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FEB 26, 20209 MIN

Early Stage Sales Enablement Best Practices

  • Sales
Jake Biskar Photo

Jake Biskar

    When you first start building a sales team, you’ll need to arm your new team with the knowledge and assets they’ll need to close deals quickly. In this post, sales development leader Jake Biskar shares his thoughts on building high-impact sales enablement program, from what collateral to focus on to how to train your sales team to sell more effectively.

    People view sales enablement as collateral-driven. But to really be impactful, sales enablement needs to be about building a repeatable process. A good sales enablement strategy maps broad trends (and collateral) to the individual’s buyer journey, rather than trying to shoehorn every prospect into a pre-defined box.

    If there’s true sales enablement and you’re empowering your sales team, it’s aligned with the customer journey. A strategic sales enablement approach will help the sales team anticipate the questions and concerns are people having at different stages along the journey, and empower the team to address those concerns.

    Essential Early Sales Collateral

    Let’s assume that you already have a deck and a marketing website — these are foundational assets, and plenty has been said on building better pitch decks. Your first pieces of collateral should focus on educating the buyer and empowering champions to sell internally.

    A 90-Sec Product Video

    Think about how you’re empowering your internal champion to get other stakeholders or her boss involved, post-demo. For B2B buyers, most likely other parties will need to be involved in the purchasing decision. For this to happen they need to be sold. Sadly, you may not get that chance to speak to every stakeholder directly.

    You’re putting a lot of trust in your champion to not only retain the information you gave them, but also lay it out in a digestible fashion. Most of the time, your product value prop and the features that help get them there, but they will be boiled down and overly simplified by your champion. They still lack complete understanding of your solution, making it tough to get other stakeholders bought in.

    A 90-second explainer video is easy to share on Slack, it will discuss your value prop and all the key features in detail. At the very least, you know your champion can get key points across to other stakeholders.

    Customer Stories

    Formal case studies are nice as a leave-behind, but what you really need is short, concise customer stories that can be repeated during a call. Humanizing your buyer is important. For AEs, having these user stories laminated on your desk and cycled out every quarter or so is key. Memorizing these customer stories and having new team members pitch using these stories in sales meetings regularly is a great way to encourage the team to learn them inside and out.

    Closed/Won – Closed/Lost Analysis

    You want to start to understanding the buyer as quickly as possible. Many teams think they have an idea of their ICP and they get really targeted on their collateral, only to realize that that isn’t really their user.

    After every deal: ask four basic questions from the AE:

    • What problem did they have?
    • Why did they want to buy?
    • What were the first initiatives they are going to do?
    • What would they consider being successful?

    Keep a Google Sheet to track answers (manually, or exported from Salesforce). This should be a living document that you refer to frequently to refine your ICP and (eventually) build personas.

    Sales Enablement Training

    Focus on Learning the Space

    Sales enablement often overlooks the importance of helping sales team talk like the buyer. This is particularly true for the devtools space; so many times the demo is dumbed down to fit the language of the sales team. Apart from memorizing those customer stories, a big part of sales team onboarding should be learning the space and reading what thought leaders are writing. Start building out a recommended reading list for your team. Reading Quora, StackOverflow, HackerRank, and other content channels written for and by the people you’re trying to sell to is immensely helpful.

    Integrating Product Updates

    Startups have a continual stream of new product information. Getting everyone to touch and live in the product is great to aim for, but is often a pipe dream for very technical products. Sit in on sales engineer and CSM calls, to get a better understanding of the product.

    It’s also good to have engineers come in and share what they’re building, and for product, sales, and marketing to work together to figure out how to pitch new features as they come out. For every new feature, record a demo of how it works and add it to the catalogue. These can become valuable collateral of their own, over time, to be shared as a playlist or on their own.

    Customizing Sales Collateral Experiences

    The goal of any piece of sales collateral is to reduce friction to getting information. Remember that technical buyers often prefer doing their own discovery and information gathering, so giving prospects suggestions and options is better than being overly prescriptive.

    You also want to make the content you send to prospects as shareable as possible — an email with 7 PDFs attached isn’t the best user experience, and it can be overwhelming.

    Evolving Your Sales Enablement Strategy

    Ultimately, sales enablement is the tool to build trust with your buyer. As you add new collateral and training materials to your sales process, focus on enabling good conversations that speaks to the real pain points and needs of the industry.

    Partnering with Marketing

    Marketing and sales need to work together to evolve your sales collateral effectively. The marketing team should be listening to sales calls regularly and giving constructive feedback to the sales team (e.g. “This would have been a good moment to interject this case study”). Gong is a great tool for reviewing sales calls and giving feedback.

    Make sure that each team understands their responsibility. As a rule, product marketing will develop new collateral and talking points, but sales team is responsible for integrating new collateral and product info into their pitch. A sales team can get very comfortable with their existing pitch, so sales management should push AEs to continually update their pitch.

    Sales Collateral to Avoid

    Certain types of sales collateral are rabbit holes that can easily become a time sink, without providing much value. For example, ROI calculators are often overrated; they create too many loopholes to exploit and too many assumptions about value of the product.

    I would also be careful about leaning too much into battle cards. They are a good training tool, but that high-level information should be internalized early on. Relying on battle cards too much gets sales people into the mindset of putting prospects into defined buckets, instead of approaching prospects as individuals.

    Sales Enablement Software and Tooling

    No tool is a substitute for having a strong sales enablement and training process. You probably don’t need any tooling for collateral management to start with — especially in the early days when your pitch and product will be changing very frequently.

    Keep all of your collateral and training materials in a shared folder to start with. That should carry you to about 100 employees. When you do start needing better internal knowledge, look for solutions that will help you capture and surface information more easily. Guru is a great tool, and integrates with Slack to make it easy to share knowledge.

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