Sales Enablement and Technology – The Change Gap

How many Microsoft Word or Excel features do you really use? Ten percent, 20 percent? Most Office users will never write a book and they will also never use more than the basic arithmetic. It’s similar with sales enablement technology, but it doesn’t need to be like that, if the change gap can be closed.

Sales enablement technology is a growing industry

The sales enablement technology industry’s big providers offer sophisticated services that go far beyond the initial enablement and collaboration platforms focused on content: There are sales process modules, integrated to marketing automation, collaborative, workflow based plug-ins for CRM systems, and all services are available on all devices – a perfectly integrated world. Furthermore, niche providers join the market with shiny new apps, etc. But there is a gap between creating good value with technology and being able to leverage technology’s full potential to create much bigger value.

Sales enablement’s core challenges

Listening to the customer success stories at a recent conference, I noticed that the speakers  mostly talked about implementing enablement and collaboration solutions, providing and improving content and developing interactive playbooks. The big integration projects to CRM and marketing automation with instant feedback from buyers were not the primary focus of their stories. Their challenges were people and change related, e.g. how to establish cross-functional frameworks to drive change across the sales force to be able to leverage technology’s full potential. They shared how they removed collaboration barriers and how they organized and improved content creation, publishing and localization across the organization; all that to create significant more value for the sales force. Those topics define the necessary foundation to drive change, to leverage technology’s full potential, to create significant business impact.

“People don’t leverage the enablement platform”

Whoever worked with salespeople experienced a simple truth: They only use what creates an immediate value for them. Everything else gets little to no attention. Most of them won’t spend much time to rate content or to share their best practices. If they don’t immediately find what they are looking for, they will close the system and call their buddies for immediate help, as they always did. If people don’t understand why they should change to be more effective, they will use new technology like the old one. This is where change management comes into play.

Sales Enablement is change management

Never start an enablement initiative without a change story. It has to answer the why question from a sales professional’s perspective, plus the question what’s in it for me before you explain the what to do, the how and the when. Change requires internal selling, and salespeople are the most challenging customers.

Even if technology is intuitive, it won’t work without training. Provide short video lessons how to leverage technology and how to use content effectively. Collaborate with front line sales managers, work directly with salespeople and develop “evangelists” to get traction.

Change requires vision, leadership and consequent execution. But leadership is not only a must for the enablement leader. If sales enablement is not a sales leader’s strategic issue, the enablement team alone won’t be able to drive the necessary change. Creating this strategic relevance – driving change from top to bottom – is key to leverage technology’s full potential successfully.

Stay tuned – we will soon address the collaboration gap!

The Evolution Of Sales: The Survival Guide – New eBook!

Is the glass of water half full or is it half empty? Well, it depends on your individual perspective how to look at it. In my opinion the glass is always full, it just depends on the amount of water and air in the glass. But that wasn’t the question, was it? Exactly, but I wanted to add a new perspective how to look at the glass – by considering an element that wasn’t the main focus so far.

It’s the same with the evolution of sales. There are many different aspects to be considered, the changed economy, a complex and dynamic world, the big shift, the changed buyer, information overflow for all of us, technology, technology and even more technology. Technology is definitely the main driver for all these changes and there are more to come.

Decades ago, technology wasn’t considered as a key element in sales, apart from the phone and the car. That has changed radically and it will change how we sell even faster. Technology is the air in the glass in sales – it’s now an essential element to survive in sales. But it has to be used wisely, it changes our foundation how to create new business, how to engage with customers and prospects more effectively and much quicker as proceed along their customer journey. But technology doesn’t replace selling skills – instead, it’s adding new skills that have to be mastered and integrated. For some people this evolution still sounds like a threat. But it doesn’t have to be like this, because:

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”

Changes are actually great opportunities to achieve better results, to create more value for customers and to grow personally. The question is always, how to look at such a change – and that’s your decision. Here is your survival guide:

Evolution of Sales: The Survival Guide is a fascinating eBook with seven different articles that look from different perspectives at the evolution in sales. Learn more about the new era of the cold call (Jonathan Farrington), the survival of the fittest (LinkedIn), how our “old brain” works and what you need to know about it (Colleen Stanley) and the social content kingdom, which is my contribution to this eBook – you may remember the content is king and context is queen analogy I’m often using. Furthermore, enjoy a compelling infographic on the evolution of sales by the numbers, learn more about the video evolution with BrainShark and the virtual fire pit with HubSpot.

Click here to get your copy – and share your thoughts and comments!

Context Matters

My Blackberry Is Not Working!” is one of the most brilliant sketches, especially when it comes to context. Imagine a fruit and vegetable shop. A customer comes in the shop, starts complaining that his BlackBerry wouldn’t work. Then, he puts a piece of fruit on the table. …
You get the picture. In this case it’s fun–but not a successful sale. Being out of context can be even worse: Imagine you are driving at 140 mph on a pretty wet highway at night. That’s driving out of context with a high risk of crashing due to aquaplaning.

“We don’t sell out of context.” I hear you. … But wait a minute. Let’s see why context in sales matters more than ever and where the challenges are.

Our research says that 89 percent of top-performing sales organizations clearly understand their customers’ issues before they propose a solution to solve their problems. Doing so requires a deep understanding of the customer’s specific context, because customers don’t buy products or services. They buy the value they get from a provider’s capabilities to fix a problem, to accomplish their goals, or to avoid potential problems.

This is why customer context matters in every single interaction. This is why the customer context along the customer journey has to be a major design point regarding selling methodology, sales enablement and execution.

Nevertheless, many customers still complain that sales professionals are very knowledgeable about their own products and company, but not sufficiently knowledgeable about the specific customer’s industry and specific role and challenges, or how to approach the customer.

There seems to be a gap. A variety of challenges must be considered:

  • A generic foundation of customer context can be prepared by sales enablement or marketing in various forms and shapes, ideally in content modules that are easy to customize. This covers all information describing the conditions of a certain market/industry, typical roles and personas you have to deal with, their typical business challenges and patterns, and how to approach them.
  • The situational customer context, which makes the real difference, requires salespeople. It requires that they know where to find the context data and–even more important–how to adopt the generic findings effectively to the specific selling situation. This is why providing content on context is not enough. As long as people don’t know how to use it effectively, it doesn’t create any value.
  • Frontline sales managers have to coach their team members the right way. This is a very powerful key to increasing sales productivity that is often overlooked. As context is changing along the customer journey, it’s important that coaching on specific opportunities is always focused on understanding the changing context picture in order to completely understand the implications and to take the right actions.

Context is the opposite of working with assumptions. Context is the opposite of guessing. Context is about getting precise and specific. Understanding and applying customer context is a prerequisite to providing valuable perspectives to your customers in order to win their business.

This post was written for TopSalesWorld, Feb Magazine, and published @ MillerHeiman Blog

How To Drive Cross-Functional Collaboration With Councils – Part 1: Content Council

Whoever owns sales enablement in your organization, it’s always a cross-functional discipline. The need to collaborate to achieve better results is increasing, especially in a complex environment.

What’s the main collaboration issue? Based on a sales enablement framework with the customer’s journey at the core, the main collaboration issues are all enablement services from design to rollout. Specifically, it’s about content along the customer’s journey for different internal and external target groups and it’s about sales trainings, such as product, skill, process and tool trainings. Today, let’s focus on content councils.

Many different streams have to be orchestrated across different functions to provide those services efficiently and effectively. Councils are an approach to drive cross-functional collaboration in a structured and effective way. Let’s look at a few proven ideas, based on two definitions:

  • Content is defined as all types of content, including playbooks, collateral, videos regarding “what to sell” and “how to sell” with the purpose to equip people successfully at all levels and at all stages along the customer’s journey.
  • Content Council is defined as a cross-functional strategic decision board that makes decisions on what to do, how to do it and how to measure success whereas the execution often remains in the initial functions. Budgets should be assigned to the council, but your point of departure will often be the other way around. So, true leadership is required!

Follow these steps to initiate your content council:

  • Senior Executive Sponsorship: Ideally, both the sales leader and the marketing leader are the council’s senior executive sponsors.
  • Content Council Lead: The person, who leads the strategic sales force enablement team should lead the content council to provide strategic guidance, based on the sales enablement framework. Connecting the dots to other sales force enablement areas, e.g. sales trainings, methods, processes and tools
  • Council Members: Typical members in the council decision board are the leaders of product & solution marketing, vertical marketing, portfolio management, any kind of dedicated sales enablement content teams. Include an interface to the trainings teams.
  • Council Charter: Your charter defines how council works together and it supports all internal selling issues. Mission and principles, defined outcomes for each phase, topic-specific council teams, members and sponsors and a meeting calendar should be covered in the charter.

Don’t forget to address specific topics in cross-functional council teams :

  • Content Management Framework team: responsible for the content management framework, which defines content types, maps them to the customer’s journey, defines internal and external target groups, as well as processes on content definition, creation and localization.
  • Tool & Technology Team: The challenge is how to design technology, but also packaged content as playbooks in a way that it supports the business needs most effectively.o Impact Team: It measures efficiency based on content analytics and effectiveness along the customer’s journey.
  • Launch Team: Prototypes of new content types are developed, challenged and piloted with dedicated sales teams – it can be the perfect role for field enablement, if you have such a function.

Have a successful content council kick-off and make a difference!

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
—Henry Ford

This post was published initially @ Top Sales World, November Magazine.

Why GoToCustomer Means Simplicity

GoToCustomer – let’s discuss, how this approach can lead to simplicity!

GoToCustomer is first and foremost a consequent way of thinking and designing your sales system with the customers at the core.

The customers are your central design point. Thinking this way, thinking GoToCustomer, is the most important prerequisite, before you even start to design any kind of framework, processes or enablement services.

A GoToCustomer framework is your foundation, especially in a complex sales environment. The customer’s journey is your design point for all enablement and coaching services. All seller/buyer related interactions are mapped to the customer’s journey with clear milestones. All internal decisions, every sales organizations has to make (e.g. opportunity assessments, resource allocation, delivery checks etc.) are also mapped to the customer’s journey – not the other way around.

It sounds simple. And in fact, it is. But to get there is hard work. It requires consequent, thoughtful execution and change management.

Executing a GoToCustomer strategy based on such a framework can become a challenging endeavor, depending on your organization’s culture.

“We need specific content for specific sales roles”, “content for trainings is completely different”. “I have to create this content, it’s on my check list” and the list goes on and on. I cannot remember how often I got those requests, from many different groups. They have all one element in common: They refer to internal design points, such as sales roles, check lists and products. They don’t refer to the customer. For me, it seems to be an “inside-out muscle memory”.

You can start to work immediately on those requests, which will put you in a reactive enablement role, reinforcing the current state, but not really executing your strategy. The second way is more challenging, but it will lead you toward your goal: executing your GoToCustomer strategy. Discuss these requests with the relevant stakeholders in your organization and develop a deep understanding on the underlying, real problems. Change people’s perspective in these conversations from inside-out to outside-in: What’s the sales outcome, people want to achieve, at which stage of the customer’s journey with which set of stakeholders?

Over time, you will develop a structured questionnaire how to deal with those requests, and how to inspire people to change their perspective to outside-in. Additionally you will identify the root causes of these requests: Maybe, the sales roles are not properly mapped to the customer’s journey. Maybe, you have marketing teams that have to follow a “one size fits all” checklist. Maybe, the trainings and content teams don’t work closely enough together, to be able to adjust their efforts to the customer’s journey, etc.

The bottom line is: People have functional missions. You need their functional expertise – but during execution, not for the design.

  • The design perspective has to be the same for all teams: The customer’s journey.
  • The execution perspective is based on the design perspective
  • GoToCustomer drives efficiency and effectiveness at the same time: You will get rid of unnecessary enablement services and sales people will be more focused on the services that really matter, to make them successful at the customer.

GoToCustomer means simplicity.
Achieving simplicity is hard, but at the end, it’s beautiful.

This post was published initially in a column version @ TopSalesWorld,
October Magazine.

Content Is King – But Context Is Queen And Technology Is The Royal Household!

You can read it almost everywhere: “Content is king”. I didn’t notice that anybody would disagree with this statement. Isn’t that at least remarkable?

I won’t disagree with it either, apart from the fact that the statement doesn’t seem to be complete. I will add something. No, I will add someone – first, the queen!

Did you ever recognize a king, leading a kingdom as a lonely king? Probably not.
What is a king without a queen and without his entire royal household?
Let’s assume, that content is king, the role of the queen is pretty clear for me:
Context is queen. Content without context doesn’t create any added value, not for the sales person and – even worse – certainly not for the potential buyers.
And both, king and queen – content and context, are powered by the royal household – which is state-of -the-art 21st century technology.

Three dimensions to look at the queen – What does context mean?

  • First context dimension – Specific selling situations along the customer’s journey: Where are the prospects and  customers along their journey, along their problem identification and problem solving process? Already aware of an upcoming challenge, yes or no. Are they in a problem analyzing phase, yes or no. Are the customers already in an evaluation phase of possible solutions, yes or no. Do they already have a clear future vision in mind and a clear understanding of the desired outcome they want to achieve, yes or no. Is the formal buying process already started, yes or no? Context in this first dimension means to tailor content to the specific stages along the customer’s journey. Context regarding your value messages means to cover these different stages – from value hypothesis and value propositions (why change?) up to unique value propositions and value confirmations (why are you the best vendor out there?
  • Second context dimension – Specific buyer roles: What’s the role of the relevant decision maker, the executive owner of a challenge, a problem? And what are the roles of all the different impacted stakeholders? If you are in complex sales, the number of impacted stakeholders is often increasing, the more cross-functional the challenges are, that have to be mastered. The easiest way to cluster buyer roles is to look at their level in the organization and at their function. These two layers help to define the specific problems and perspectives, these roles have and the different patterns how these roles look at certain challenges – and of course, how these roles get measured differently. It helps also to cluster whether this role is more interested in effectiveness, investment with ROI focus or if the role is more interested in managing budgets and cost savings. Context in this second dimension means to tailor the value messages to the problems, challenges and patterns of your relevant decision makers and the different perspectives all the impacted stakeholders might have.
  • Third context dimension – Vertical color and vertical language: This dimension is very important, if your typical relevant decision makers and impacted stakeholders are in the lines of business. In case of horizontal solutions and services that have to be addressed to those stakeholders, your value messages and your entire collateral need an industry context, a kind of “industry color and industry language”. The service itself remains a horizontal one. Context in this third dimension means to tell the story in the industry’s color and language.

Now, the big challenge is not to add more content. The secret to success is called:
Less is more! How to “prettify” the queen to make the king more powerful? How to improve your context to improve the quality of your content?

  • Define clear milestones along the customer’s journey and define what a sales person has to achieve for each milestone. That’s the purpose, each piece of content should support. Throw away all documents that are not enough purpose-driven and cannot be tailored easily
  • Map all existing content in the above mentioned dimensions and evaluate your results – that determines the way to go. Throw away all documents that cannot be mapped accordingly.
  • Create content packages for each sales milestone or package content for a few sales milestones together (depends on the sales roles you have, which role is focused on which stage and so on). That’s much easier to access for sellers and they get all they need for a certain milestone in one place. Again, be brave and throw away all other documents…
  • The more sophisticated way of content packages is a playbook, defined as an interactive piece of content which guides a sales person along the customer’s journey by buyer role, based on their challenges, view points, patterns etc. – with the specific and tailored value messages, conversation scripts, videos, presentations and so on.

I have forgotten something… The entire royal household – that’s the king and the queen’s foundation: State-of-the-art technology that can drive and connect all dimensions together in an automated way, based on your value-creation models!

  • Imagine – Automated, specific, data-driven, tailored value-creation models per role, stage and industry
  • Imagine – you would have, based on the first three context dimensions, a value creation model for your specific products and services, tailored for your relevant buyer roles, based on industry data, insights from other customers in the same or other industries, other available measurable ROI data from the inside and the outside, etc.
  • Imagine – an engine would build that for you:
    Automated, tailored, specific and quantified, all the time, for all stages and all levels.

You get the picture… isn’t that icing on the cake of your tailored – but often – not precisely enough quantified value messages? Imagine to get that in an automated, engineered way!

BTW: I’m not dreaming.
Today’s technology can do this: Go-To-Customer, powered and automated by technology.

Related post: Have a look at this excellent blog post from my good friend Dave Brock:
Mass Customization, Creating “Markets Of 1”