We first tackled what sales enablement as a discipline is all about. We then discussed who makes a great sales enablement hire. Now, it's time to dive deeper into the tactical day to day of a sales enablement employee. Content forms the backbone of the role, so this chapter is all about how sales enablement uses content to help their sales team close more deals.
A recent survey by the Consumer Executive Board of 1,900 corporate decision makers found buyers are almost 57% through the buying process before they contact someone from your organization. It's hard to really know what 57% actually means, but the key takeaway is that your prospects are doing a lot of research before they even talk to one of your reps. Thus, it's extremely important that your reps are able to know where each prospect is in the buyer's journey so that they can tailor their message and deliver appropriate content relevant to the stage the prospect is in.
As shown in the image above, there are 6 stages of the buyer's journey and we will discuss each of them a bit more in-depth now and where sales fit into the journey. At the end of each stage, we recommend content that is appropriate to leverage to move prospects down the funnel. It's important to map your content to each stage in the buyer's journey. In doing so, you have a full view of your content offerings and can better understand gaps in your enablement strategy.
At this stage, prospects don't even know you exist. Marketing is primarily at the heart of this stage, creating SEO-friendly content on your blog, reaching out to complementary content partners to guest post on their blog, running demand generation campaigns, attracting PR, and generally trying to drive inbound leads for your sales team. However, with the rise of sales automation tools, sales is increasingly playing a bigger role in this stage. If you are doing any cold outreach campaigns, your SDR's are trying to talk to people that have never heard of you in your ideal customer profile (ICP). At this stage (and all stages, but in this stage in particular) it's important that their is no "hard sell" and content is vendor neutral. Thus, the most effective content that your reps can leverage is educational content that your company has not even written that is focused on your buyer's pain points. This is usually in the form of industry white papers from reputable analysts or from industry specific sources (TOPO or SalesHacker are examples in SaaS sales). All you really want to do here, is establish some credibility.
Recommended Content: Content about your pain points from other vendor-neutral sources (ie- industry analysts or industry thought leaders), relevant press mentions
Once they are aware of your solution, they need to recognize they actually have a problem. Without that recognition of a problem, they won't move to the interest stage. Here, data-backed numbers from reputable analysts is extremely important in educating prospects about the business problems sales enablement solutions try to solve. In these two stages before they express interest, you don't want to push any of your own content. By keeping the focus on 3rd party vendors, you ensure the focus is on their problems, not your solution.
Recommended Content: Industry white papers and analyst reports
If prospects make it to the interest stage, then they are showing intention that they are committed to solving a defined business problem. Whether your solution can adequately solve it is the question you want to make sure gets answered. In this stage, your reps are probably getting leads that have been qualified by your marketing team. This means they have completed an action like signing up for your newsletter or an ebook. If you are employing a freemium model, then it could even mean they have signed up for your product. On the SDR outreach side of things, this means your prospects has opened and clicked on the links your reps have sent, and may have even replied back, expressing interest in getting more information or scheduling a demo. In this stage, you should begin to send and direct prospects to content you have created.
Recommended Content: Short product overview videos, introductory webinars, thought leadership blog posts that highlight your company's unique view on your industry
If you have been able to convince the prospect that your solution may be able to solve their business problems, then the evaluation stage will determine whether you make the short-list of solutions that are in their consideration set for a final decision. While the first 3 stages were all about content (mostly driven by marketing), evaluation is where sales enablement can truly make an impact on sales. This is the stage when reps begin to get on the phone with prospects, schedule demos, and get into the specific features of your solution. The sales playbook you create which contains critical sales knowledge like how you position against competitors, documentation on sales processes, product FAQ's, and handling objections will be what your reps rely on to drive prospects to the decision phase. We will be discussing in detail what should go into that sales playbook later in this chapter.
The evaluation stage is also the point in time when you may discover your key point of contact is not the ultimate decision maker for your solution. As you move upmarket towards larger, enterprise deals the decision making process becomes increasingly complex. Your reps may not even have a conversation with the person who signs off on purchasing your solution! For example, even though you are interacting primarily with a Marketing Manager, the CFO could be the ultimate decision maker for your solution. That means you need to arm your champion (key point of contact) with content (videos, decks, etc) that will help make the case as to why they need to adopt your solution. Remember, the ultimate decision maker may not even understand what your product can do, so you must focus your content on explaining the ROI and key business metrics that will be impacted if they adopt your solution.
Recommended Content: Use Case guides, knowledge from your sales playbook (demo scripts, product FAQ's, competitive positioning, email templates, objection handling, and more), champion content
Congratulations, if you've made it to this stage that means you are in the short-list of vendors that your prospect is considering. At this stage, your reps will have hammered home all of the key messaging points about the benefits of your solution. The prospect also knows what your solution is capable of feature-wise. Thus, in this stage you should focus away from informational content and shift your focus to content that inspires your prospects and shows a glimpse of what the future may hold in store if they choose your solution. This means leveraging assets like case studies or customer testimonials so that your prospects can imagine how their work lives will change after buying your solution
Recommended Content: Industry-relevant case studies, customer testimonials, customer reference calls
Once you've closed the deal, the journey is not over yet. You want to turn customers into passionate advocates that continue to recommend your product to new prospects. Customer success will probably drive these interactions, but sales should continue to check-in and see how customers are doing.
Recommended Content: Getting started guides, Product roll-out and adoption guides, Best practice guides
An important thing to keep in mind in our discussion of the buyer's journey is that while we have presented the journey in distinct stages, in reality prospects will rarely ever go step by step through the funnel. Some may jump straight to evaluation, other will go back and forth between interest and evaluation, etc. All you need to focus on as a sales enablement professional is how to equip your reps with the knowledge and assets they need to move deals forward. Your sales playbook is the "Bible for your sales team" that will give them the necessary tools to move prospects down the buyer's journey. The benefit of creating a sales playbook is to create consistency in your sales process across your team. By making the selling process a bit more prescriptive, reps won't feel lost. They will have an approved piece of content to reference in case they need to address topics that they are not as familiar or comfortable with.
So what content should be inside your playbook? In this section we will give an overview on the must-have content in your sales playbook. Please note, this topic could be its own book! Our aim here is to focus more on explaining what each aspect is and why it's important to include it in your playbook. We won't be as prescriptive on how to create that content. Also, by no means is this a comprehensive list of content that should be in your playbook. We are focusing on content that is generally researched and written by sales enablement.
When prospects reach the evaluation stage, they will be comparing your solution with many others. Your reps should always expect to get questions about competitors. Your job is to assess the market, understand each competitor's strengths and weaknesses compared to your solution, and develop messaging that helps depositions competitors for your reps. Competitive messaging needs to constantly be updated. You should be subscribed to all of your competitor's updates so that you always have eyes on when competitors release new features, change their pricing, or are featured in the press. Likewise, as your product grows and develops, you should be updating competitive battle cards and messaging to reflect those changes as well.
Objection handling specifically addresses the common concerns prospects may have about your product in the interest or evaluation stage. This is different from negotiations which happens once they have reached the decision/purchase phase (selected you as their vendor) and you are trying to reach mutual agreement on terms. Common objections include budget, vendor viability, missing features, and a buyer being too busy to buy right now. Objection handling is crucial in moving prospects down the buyer's journey. By codifying common objections in your sales playbook you can keep sales reps consistent and on-message across the team. You must keep your ear to the ground, so jump in on sales calls to listen in on how prospects message their objections. In doing so, you will have a much better sense on the best ways to handle those objections and be in the know about new objections that arise.
Best practices should be written across the whole sales cycle, whether you are addressing best practices for prospecting, writing cold emails, outreach cadence, or how to best manage your time. These best practices should come directly from feedback you have gathered from your reps, especially your top performers. Best practices are important to help replicate those A-players across your team.
For every product, vertical, or market you sell into you should have an ideal customer profile for each of them. The reason being you want your reps to focus their efforts on closing the most high-quality sales leads. So when prospecting and doing cold outreach, your reps should focus on those prospects who are in your ICP. ICP's also come in handy to solve success-based problem that your growing start-up will encounter like having too many "qualified" leads in the pipeline. In that scenario, your reps need to be able to prioritize which leads to focus on, which is why creating an ICP is so important.
An Ideal customer profile is tricky to create as you must balance a variety of different factors. According to Lincoln Murphy, a prominent SaaS influencer, in its simplest form an ICP is essentially a description of a fictional organization that has the readiness, willingness, and ability to purchase your product. Additionally, they can be even more ideal if they exhibit a higher likelihood to achieve success with your product, are cost-effective to acquire, have expansion potential, and the potential to be a future advocate of your product.
The best way to create an ICP is to pick 10 of your best customers that fit the criteria described above. Note the common characteristics between them: size of organization, industry, how they found you, common objections, etc. Dig deep to try and connect the dots, the better fleshed out your ICP is, the more effective your reps will be in finding them and the more successful your message will resonate with them!
Each industry/vertical you sell your solution in will have its own unique vernacular or "dialect". When emailing and talking to these prospects, it's important to use terminology that they are familiar with. If you speak their language, they will be more receptive to your message and your product will gain more credibility in their eyes. Document these key terms in each industry so your reps can have some fluency in each of the verticals you sell to.
Sales process documentation is an umbrella term that consists of a variety of content that clarifies how your sales team should operate. Things like the definition of lead statuses, funnel stages, lead handoff processes, Sales and Marketing SLA documentation, territory breakdowns, tool directories, and CRM training are examples of process documentation. By writing this content, your whole team is on the same page about each of their roles and how they fit into your larger selling operations. Without this understanding, your sales process quickly devolves into the "wild, wild west" as each rep optimizes for their own success instead of the greater team's. Sales enablement ensures this does not happen.
We talked about replicating your best performers and keeping your team consistent and on-message in earlier sections, but email, phone, and demo scripts are created for the same purpose. The key here is to create these scripts knowing that reps will not use them verbatim. You need to ensure there is enough flexibility in them so that your reps don't sound like robots and can personalize the message for each unique prospect. Thus, these scripts tend to be more of a situational guide that contains messaging that's been tried and tested in the field.
A great way to supplement your product demo scripts are to create use case stories that can engage your prospects with a compelling story of how one of your customers found success with your product. Note, this is not talking about the features in your product, but about the benefits your customers recieved from adopting your solution. At the heart of these use case stories is the protagonist who will be in the same role and industry of the prospect you are talking to. The goal being to compile multiple use case stories in all the key verticals and roles your product sells to.
Each use case story should cover a few key things: the challenges that prompted the protagonist to explore your solution, how it helped them solve those particular challenges, the key business metrics that were improved, and most critically the personal success achieved as well. At the end of the day you are selling to people, and the role your solution plays in fulfilling their desires is just as important as improving the business they are a part of.
Product FAQ's will most likely be created in collaboration with your product and marketing teams. Your product team will write much of the technical product documentation that your reps will have to reference. Marketing will contribute to the messaging that ensures your reps are appropriately positioning your product in a way that will best showcase its business value. This piece of content needs to be constantly updated as new features are released. Additionally as you begin selling into new verticals and markets, marketing needs to make sure messaging is adapted for the needs of each ICP in these new markets.
These are the industry case studies, white papers, slide decks, and infographics your marketing team creates for your sales team to leverage. As we will break down in the next chapter, many solutions that market themselves to sales enablement teams solely focus on making it easier for your sales team to customize these assets and make them easier to find and send to prospects. The analytics on these solutions focus on determining whether prospects have read these assets and try to correlate assets that are read to closed sales deals. As we hope you can see from our discussion of sales playbooks, marketing-created assets are only a small portion of what's necessary in order to properly enable your sales teams. So much more of sales enablement is around the internal sales knowledge necessary to move buyer's along the journey.
One thing we should mention is how your sales playbook needs to evolve as your company scales and grows. In the early stages of growth as you first begin to find your repeatable sales process, your sales playbook will be the same across your whole sales team. However, that will quickly change as you enter new markets, introduce new products, and sell to companies of different sizes.
For this reason, when the time is appropriate (when you begin to have reps specialize) you should begin to create different sales playbooks if appropriate, where the messaging is focused specifically on:
While some of the content will overlap, the case studies and white papers you reference will be different, pricing may change, and the messaging will be drastically different. To enable your team for maximum success, you will need to make sure your team has instant access to the most relevant assets for their prospects. Creating specific playbooks accomplishes this task.