It’s a revelation heard all around the web — embracing a sales enablement strategy can transform an organization.
Faster sales cycles, happier customers, and bigger commission checks top the long list of benefits associated with the strategy, and thousands of the world’s leading businesses are seeing those benefits play out in their interactions with customers each day.
No, sales enablement isn’t “too good to be true.” However, what separates the world’s leading businesses from the rest of the pack is an understanding that embracing the strategy is more involved than installing software with a few built-in AI features.
The reality is, sales enablement success starts with a solid foundation — a systematic sales process that covers everything from social selling to cold pitching, branding, and collaborative content creation.
What we’re saying is, the benefits come after putting in the work — AI features can’t do it all for you. In this article, we’ll go over some improve your sales process approach and set the stage for replicable, sustainable success.
Making the case for a systematic sales process
According to the Objective Management Group, 68% of salespeople don’t follow any formal sales process at all. Some sales reps are resistant to routines, systems, and policies. And, of course, this is a group of people notorious for failing to fill out their paperwork.
Yet, there’s a lot to be said for embracing some structure. Research by the Sales Management Association found that 90% of companies with a formal, guided sales process in place were ranked as “top performers.”
No matter how smart you think your sales enablement approach is, inevitably some reps won’t make use of available content or embrace new strategies, technologies, and initiatives.
If you want to increase pipeline velocity and create alignment between long-time rivals — sales and marketing — you need a set up a system that works for your sellers, your products, and your buyers.
How to define your sales process approach
A sales process is a concrete set of actions your sales team follows to guide prospects through the sales funnel.
Sales processes typically consist of a series of steps. Some experts say it’s a five-stage process, others say six, seven, or eight. In any case, your sales process will likely look something like this:
- Preparation — This stage is all about research, from persona development to competitor analysis. Here, success is defined by gaining an understanding of who your buyers are and what they’ll need at each stage. This means identifying complaints, pain points, and goals, so you can deliver a tailored experience when it’s time to reach out.
- Prospecting — Here, your goal is to fill up the pipeline with qualified leads. At this stage, you’ll need to get together with marketing to define what makes a lead qualified and identify which people to target.
- Approach — How will you connect with prospects? Where will you reach out? What content will you use? Here, your goal is to figure out the best way to present your offer, highlight personal use cases, and show off key benefits.
- Overcoming objections — No matter how great your product is, there will always be objections. Price, fear of change, lack of trust all immediately come to mind, and reps need to have a plan in place for countering each one.
- Closing — This stage is all about going in for the ask. Here, you’ll come up with a plan for sealing the deal.
- Following up for future sales — Build follow-ups into your process and establish a timeline for check-ins, special offers, and upselling or cross-selling.
The idea is, you’ll create a systematic way to work through each of these steps, making it easier to measure selling activities against revenue, improve forecasting, and deliver a better customer experience.
Define process stages and assign activities to each stage
A sales process won’t do you much good if you don’t attach meaningful activities to each selling stage. Consider how you can deliver the most value to consumers at each stage. What types of content work best for introducing new prospects to your brand or moving buyers through the decision-making stage faster? When does it make sense to follow up after a sales meeting?
Essentially, your sales process approach should be like following a recipe. Reps will have a series of steps to follow, along with a list of tools and tactics that help them complete each step.
For example, your prospecting strategy might involve reaching out to people on LinkedIn, sending emails, and working with marketing to target a specific group of Facebook users. The approach stage might involve working through a checklist to figure out which channels and content best suits a particular process.
Look out for content gaps
After breaking your sales process into stages and assigning activities to each stage, you’ll want to identify content gaps so that sales teams have the materials they need for every customer at every stage.
- Look at the deals in your sales pipeline and see if you can map content to each stage — check for areas you might have missed, as well as outdated content to remove or replace.
- Dig into historical data to identify similar deals, taking note of which content was used throughout the sales funnel.
- Look at lost opportunities and review the content used during those interactions.
- Review marketing data to see which content performs best on your website, on social media, and in paid ad campaigns.
- Are there patterns that emerge when looking at customer engagement with self-serve content?
- How does sales-provided content compare to self-serve content?
- Sales teams should also provide marketers with feedback collected from real customers. What questions do they hear most often? Does your existing sales content answer those questions?
The content creation, delivery, and measuring cycle is an ongoing process. A sales enablement software platform like Bigtincan can help you learn more about the relationship between content and closed deals, using AI to recommend specific content to sellers based on past performance.
So, long-term, your sales enablement team can draw inspiration from your best assets and use those insights to fine-tune a strategy.
Support your systematic sales process with continuous learning
Along with your content strategy, your training process should continue to evolve to help your sellers perform at their best. According to a recent study by ATD Research, organizations spend an average of $2,326 per salesperson per year on sales training.
The study found that 42% of organizations reported reps met or exceeded sales goals, while others reported that several challenges stood in the way of success. The top challenges? Scheduling conflicts, a lack of enforcement when it came to salespeople applying new skills, and a disconnect between sales training and actual selling.
As you develop a systematic sales process, revise your training program so that it covers everything included in your process and connects to a measurable KPI. Those KPIs might include metrics such as number of leads generated, deals closed, calls made, and so on.
Additionally, your program should combine hands-on coaching, self-guided mobile learning, and in-person training sessions to reinforce key concepts including:
- General best practices — pitching, using social media, prospecting, and following up.
- How to use content at each stage in the sales cycle.
- Understanding customer expectations and how to meet them.
- How to use data to inform selling activities.
- Customizing offers to specific buyers.
- How to address objections.
A well-defined sales process backed by the right content and ongoing training gives new sellers and veteran reps alike a concrete series of steps and the outcomes expected at each stage. Done right, sellers gain an understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and what they need to do to improve.
For sales leaders, a systematic sales process allows them to set more realistic quotas, develop targeted training programs, and prioritize the right tasks.
Again, the sales process approach should be an ongoing effort, not a static set of rules. Instead, teams must continue measuring and improving their efforts, updating content, and continually learning about the trends and tactics that help them better serve their customers.