Proactive vs. Passive Approaches to Sales Enablement

Your sales prospects are demanding. They want informative and engaging content to help build a business case. They need fast responses to product questions from their sales people. And they want insights like competitive differentiation when they’re on the phone with their reps.

The days of “I’ll get back to you” are long gone. Prospects are used to getting the information they need quickly. And if they can’t get it from your sales people, they might just get it from your competitors’ sales teams.

But how can you expect a sales person to always know what sales enablement content will support the prospects inquiry? How can they be current on your product functionality and value? And how can they quickly respond to competitive positioning and related questions?

The Problem with Reactive Sales Enablement

The approach that many companies take is to provide a centralized library of sales enablement content. Portals, learning management systems, and resource centers have become resource-rich tools that unfortunately few people use. As we looked at here in this discussion of sales portals, it can be difficult to get sales people to spend the time to visit it.

Alternative approaches like enterprise search are often touted. These ‘Google-like’ interfaces let sales people search for content that they need to support their sales engagements. There are problems with this method:

  • What am I supposed to search for? When sales people don’t know what they are looking for, they aren’t likely to get good results. They may know they need the key value propositions for a new product, but do they search on “value prop”, “differentiators”, or “features”?
  • How do I know what I don’t know? Marketing has just rolled out a great new eBook. But how does sales know to find and use it? And the situation is even more dramatic for blog content. A weekly email update from marketing that gets ignored is not going to work.
  • Is it timely enough? Sales people are on a call or about to head into a call. They don’t have the time to search through long lists of results to figure out which content makes sense for their meeting. They need the sales enablement materials before they need it.
  • Is it a long-term approach? The reaction of sales people to having to filter through your sales enablement content is frustration. Ask yourself whether sales people want to use your portal or content library. The sad truth is that for many companies usage is flat and falling.

A Proactive Approach to Sales Enablement Tools

Let’s flip the approach to equipping sales on its head. When you take a proactive approach to delivering sales enablement content you’re able to get materials that sales needs before they know they need it. Instead of searching for content, relevant and proven materials comes directly to the sales person where they work.

Imagine these sales enablement scenarios:

  • Ready for a Meeting: A sales person is prepping for an introductory call to a prospect. The lead is in financial services and an IT leader. As a sales leader, what guidance would you give your rep? Discuss security issues? Highlight regulatory compliance? What if you were able to push the right sales guidance to the sales person ahead of that call so they know how to position it?
  • Following up from a Call: Your sales person just wrapped up a great call with a prospect and wants to send follow-up information to keep the dialog going. What will they send? In a reactive approach to sales enablement, they’d search in your library and hopefully find material. Or, more likely, use the same content they’ve already downloaded to their desktop. Instead, in a proactive mode, the most relevant materials would be already at-hand for the sales person. They don’t need to search, the proven materials are simply there ready to share.
  • Waking up a Stalled Opportunity: Your sales team are working dozens of accounts each. In most organizations only 20% of these accounts will convert on to opportunities. So, how do you wake up these opportunities? A reactive approach would be of little use – how do you know what to share? But a proactive approach that identifies content that peers have been using to advance other opportunities lets sales teams know what will help advance their prospects.
  • Getting Up to Speed: When new hires come on board or a new product is rolled out to the sales team there’s generally a sales training session. Product marketing or sales enablement will walk through a demonstration and sales guidance materials to help navigate sales engagements. But most training is forgotten quickly after the session. And you can’t expect a rep to query a learning management system to find appropriate training material. Instead, being able to push relevant training and guidance materials to sales people as they need gets it used and helps sales reps equip themselves.

Supporting Proactive Approaches to Sales Enablement

Proactive sounds great, but how do you make this a reality? Proactive requires that you can identify which content to push to sales people and you can efficiently get it that sales enablement content into sales peoples’ hands. Let’s see how this can happen:

Match Sales Enablement Content with Sales Situations

To be proactive requires getting the most relevant content to sales people. That means looking at key elements like sales stage, buyer persona, industry, products sold, or other elements that align with how you segment your markets. That allows content to be pre-filtered based on the context of the sales pursuit, and a sales person doesn’t need to hunt for content.

Match Sales Enablement Content Based on What Wins

It’s not enough to simply push out a ‘dumb’ list of content. That is, a set of materials that has been organized but doesn’t update based on real-world market conditions. If there is one lesson from this rise of predictive analytics and marketing automation it is that you need to test the effectiveness of content and constantly iterate.

That means looking at which sales enablement tools are most effective in the field. Are reps using the content? Are the most successful reps using that content? Which content is advancing leads and closing more opportunities?

By stack-ranking content based on its results in actual practice, reps can get proactive recommendations of content that are actual winning pieces. KnowledgeTree dynamically ranks sales enablement content based on its performance in the field.

Get Content in the Right Context

Lastly, it’s not enough to push content to sales people if they don’t notice it. They need to get sales enablement content pushed to them where they work. That means in the CRM and in email. KnowledgeTree proactively pushes recommended content to sales people in Salesforce.com, right on individual lead, contact, account, opportunity, and other records.

Plus, KnowledgeTree alerts sales reps as to what content could be used to reawaken prospects and what content peers have had success with. The result is more effective and timely content usage.

When sales teams take a proactive approach to content they are radically more effective. Sales people recover up to 30% of their day by getting the most relevant content issued directly to them. And they are significantly more effective because they can message the right stories and information to their prospects to advance deals.

Peter Mollins

Peter brings 20 years of experience with marketing technology companies in the US and Europe. He holds a Master’s degree from Thunderbird and is the proud owner of a single-lined IMDB listing.

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