whole.
The role of sales enablement
So, you might be asking, if sales enablement isn’t about content, what is it about? That’s easy: it’s about creating better salespeople. Content is a piece of that, but a small one. Having access to the right collateral at the right time can make a difference after the conversation, but what about the conversation itself? What can a sales asset management (SAM) platform do when it comes to, say, objection handling? Competitive research? Getting a new rep up-to-speed on not just product features, but the most effective way to present them?
That’s why a true sales enablement solution is fundamentally about making salespeople better at their jobs. Content, while certainly a part of a sales rep’s job, doesn’t define it. Sales boils downs to conversations, not content — and empowering reps to drive productive conversations also means driving revenue. Content can recap, and maybe even cement, a great meeting, but it’s useless in the absence of one.
What are all of the pieces that make an effective salesperson? It’s not just about having the right deck with your prospect’s logo front and center; it’s the prep time, it’s being able to bat back an objection in real time, it’s knowing what’s worked for your colleagues and what hasn’t. It’s about knowledge. It’s arming your sales organization with the knowledge they need to increase win rates, average selling price, and growing revenue.
And those are things that marketing and SAM solutions can’t necessarily provide.
If content alone wins deals, why do we need salespeople?
We’ve seen SAM vendors intentionally blur the lines between what they do and what sales enablement actually is. That’s because there’s money to be made there. Over the last half decade, we’ve seen a huge rise in the number of sales enablement positions and platforms. Per the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study, in 2013, 19.2% of companies had a formal sales enablement “person, program, or function,” in place. In 2018, that number had ballooned to 59.2%.
But a SAM platform is a SAM platform. If a vendor tells you that sales enablement is what they do, and then talk only about content, they’re talking about sales asset management. Because here’s the truth: great content can augment a great conversation — but it can’t replace it.
If it could, sales enablement wouldn’t mean arming salespeople with what they need to shorten sales cycles, grow average selling price, and make quota. It would mean an artificial intelligence tool sending out what it has identified as high performing content on an algorithmically defined cadence.
We don’t think we’ll see AI replacing salespeople anytime soon. For one thing, we’re just not there yet, technologically. More importantly, 71% of Americans would rather interact with a human than a chatbot or some other automated process.
Content is king — for marketers, but conversations are the lifeblood of sales. A slick, customized deck might be a conversation starter, but it’s not going to win a deal all on its own. Focusing on content to the exclusion of all of the contextual knowledge that goes into selling isn’t setting a sales org up for success, it’s telling marketing that they know what’s best. And, as we’ve established, a marketer has a very different focus.