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How Does Guidance Solve the Two Challenges Enablement Faces?

Posted in:  Sales Enablement Strategy, Sales Playbooks and Plays

Earlier this year, I co-authored an eBook that explored the notion of “guidance” and how to use it to arm revenue teams with the knowledge and confidence they need to execute strategic initiatives.

As I work with many of our customers, there has been a strong and consistent theme — they are realizing that enablement is a much broader and more strategic function than they thought. Companies are beginning to systematically grapple with the whole problem of enabling salespeople. And as they do, they are consistently facing two key challenges.

First Challenge: Land Your Go-To-Market Strategy in the Field

To understand this better, let’s use a fictional scenario of a large telecom company — we can call them GiantCo. They’ve had pretty slow growth lately because their product isn’t evolving very much. To punch things up, they’ve just spent a lot of money to acquire a smaller competitor. The competitor built a product that combines well with the GiantCo offering to give customers an edge on their competition and drive growth. The acquisition was high-profile, and there is a lot of scrutiny on it — the CEO’s credibility is on the line and investors are expecting big things. The problem is that 83% of acquisitions fail to meet their business goals. 83% is pretty dismal. Why is the track record so bad?

One major reason is that after an acquisition, companies have a big problem: how do they get their sales team to actually sell the new product? After all, it’s a pain in the neck to sell a new product. You don’t really understand it in detail, and you may have to talk to new kinds of people you haven’t interacted with before. You are doing pretty well selling your current suite of products, and your manager is on your back to hit your number, so you can’t afford to get distracted.

Hence the natural order of things is for the sellers to ignore the new product and focus on what they are already doing. Then the organization fails to see the growth it expected, and the acquisition is a failure. What does it take to change that dynamic? That’s the heart of the challenge: turn strategy into action, by getting your salespeople to engage effectively with your customers in some particular way that helps you achieve your business goals.

Typically, companies have their marketing teams develop the story they want to tell customers and capture it in various forms — PowerPoint slides, whitepapers, case studies, etc. Then it goes into the content management system. So far, so good — that content is all vital, and managing it is very important. But it isn’t enough.

The problem is that having a collection of reference material available to you doesn’t mean that you know how to use it. If there is a new surgical procedure and I put a guide in the medical library of a hospital, are the people in the OR magically ready to operate? Not even close. Each of the highly trained and specialized people on the team (the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the head nurse) has to understand the specific role they need to play. Similarly, in customer engagement, there are very different roles in the company, and each of them needs to know their part to create a coherent and effective engagement with customers that leads to a positive business outcome.

The process of building guidance is meant to provide specific and clear steps that are tailored to particular roles within the company. For example, instead of saying “here’s a brochure,” you build a sales play that tells an account executive selling to an enterprise company in the aerospace industry what to know, what to say, what to show, and what to do. We’ve developed a systematic model that helps customers develop guidance that is effective and that can be measured and optimized. And the way that you express that guidance in Highspot is to use SmartPages.

A few key properties make SmartPages an excellent way to capture guidance:

  • Business users can easily build and maintain them, so you don’t need to rely on specialized experts in graphic or web design
  • You can provide templates, so there is consistency across multiple plays
  • You can get extensive analytics, so you can see if they are landing in the field
  • They are responsive, so you can use them on devices
  • You can easily embed and update live content, so they are always up to date

Second Challenge: Measuring Your Impact

Another big problem that enablement has always had is measuring whether its activities are delivering concrete business results. Sales is all about measurement — revenue, quota attainment, ramp time, conversion rate — you name it, they measure it. But enablement has often struggled with that. If a seller takes one more class, will they sell more? How much more? Not having clear ways to measure value makes it hard for enablement teams to demonstrate their business impact.

This raises two important issues that affect our customers. The first is that enablement at many companies is seen as a support function, not a strategic one. In sales, if you can’t point to the impact you had on the bottom line, you don’t get a seat at the table with the decision-makers. The other problem is when asking for tools, enablement practitioners can’t make as strong a case as they may want to.

Guidance is a key step in transforming the position of enablement in companies by demonstrating the bottom-line impact of their work. With guidance, you can have very specific activities you are asking customer-facing teams to perform, with measurable outcomes, tied to specific business results.

It’s very hard to point to a class and say that attending it was the reason that Mary closed the deal with Acme. But in our example, we’re trying to drive a higher attach rate at GiantCo to our newly acquired product, and we have a play designed to do that. The play is associated with deals, and we can measure that those deals have a higher attach rate than the deals that don’t use the play. That’s very strong evidence that this sales motion is working and it provides a clear connection to real revenue generated for the company. You can measure in detail what’s working, what isn’t, and then optimize.

Guidance Turns Strategy into Action

Enablement has always been a key contributor to the success of the sales teams, but it has been hard to measure and prove. With guidance, enablement can show strong and credible evidence of the direct impact their activities have on business goals and revenue.

At Highspot, through SmartPage technology, we are supporting our customers to solve the whole problem of enabling every customer-facing team. With well-designed and targeted guidance, revenue teams come to every interaction prepared with what they should know, say, show, and do, to engage effectively with customers and drive revenue. Companies are turning their business strategy into action, delivering results that grow the business.