Thursday, April 30, 2009

Marketing's Role in Sales Enablement

The Sales Enablement (SE) role is fast taking root at many of our client companies. But it is interesting to see that its position on the organization chart is somewhat fluid. Does the role take root in sales? In marketing? Does it have to make an effective straddle across both functions , or is it bound to get hung up on the fence between the two?

Our IDC marketing and sales research teams are surfacing many good techniques for improved sales enablement. Here are some practices specifically for marketing's side of the sales enablement challenge as presented by Rich Vancil, VP IDC Executive Advisory Group.

"Thanks Michael. Depending on your resources and ambitions, these SE practices are noted as: easiest, harder, and hardest.

  1. Easiest: IDC defines Sales Enablement as "Delivering to the sales representative (direct or channel) the right material at the right place, at the right time, and in the right format, to move a specific opportunity forward." Yes, there are a lot of moving pieces in that equation. But the place to start is with all the material that is clearly and blatantly in the wrong place/time/format. Sales executives consistently tell us that only a fraction of marketing content and collateral is used by them. Marketing's first move in SE starts with marketing content audits and asset management strategies that clean out all the lowest underbrush of what is not used. The easy pickings might happen quickly. An incoming CMO at one of our client companies ordered an immediate marketing-asset inventory which identified 550 separate items of marketing assets that were in constant need of updates and re-touches and re-prints and all sorts of expensive maintenance procedures for materials that were found to be marginally distributed.
  2. Harder: "People, process and technology" is a guideline of places to look for operational change. But managers often jump to the technology first and this is often a mis-step in emerging automation areas (such as marketing and sales) because there are so many alluring new applications one might try and buy. Bear in mind the old adage "all software is merely someone's else's idea of how you should run your business" to be mindful that you need to examine and re-work your own processes first - with your own thinking - and then find or develop the technology to assist and automate. The critical Sales Enablement process between the marketing and sales functions is the lead hand-off and lead-nurturing activities. Executives really need to understand this process before buying and applying technology towards it . A marketing professor of mine wrote a famous case called "Staple yourself to an Order" which suggested a process audit approach that one could use to understand a customer's experience with one's company. Could we suggest that you "Staple yourself to a Lead" and observe the process path that you travel, in and around marketing and sales, at your company?
  3. Hardest: Even more challenging is advanced marketing re-engineering enabled by comprehensive sales forensics. More complex "upstream" engineering of marketing cannot de done without a great deal of "downstream" sales intelligence. This was hammered home in an excellent briefing that we took this week from Drew Clarke and Brendan Grady who are senior marketers in IBM's Cognos division . I have known Drew for years and he is one of the industry's most diligent practitioners of the science of marketing. At IBM/Cognos his team is making a deep examination of the sales processes and prospect-communications sequencing that leads to pipeline acceleration and productivity. All sales and marketing "touches" to active leads in the pipeline are monitored by and analyzed in laborious detail. With these data in hand, the team can make important decisions about changes to marketing programs. It turns out that event attendance for certain prospects can be achieved with fewer email touches versus previous practice. This and reduces expenses and annoying re-touches. It also turns out that the direct mailing of the highly produced and expensive glossy corporate brochure has less than desired lead-velocity impact. There will be other cost savings and process changes that the Cognos team will achieve through analysis of the sales data.

The key point is that after the "easy" pickings are taken, the harder and hardest upstream decisions can only be made if you have excellent downstream intelligence. This is the crux of the B2B marketing paradigm: long sales cycles , multiple touch points and significant marketing-to-sales interplay makes the ultimate attainment of marketing ROI accessible only to those who can master the sales forensics. Please feel free to comment below or contact me at"

(Interested in a taking a 3 minute survey on sales enablement? Click here:


  1. Kudos, Michael for taking on the topic of marketing's role in sales enablement, because too many marketing organizations, despite huge effort, are not truly impacting sales performance and revenue. For this to happen, marketing's role in sales enablement needs to expand beyond "collateral"; a VP of Sales doesn't care about the material nearly as much as each salesperson's ability to have an incredibly relevant, productive dialog with the prospect at each of the critical moments in the decision-making process.

    You really have to start with your "Hardest", where sales and marketing work together to discover and map out the buyers' information needs at each stage of their buying cycle. Take this one step deeper with the pipeline forensics, to find where the choke points are at the critical conversion points in the cycle. With this knowledge, marketing can contribute to creating materials, tools, messages, and strategies that address the buyer's information needs and reduce those choke points. By doing these things, marketing can be a sales hero and have measurable impact on closed deals.

  2. Thanks Jeff for your comments.

    This is one area that I'm seeing a lot of "emerging" vs. "best" practices.

    Feel free to send me any nominations for BtoB companies and people that you think deserve to be included in this sales enablement study. Thanks.

    Also, here's a quick, 3 minute survey on sales enablement.

  3. A few comments here. Good marketing is a precursor to good sales. Marketers can better align with their sales team by doing two things,

    1) adopting marketing 2.0 technologies such as revenue generation / marketing automation software
    2) create service level agreements, or SLAs, which helps define the "language", goals, and mission between marketing and sales.

    I also agree that "Sales executives consistently tell us that only a fraction of marketing content and collateral is used by them". To support your point, Jeff Ernst, author of “The New Rules of Sales Enablement”, states that 90% of marketing material is not used by sales. Once relevant material is identified, they can be combined with marketing automation software to send relevant and meaningful touch-points to prospects and/or customers. Not using marketing collateral is a waste of marketing's budget.

  4. After spending significant time as a product marketeer, channel manager, and sales leadership, I've learned that the statements above are true. The largest rift that has to be constantly addressed is the accountability of both sales and marketing to each other. In our current world, it's very tough to do because of the obvious differences between the two cultures, but the result should be the same. So if the results can be agreed upon, then the strategies and tactics to get there should be agreed upon and held to with accountability on both sides of the fence.

    I believe accountability and the agreement on the the tactics and results are the toughest points that a transformational change needs to embrace.

    There is also an element of mistrust among the sales and marketing groups that are fundamental.
    1. The marketing team wants to get a lead, any lead, to the sales team. And it's the sales person's job to convert the lead. The marketing team really wants to get "rid" of those leads as quickly as possible for a number of reasons. Marketing will complain that the sales team isn't knowledgable or talented enough to convert them, or "sell".

    2. The sales team wants good qualified leads, not just any lead. And the leads must be willing to go to a purchase step. Once a rep smells a lead with a "gmail" account, they complain that the leads are worthless and the marketing team doesn't understand HOW to sell.

    Michael, your breakdown is correct. I'm sure we've all seen the type of business that invests into a crm and asks the SI to just port over the same functionality that they currently have "just to get things going." Or look to the prepackaged templates to figure out what value the technology can bring.

    At the end of the day, the business needs to understand what their needs and processes are and massage the tool accordingly.

  5. Thanks for your great comments Mark. Agreed. In fact, one of the areas that many companies need greater investment in is sales operations. . . from a resource perspective as well as from a competency perspective. Marketing needs someone on the "other side of the wall" who will represent the quota-bearning headcount in sales and take on a more holistic view of sales enablement other than marketing content and asset lifecycle management.

    Much more about this "Next Gen Sales Operations Team" at or glad to send you a study that we completed specifically on this new team and what companies need to do to get there.