puzzleSales enablement is a broad term used to describe resources and solutions provided to a sales force as a means of enabling or empowering sales teams to effectively address opportunities and generate the highest volume of strategic sales possible.

Jim Ninivaggi, of SiriusDecision wrote in a recent blog post, “Unlike established corporate functions like accounting, finance and marketing, sales enablement is still evolving, and the term means different things to different companies.” And IDC has provided the following definition for this buzz phrase:

“Getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place, and in the right format, to move a sales opportunity forward.”

I like IDC’s definition (see the expanded take on it here) because it encompasses key components of the buying cycle while targeting crucial elements for sales and marketing success within your organization. In order to make sales enablement a successful venture at any company, Sales & Marketing departments must work in lock-step like never before. Being required to stay on the same page to understand buyers – and more importantly, their buyer journey – has also led to the emergence of a new buzzword lately: Buyer Enablement.

As if there wasn’t enough ambiguity around “sales enablement,” right? Why not add a new term to the pile!

How is it a different, but yet complimentary, term to sales enablement? Sales enablement has traditionally focused on the vendor’s organization/internal functions, on process integration and performance, on connecting the dots across the selling systems. Buyer enablement is just a slight pivot from that. Buyer enablement focuses on more of an external understanding how the buyer identifies and goes about solving their own problems, and providing them access to resources (on their own terms) so they understand and find value in your solution.

Why is it important for your team to know what BOTH these terms mean, and how to apply them within your sales and marketing organizations? Let’s break down some of the crucial factors:

Right Resources at the Right Time

The first major component here is preparing your salespeople to understand what it is that they are attempting to sell and the impact (value) it has on the companies/people they are selling it to, and translate that in a way the buyer understands, finds value in, and motivates them to take next steps. After all the salesperson is often the point person between the product and the buyer in the exchange of information and understanding in the sales process, so if they can’t get it right, you’re in trouble! Thus, providing the sales team with the right resources at the right moment in the sales cycle is a critical part of the process for maximizing the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts. Equipping your teams with the ability to search for the most appropriate sales tools at each phase of their prospect relationship can be a daunting task, especially if your resources are housed on multiple platforms. Educating the sales people and your executives about which collateral and customer advocacy prove to be most effective in closing deals, and sharing this knowledge across your organization is an even bigger challenge.

What Does Your Prospect Think?

A final component to consider in your sales and marketing toolkit is “buyer enablement”. This involves a deeper level of understanding from your buyer’s perspective. What keeps your buyer up at night? How and when are your prospects accessing the material that your sales and marketing teams are producing and presenting? What content and resources are most compelling to the buyer in their buying cycle?

While it would be ideal if your buyer just told you this flat out, it’s often a fantasy. So you must go about gathering that deeper understanding of what motivates and enables your buyer through other means. Top sales team members are an excellent source for developing a primer of this information because they can share what advocacy collateral and participation they use during different sales stages to drive results. However, anecdotal evidence is no longer enough or as effective as being able to specifically measure your potential customers’ interaction with the resources your marketing department creates nor the efforts that your sales teams put forth. Validating that “top rep primer” with actual metrics of what collateral your prospects are engaging with, for how long, and in which stages can help you target what pieces of information are most important to the buyer.

Putting It All Together

The bottom line is to better prepare, equip, and enable both your salespeople and your buyer to move toward the purchase decision. This requires salespeople to know the VALUE their solution brings to the buyer and how to support that conversation with the right content at the right time (sales enablement), as well as an understanding from the prospect’s point of view how your solution can help solve their problem so they sleep better at night (buyer enablement). Most importantly it requires bringing both of those efforts together in a way that the buyer understands it, sees value in it, and is motivated to take the next steps to ultimately purchase your solution. In order to pinpoint your focus on the elements of the advocacy support that truly drive the buying decision, you need to find solutions that integrate your sales and marketing automation tools and provide SSO access to your team members for ease of use and view into the most successful elements of your programs.

Lisa Hoesel
Lisa Hoesel is the Director of Customer Conversation at RO Innovation. As one of RO’s original employees, and with decades of experience in the customer marketing space, Hoesel has honed her skills and expertise as a customer advocate practitioner in a variety of different verticals. She is a thought leader in all aspects of customer conversations and diligently strives to instill the best face-to-face customer interactions in a digital dialogue.