CLASS #5
Shaping whole company commercial alignment
5.1 Building a repeatable sales process
Revenue won’t grow without a repeatable process.

If your company is scaling, this process is the determining factor in whether revenue will scale too.

Most good VPs of Sales know and understand sales methodologies. For example, Miller Heimen or Meddic.

However, creating a good consistent process within a sales team is much harder. This is where marketing comes in.

Marketing leaders can help enormously by embedding a repeatable sales process across a team. I’m an advocate for Hiring Sales Last. What does this mean? Well in short, it means in order to scale you need consistent lead generation. Hiring a set of BDM’s will not give you consistent lead generation. Marketing can deliver this outcome. I will cover the details on this point below.
5.11 What makes a kick-ass B2B SaaS business?
The particulars of business have changed, but the fundamentals have not.
Bill Gates
Fundamentals of business have not changed. Not in Bill Gates’ eyes anyway. What is certainly true about building a B2B SaaS business is one thing. It’s not easy. The reasons it’s not simple include the fact there’s competition in every market sector, barriers to entry are low with less defensible moats and SaaS businesses largely follow a similar playbook. In my view to set yourself apart from the rest you need to focus your attention to;

1. Double down on building brand equity. It’s critical you invest in serious and detailed thinking on how you build the most likeable brand in your category. Brand has been a neglected cousin of Outbound / Demand Generation over the past 5 years. If you notice though, the B2B SaaS brands who are growing at speed - all have superior brand equity. Build a proposition deck on Peter Thiel’s 4 buckets: Proprietary technology, Network Effects, Economies of Scale and branding.

2. Build an end-to-end Revenue funnel. You should have read SaaS Sales as a Science (if not please do). An action every B2B business needs to take is to build a full revenue funnel that goes beyond closed won and into customer advocacy. Hire specific marketers / revenue ops into your teams that can deliver these insights that will skyrocket your understanding of growth in the business.

3. Hire sales last. A controversial view. Why on earth would you hire sales last when you need to grow revenue? Well, in fact the key here is your GTM, proposition and processes. Before you hire sales you need to have really built a strong sales-led proposition, built out models / frameworks for scaling and designed processes in your demand funnel. This is a different persona to sales. Without this, sales is blind. The rise of Product Led Growth models informs and backs up this perspective — think differently about how you close revenue.

Final advice. And I always encourage my team to reflect on it in great depth every quarter.

Yes, it’s fine to follow some fundamental strategies that work. But what will you do that is innovative — what will you do differently and how will you have other brands copying your playbook. If you manage to achieve this in the market you will be market-leading.

Who’s responsible for the sales funnel?

This topic raises important questions about ownership of the sales funnel.

Research shows that scientific, process-led sales approaches outperform traditional ways of winning business. The sales process is therefore the most important asset a company can create.

A good sales process is a collaboration between marketing and sales. It must be thorough, consistent and connected.

As a marketing leader, creating and embedding a repeatable sales process is one of the most crucial parts of your job. And it begs the question — if marketing owns the funnel, why is there not more importance placed on Marketing than Sales? In itself it’s a dichotomy.
5.2 Prospecting
Prospecting is the area of sales that AEs (Account Executives) struggle with the most. It is difficult. The most ‘unpleasant’ part of selling. The hardest area in which to get consistent results.

No wonder 42% of sales reps feel unprepared for prospecting, and half give up after the first follow-up call. And prospecting is so much more than “calling”. Effective prospecting is driven from the right process, systems and capabilities to repeat / scale. The hint here: Where marketers excel in their attributes compared to a BDM. You have to underpin prospecting with these foundations.

Prospecting is the easiest thing to drop once you’re working on active deals. Most AEs preoccupy themselves with the middle or bottom of the funnel, leaving prospecting behind. Many do it haphazardly or not at all. This leads to lumpy results.

A scalable sales process

In an ideal world, both the sales team and SDR (Sales Development Representatives) team should be prospecting daily.

How can you separate the two?

  • Focus SDRs on the broader market lists and accounts - think multi-touch campaigns using LinkedIn, email, calls and events. These campaigns could be broader, personalised sequences.
  • Focus the sales team on high value accounts - use an Account Based Marketing approach, picking the best accounts and using a referral strategy. Aim for highly personalised, targeted, intelligent and regular communication, with an element of face to face contact.
  • At the same time, you can orient both Sales Development Rep and Business Development Manager to adopt Account Based Marketing/ Selling. Align them in a pod format on the same outcome of account engagement into larger accounts (moreso if selling to Enterprise).

Create the right habits

Prospecting is about having the right habits. Habits form the basis for consistency and success. I’m a big advocate of daily rituals starting small that you can encourage across your SDR and BDM team. Your role as the revenue leader/ CMO is to provide coaching into why there is the need to develop certain habits.

One I created many years ago (and did myself) was the ‘2-2-2’ formula: every day email 2 friendlies *someone in your network to help gain a referral or could benefit from your offering, 2 cold prospects and 2 nurturing contacts. This is so simple, yet, you would be surprised when analysing sales team activity and what they actually achieve in 24 hours every day. If you build the habit muscle each day, it provides a springboard for executing at higher volumes.

Read more about this in my article here: https://medium.com/demand-karma/7-reasons-why-youll-fail-to-hit-sales-quota-d4ecbc7f6302

Homework: Embed best practices
How can you ensure that a diverse team of BDM’s all do the thing they hate? Take a positive approach, model best practices and above all, provide coaching and encourage peer learning in the group.

Sit down with sales

Understand what prospecting is currently happening. You can assume that it won’t be planned or executed consistently.

Create success criteria

Have sales use their targets to work backwards, creating metrics for revenue, meetings needed, second meetings, demos, connections on LinkedIn etc.

This criteria will be unique to each sales person, but give them a clear idea of the number of conversions, discovery calls, initial sales meetings, nurtured contacts and meetings they need each week.

Share the metrics

Trust sales to be honest about this data — now is not the time to micro-manage an experienced rep.

Get their buy in first, then start a weekly check-in against these numbers.

Marketing to the rescue

Marketing can help enormously with this process. As a team, you’ll be scientifically focused on the top of the funnel. But you can help across the whole funnel. Mapping the right strategy, processes, systems, frameworks, blueprints, content and much more… for example;

You’re in a good position to learn and help sales develop their messaging for prospecting calls, messages and meetings.

Peer Learning

SDR’s and BDM’s best learn in peer groups from each other using real-life scenarios. Instead of your weekly call being on metrics, pipeline and progress (you want to monitor of course but the system should give you accountability). It’s why so many sales meetings are wasted.

Focus sessions on learning — reps share discovery calls, what's working, what's not, deal scenarios, closed lost learnings... fostering a peer learning culture is your fastest way to improve rep performance.
5.21 Qualification
All sales methodologies stress the importance of qualification, or as it’s sometimes called, discovery.

A lot of businesses get this wrong. They leave sales to ask the questions unaided. Many account executives don’t help matters by assuming they know the answers and end up over-invested in poorly qualified leads.

Sales qualification is the act of evaluating potential prospects to determine whether they possess the characteristics that make them a good fit for your product or service. In simpler terms — qualifying a lead or prospect means determining whether or not they are worth your time.

Source: Zoom Info

A great AE (Account Executive) will distinguish themselves from lesser sales people through a strong discovery process. Discovery is a key skill to invest in.

Qualifying leads is a skill driven by process. Have you asked the right questions? Is there a set list of exact items you need to cover? Is this checklist standardised?

Most deals fail due to an issue with qualification. Discovery is therefore critical to your overall sales process, your AEs’ performance and your conversion rate.
In my early career as a rep, our calls were monitored tightly by our manager. This helped.

Every discovery call had a set of questions that had to be answered. The answers went to the team leader who would then qualify the opportunity or not.

Any missed questions meant a callback, something we all hated.

Could you implement something similar?
Homework: Build a better qualification process
How can you improve the qualification process in your business?

1. Audit
Start with an audit of your current process. How are prospects qualified? Listen in to a good few sales calls, and get an idea of how much consistency there is. Audit your current pipeline of opportunities. Do any need re-qualification? Be brutally honest. Even sales that feel safe might need added qualification.

Go back to conversations with prospects that feel uncertain. Tighten up discovery on any deals that strike you as loose.

2. Data
Examine the data — how many new opportunities does it take to reach a close? Where do leads typically drop out of the funnel? Are there inconsistencies across individuals?

3. Build
As a marketing leader, it’s now your job to help build a central set of discovery questions. That could come in the form of a checklist, a deck or a shared plan.

In my experience, a simple checklist with 10-20 questions can work wonders. If one of these doesn’t exist in your organisation, create it.

4.Improve
Examine recently closed deals. What stages did this prospect go through? What similarities do these accounts have?

This insight can be used to both replicate the process used and optimise your current checklist.

The checklist can be updated constantly to improve — once it’s in action, keep checking in and deciding how best to build rapport and understand new prospects.

Emphasise that qualification is about relationships — so you may need to include guidance on steering the prospect gently through the process, without becoming too formulaic.
5.22 Solutions development and engagement
Once you move a prospect out of the qualification phase, you’re entering a long tail phase that can last from 3 months to 2 years in B2B sales (if we are assuming mid-market to enterprise deals).

The bigger the deal is, the slower the progress will be.

This long phase can result in stagnant or lost deals. Mainly because we don’t break down this development and engagement stage into manageable chunks.

Create a strategy for your sales team:

  • What are the next steps for every interaction?
  • People forget to focus on “next step layers”
  • What micro-actions can you do along the way to keep a project moving?
  • How can you involve other stakeholders in every meeting?
  • What actions can you take to better understand stakeholder dynamics across a buying team?

As a marketing leader, it is your job to support this process. You’ll need to understand the account executives’ next steps, their needs and their pain. This enables you to line up activities to support moving these stuck deals on. Think about what value you can add through providing systemised processes into the sales cycle.

Many great sales people get stuck when moving a large, complex deal forward. It’s a useful function of marketing to ease delays with creative ideas for engagement. Marketing can bring real value here to the sales team when they are getting stuck on how to progress a deal.

These can inject momentum and keep deals moving.

Engagement plans

A method to aid the process of a deal is called an ‘engagement plan.’ This creates a simple timeline scope of actions between you and the prospect. It keeps sales on track and is absolutely something marketing can help with. Be clear it is not a close plan.

Its goal is to surface a set of key next action steps. A set of actions that make it easy for the prospect to understand. A set of actions that will give transparency.

A set of actions to drive milestone dates on the deal. But you must position it correctly. It’s not about ‘your deal’ timelines. It’s about an asset that benefits the prospect.

It forms a constant reminder of ‘why’ to buy from you. Please check out www.edwinabl.com/resources for examples of engagement plans.
Homework: Moving stuck deals on
Moving stuck deals forward is a critical part of your sales funnel. It’s also the secret to a good repeatable sales process.

To start with, analyse the sales funnel. Understand the data; look for slow development in the middle. Do you have a bloated middle? How can you diagnose the problem?

Talk to account executives about the 2-3 key deals they’re working on. Ask specifically how they need support and invest time in providing content for the next step.

Sales problem:
Failure to engage
Lack of relevant content

Example solution:
Targeted event cycle
Create case study

Moving stuck deals on is about listening. Listen to the account executives in the sales team. Listen to the data. Listen to what the prospect is telling you.

From a place of understanding, you can improve results in the next quarter by simply providing things that are lacking. Work closely with the CRO or Sales Enablement leads to embed this and change behaviour accordingly.

Further reading

Example strategies: https://openviewpartners.com/blog/why-prospects-get-stuck-in-the-pipeline-and-how-to-get-them-unstuck/#.XUA3c-hKiUk

Conducting a workshop:
https://saasx.com/2018/01/22/what-to-do-when-the-sales-pipeline-is-stuck/
5.23 Closing
With B2B mid market to enterprise sales, closing is a very tricky touchpoint. Depending on the deal, closing phases can vary greatly.

Sales often require coaching and support to overcome the challenges presented by these types of sales.

Typical challenge:

  • Lack of buyer momentum
  • Poor communication
  • False endings creating a ‘win’ before the deal is done
  • 12-14 buyers in the process
  • No urgency of importance on the buyer’s side

In my experience, the majority of deals stall or fail during this contracting and negotiating phase. Evidence supports this. Studies show that 7/10 deals don’t go ahead in B2B.

With multiple stakeholders and multi-layered, complex contracting phases, it’s no surprise that closing can be a marketing minefield. More and more, we’re seeing IT decision makers being involved at the contract phase. This can stop a deal in its tracks.

The CMO can provide support and guidance through this difficult process.

If IT is a blocker — create content that relates specifically to IT, showing how your solution meets a series of needs, articulating the ease of integration and implementation. Such as an IT factsheet or if it’s procurement then create a procurement factsheet.

If providing a business case is a problem — create content designed for the CFO on how your solution can improve profitability and efficiency.

Meet the final hurdles

Marketing can also support the contract itself. Create a visually appealing, branded contract that creates a fantastic impression. Visuals and simplicity can swing a deal.
Homework: The final countdown
Most CMOs don’t pay attention to the closing phase. Marketing teams do need to understand the end of the sales cycle. The best marketing teams and leaders do get involved.

Instead of being preoccupied with the top of the funnel, go and speak to the CRO. Find out why there’s problems with the closing stages.

What problems can you help solve?

  • Procurement
  • IT oversight
  • Unseen stakeholders in business

How could marketing support?

  • Events
  • Content
  • Coaching
  • Creative
  • Exec support

The most important rule of thumb is this. Get involved in the process. Educate yourself on the closing stage of sales. The CRO, CEO and CMO should all work together to get deals closed. Don’t ignore the bottom of the marketing funnel, remember as CMO it is absolutely part of your job.
5.24 Re-engagement / nurturing
As we’ve seen, stalls can happen at any stage in the sales process. Whether it’s at discovery, during meetings or in the contracting stage, the majority of deals fail.

Yet 60% of sales teams don’t conduct any research into why the deal failed.
Source: Super Office

It’s hard to get enough sales through the pipeline, especially around certain times of the year, or between campaigns. Instead of looking for new leads, it’s just as effective to go back into the sales database and reach out to lost opportunities.

What happens when a deal is ‘closed lost’?

Just because a deal didn’t go through, doesn’t mean the relationship is over. These deals can be resurrected. Having a system around re-engagement is a great way to improve win rates.

Converting people who already have a connection to your business is easier than you think. Unlike a fresh lead, they already have expressed interest in your product or service. They could be interested in it again, if your process remembers previous engagements.

Work hard to maintain contact with the prospect and avoid burning bridges. This is where community building can have an influence.

At this stage, the CMO can help enormously. Examine your current nurture workflows — where can these forgotten deals be placed?

Nurture lost opportunities

Work with sales to understand how lost opportunities can still be coached. Think about how marketing’s existing funnels and programmes of engagement (e.g newsletters, SDR nurture buckets) can be used to support sales in re-engagement after a fixed time period.

Build a system that supports re-engagement.

Further reading:
https://medium.com/growthok-blog/the-simple-guide-to-re-engage-with-lost-leads-and-close-the-deal-229c2fa0ca68
Homework: A lost lead isn’t a lost cause
Account Executives commonly think that if a deal has failed, the opportunity is lost. A lead that doesn’t respond isn’t a lost lead. Many of us give up too early.

How to keep lost leads engaged:

Understand

Firstly, understand where leads are dropping out of the funnel. Depending on the purchase readiness, the communications will need to be targeted in future conversations.

At the final stages of a deal in particular, understanding ‘why’ is vital before you can make any next steps. Keep a close eye on sales data and look for commonalities, which may be a suggestion of a wider problem.

Personalise

Based on your research, design a workflow that creates a pathway for each persona, regardless of where they ‘fell off’ the sales pipeline.

If your lead stalled in the middle of the funnel, what’s the nurture plan for that individual? If they changed their mind at the contract stage, what should the timeframe be for re-engagement?

These nurture sequences and timeframes will need to be personalised around the stage the deal was lost to be effective.

Standardise

Use your workflow to create standardised processes for following up.

Experiment with punchy re-engagement email templates. Design 5-10 statements that will spark a reaction, and test them. Be direct. Be different. Measure what works and conversion rates, and keep optimising your templates accordingly.

Marketing leaders and CMO’s see repeat business as a sales responsibility.

You should not.

Your CEO cares far more about revenue growth than the size of your marketing pipeline. That’s why repeat business is an essential marketing activity.

It’s easier to get new deals from your existing customers than cold leads.

Upping repeat business during the initial phase of your go-to-market will increase deal velocity from the start.

In my world, SaaS, the quickest way to ensure growth is through cross or upsell. This is true for numerous other B2B industries.

This module will show you how to set about achieving this through a series of quick, incremental wins.
5.3 Repeat business
Reading: How to leverage repeat business, cross-sell and upsell.

Most new CMOs or revenue leaders will work in phases when planning go-to-market strategy.

When I was at Appirio, we had a few key customers but no steady pipeline of leads. It was tempting to fill my marketing strategy with pipeline activities. But in fact, a much faster way to ensure growth was to market to our existing customer base.

What is cross-sell, upsell and repeat business, in essence?

  • Selling a new solution to a problem you already solved
  • Solving a new problem, or fixing the customer’s next challenge

Sit down with your CRO or Sales Lead, get to know each account and understand the opportunities for repeat business in each one.

Line this up with your go-to-market activities. Make sure your tactics are based around creating awareness among your existing customer base.

Do this well, and you’ll see:

  • Uplift in new opportunities
  • Increase in repeat purchases
  • Uplift in cross-sell, upsell

Marketing and sales often focus too heavily on acquiring new business. And marketing leads don’t help themselves by seeing repeat business as a sales job..

Don’t make the same mistake. Repeat business is a marketing responsibility.
Homework: a process for improving cross-sell, upsell and repeat business
As we’ve established, there should be no greater priority for marketing / revenue leaders than repeat business.

Whether it’s upselling an existing customer or cross-selling here’s a series of steps you can follow to ensure you’re maximising sales opportunities:

EVALUATE.

  • Evaluate your current customer base
  • Bucket together problems you’re solving for them, and identify what solutions each customer has already bought

UNDERSTAND.

  • Next build a hypothesis around how your solution can solve the customer’s next challenge
  • (If you’re a digital agency selling YouTube strategy, don’t go back and sell Facebook likes — sell converting YouTube likes into customers.)
  • Sit down with the CRO and sales team, to understand where the best opportunities for cross sell or higher value renewals might sit

BUILD A TARGETED APPROACH.

  • Once you have that account data, map relationships with the next challenge you can solve. Now you can build a targeted, account-based marketing approach:
  • Target each existing customer with softer messaging
  • How can you educate them to solve their next problem?
  • Include repeat business and upsell as a key component of your go-to-market
  • Map a six month view of how you can report wins back into the sales pipeline
  • Educate your CEO on this approach to winning business, informing them about quick wins as well as a pure focus on new leads
5.31 Win rate
Reading: focus where your win rate conversions will be higher

GET TO KNOW YOUR WIN RATE:

If your win rates are very low, it’s an indication of a problem in your sales process or product-market fit. We’ll uncover how to identify your win rate in the ‘homework’ below.

Currently, the average B2B industry win rate is 22%. If yours is lower than this, you’ll need to address this problem first. There will be a blockage in your sales process.

CAUSES OF LOW WIN RATES:

  • Wrong type of leads delivered to sales
  • Scoring not sophisticated so lead quality is poor
  • Sales capabilities
  • Poor product-market fit
  • Poorly designed demand SDR to AE funnel
  • Proposition is not accurate to product

  • Don’t ignore the win rate when you enter your marketing role.
You’re blind without it. How can you know what volume of leads to create, without knowing your hit ratio?

  • What if you’ve got no data?
If you’re a newer company or start-up, you might not have the sales data yet. Don’t worry. Go out, start selling and you’ll identify blockages within 3-6 months.

  • If you’ve got lots of existing data
It’s your job to find and pinpoint the exact stage where you have a problem. Unfortunately, this won’t always be obvious. Go out and find the problem, then you’ll be able to fix it.

QUICK WINS:

It’s much easier to improve your win rates with existing accounts than cold leads. Think about expanding an account rather than treating each account as new business. It’s easier to do 10 deals with an existing account than 10 cold deals.
Homework: the ABCD of win rate
A. Ask the sales leader

Get help understanding the sales process — ask the sales leader where they feel the issues are in the pipeline. Speak to each Account Executive individually to find out more. Get a feel for where the issue is yourself and use this as a basis for further investigation.

B. Begin to uncover your true close rate

Look at sales data; use your company CRM to figure out average deal velocity and deal conversion ratio from awareness to close. Work out the specific percentage that eventually purchases.

C. Closely align to sales process

Based on this percentage, align to the existing sales process to get an understanding of what lead generation marketing needs to do and your lead conversion rate.

  • If you’re a start-up — don’t get hung up on close rates and over engineering. Go out, get leads and figure out the sales process.
  • If you’re a scale-up — it’s imperative that within 4 weeks you identify the problem, especially if your win rate is under 10%.

D. Discuss with your CEO and board

Once you know the number, have conversations about win rates with the CEO and board. Highlight where the issue is, build a strategy from there.

When I was at Appirio, a high drop off rate meant fewer opportunities. We implemented ‘engagement plans’ to generate new business meetings. The engagement plan was a visual representation of steps and customer comms across a timeline. This made a professional job of the 10x’d communication between you and the prospect, projecting a timeline of how the deal will move forward.

This is an effective way of ensuring deals convert, getting more buy in and being more helpful with clients. Win rates will increase.
5.32 Up-selling process
Reading : How do you upsell more effectively?

Most businesses get upselling wrong. Why?

We’re trying to sell the wrong thing as an afterthought.

We’re trying to sell the same solution all over again.

We haven’t built enough engagement with the customer to understand their next problem.

My advice on improving upsell is simple, but highly effective. Build better relationships with customers. This may sound obvious, but it makes a huge difference.

Here’s a simple upsell process.

  • Your customers are happy with what you’re providing. Get under the skin of their 6-9 month roadmap. What’s their next problem?

  • Don’t wait until the project ends to upsell. It should be an ongoing process.

  • What problem did they face at the start? What problems are likely to come up in future? How can you guarantee their success?

Position yourself as the guide.

Continually help your customers get closer to success.

Upsell fails because people sell the same problem to the customer as before. Similar to cross-selling.

Don’t get caught in being the customer’s support, think of yourself as a problem solver that comes up with solutions. Show your customer the way.
Homework: How do you upsell more effectively?
For every customer you work with, take time to brainstorm revenue opportunities in the account. Where can your solution fit these opportunities, knowing their roadmap?

Position doing a workshop with them. Ask about where they see the future of their department? What direction are they going in? What does your prospect get paid their bonus around? That’s a good one to understand!

Find out the important levers for their business in a helpful way, and you’ll be able to effectively upsell back to them.

Process:

  1. Have you upsold anything to the customer? If you haven’t, you’re not understanding the relationship well enough.
  2. What are the business goals for that business? How could you tie upsell activity to those business benefits?
  3. Provide offers that will be appealing to each part of their goal - the business, individual and team.

Win more:

Understand and explain how your solution fits these levers, using their articulation of the business roadmap. Solve your customer’s challenges in a phased approach. Match up with their vision using your specific tactics and activities.

Ongoing:

Look at how much you’ve invested in strategic conversations. Help clients deal with issues and continually build the relationship from a strategic perspective. Help them think about what’s next. How are you spending time with the customer? Can you rebalance or make it more strategic?

  • Phase 1 — understand the upsell being offered already.
  • Phase 2 — coach and train your sales team, with a campaign or strategy to drive upsell based on relevant components (the customer’s next problem).
  • Phase 3 — create a framework for upsell (provide ongoing content to support this).

Workshop: How do you build a customer centric commercial message?

Printable discussion cards:

  • Look at your brand position.
Turn the business story into a series of impactful statements and content ideas.

  • Audit your email messaging and one-pagers.
From a customer centric point of view, are they compelling? Or are they just telling me about how great your product features are?

  • Flip statements around
Not compelling yet? Try flipping the statements around. By putting the customer benefit first, before product features, you can achieve quick wins with your messaging.

  • Embed with a story
Another quick way to make your marketing more customer focused is to embed everything with a case story.

  • Speak to customers
The more you understand what the customer really cares about, the faster you can align your messaging with that.

  • Look at outbound
Review and revamp LinkedIn outreach and cold emails. Get your messaging clear on the benefit it provides and make it conversational (not just ‘adding value’) — aim to pique the prospect’s interest.

  • Produce thought leadership
Test your new messaging out in some ongoing thought leadership — get feedback from customers. Is this resonating?
5.33 Effective Sales Enablement
A critical sign of sales and marketing alignment is how well sales are enabled in the field. How consistent is the messaging, value proposition and process for GTM?

Marketing is now more closely linked to sales than ever before. Sales has changed too. A good modern sales BDM needs to offer ‘real’ value across the sales engagement. Act in many ways as the trusted advisor or solutions consultant.

To drive successful outcomes in deal closures and growth, you need to have a repeatable sales enablement strategy as defined by all the commercial leaders. Capability, process and content are key to making this work when you start to scale.

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organisation with the information, content, and tools that help salespeople sell more effectively.

The foundation of sales enablement is to provide salespeople with what they need to successfully engage the buyer throughout the buying process.

Source: TopO

Creating good sales enablement can be done in a number of ways.

Some organisations hire a Head of Sales Operations, Revenue Operations or Demand Generation. These individuals sit across the sales and marketing teams respectively, ensuring a link on the metrics and demand funnel. Often, not best placed to provide the top-cover exec leadership coaching around sales enablement.

Other organisations rely on the CMO or Head of Marketing to facilitate the embedding of a good sales strategy and sales enablement plan.

Sales and marketing alignment is hard. So is sales enablement.

It’s easy to produce sales decks, pitches and one pagers. It’s hard to embed this with a grizzled sales team. Sales enablement processes involve patience, coaching and long term training. This unit is designed to help you do just that.
5.34 Sales and marketing connection
Sales and marketing share a critical connection. Both teams absolutely must be on the same page. For this to happen, there has to be a continuous notion of coaching, training, collaboration, knowledge-sharing and accountability. The critical factor in the success or failure of B2B sales lies in strong sales enablement.

Your marketing team needs to focus on how the sales team is enabled. Without this focus, it’s challenging for them to sell.

Traditionally, marketing creates assets and provides them to sales. The problem with this is that sales won’t use 90% of the assets. It’s a waste of your great work.

Remember that sales won’t automatically understand how to use the assets you provide. So even with the best intentions, a lot of the content will be unsuccessful without proper sales enablement.

This is a critical component of a CMO / revenue leader’s job — how can you influence a sales enablement programme?

Start by making an impact on the sales team immediately, by breaking down the marketing messages into simple, sales-friendly statements.

Statements can be structured along the lines of ‘Here is what I have, here is what it will do, here are the benefits and here is the call to action.’ You can help distil messages that will support sales in the selling process. Do not forget that point. Deals get stuck because sales teams are not coached and enabled effectively.

Homework: Setting sales up to sell in the first few weeks
Steps:

Audit sales content
Audit sales funnel
Identify pain points
Quick wins

During your first few weeks, take discovery meetings with the sales leader.

Understand:

  • What sales assets are already being used — a quick content audit
  • The sales cycle struggles — which points don’t convert?

For early funnel blockages, look at enablement around building and training the team, finding the right hooks and pitches to move the conversation on.

For mid-funnel blockages enable sales teams in selling against the competition, create assets which facilitate moving stuck deals forward, building business cases for prospects.

For end of funnel blockages, look at quick wins, creating engagement plans (formerly called close plans) that clearly lay out SLAs for communication with end-stage prospects.

It may take longer than you expect to get things moving. That’s OK.

Schedule regular meetings with the sales leader to establish a process. Build an appreciation for where marketing can help. It may be useful to host a workshop with the sales team on how marketing will help sales, providing a clear pathway on enablement over the next 6 months.

Your 6-month plan should be agreed with the sales leader, and can be rolled out as a training process in itself (see 5.4 Sales Certification).
5.35 Sales process development
Sales process — having a set way of selling to customers, each and every time — is critical in B2B SaaS marketing.

Recent literature, including The SaaS Sales Method: Sales As A Science have shown that old fashioned relationship-focused sales no longer work. The best salespeople follow a strict process, engaging the prospect carefully at all stages to influence their decision-making. Relationships today are built on process.

View Dominique Levin’s SlideShare deck on Sales As A Science here:

https://www.slideshare.net/SaaStock/sales-as-a-science


Yet sales processes are incredibly hard for a sales or marketing leader to embed within teams. Why is this?

It’s much easier to embed a process with a new team. As graduates or salespeople in early stages of their career, it’s easier to embed new processes. As individuals get further into their career, they can forget elements of process and become more complacent.

I have the utmost sympathy for sales and marketing leaders. It’s a real challenge to embed processes in their work. Ask a salesperson and they’ll be too busy making a deal. And in many cases, salespeople won’t see the value in sticking to a process. What can be done?

In your first 100 days as CMO it’s up to you to influence the sales leader. Together, you can embed a sales process that fits a methodology. In some cases, great sales leaders will already run a sales methodology (Meddic, for example). But that won’t keep day-to-day tabs on the habitual actions that account executives should be taking.

Great sales enablement relies on the entire team following a process. Not on individual sales ‘stars’ that can win business, but on great processes that work within a group.

Homework: Cheat sheets, playbooks and checklists
How do you create and embed a sales process?

Firstly, map all of the touchpoints that a sales rep would have with a prospect. From email, to LinkedIn, to proposals, to pitches, contracts and final engagement plans. Understand exactly when and how the contact happens.

All these steps require a script, a process or a template. Whether it’s a call, email or LinkedIn outreach, there ought to be discovery and qualification processes at play. Sales Operations can help you with this, and marketing can add great value here.

Don’t leave this to sales. Work with the analytically-minded Sales VP on systems but use marketing’s know how to assist and enforce strong sales processes.

Introduce cheat sheets / playbooks

Recent studies such as The Checklist Manifesto shows how human error can be reduced significantly with the introduction of simple checklists.

Here’s three examples of basic checklists I’ve used in the past:

How I prepare for sales calls & meetings

1. Align who owns relationship and client preparation.
2. Design story, talk-track and research key contacts (2-3 days before call).
3. Map agenda and outcomes of the call.
4. Send email note looking forward to call 24 hours prior.
5. Close “call” with direct question on “next steps” and double meeting confirmation.
6. Have ready follow up email post-call with stats and ROI.
7. Spend 10 minutes visualising “intention to action” and “performance”.
8. Do facial exercises to deliver clearly.

How to run a sales process

OVERVIEW FOR SELLING:

1. LEAD with business case outcomes
2. FIND mobilisers in the sales cycle
3. PRODUCE more prescriptive content in the sales cycle

MEETING CONFIRMED:

1. ALWAYS send pre-meeting confirmation email
2. UNCOVER key reasons for the meeting
3. ALWAYS loop in extra colleagues (find and assess "who" is mobiliser)

MEETING COMPLETED:

1. DURING meeting look to double book next appointment
2. ALWAYS send post-meeting email with ROI and outcomes
3. CONNECT with other colleagues in org on LinkedIn
4. SEND follow up confirmation email (affirm understandings)

ENGAGED:

1. SEND Engagement plan
2. SELL your ability to help build a business case
3. SEND procurement value document
4. POSITION pricing around value statements (especially when adding services)

PROPOSAL:

1. ALWAYS proof proposal with Ed / Hannah / Pete
2. MUST lead with Business "Outcomes"
3. ATTACH timelines and expectations of next steps

CLOSING:

1. ALWAYS use Docusign
2. OFFER closing offers before end of quarter
3. POST-PURCHASE:
4. SEND information regarding next "upsell" opportunity to client team

How I follow up calls & meetings

Confirm a list for use and completion before the end of the working day the meeting happened.

1. In room: Get/confirm mobile number of key client(s).
2. In room: Agree next action and next contact date.
3. Debrief outcome/process/relationship 1-4 with all internal attendees.
4. Write echo-confirm-note and send from deal lead - use templates.
5. Add internal notes, debrief scores/notes, cover BAN,T save to Hubpost, share with Topcover / team.
6. Hold back one share/extra from echo note, diarise to send separately 24 hrs later.
7. Add client to database/mktg list.
8. Diarise time / reason to call / text key client(s) within 48hrs.
9. Thank / update other clients / introducers who weren’t present.
10. Identify two relevant nudges and diarise sending for +5 / +10 days.

Question: will this person buy? Do they have the buying power? Find the wider buying circle and team to engage

Sales playbooks can dramatically increase outputs.

Create a series of cheat sheets for the sales team to refer to.
Every time they have a meeting, a call or an interaction, what checklist do they need to follow? This process of simple engagement plans ensures opportunities aren’t missed.
5.36 Sales certifications
We’ve already established that embedding sales processes and ensuring effective sales enablement can be tricky, even in the best organisations. Luckily, there’s a simple way to tackle these issues in a positive way.

Internal sales academies

Most salespeople will happily go through internal training and learning programmes. The end result is a sales certification for them and an embedded process for you.

At Modulr we run a similar programme called the Modulr Certified Sales Professional. Hubspot also have an academy:


Source: HubSpot Community

Help salespeople elevate their profiles

The beauty of this approach is that internal sales staff feel a sense of professional achievement. And the end result is more buy-in to your processes and values, with a greater chance of embedded sales practises.

A structured approach helps everyone

Enforcing a structured sales certification approach means that your sales team will be more consistent. They are more likely to work in a standardised way, with better knowledge of how they could run and pitch a solution.

At Appirio, we introduced a 6-week programme before our annual SKO (sales kick off). Homework was sent out to all the sales teams, with a deck and pitch attached. They had a few weeks to learn a whiteboard pitch without slide support, which they would present at the SKO. During the event, sales would present in teams across different rooms. Depending on criteria we set, they’d either pass or fail.

Set criteria for success

Not everyone should pass the first time. Think carefully about what behaviours you want to see consistently:

  • Do they use customer stories?
  • Has the brand positioning been explicitly referenced?

Once certified, use your CRM or Intranet to promote the certification. At Appirio, we used company-wide notifications, even gamifying the process by adding a socially competitive element. This included recorded and shareable pitches that everyone could access.
Homework: Sales certification in 5 steps
My main advice is this — please don’t hire someone to do this sales certification process for you.

Here’s why.

At the very basic level, you’re simply setting up some sales training. Don’t outsource the ownership of this. You want to ensure that every salesperson understands your sales process.

Designing your own programme is straightforward and takes 3 months or less.

Step 1. Communicate
Design the sales programme over a period of 4-6 weeks. Think about what materials you’ll need, the training that will need to take place and how to set about certification and awarding. Work closely with the Sales VP and get everyone on board.

Step 2. Design
Create the assets and narrative that you want everyone to understand and be familiar with.

Step 3. Create success criteria
What does good look like? You as Marketing CMO will need to be able to do this better than anyone. Expect to model a great pitch and set a good example.

Step 4. Lock in dates
Agree a timeframe with the Sales VP that coincides with annual sales cycles. Think carefully about how you’re going to congratulate and award kudos afterwards.

Step 5. Embed
Consider hosting ongoing coaching and refresher workshops throughout the year, after your certification event has passed.
5.37 Content optimisation across sales
& marketing
Previously, we looked at the need to create instant, quick-win assets that would win sales support for marketing. But we need to think longer term about how content can be used to transform sales enablement, beyond the decks, one-pagers and case studies you already have.

Storage

The usual scenario in businesses: sales dump all content into a series of Google Drive, DropBox or OneDrive shared files. Typically, you might see assets spread across a range of locations, meaning documents are hard to find. In other words, storage is a bit of a mess.

The first thing you can do to improve the longevity of content is to sort this out. You may want to do this manually, or to pick a solution that helps your team find what they need, when they need it. There’s plenty of great tools out there (ShowPad for example) that are designed to help discovery of content in sales.

Content blocks

Other products are available that help you create pre-built content blocks for different purposes. Panda Docs is great for proposals. This speeds up the time it takes to produce documents and avoids poor content optimisation, where lots of materials and content float around but no-one can find them.

Discovery tools and optimisation tools like the ones above are fantastic for cutting down wasted time. Once you’ve rolled them out, the sales team can find and use content faster than ever before.

Train, train, train

These two steps will seriously improve the uptake of content by sales. It should also inform your training — where can the team find the content they need?

Make sure that you’ve trialled the tool with sales early on, testing for usability and relevance. Get feedback on the tool — it is improving things? If it works, don’t roll the software out without training the entire team. Be very clear on the reason you’re adopting the tool and how it can be implemented.


Homework: Dealing with bad content practises
Content optimisation is a big piece of the sales enablement process. If content is used more effectively, deployed more and becomes part of the sales narrative, it’s also a big win for marketing. Here’s 4 steps to get there:

1. Deal with bad storage

  • Look at your sales funnel — what steps are there?
  • Make the content searchable within these steps. Put proposals in a folder called ‘proposals,’ and put prospecting resources in a folder called ‘prospecting.’
  • Doing this creates a structure that is easy to follow and makes content simple and easy to find.
  • Archive any documents that aren’t in use.
  • Always be consistent with the language you use.

2. Decide on the right tool

Think about how much you want to spend on a content optimisation tool. Build the business case for the product and do your research — G2 Crowd is a good B2B software marketplace. Think about what fits your technology stack, workplace and choose an option that fits the level of complexity you need.

3. Trial

My advice is to try the tool out with a series of sales people before you buy. You’ll need sales buy-in from day one, anyway. If the team finds it easy to use and valuable, then go ahead. But if you hear nothing, then don’t waste your money.

4. Clear rollout

Once purchased, have a clear rollout plan. You’ll want to treat this like any new technology implementation. Ensure the enablement is done properly, whether that’s group training or in person, because otherwise your tool may never be adopted.
5.32 Direct Channels or Indirect Channels to market
The best route to market isn’t always direct prospecting or direct go-to-market. Your product or service may be served better by building out a channel model, a distribution model and/or a blend of all of them.

Time and patience

Understanding the options for go-to-market channels takes effort. This section will help you to sit down and think about the right way to operate.

To drive go-to-market channels that will work, you’ll need to consider:

  • Your sales process
  • The quickest routes to market
  • How to leverage channel partners
  • How to find, approach and work with channel partners

Direct or indirect?

If you decide to adopt an indirect approach, you will need to create a channel sales model with relevant partners.

If you choose to market directly, you’ll need to build and empower your own team.

You might settle on a combination of the two.

Key takeaway

Most marketing leaders make the mistake of adopting a direct go-to-market model.

Don’t assume this is necessarily the best way.

Examine different possibilities of how prospects could buy. Consider how the business could build indirect sales channels.

In many cases, it’s better to leverage partner channels than trying to attempt a direct play.


5.33 Best practice for channel marketing
& sales
When you’re operating within a channel, standard brand messaging won’t work.

Create the positioning and messaging as if it were a new product.

Having made the decision to sell using a channel model, the next step is building a messaging structure as if you had created a new brand. Depending on the type of channel partner, you will have to tailor your message accordingly

Partners, big and small

If your partner is a big player, it’s likely that your messaging will need to fall into line with their marketing. Typically, a series A or B company would look to partner with a bigger player that can provide this leverage in the marketplace. For example, Modulr’s partnership with Sage offered unique channel opportunities via Sage’s extensive customer base.

If your partner is an equal or smaller player, you have more leverage and control. Spotting a fast growing vendor early on can put you in a good position. For example, at Appirio we worked with Salesforce as a new vendor during the early years of Salesforce’s growth. This riskier play worked out incredibly well, with Appirio eventually being bought for $500m by Wipro.

Tailor your message

Your message must be unique and appropriately tailored to the partner’s audience, the specific upsell you’re offering and the benefits you can offer.

  • Channel partners won’t care about your generic marketing message
  • Compelling messages need to empower and enable their sales team
  • A tailored marketing message will excite partner’s sales teams about your proposition
  • This message must also be simple enough to digest for it to work

Keep it simple

The prospect of your channel partner won’t need a lengthy marketing message. They need to know 3 simple things:

  • Customer stories that convey what you do
  • A tailored message relevant to their account
  • A clear benefit that can be easily conveyed

When it comes to partner sales teams, think about how you can motivate a rep in their specific context. How would your message resonate? How could you open up more accounts? Help them with more effective prospecting, they’ll be more motivated.

Be proactive

Finally, it’s vitally important to be proactive. How can you facilitate the success of the partnership? Think about what all stakeholders need at each point:

  • Provide account maps.
  • Make life easy — create templates and decks to frame conversations.
  • Make sure that sales teams have sets of tailored messaging for each stage.
  • Set clear engagement plans (see 4.1) setting out expectations.

Your message has got to be about the value your product adds to their account territory


Homework: Setting up channel marketing
& selling
If you’re selling indirectly or you have channel selling as part of your sales models, this process will work for you.

Relationships
  • Channel selling is built on relationships.
  • Build rapport with your channel counterpart through events.
  • Events need a strategic angle, as well as a ‘feel good’ factor.
  • Create shared goals, shared revenue targets and hold each other accountable.
Positioning
  • Examine your positioning statements, decks and case stories.
  • Create channel-focused decks and messaging.
  • Target these assets to the individual accounts you’ll be working on.
  • Focus everything on customer success stories.

Break the message down
  • Break the overall message down into bitesize statements.
  • Supply these to the channel reps at your partner company.
  • Make sure that the messaging is simple and motivating.
  • Test it on your sales team first — is it simple to understand?

Empathise
  • Put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
  • If you are lining up shared territories, how can you share the workload?
  • Think about data (though be mindful of data misuse under GDPR) and any templates or marketing packs that could be shared across target accounts.

5.34 Channel marketing & sales ROI
When my previous company partnered with Salesforce, we joined an ecosystem across a huge marketplace. Salesforce did an exceptional job of both setting their partners up for this work, and tracking towards annual contract values.

This meant that Salesforce was able to reach a bigger market, through empowered and motivated partners, cross-selling and upselling with longevity.

Co-target with your partner

In this case, Appirio joined a channel network that Salesforce had built. As such, Salesforce set targets in terms of monthly revenue for each partner. We accepted this number and developed a plan and budget to ensure we met it.

If you own the channel network and have brought partners on board, it’s your prerogative to create metrics about what each partner can bring. Examine your channel partners, ranking and stacking them. From here, you can divide your revenue target amongst the partners according to reach and size.

Foster relationships built on accountability

A big part of the success of indirect, channel marketing is the willingness of both parties to be accountable.

This accountability leads to greater motivation to start selling, a bigger reach across customers and a greater bottom line. Remember, if you are a channel partner of the vendor the onus is on you to drive net new pipeline. That’s the only way in which you get an interest in the vendor side.

Check in regularly

Have regular touchpoints — how is your relationship progressing? Treat it as if it were an extension of your own company. This means regular business reviews against a scorecard that you co-create. Both sides will need to assign targets they feel are fair, and be on the same page about goals.


Homework: Setting the right targets for channel partners
Measuring relationships between channel partners is a great way of motivating both parties and staying on track.

Regular check-ins, realistic targets and open accountability should be woven into the fabric of your partnership.

If you’re the partner
If you joined an ecosystem, then it’s your responsibility to accept and own the targets set by your partner. Think of your given financial goal. Now, work backwards and consider where this business will come from:

  • If the goal is £1m revenue — consider exactly how you get to that number.
  • What will be the marketing spend?
  • Understand the full business plan of how to achieve this growth.
  • Don’t be afraid to spend money winning this business — it’s vital.

If you’ve created the channel network
If you’re creating the ecosystem, then consider what you as a vendor are looking for. What percentage of your overall sales target should come from indirect sales? Assess your partners, they will vary in size and reach. Tailor the targets according to each partner accordingly. Consider:

  • Will you share CRM dashboards?
  • How will you share sales assets?
  • What’s the process for working together?
  • What’s the cadence for managing the process and accountability?

You have reached the end of Lesson #2 — CONGRATS! For more content on SaaS Sales & Marketing alignment please go to www.edwinabl.com. We now move onto Class #6 — Owning MarTech effectiveness and data insights.
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