Alignment is a key pillar of a sales effectiveness framework. For a sales organization to succeed, alignment needs to exist on many levels: between sellers and customer service, between salespeople’s skills and sales methodology and between sales enablement strategies and the customer’s path.
But most organizations don’t coordinate their sales enablement efforts closely enough with their customers’ buying journeys. Research from Miller Heiman Group classifies the maturity of organizations’ sales enablement efforts into four levels:
- Random: The organization’s sales enablement processes don’t reflect the customer’s path.
- Informal: The organization understands the customer’s path but has not formally aligned all of its enablement processes with that path; there is little, if any, documentation, and some steps are missing.
- Formal: The organization has completely, purposefully and strategically aligned its enablement efforts with the customer’s path and has documented those efforts.
- Dynamic: The organization reinforces its alignment with tools, such as sales analytics, that help it adapt sales enablement processes to changes in buyer behaviors.
Many organizations never progress past the formal level, and that’s a problem.
The Impact of Sales Enablement Alignment
Over the last five years, Miller Heiman Group has analyzed the impact that sales enablement maturity has on sales results. The Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study, revealed that only 19% of organizations reported a dynamic alignment between their sales enablement processes and the customer’s path, leaving much room for improvement. Less than a third of sales organizations—30.6%—tailor their sales enablement strategies to all phases of the customer’s path.
The study revealed that the degree of alignment between sales enablement and the customer’s path plays a critical role in sales success. Organizations with dynamic sales enablement processes have dramatically higher quota attainment (11.8% higher) and win rates (17.9% higher) than those with random or informal alignment.
Sales organizations that aren’t taking advantage of the benefits of tying their sales enablement processes to the customer’s path should start with these three steps.
1. Focus on the Customer
An effective sales enablement strategy revolves around the customer. The effort to build a customer-focused vision for sales enablement processes should be led by a team that consists of members from sales, marketing, operations and customer service, with oversight and support from a senior executive sponsor.
It may take some time to engineer this shift toward customer-centric thinking, particularly if your team tends to think from the inside-out—from your products, services and sales process outward toward the customer—rather than from the outside-in—from the customer’s pain points and their path toward your solutions.
The team should take a data-driven approach to inform its sales enablement efforts. They should study firsthand customer feedback collected from sales and service calls, surveys and voice-of-the-customer programs. Benchmarking data, such as the 2018 Buyer Preferences Study, lend insight into customer needs and wants and help the team create a customer-oriented mindset.
2. Align Internal Selling Processes to the Customer Path
The initial step in alignment is to ensure that your existing selling processes mesh with the customer’s path. The team should determine the steps that buyers take as they move through the path toward a purchasing decision. The next task is to connect the dots between the customer’s path and each internal selling process.
Don’t overcomplicate this analysis. Prioritize the buying scenarios that contribute the bulk of the revenue to your organization, and focus on the main phases of the customer journey: awareness, buying, implementation and adoption.
When you have prepared a draft, share it with customers for their feedback to ensure that your map accurately reflects their decision-making process. Customers offer priceless insights that your internal team will not be able to replicate.
3. Assess, Adjust and Align Your Enablement Services
Next, the team should map its enablement services—including content, training, coaching and other tools—to each phase of the customer’s path. Content will likely be the most time-consuming element to map, given its breadth. The team must ensure that the content sends a consistent message—and delivers the valuable insights at the right phase for the customer to be most receptive to it.
Some enablement services, such as training on professional selling skills and value messaging, may mesh with every phase of the path, while others may fit in just one phase. The team should flag any service that does not have a connection to a specific phase of the path; it may need to be adjusted to better track the customer’s journey.
Sales Enablement Alignment Is the Foundation for Sales Success
To get sales enablement right, it has to be aligned with the customer’s path. Otherwise, every effort that follows won’t be focused on the customer, and sellers will face challenges in diagnosing and solving buyer problems and in achieving their desired sales results.
Take the Sales Conversation Metric to explore opportunities to start building the foundation for a winning sales effectiveness framework: alignment between your sales enablement strategies and the customer path.
And for more on how to improve your sales enablement strategy, download the Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study from CSO Insights.