As individual consumers, most of us understand the natural order of an e-commerce world. We browse, click, and leave digital footprints every day, which, in turn, are analyzed by providers of goods and services to better determine the next best step in their pursuit of our money and loyalty. Is the B2B sales environment ready to embrace the same kind of interchange?
For years, marketing automation platforms have provided enterprises with an advanced degree of insight into the behavior of prospective buyers. These solutions help purveyors of products understand which of their creative messages and content assets are the most impactful within their target markets, which campaigns generate the most leads, and which purchasing path options are the most efficient among various audiences they seek to engage. In the B2B world, the relatively high cost of both marketing communications, and of the typically complex products they support, demands a similar level of insight and efficiency much further into the sales cycle. When professional six-figure-income sellers are investing valuable time into prospective buyers of five-, six-, or even seven-figure solutions, isn’t it just as vital to gain an understanding of which sales content is being consumed?
Following the Lead of the Best-in-Class
Aberdeen research recently published in From Lead to Close: Best-in-Class Sales Acceleration Techniques that Win found that top-performing companies were 12% more likely than other firms (56% vs. 50%) to indicate either a current or near-term planned deployment of “portals or ‘deal rooms’ for customers / prospects to access our content.” This Research Report will analyze differentials in both the performance and best practices between these forward-leaning firms and non-adopters of portal solutions.
These portals represent a crucial component of contemporary sales enablement platforms. These tools are increasingly becoming adopted by enterprise sales organizations as convenient and effective ways to first, deliver somewhat generic marketing assets to the sales force, and then, in turn, to present more personalized, customer-facing content to prospects and customers. When we look at self-reported performance data from Aberdeen’s survey respondents on a year-to-year basis, we see in Figure 1 a series of crucial sales KPIs in which adopters achieve better business results:
Figure I: Performance Results that Matter: Annualized Benefits Accrue to Sales Enablement Portals
These data points cover nuts-and-bolts sales workflow efficiencies around generating an optimal quantity of accurate, customer-facing proposals. They also inform big-picture leadership metrics – customer retention and sales team effectiveness – that grab the attention of the same C-suite executives we all hope to impress when submitting budgets for more salespeople and additional sales operations resources. Now, let’s take a look at the specific ways in which portal adopters and Best-in-Class companies support such deployments.
What Core Competencies Should I Have in Place?
Aberdeen’s research surveys do not focus solely on asking respondents to indicate which technology platforms they have purchased. Most of us intuitively understand that complex business applications do not stand alone, but rather, require a business environment in which supporting processes and best practices are in place to ensure successful ROI for sales operations expenditures on software and services. In Figure 2, we isolate five core competencies within the “knowledge management” category that, on average, Best-in-Class companies adopt 37% more aggressively than underperforming organizations. In the context of sales enablement portal adoption, Figure 2 showcases similar deltas of these best practices:
- Time is the most valuable commodity for professional sellers, so companies that support their front-line reps with correctly queued marketing materials tied to products are wisely investing upfront time so that field-based selling activity is conducted with maximum efficiency. Would you ask NASCAR drivers to get out and change their own tires at a pit stop?
- Cloud-based centralized content repositories are predictably deployed more often by portal adopters to support the first step in delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Again, smart companies make it as easy as possible for quota-carriers to access the assets, collateral, pricing, product data, and any other tribal knowledge provided by their company that helps them generate, nurture, and close sales deals. Seventy-five percent (75%) of Best-in-Class companies deploy both the second and third elements indicated in Figure 2, compared with 63% and 60% respectively, among All Others. Additionally, these repositories need not function merely as static libraries; they can include dynamic communications capabilities to provide alerts around current promotions and other newsworthy, time-sensitive data vital to field sales success.
Figure 2: Knowledge Management Capabilities: It’s All about Content and Visibility
- The final item in Figure 2 represents a relatively new capability of sales enablement portals, currently deployed by only 21% of all companies, but 10% more often by the Best-in-Class (22% vs. 20%) and, fittingly for this report, dramatically more often by portal adopters than other firms. Knowing when customers or prospects engage with content extends the above-mentioned concept of marketing automation awareness dramatically further into the traditional B2B sales cycle. This data point is the most important reveal for sales leaders and sales operations practitioners seeking to leverage the lessons of Sheldon Cooper, Sales Whisperer: Applying the Science of Data to the Art of Selling: how to take as much of the guesswork as possible out of professional sales activities. Too often, individual sales contributors and managers alike fail to make data-driven decisions in constructing their buyers’ experience, overly relying on wishful thinking or gut reactions – think “Moneyball” – to assign probabilities and resources to their in-process deals. In today’s content-driven environment, knowing ahead of time which spaghetti is likely to stick to the wall represents a remarkably powerful advantage in any competitive B2B sales environment.
Download the full report here.