From email to shared posts on Twitter, marketing and sales managers have been bombarded online with value messages supporting content marketing. 

Yet delivering content is a different story, especially as personalized digital strategies are increased. 

Respondents to a poll by Ascend2, according to eMarketer, rated “lack of effective content strategy” second only to “lack of internal content creation resources.” In fact the poll reveals of a number of “lacks”  — distribution and creation barriers that can hamper campaigns.

Enter sales enablement, an ongoing process of content management activity meant to help sales professionals process content and tailor it to immediate sales needs.

More Than a Fad

When I first heard the phrase "sales enablement," I wasn't sure what to make of it. Since I don't have a sales background, it sounded a bit like the latest corporate must-have fad.

But when I heard the reasoning behind it, my curiosity to learn more lead me to the SAVO Summit, a conference featuring global experts from marketing, sales and sales operations. It was held last week in Chicago by SAVO, a sales enablement software and consultation firm.

Sales enablement is intended to place the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time, place and format to assist a sales opportunity. 

The concepts about sales enablement have been formulated for some time – Forrester shared definitions back in 2010.

Yet with the onslaught of content creation, putting the sales enablement concepts into practice has been challenging.

After having hosted nine annual conferences, SAVO Summit organizers looked at feedback regarding their own content. For this year’s summit, the team expanded the topic towards the operations ecosystem that supports sales. It also emphasized defining sales enablement to help solve critical content challenges, to address what SAVO CEO Jason Liu called a lack of a universally accepted definition for sales enablement.

Workshops and Best Practices

The result was a diverse set of workshops in which customers and vendors shared best practices on sales enablement.

Dell shared research that showed 52 percent of its sales team felt it lacked access to most current compliant content. The team observed a lack of cohesive branding for client proposal submissions, and even worse, issuing content ill suited to the client’s needs.

Dell’s experience dovetailed with thoughts Liu shared in his keynote.

Liu stated that content stored in online repositories requires easy accessibility to create effective content marketing. In many cases content sits unused — a library of wasted inventory intended for use during the sales cycle.

I liked how the panel and session themes were supported with data and with actionable ideas.  Organizations vary in their operations, but the workshop concepts were clear so that one could see how and best practices suggestion would fit within their own situation.

Scott Collins, principal executive advisor at CEB, a member-based advisory company, explained the complexity in creating buying consensus. He noted that on average 5.4 people are involved in a sale.

This trend impacts the “ability to make a high quality sale.” The decision makers usually come with diverse expertise among themselves – one may represent IT while the other is a marketing executive. Diverse geography of partners can also be a factor.

Panelists for the discussion Addressing Key Challenges for Sales Enablement also noted purchase complexity, adding that sales decision velocity – making expedient decisions to buy or not buy – was crucial for sales success.  

The panel discussion included analytic insights, such as assessing if analysts were comfortable explaining data details in an executive-level meeting.   

Sarah Stansberry, VP of Marketing at Equifax, highlighted how metrics can reveal additional service ideas “We sell a lot of credit reports…[but] being sticky in retaining customers means going beyond offering credit reports,” she said.

A focus on sales enablement means more than getting content organized. An effective sale enablement process can drive revenue that echoes throughout an organization’s sales ecosystem.