Getting The Most Out Of Your Enablement Technology

shutterstock_164695367It’s like having a car. You bought it in the expectation of achieving certain desired results. But if you don’t drive it, you won’t get the benefits of owning it. And that’s not the car’s fault.

Sales leaders have lots of expectations when it comes to sales enablement content management (SECM) solutions. Based on our CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, improving access to content for salespeople leads the list with 57.4%, followed by reducing search time (33.1%), sharing best practices, improving sales and marketing alignment and increasing win rates (27.7% each), and reducing the ramp-up time of new hires (24.8%).

Now, let’s look at the adoption rate of those SECM solutions. They are very mixed. Almost a third of study participants have adoption rates lower than 50%, and another fifth ends up between 50% and 75%. In both these cases (which amount to 51% of our study participants), there is no impact on sales performance to be diagnosed. Only adoption rates that are greater than 76% have a significant impact on sales performance. The good news is that 49% reported those adoption rates. So, if you are in the 49% group, you should experience, for instance, win rate improvements by 11.9%, and quota improvements by 6%. But if you did not experience this performance impact, look at these six ways to improve the adoption rate of your SECM technology.

#1 Set up your sales force enablement charter

Enablement charters are highly relevant because if there is no clarity on vision, mission, and purpose, and no clarity on goals and objectives and how enablement services impact productivity and performance, then your efforts will not produce results.

Energy has to be focused to create a movement. And that’s the actual value of an enablement charter. These are the primary areas you should define in your charter: target audience, vision, mission, and purpose, objectives to achieving the vision and the related strategies to get you there, a timeline, and the enablement services you are going to provide for your target audience. And don’t forget to define the metrics for measuring success.

#2 Clean up the content basement

Many sales content landscapes look like a chaotic basement: all sorts of content everywhere – old, new, relevant, and irrelevant. Assets exist in ten different versions and ten different content repositories. So, implementing an SECM solution is like moving to a new house: you don’t want to bring all the clutter with you.

First, make an inventory of what exists, and where. Assess your content assets in terms of quality criteria, and then, be brave and throw away what’s no longer relevant and what didn’t match the criteria. Furthermore, our research indicates that only 39% of all the content salespeople need along the entire customer’s journey comes from marketing. That means you will need a formal cross-functional production process and a related collaboration model to be efficient and effective in the future.

#3 Define and create enablement content services

Only content that’s valuable AND relevant really matters, and that is determined by what’s relevant and valuable to your prospects and customers. As they still make the buying decision, it’s a no-brainer that content should be tailored along the customer’s journey and for the different buyer roles. Dynamic value messaging is a big challenge to be mastered here. Instead of having value propositions only, you will need value hypothesis, value propositions in different levels, and value confirmation messages that have to be developed and integrated into content assets.

#4 Aligning content and training services

For those of you in an enablement role, this may sound familiar to you: “We need this, and we need that, and you have nothing for our role, but we are so special.” It happens all day long. If people don’t know how to use their tools, they will never have enough and always ask for more. Distributing content and tools is not enough; training is also important. So, “no content without training” should become your motto. Create, for instance, a short video about how to effectively use your newly developed playbook, or even better, let a salesperson explain it…

#5 Integrate your SECM into your CRM system

Now, once we have done all the preparation work, where do we put the SECM technology? Stand alone? That’s probably not the best idea. It’s much easier to drive adoption if you provide your SECM solution within the CRM system. This way, it’s a “one-stop shopping” experience for salespeople.

Additionally, such an integration is the prerequisite that you can suggest, which will allow you to recommend sales content automatically within the CRM when a salesperson adds a new opportunity. Make sure that you align your content design criteria, as discussed above, with the selling scenario criteria in the CRM. All the work you have done so far pays off now in this step.

#6 Implement “Be Inspired!”

Now, the salespeople will have anytime, anywhere access to the right content, with the right value messaging, for the right buyer roles, and that addresses their business challenges at the right time. We call a content delivery mechanism like that “Be Inspired!”

Now, your focus should be entirely on a solid implementation, based on senior executive buy-in and their ongoing involvement, in the context of a change story that focuses on why, what, how, and when.

Last but not least: Please make sure that your sales managers coach their salespeople accordingly. Only then can an SECM implementation be successful.

And please don’t forget to measure and to adjust regularly. And use the full analytics capabilities of your SECM solution – but that’s a topic for another article.

 

Related blog posts:

Three Pillars of A Solid Sales Enablement Foundation

Sales Force Enablement Technology: How to Define the Functional and The Technology Layer

Content in the Customer’s Context Drives Customer Relationships

pgmjbhsf4q8-paul-itkinAll life on Earth evolved from water. Water is the key prerequisite for life. We humans consist of eighty percent water. What water means for all of us, that’s what content could mean for the 21st century’s buyers. An adventurous hypothesis? Maybe. Let’s see what story our latest CSO Insights research will tell us.

How effective is client-facing content? The results are multifaceted.

In our CSO Insights 2015 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, we asked the participants to rank the effectiveness of various enablement services, such as client-facing content, in four categories: “exceeds expectations,” “meets expectations,” “needs improvement,” and, the lowest ranking, “needs major redesign.”

The content types that showed the biggest need for major redesign (26.5%) and improvement (45.7%) were business value/ROI justification tools. The next content asset, third-party endorsements, follows with less need for major redesign (18.9%) but the same need for improvement (45.7%). Email templates, customer case studies, and presentations showed a similar result, with more than 50% of both, need for improvement and major redesign.

Interestingly, the most effective client-facing content type was the technical product presentation (“meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations” aggregated at 60.1%), followed by product collateral (51.9%) and proposal templates (50.9%). References and customer presentations show a multifaceted result. While they seem to be the content types with the highest “exceeds expectations” result (10.2% and 9.9%), they also show considerable needs for major redesign (16% and 15%).

The transformation from product-selling approaches to more value and result-oriented sales approaches is still the main challenge in many organizations across all industries. And that’s what we see in the data. These data points have also incorporated what salespeople are used to using rather than what they should be using. This challenge, here focused on client-facing content habits, is not only a sales challenge, but it’s also an enablement, content strategy, and content management issue.

Let’s keep this multifaceted information in our minds, and look at the business impact of effective-rated, or rather ineffective-rated, client-facing content.

The effectiveness of client-facing content impacts the relationship organizations can develop with their customers.

Content and relationshipsNow, what impacts effective content? How do we get there? What hinders organizations from creating effective content?Overall, there is a significant correlation between the effectiveness of client-facing content and the level of relationships that can be achieved with clients. The more effective client-facing content is, the more likely providers can develop a high-level relationship with their customers as you can see here. Content ranked as “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations” is more likely to lead to a strategic partnership (63%) or a strategic contributor role (59%). In this “effective content” category, only 29% ended up as a preferred supplier or as a supplier (13%). Instead, content that is ranked as “needs improvements” or “needs major redesign” makes it very hard to develop a high-value relationship with clients such as strategic contributor (22%) or strategic partner (9%). With ineffective content, it’s more likely to end up as preferred supplier (45%) or supplier (60%). Simply look at the two different stair-step patterns in the chart here. The difference is quite significant.

The alignment of internal processes and frameworks to the customer’s journey is a prerequisite to creating effective content.

According to our data, organizations made lots of progress in aligning their internal processes to the customer’s journey: 54% reported to be mostly aligned, 19% to be fully aligned, 22% to be minimally aligned, and 5% not aligned at all. Overall, the high degree of alignment is surprising. Looking deeper in the data and in some of the interviews we made, it turns out that even if organizations have made some of the customer’s journey mapping exercises, it does not necessarily mean that they use these results on a regular basis in their sales process implementations and their enablement frameworks.

This fact might be one of the reasons why even a relatively high degree of alignment does not necessarily translate into effective enablement services, designed with the customer’s journey at the core. The time distance from mapping to translating to seeing measurable results might also be a reason many organizations seem to be in the middle of this transition.

Content matters. Content in the customer’s context matters even more. A well executed “outside-in” strategy makes the difference.

As the data says, the quality of client-facing content is a key element that significantly impacts the level of relationship you can achieve with your customers. The quality of your client-facing content is determined by your ability to tell your story from THEIR perspective (their customer’s journey, their context, their challenges, etc.), and not from the perspective of your products and services. Because customers don’t buy products. What they buy is the value they can achieve with your products and services. Now, what is the implication of this analysis?

Client-facing content must become a top priority on every sales leader’s strategic agenda

Having client-facing content on top of the sales leader’s agenda opens a window of opportunity for enablement leaders to establish a) an overall customer-core strategy and b) a sales force enablement framework with the customer’s journey at the core.

Highly effective customer-facing content that covers the entire customer’s journey is a must-have ingredient to remain successful in an ever-changing, buyer-driven world.

 

This article was first published over @ Top Sales Magazine April edition.

 

Enablement Mechanisms: From “Push versus Pull” To “Be Inspired!”

Providing all the content that was available to the sales force and let them search – that’s where sales enablement has its early roots. Stand-alone knowledge management and enablement platforms were invented, sold and implemented. Everything was designed to provide content on a platform for sales. Various search options and taxonomies often made it difficult for salespeople to quickly find what they were looking for. Many of us walked this sometimes painful path.

Was that a push or a pull approach? It depends…

As a sales enablement leader, you may look at this issue from this role’s perspective. Then, it is a push approach; pushing everything you have on enablement content to sales. Now, change the perspective to the salesperson, and it is just the other way around. They don’t feel pushed; as everything depends on their initiative. They have to take the initiative; they have to search to find what they need. For them, it’s more of a pull approach.

Nowadays, sales enablement strives for enablement solutions that are highly integrated with the CRM landscape. The aim is to provide the right enablement and client-facing content at the right time for salespeople when they need it, along the stages of their opportunities. It depends on enablement to create a modular enablement framework that leads to these “customer challenge/industry/buyer role/deal stage” matches. The salespeople are at the receiving end. Again, it depends on your perspective whether you may consider this as a push or pull approach. Ask ten people with different roles in the same industry, and you will get as many push as pull answers.

The “pull versus push” question actually describes a content delivery mechanism, depending on our perspective and interpretation. Why not take these approaches to a level of more descriptive imperatives from the customer’s perspective? Imperatives for salespeople, the enablement clients. Then, approaches that are based on salespeople’s responsibility to search in order to get what they need can be described as “Search & Find.” This is not exactly what salespeople like to do or what makes them really effective. Approaches that provide client-facing and internal content at the salespeople’s fingertips, exactly when they need it and how they need it, can be described as “Be Inspired!” approaches.

“Be Inspired!” models in sales enablement – think about design, content services, technology and adoption

  • “Be Inspired” design means designing a customer core sales enablement framework. The customer’s journey and all involved stakeholders are the design points. The customer’s journey has to be mapped to the internal process landscape, from marketing to sales and  services/delivery. The goal is creating tangible value for customers, to help them to achieve their desired results and wins.
  • “Be Inspired” content services are tailored to the different phases of the customer’s journey, and then tailored to the relevant buyer roles in different industries and to different situations. In complex B2B environments, it’s hard to predict what a salesperson will need in which exact combination. That’s why content modules became more and more important. Ideally, those modules are designed as templates that allow salespeople to edit and customize customer-facing content, powered by technology where appropriate.
  • “Be Inspired” enablement technology is integrated with CRM systems. Salespeople don’t have to go to another system, log in, and search for what they need. Pull technology suggests content (and related training services) based on the characteristics of salespeople’s opportunities and accounts. To make this mechanism work, the customer-core enablement framework and the content creation process as described above are an essential foundation. The future vision of success is that salespeople have one collaborative platform they are working with.  The foundation is often the CRM system that integrates enablement and playbook systems, learning content, and predictive analytics to support them along their deals. Additionally, those platforms provide the foundation for the frontline sales managers’ coaching approach.
  • “Be Inspired” adoption is the ultimate advantage. All the efforts that have to be made earlier regarding the customer-core enablement process are worth the energy. Adoption will be much easier. When salespeople don’t need to go to another system, when they get the content (and related training refreshers) they need at their fingertips, pull systems unfold their ultimate advantage – increasing productivity and performance and higher adoption rates.

“Be Inspired” enablement systems are designed for salespeople. “Be Inspired!” systems give them what they need, when they need it, on all devices and wherever they currently are, at the pace of technology.

Interested in more details? Join me for my session at the Qvidian Connect Conference, March 24, 3:15pm in San Antonio, TX.

 

Enablement Mechanisms: From “Push versus Pull” To “Be Inspired!”

Providing all the content that was available to the sales force and let them search – that’s where sales enablement has its early roots. Stand-alone knowledge management and enablement platforms were invented, sold and implemented. Everything was designed to provide content on a platform for sales. Various search options and taxonomies often made it difficult for salespeople to quickly find what they were looking for. Many of us walked this sometimes painful path.

Was that a push or a pull approach? It depends…

As a sales enablement leader, you may look at this issue from this role’s perspective. Then, it is a push approach; pushing everything you have on enablement content to sales. Now, change the perspective to the salesperson, and it is just the other way around. They don’t feel pushed; as everything depends on their initiative. They have to take the initiative; they have to search to find what they need. For them, it’s more of a pull approach.

Nowadays, sales enablement strives for enablement solutions that are highly integrated with the CRM landscape. The aim is to provide the right enablement and client-facing content at the right time for salespeople when they need it, along the stages of their opportunities. It depends on enablement to create a modular enablement framework that leads to these “customer challenge/industry/buyer role/deal stage” matches. The salespeople are at the receiving end. Again, it depends on your perspective whether you may consider this as a push or pull approach. Ask ten people with different roles in the same industry, and you will get as many push as pull answers.

The “pull versus push” question actually describes a content delivery mechanism, depending on our perspective and interpretation. Why not take these approaches to a level of more descriptive imperatives from the customer’s perspective? Imperatives for salespeople, the enablement clients. Then, approaches that are based on salespeople’s responsibility to search in order to get what they need can be described as “Search & Find.” This is not exactly what salespeople like to do or what makes them really effective. Approaches that provide client-facing and internal content at the salespeople’s fingertips, exactly when they need it and how they need it, can be described as “Be Inspired!” approaches.

“Be Inspired!” models in sales enablement – think about design, content services, technology and adoption

  • “Be Inspired” design means designing a customer core sales enablement framework. The customer’s journey and all involved stakeholders are the design points. The customer’s journey has to be mapped to the internal process landscape, from marketing to sales and  services/delivery. The goal is creating tangible value for customers, to help them to achieve their desired results and wins.
  • “Be Inspired” content services are tailored to the different phases of the customer’s journey, and then tailored to the relevant buyer roles in different industries and to different situations. In complex B2B environments, it’s hard to predict what a salesperson will need in which exact combination. That’s why content modules became more and more important. Ideally, those modules are designed as templates that allow salespeople to edit and customize customer-facing content, powered by technology where appropriate.
  • “Be Inspired” enablement technology is integrated with CRM systems. Salespeople don’t have to go to another system, log in, and search for what they need. Pull technology suggests content (and related training services) based on the characteristics of salespeople’s opportunities and accounts. To make this mechanism work, the customer-core enablement framework and the content creation process as described above are an essential foundation. The future vision of success is that salespeople have one collaborative platform they are working with.  The foundation is often the CRM system that integrates enablement and playbook systems, learning content, and predictive analytics to support them along their deals. Additionally, those platforms provide the foundation for the frontline sales managers’ coaching approach.
  • “Be Inspired” adoption is the ultimate advantage. All the efforts that have to be made earlier regarding the customer-core enablement process are worth the energy. Adoption will be much easier. When salespeople don’t need to go to another system, when they get the content (and related training refreshers) they need at their fingertips, pull systems unfold their ultimate advantage – increasing productivity and performance and higher adoption rates.

“Be Inspired” enablement systems are designed for salespeople. “Be Inspired!” systems give them what they need, when they need it, on all devices and wherever they currently are, at the pace of technology.

Interested in more details? Join me for my session at the Qvidian Connect Conference, March 24, 3:15pm in San Antonio, TX.

 

Is Sales Enablement Making Salespeople Stupid? Part 2 – Sales Enablement’s Role In Value Messaging

In Part 1 of this series we discussed the question: Do salespeople rely too much on the organization to get things right at the expense of strategic thinking? This was a panel topic a few weeks ago in Atlanta, at the Sales Force Productivity Conference, organized by the Sales Management Association. Today, let’s consider another question the panel discussed:

Has sales enablement led to an inability to communicate value messages?

Thought provoking, indeed! Our research at the MHI Research Institute shows that the inability to communicate value messaging is year over year the biggest inhibitor to sales success. On the other hand, one of sales enablement’s main goals is exactly that: Equipping salespeople to have more valuable conversations with prospects and clients along their entire customer’s journey – to increase sales growth and performance. Something seems to be wrong. Let’s take a deeper look.

Value messaging is dynamic and modular – but not scripted

Value messages express the business value of a product, solution or service, mapped to the customers’ specific challenges and their desired results and wins. Furthermore, value messages have to be tailored to the different phases of the customer’s journey as well as to each buyer role.

There is no “one size fits all” value message or value proposition. To be effective, value messages have to be focused on what a product, solution or service means for the customer’s specific situation and their desired results and wins, rather than what a product is and what it does. As the customer’s focal points change along the customer’s journey, the value messages must also change. Additionally, they have to be tailored to different buyer roles and often per industry. That requires a dynamic messaging approach that helps salespeople to quickly access and customize value messages for specific selling situations.

But dynamic value messages – just as any other piece of sales content – can never be used without the salesperson’s strategic and critical thinking (see Part 1 of this series).

Creating value messages has to be changed first

We design value messages by working backwards from the customers’ journey and their specific challenges.  This may feel counterintuitive for product and marketing people who have done it the other way around for decades. Often, different product (marketing) teams compete against each other to get salespeople’s attention for what may be product-centered sales content. That’s simply not how buyers buy. Buyers buy the value of products and services to achieve their desired results and wins.

Changing the design point in content creation and value messaging from a product to a customer core approach is a serious change process that shouldn’t be underestimated. Such a transformation should be orchestrated by a strategic sales enablement function that understands both the customer and salespeople.

Applying value messages effectively is an ongoing training and development issue

It’s not enough to get the creation process right and to provide value messages on an enablement platform. To be effective, salespeople have to be trained to deliver the value messages effectively. This is a challenge that’s often overlooked. Messaging training has to cover two dimensions in parallel: knowledge transfer and behavioral change because value messaging is different from pushing products.

Sales enablement per se doesn’t lead to salespeople’s inability to communicate value messages. Only the inability to change does.

Sales enablement can create real value if the messaging creation process is changed and if salespeople are trained to deliver those value messages in different situations.
Often overlooked, but key to success: The front line sales managers’ coaching approach has to support exactly this transformation to reinforce continuous improvement – training, practicing, coaching, adjusting, practicing -> learning.

Finally, salespeople are always responsible for the messages they use in front of customers. Only they can decide, based on synthesizing the customer’s context, the different stakeholders’ concepts and their specific decision dynamic, what kind of messages will create value and support their perspectives.

 

Related blog posts:

The Inability To Communicate Value Messages – Biggest Inhibitor To Communicate To Sales Success 2014

Sales Enablement: Customer Core Framework to Provide Perspectives

“The Expert” – Why Understanding Your Customer Is Key To Provide Perspective

Providing Perspective – A Customer Core Principle

 

What Sales Enablement Content Analytics Really Mean

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Albert Einstein

Einstein’s observation holds true for sales enablement content-related analytics. Imagine the launch of a shiny, new enablement and collaboration platform. Many different roles in sales, marketing and product management are looking forward to the content analytics that the system will provide. Will the reality live up to their expectations?
Let me share with you a few lessons I’ve learned.

Correlation and causation

According to Oxford Dictionaries, a correlation is “a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things.” Causation, on the other hand, is the action of causing something, e.g., “the postulated role of nitrate in the causation of cancer.” Let’s keep in mind that even a strong correlation is not a proof of causation.

View, clicks and downloads are indicators—nothing more, nothing less

These metrics are foundational information, for different target groups—salespeople, their managers and the cross-functional enablement team. The data shows what people view and what they download. That’s all it says. It does not necessarily mean that people use what they download. And it does not say that the downloaded content was helpful. These are very common and widespread misinterpretations.

To better understand these analytics, check out your organization’s key sales initiatives. What are the important products, solutions, services? For which portfolio elements can people earn the biggest commission? Is there a performance management rule that rewards people if they download or indicate that they used certain content, e.g., the latest campaign playbooks? Next, check out the biggest revenue generators in your portfolio and examine the analytics for the related content. It can happen, especially if a sales force is very experienced, that there is only a small correlation between top revenue generators and related content usage. Those experienced people often still share across the “black market” of sales information, which is the informal network of colleagues who know each other personally. Map these insights back to your enablement analytics and you will come to a slightly different conclusion. Even if your enablement platform is completely linked to the CRM system and analytics show people working with recommended content stage per stage, it’s never more than a correlation.

Content ratings and likes—it depends

The biggest challenge for enablement platforms and teams is always to get the salespeople to actually use these social functions. Being a customer at Amazon and being a sales person in complex B2B sales forces are two different things. Just because sales people have an “Amazon” behavior at home, does not mean that they behave the same way at work.  Mature sales forces are especially hard to convince that there is value in this activity—value for the entire sales community and over time. What we appreciate with top performers is their strong focus on what matters to their sales success, and to ignore everything that doesn’t create immediate value for them. Rating content is definitely not in this category, especially not when you ask them to go back to the system and rate the content after they have used it. And what does it mean when a rating is given by someone who has not yet used the content? Nothing. To understand ratings and likes, it helps to analyze the percentage of your content that’s rated in the first place. The lower the percentage, the less valuable it is. Then, check which roles are authorized to rate and to like content. If there is no role-based limitation (and that happens more often than you may think!), the value of ratings and likes is precisely zero. On more than one occasion I have discovered that content creators have rated their own content high and their colleagues’ content low. If that’s the case, it’s better to switch off the entire function: the absence of data is better than false data.

Content analytics are only one side of the coin

What content analytics really mean is different in every sales organization, in every culture and in every industry. Imagine a sales force of millennials in San Francisco selling technology, and a mature sales force in the manufacturing industry in Europe. The specific value of content analytics couldn’t be more different in these two cases. For you as a sales enablement leader, it’s essential to define a content analytics framework that defines how to look at the data and what additional elements are necessary to understand the big picture. Additional elements can be dedicated win/loss interviews, campaign reviews, and sounding boards with “early adopter” salespeople and front line sales managers to discuss analytics and learn more about their perspectives and experiences. Approaching the issue in a holistic way like this helps to leverage content analytics and to make the right content decisions—to create value, not noise.