SiriusDecisions: Taking sales enablement to a higher level

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Scottsdale, Ariz.—The annual SiriusDecisions summit is unusual among marketing conferences in the primacy it gives to sales support. Revenue generation and sales-marketing alignment may be peripheral topics in marketing conversations elsewhere, but here they're hard marketing metrics. “You build personas for buyers, so do the same with sales reps,” said Pat McAnally, SiriusDecisions' research director-product marketing and management, at the conference Wednesday. “Consider the reps' backgrounds, what they're selling, their challenges and goals, and where they struggle. Just as we learned to align to buying personas and cycles, we need to learn to align with different sales roles.” According to a SiriusDecisions study that polled online more than 200 b-to-b companies in the first half of the year, 71% of respondents said sales enablement means providing sales with appropriate content and collateral material. But sales enablement is moving beyond sales assets, said Jim Ninivaggi, service director-sales enablement strategies at SiriusDecisions. “We see two levers you can pull to increase sales productivity,” Ninivaggi said. One is efficiency by optimizing territories, refining compensation, giving sales more time to sell, etc. The other is through effectiveness by optimizing the human resource of sales reps, and providing strong onboarding skills and training. “What we want to do with sales people is train them so well that when the buyer says something unexpected the rep can improvise effectively,” he said. Throughout the summit, SiriusDecisions executives stressed the role of teleprospecting in qualifying leads before hand-off to sales. The traditional sales-marketing duality model should now be considered a tripartite one, presenters said. “Teleprospectors are involved in a telequalifying process,” said Jason Hekl, research director at SiriusDecisions. “I don't mean somebody driving event attendance or content discovery, or someone selling product or services. Teleprospectors are selling the value of taking prospects to that next step.” Hekl acknowledged challenges in implementing a teleprospecting process. While in-person rapid response is a plus to stimulate the pipeline, he said, problems can exist in poor teleprospector training, resulting in hard sells or an inability to answer even basic questions. Hekl recommended dividing the teleprospecting team into inbound and outbound specialties. In particular with inbound-focused telequalifiers—who often encounter well-informed prospects who have done plenty of research—well-trained senior staff is essential, he said. He also suggested starting a certification program, along with feedback loops and debriefings. “Marketers should run experiments, do some message-testing on the phone, incorporate teleprospecting into existing campaigns, include it into key accounts, and commit to formal and informal mentoring,” Hekl said. “Right now, neither sales nor marketing care about teleprospecting too much, regardless of who owns it, but you have the opportunity to differentiate your company from the competition if you can get it right.”
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