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Should sales enablement play a bigger role in marketing strategy?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher August 11, 2020
Sales enablement is changing - the prospect has changed the terms of engagement. Russell Wurth of Showpad gave me his take on how to deliver the sales experience today's customers need. Is sales operations emerging?



Russell Wurth has been the VP of Sales Enablement for Showpad for about four months now, but he's no stranger to sales enablement strategy or his new company's platform. Wurth has led sales enablement for several companies along with working on the product side of a few others.

He's learned a few things about the relationship between marketing and sales, and how organizations need to evolve their enablement strategies. We talked about what's needed to drive effective sales enablement, as well as how the relationship between marketing and sales can improve to better support customers.

Sales enablement technology

For ten years, marketing tools were the primary technology purchases, Wurth said. But things are shifting. Buyers are continuing to do much of the purchase research process on their own and part of Sales' job is to ensure they have the information and support they need to make the best decision. To do this effectively, Sales needs technology as well.

The challenge is that Sales hasn't always known how to purchase technology; they've typically let IT handle the process. Wurth said that things are starting to change, and organizations are bringing on a sales operations and analyst professional to help them evaluate their tech stack. You can liken this role to the marketing operations role where the person is responsible for figuring out the right technologies needed to support the business strategy. 

Wurth said there is no lack of point solutions for sales, including sales learning systems, content management, meetings, intelligence, and customer engagement. There are also solutions that combine several of these capabilities, like Showpad. What's required is someone to help them understand how everything fits together to support the entire sales process.

Empowering sales professionals

Showpad, a sales enablement tool, is a complete platform for sales enablement. It provides sales with the tools and content they need to help prospects through the purchase journey. It helps sales prepare for meetings, stores, and recommends the best content and sequences for a customer, and more. 

I've written a lot about content experiences from a marketing perspective, but you also have these types of experiences from the sales perspective and Showpad supports this approach through features like customized microsites. 

The other thing that Showpad does is evaluate the performance of content and of sales professionals. It's great to give customers lots of content to help them on their journey but there is such a thing as the right amount of the right content. Showpad can tell a salesperson what content is resonating and moving prospects along the journey, and they can focus their efforts on ensuring their prospects have access to this information.

It can also tell management who their top salespeople are and why. What content are they providing that is helping? What tactics are they using that work? Management can then take this information and develop company-wide methods and training that others can learn and use. 

The coaching side of sales

There's an aspect to great sales strategy that you might not consider but is very important. How do salespeople learn to be better at selling? And they do need help because traditional selling doesn't work anymore. Wurth talked about the importance of being a trusted advisors, building relationships with prospects and customers and supporting them through the purchase decision process. 

Showpad provides a training and coaching component that includes onboarding, training, and coaching of salespeople. It plugs into Zoom and can record and transcribe meetings that help trainers work with salespeople to improve their process.

Bridging the gap between marketing and sales

Getting sales and marketing to work better together isn't only the responsibility of marketing. It's sales that talk with prospects and customers, they understand what messages are resonating, they hear the challenges companies face, and they know what content is working and what's not. Marketing needs access to that information.

Giving marketers access to customer recordings to hear what customers are saying is helpful to refining the messages they create. Understanding what content is resonating and moving customers along the journey is also important to know so they can create more of the right content.

Wurth said that it's critical to feed customer conversations back to marketing, so that they can adjust or pivot as necessary. Sales can also A/B test messages and positioning, and both teams can see and hear the customer's reaction. 

Another way that marketing can work better with sales is to take their training in processes and methodologies, Wurth said. If marketing understands the sale process, then everyone can communicate better, especially at the manager level.

Wurth also said that bringing customer success into the same playbook is also key to keep customers happy and the content and messaging consistent.

My take

There were a few things I took away from my talk with Wurth, other than a good understanding of how Showpad supports sales enablement. The first is the new role that is emerging - sales operations. I had a great conversation with another head of sales for my Content Matters podcast, Kris Laird. Laird went through the list of sales technologies that are commonly used (it's not just a CRM), and I was amazed. It makes perfect sense that there is a role equal to the marketing operations technologist on the sales side. 

The other key point is the evolving relationship between marketing and sales. As a marketer, I'm prone to looking at this relationship from the perspective of a marketer, ensuring that sales have the messaging and content they need. That perspective more often puts sales in a receiving mode with some input, but not always leading the direction. However, it has always been important for me to hear from sales about the conversations they are having before putting messaging together. Marketing needs to be right alongside Sales as they interact and engage with customers, both team adapting as the conversation evolves. 

I believe that together sales and marketing should drive the messaging, understand the customer journey, and figure out the right content to provide customers. It's not about one team leading the charge; both bring critical capabilities to the table that work together. I've worked with clients who do that very well, and others who struggle. Technology will help, but in the end, it's the relationship and a common respect that will prove the most successful.

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