Seven ways to enable B2B key account sales teams
Sales enablement is a major focus for many in the business-to-business (B2B) space, with a focus on providing sales teams with everything they need to sell. The converse is buyer enablement, which is a shift from making it easier for salespeople to sell to making it easier for buyers to buy – an outside-in approach.
My view is that both need to be enabled for an organisation to be successful – salespeople need to have every possible sales tool at their disposal, and buyers need more information that allows them to make better buying decisions.
Here are seven ways to enable a B2B key account sales team.
Many organisations make the mistake of focusing only on the sale – they research the key accounts, who the decision-makers are and what the favoured channels are, and then create tools to help salespeople sell. That’s no longer enough: they also have to research how the buyers buy. They need a better understanding of buyers, how they make decisions, what collateral they consume to inform them better and influence their decisions more, how they search for the products and services they believe they need and even how proposals are generated and flow through the organisation towards approval. Once the organisation has a well-rounded understanding from both perspectives, the sales team is really properly enabled.
A sales strategy should be about the nuts and bolts – “What do we actually do?” – with a view to solving the salespeople’s pain points. Do they need to be empowered with tools that help them present better? Are they enabled with appointment setters? This should be on the back of research and form the backbone for the decisions the organisation makes to enable the sales team. No strategy is the same. It’s different from industry to industry, and even from organisation to organisation within the same industry because of the way sales cultures differ between organisations, even with the same clients. The strategy must be appropriate and play to the organisation’s – and the sales team’s – strengths.
With an understanding of both sales strategy and buyer behaviour, the organisation can map out the touchpoints that both sides have in the purchase journey. Those two maps can then be overlaid to illustrate the common touchpoints – and that’s where the sales-enablement focus should be. In the places where the touchpoints don’t overlap, it’s over to the marketing department to help the sales team play a stronger role.
The overlap in touchpoints illustrates where engagement can happen. Now the decision is about what assets are needed to make a meaningful contribution to both sides of the sales journey. That means assets need to be developed for both salespeople and buyers. The salespeople may need assets that help them understand how to sell to specific customers, what the company positioning is, how to deal with objections from potential buyers and how the solutions can enable buyers. These are all internal. The external assets are for buyer consumption – for buyers to understand how the product or solution can benefit them. Even if the ideas are the same, they need to be presented from the two different perspectives to enable the salespeople properly.
So much of sales training is around how to sell better – no matter the solution, the focus is just on the “how”. Product training is the other side of the coin, with a pure focus on understanding the products and services being sold. There are organisations that are good at doing one or the other, but my argument is that merging these two types of training will deliver maximum benefit. Pursuing both training avenues educates salespeople to sell products and solutions in a way the company wants and needs them to, in line with their culture and values and in a way that shows that they understand their customers.
Now that the sales team is equipped with understanding, assets and training, they need to go out and sell – and that performance needs to be measured. Decide what the metrics are. Are the sales teams getting more meetings? Are they building bigger pipelines? Is it conversion – have they previously been invited to deliver two proposals from 10 meetings and are now delivering six? Once the metrics have been decided, it’s easier for the organisation to measure whether the touchpoints that have been mapped are being supported by the tools and training, and weigh, optimise or tweak them accordingly.
An implementation roadmap is the final stage. What kills a sales team is being given 25 new assets at the end of this process and being told to “make it work”. The assets need to be rolled out strategically over time, as all the prior steps affect their weight and where they fit into the sales journey. Salespeople are also busy, and it’s easy to overwhelm them with new tools when the point was to make their lives easier.
The implementation plan is often coupled with a change management strategy, which enables the entire organisation. The most successful sales organisations in the world – SAP, Oracle, Salesforce – have sales enablement built into the core of their sales model.
The big take-out:
The most successful sales organisations in the world have sales enablement built into the core of their sales model.
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