Sales Enablement: A New Role for Sellers

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With pricing, detailed product information, and user reviews readily available with the click of a mouse, customers today are typically much closer to the bottom of the sales funnel when they first encounter a salesperson. That is in stark contrast to years past, when sales representatives tended to initiate sales discussions at the start of any customer journey.

“The buyers are definitely more informed today,” says Adam Brenner, senior vice president of sales and field operations at Elastic Path, an e-commerce solutions provider.

As a result, the salesperson’s role has evolved from one of pure sales to one of “sales enablement,” in which the salesperson becomes more of a guide as the customer or prospect moves independently through the customer journey.

According to Salesforce.com’s “State of Sales” report, today’s sales reps spend only one-third of their time actually selling, with the other time being spent on administrative and other tasks. Additionally, 62 percent of high-performing salespeople foresee a bigger role for guided selling that ranks potential opportunity value and suggests the next steps.

Since he is interacting with the customer closer to the bottom of the sales funnel, the salesperson of today needs to follow some different strategies than his predecessors of 15 or 20 years ago.

“Sales needs to work with marketing much more closely,” says Peter Gillett, CEO of Zuant Mobile, providers of a mobile sales lead capture platform. “Salespeople need to take better advantage of marketing automation, see who marketing is talking to, and be ready to swoop down when the prospect is ready to react.”

This assumes that prospective customers can indeed easily find most of the product or service information they need on the company’s website. If details are buried, or if web pages don’t naturally flow along a logical path to help move the customer from initial discovery to the purchase decision or to where the consultative salesperson should be involved, the customer will quickly move to a competitor that has this content readily and easily available, according to Mike Schultz, director of the Rain Group Center for Sales Research.

In its study “Top Performance for Sales Prospecting,” Rain discovered that 69 percent of buyers ranked primary research data as the top content they seek. Additionally, 67 percent of buyers placed a high value on content directly customized to their specific situations.

For that reason, all prospect interactions with the company should be fed into the company’s CRM system to provide salespeople with a full map of the customer journey, Gillett adds. However, he cautions that it’s more difficult to influence the prospect’s decision when interacting further down the sales funnel.

SALESPEOPLE NEED INSIGHTFUL TECHNOLOGIES

By examining the prospect’s previous interactions, sales reps gain insight into what the potential customer might already know about the product or service, how far down the sales funnel the customer actually is, and other insights, Gillett says. With this insight, the salesperson can greatly improve his odds of closing the sale.

Salesforce’s research also found that while only 34 percent of sales leaders have intelligent forecasting, 90 percent of them say intelligent forecasting helps them do their jobs more effectively.

“Knowing how a customer interacts during the customer journey allows sales reps to optimize their sales strategies and offer a more personalized experience,” says Matt Dillon, cofounder of Nuvem Consulting. “Instead of selling customers a list of different services or products, sales reps are able to guide their prospects through the customer journey to ensure the products or services they are offering match what the buyer is really looking for.”

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