We’ve discussed what sales enablement is and various strategies for increasing the adoption rate of sales enablement in our previous two posts in this series. Today, we’ll continue our focus on sales enablement by discussing some of the most common sales enablement errors that can doom your efforts.
Much like we’ve done previously, we’ll go in-depth by examining the most common mistakes within two of the three major areas – Technology and Marketing Content. We’ll list the three most common mistakes in each, talk about how and why these errors harm your sales organization, and what you should be doing instead so those mishaps don’t happen. Knowledge and Information is something we’ve covered extensively in other blogs – particularly as relates to sales training.
- You become swayed by hype and buy the newest and biggest thing without taking into account your organization’s needs.
How often has this happened to you or your organization? You hear a lot of talk how XYZ Enablement Tech is disrupting the sales industry, completely revolutionizing the game, and ushering in a wholly new era. The buzz settles into your brain and you go out and get XYZ – only to find out after it’s implemented that it either isn’t all it was said to be, or it is but not in the specific areas your organization needs help with.
At best, you’re left with the feeling that you wasted everyone’s time and money getting something that was a completely unnecessary addition. At worst, it does disrupt the sales industry – namely by disrupting your sales process and causing productivity downturns as your team struggles to try and efficiently integrate the ill-fitting technology into their workflow.
What you should do instead
As we said in our previous post on sales enablement, before you even start exploring possible technology to add to your enablement arsenal, conduct an internal deep dive to identify what areas of your sales organization would benefit from increased or enhanced tech enablement and sales automation. Understand not only the areas, but what specific pain points or opportunities for improvement you have within those sectors.
Another way of approaching it: Answer the question, “What do you want or need any new sales enablement technology to do for you and your organization and how will it fit in to your existing ecosystem?”
- Budget is the biggest factor in deciding the solution you go with.
The other major error in the decision-making process when it comes to sales enablement vendor selection is fixating on budget as the primary focus. This applies to many areas of enablement, but it’s particularly common in technology. Faced with two or three options that seem feasible, far too many organizations take the lowest cost as the final determinant.
And that’s a problem. While the cliche “You get what you pay for” doesn’t necessarily ring entirely true, as all sales professionals know, there’s enough accuracy that it’s a watchphrase worth employing. The cheaper option might not have all the features you need, or it may have the features you need in the short-term, but there’s no room to grow into a larger, more feature-rich version if and when your business needs it.
Another common situation – everything you need in terms of the technology’s features is there, but the post-implementation support is limited or takes far too long to get a response. But then, that’s why this tech that matches all your requirements didn’t cost as much as the other options that did the same thing – they realized savings on their end by declining to invest in sufficient support to meet your needs.
What You Should Do Instead
Go into your initial research and discovery (after you’ve identified your specific needs, requirements, and objectives of course) with no set number in mind. Get a sense of the level of features and services available within each price band that meets your needs. Factor in the type of post-implementation support you will need as part of your research process.
Then, when it comes down to decision-making time, place a priority on the match with what will best fit your organization in both the short-term and projected future plans. After all, the time and hassle you save by spending more on a solution that meets your needs both now and has potential to grow into as your organization does is ultimately long-term savings rather than the short-term dollar savings that would then translate into a much higher resources cost.
- You don’t provide enough training or reinforcement.
What we see a lot of organizations doing is hosting a one-off training event on new technology and then just relying on employees to have the self-motivation to report support tickets to the vendor – whether it’s a legitimate support issue or the employee simply forgetting how to perform a certain task in the system.
The issue is that – particularly for complicated systems or a lot of new knowledge to acquire – a single training session isn’t going to be enough. There’s simply too much to learn and adjust to. And as we’ve noted repeatedly in this blog, the Ebbinghaus Curve demonstrates we lose as much of 50% of what we learn within the next 24 hours if we don’t reinforce our learning. Thus, it is absolutely essential that reinforcement is part of the strategy, and, in some cases, several training sessions – each focusing on a particular aspect of the technology.
What You Should Do Instead
As part of the planning for the ramp up and implementation process, carefully look at how much your team members are expected to learn, the degree of difficulty of that knowledge, etc. Also tally how many people need to be trained on the technology. Calculate based on those determinations (in consultation with your chosen vendor) how many training sessions you should hold and in what format.
For example, if it’s a handful of people or they’re centrally located in one region, you can likely choose one location to host the training. If you’re spanning multiple regions, countries, or time zones, then you’re likely going to need corresponding multiple sessions (and in some instances look at things like localization services).
Still another option – particularly in our COVID-19 age – hosting a virtual event. This allows for much larger numbers and more information to be easily distributed. But in that instance, it’s strongly recommended that you make your expectations and pace of learning clear – what order to learn the material in, what time frame to have initial learning completed by, etc.
For reinforcement, you’ll want to make reference and refresher materials easily available – whether handouts, digital repository, some combination thereof, etc. You’ll also need to delegate points of contact for post-installation support – ideally not only with the vendor, but at least one person in your organization who is dedicated to mastery of the technology and can potentially respond more quickly to low-level support issues.
Coaching to the technology as part of the sales process is also part of the reinforcement strategy. This will involve sales managers walking their direct reports through how to utilize the tech in your sales process. That, incidentally, is another reason why it’s so important at the very beginning of your first research process to know how the enablement fits into your sales process and workflow. You can then more easily and accurately reinforce its place in your organization in coaching afterwards.
- Marketing creates the content without input from sales.
You have talented copywriters, graphic designers, and other creatives within your marketing department who know your target markets and can speak to them. So the thinking goes, since they’re so talented and knowledgeable, why not have them just make collateral solo, since that saves time and frees sales to do what they do?
A reasonable assumption, but still an assumption. And like many assumptions, it’s wrong. Here’s why – however gifted and aware your marketing department is, the needs, goals, and even language of your target industries changes – sometimes quite rapidly so (especially in the pandemic). At best, it’s a missed opportunity to maximize your messaging. At worst, your messaging comes across as outdated and not reflective of the current market – which in turn hurts your organization’s credibility with buyers.
What You Should Do Instead
Set up meetings between sales and marketing to bring them into messaging alignment, have sales answer a series of questions to help guide marketing to laser focus, etc.
- You let sales create their own content without input from marketing.
The mirror image of the first mistake. You think to yourself, “Sam has a background in graphic design and Sally was a writer before she moved to sales. Why not just have them create collateral? They have the skills and are aware as salespeople of the most current issues facing our target buyers.”
Much like the first marketing mistake, on the surface this appears to make sense. However, in practice, this is a terrible idea due to two major issues. The first issue: Marketing might seem less complex than it really is. The truth is, effective marketing and collateral needs to be precise: it needs to stay true to the company brand book (which involves items such as colors, font families, line heights, etc.); and it needs to be coherent, consistent, and on the same level with the rest of your other corporate branded collateral.
Similarly, a common mistake people make is that great writers are great writers. As with marketing, it’s not nearly as simple as that. As one of our team members who consults with people who want to become copywriters notes, most writers specialize in a few industries – the verbiage, the concerns, the goals, and so on. So just because Sally, for example, was a journalism major in college and worked in the field before shifting to sales, doesn’t mean she’ll match the writing product of your marketing department’s copywriters.
The second major issue – arguably the most important – is that the time sales reps devote to creating marketing content is time that’s taken away from their sales-specific duties. That’s less activity in the pipeline, fewer conversions, a worse close rate, and lower revenues. Even if the first issue with this mistake didn’t exist, this problem of misuse of sales’ time resource alone would make the idea of your reps creating their own collateral a major error.
What You Should Do Instead
Yes, it’s important to give sales space to provide input, suggestions, and feedback on marketing content during the collaborative process. But let marketing do what they do best and be responsible for the actual crafting and production of your collateral.
- There’s no final review process from sales after content creation.
You’ve had sales and marketing work together on the initial research process, with sales providing their counterparts the information they need to create tightly targeted content that synergizes with your buyers’ specific requirements. Marketing has designed and developed your new collateral. No need to have sales – particularly sales leadership – review it, right?
Wrong. Although it takes more time to have a review phase, not having one will increase the likelihood of mistakes creeping into the final product or – more likely – a missed chance to be absolutely certain the content speaks directly to your target markets and that you have enough different collateral for each of your distinct markets. And though it might seem like a small thing, those on the surface minor differences can have outsized effects on your sales results.
What You Should Do Instead
Have your sales leadership review the drafts as they’re produced. Leadership will provide fine-tuning feedback, marketing will make requested adjustments, and leadership should then have a second review process with an eye towards final approval. This will lock in the best quality collateral possible and maximize the content’s value to your sales process and reps.
These sales enablement mistakes – regardless of area – can be easy to make and come from a place either of short-term thinking or assumptions that might seem reasonable, but reveal fallacies upon closer inspection. Following our recommendations for what you should do will help you prevent those errors and situate your organization in a position to have a great sales enablement program.