Finding the right sales enablement consultant is difficult. Whether you’re already working with one or are searching for someone to make your sales team more effective, there are some key skills and prerequisites that every sales consultant should bring to the table.
Hint: The consultant’s role isn’t just to help sales understand your marketing message.
True sales leadership thrives in an environment where sales understands how marketing talks about your product and can differentiate the marketing message to suit a specific prospective buyer in the moment. In the sales enablement world, you probably hear a lot about “bringing sales and marketing together” or “making sure marketing and sales speak the same language.” Those things are important — we actually talk about them a lot! — but successful enablement programs also equip your sales team to talk about your product in compelling ways that aren’t completely identical to what marketing proclaims each day.
In other words, sales needs to apply marketing’s message such that your product becomes irresistible to a unique buyer with unique concerns during a unique interaction. With that idea in mind, let’s take a look at some critical pieces of knowledge your sales enablement consultant absolutely must possess.
1. When to lead with the marketing message... and when not to.
Salespeople absolutely must know the story that marketing tells about your product. That way, when sales reps walk into a meeting with a likely buyer, they can use the same language to talk about how the product helps the buyer achieve a specific goal. Understanding their peers in marketing also streamlines the sales process by keeping salespeople on message.
That being said, sales doesn’t always need to lead with the marketing message in the exact same way that marketing does. It all comes back to the basics of how marketing and sales communicate with customers. Marketing communication is mostly a one-to-many exercise. In other words, it’s one message that your organization broadcasts to many potential buyers. Each buyer will have different characteristics that make them more or less likely to become a customer, but the broader message attempts to resonate with them nonetheless. Sales, on the other hand, is usually one-to-one communication. Sales leadership needs to understand the marketing message, but they also need to know what the buyer sitting across the table from them cares about the most.
Basically, part of your consultant’s sales training should include differentiation of the marketing story for different types of buyers with unique concerns. Working hand-in-hand with marketing is critical for effective sales management, but your team also needs to know when it’s ok to go off script — and how.
2. Discovery happens during the demo.
Are you wondering just how “off script” your sales folks should go? The answer depends on how well sales understands your prospects’ problems. If they sell the way most salespeople do, there’s a good chance they aren’t helping buyers see themselves using your product in the workplace.
Here’s what we mean. Most B2B SaaS software sales reps really know their stuff. They go into a meeting thinking that they can educate prospects on all the great things their software can do. If they succeed, the reasoning goes, then these buyers will become customers. The result is that sales delivers a demo that is very technical, in depth, and provides buyers with a broad overview of all the product’s many features.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t include any discovery. Yes, marketing already qualified the lead, updated made notes in the CRM, and sent you some information about what the buyer is looking for. However, that kind of “discovery” is woefully insufficient. Sales needs to learn how to perform discovery during the demo — not before the demo or by relying on marketing’s notes about the lead.
If that surprises you, consider the fact that 80% of a buyer’s decision is already made before your salespeople enter the room. All they need to do is bring the buyer the remaining 20% of the way. They can do that by:
- Finding out where the customer is hurting: What problems are they having today? There’s certainly some reason they’re sitting down for a sales presentation. Learn what it is. This is where the real discovery happens.
- Showing the customer how the product solves that specific problem: Instead of doing a deep dive into everything the product does, show the buyer how it solves that one problem. Then stop. There is no need to regale the buyer with additional information about features until they tell you about another problem they’re having.
An effective sales enablement consultant will help your sales team anticipate virtually all potential problems a buyer could raise during discovery. The moment they tell you about a problem, you should know exactly what aspect of the product to focus on during the demo. If they have multiple problems — most buyers do — cover the solution to each, one-by-one. Then stop to see if they have questions.
Compared to the other approach, this one prioritizes finding solutions to your buyers’ actual problems. In doing so, you make it easier for buyers to see themselves as customers. Needless to say, these buyers will be more likely to choose you over your competitors. You will also begin each new engagment with a strong customer relationship.
3. Onboarding matters a lot.
How do you onboard new sales professionals today? Do you train them on the sales methodology they will employ as they communicate with customers? Does your sales training emphasize the stories that marketing tells about your SaaS product? Do they know which metrics you use to measure sales performance and improve your overall sales operations?
Unfortunately, many organizations do not have an official onboarding process for their sales team. As a result, new sales leaders are forced to go it alone; instead of handing them a sales playbook or engaging them in a crash course on the organization’s communications standards, the new reps must design a “choose your own adventure” style odyssey through your current marketing and sales practices. They pick up snippets of wisdom from experienced marketing people and other sales professionals, but those “insights” might not be consistent with one another. In short, your new salespeople might not know how to do their jobs properly.
At best, they will learn the ins and outs of your product and proceed to extol its features in highly technical demonstrations with buyers — exactly the sort of sales meeting we want to avoid. To avoid this outcome, a big part of your sales enablement strategy should involve developing sophisticated onboarding procedures. Find out whether your sales enablement strategist prioritizes onboarding as part of his or her consulting services.
4. Sales and marketing need to work as a team.
In sales-led organizations, it is critical that the marketing team and sales leaders work together and greet potential buyers with a consistent story about the product. As we discussed, helping these two business units play nicely together isn’t the end-all, be-all goal of sales enablement; however, it remains essential to an effective sales operation.
When we say that sales and marketing need to work together, we mean they should:
- Keep the message consistent: Everybody needs to tell the same story about the product. Doing so helps build trust and strengthen relationships between sales and marketing. In addition, it prevents buyers from becoming confused about the product or receiving mixed signals.
- Understand when to differentiate the message: Sales absolutely must make marketing’s message compelling to unique buyers with unique problems during a single unique meeting. Marketing will already have slightly different messages for different buyer personas. Sales will perform the same sort of exercise on the fly as they perform discovery during demo sessions.
- Work toward shared goals: Establish a set of metrics that marketing understands and that matter to your sales organization. Sales and marketing should regularly meet to review those metrics and discuss how to work toward their shared goals.
- Train around one another: Sales training should cover marketing initiatives and vice versa. Doing so is key to ensuring everyone at the organization knows what their peers are doing.
Conclusion: An effective sales enablement consultant will know how to equip your team
Sales enablement is a frequently overlooked aspect of business development. Many organizations direct substantial attention and resources to R&D and product marketing while leaving sales leaders to fend for themselves. A true sales enablement leader will go beyond merely educating sales on the ways marketing portrays a product; instead, the consultant will help companies effectively onboard their sales reps and show them how to conduct sales meetings that result in more deals.
Remember: When sales understands how to tailor your brand’s story to align with the prospect’s vision for your product, you’re in a much better position to close the buyer. Experienced sales enablement consultants understand this and can show your team how to execute on it.