What’s your focus when designing and creating sales enablement services? What are the sales enablement frameworks you work with? And what do they look like? I’m constantly amazed at how often the customers are not even mentioned, nor included in sales enablement frameworks and approaches that are applied.

“But sales enablement is about sales!” I hear you. However, to be successful in the age of the customer,  salespeople must adapt their strategies, their messaging, their skills and techniques to the way their buyers want to buy. So, sales enablement should always have the customers at the core of its efforts. “But how do I address salespeople’s challenges?” Things will fall into place if you give me a few minutes to explore the matter.

In the digital age of the customer, a high-performing sales force is not optional. It is mandatory. Effective selling requires sales professionals to align their strategies, activities, and behaviors to the customer’s path.

In the age of the customer, salespeople have to deal with well-informed, over-informed, and also misinformed prospects and customers. Also, the specifics of the business challenges their customers are dealing with, matter as well. Is the business challenge new to the buying team, or is it well known? And how risky is the challenge for their organization and their individual careers? Highly successful sales professionals know how to create value at each stage of the customer’s path for all involved buyer roles, based on their specific business challenges.

Creating value means different things at different stages of the customer’s path, but it’s always centered around being relevant, valuable and differentiating to help prospects and customers move forward with their decision-making process:

  • Creating value in the awareness phase is about creating clarity regarding the actual business impact of a challenge, and it’s about providing perspectives as to how prospects and customers can achieve their desired results. In this phase, all efforts are focused on helping prospects and customers to decide to tackle the issue or not.
  • In the buying phase, creating value means providing detailed information about how the customer’s desired results can be achieved with your solutions. It also means providing all the required financial data to be integrated into the customer’s business case. Yes, into the customer’s business case, because cost savings as such are only the door-opener to business impact.
  • In the implementation and adoption phase, creating value could mean providing implementation assistance and tips for successful usage, tailored to the customer’s steps. It also means ensuring that all initial executive buyers know about the value that has been created. That allows you to establish a foundation for additional business.

These examples show exactly why all enablement services have to be aligned with the customer’s path. This applies to not only the content salespeople use but also the training services around skills, methodologies, processes, and product. Even if certain skills are the same (such as value messaging), they have to be applied differently in the different phases.

The two steps: Successful sales force enablement leaders align their enablement services first to the customer’s path and then to the sales force’s specific challenges

Working with an enablement framework that is based on the customer’s path is the foundation of sustainable enablement success. If you design your enablement frameworks around your products or your internal challenges only, you lose the necessary focus on the customers. Your ultimate design point should be your customers and how they approach their challenges, how they want to buy, and how they prefer to use/implement/adopt your products, services, and solutions. The customer’s path is not your only design point, but your first one. Consider your customers and their customer’s path as your “true north.”

Study results show: Dynamic alignment of sales processes to the customer’s path drives double-digit improvement in win rates and quota attainment

The data from CSO Insights’ 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study showed a 13.6% improvement in quota attainment (compared to the study’s average of 55.8%.) based on dynamic – formal, responsive and adaptive – alignment.

In 2017, the results from CSO Insights’ much broader World-Class Sales Practices Study showed virtually the same result – 13.5% quota attainment improvement. Furthermore, the 2016 data showed an improvement of 15.0% in win rates for forecast deals with dynamic alignment. In 2017, the results from the World-Class Sales Practices Study showed that win rates for forecast deals can be improved by 10.1%, compared to the study’s average win rate of 51.8%. While there is a difference, both results show a double-digit improvement that cannot be ignored.

As you can see here in the examples and in the data, aligning the sales processes and all enablement services to the customer’s path is key to success. Value messages that are in every single piece of content have to be tailored to the different phases of the customer’s path. What works in the awareness phase is misplaced in the buying phase and the other way around. Once this is done, your sales force’s specific challenges determine how you shape the related content and training services, and the coaching services for the sales managers.

This article was initially written for Top Sales Magazine, March 2018.