Because most companies only have a finite set of resources, it easy to understand why each functional area is usually at or near full capacity. Sales is no exception. For Sales to be successful, Marketing, Sales Development, Sales Enablement and company executives must understand how their respective position in the sales process affects other areas of the company. In doing this, efficiencies can be achieved so that the right resource can be engaged at the right time for each and every qualified opportunity, within current resource constraints.
In a sample marketing plan, the sales pipeline has six primary phases: qualified opportunity, forecast, technical win, executive win, contracts and closed won. Of course, each organization defines the sales pipeline in a manner specifically tailored for that organization, so more or fewer stages may exist. However, the same principle is applicable in all approaches—there are key functional areas that should actively participate in the sales process and value that should be delivered at each phase.
Upper Half of the Sales Funnel in a Sample Marketing Plan
At the top of the funnel in a marketing plan sample, many functional areas are involved in generating qualified opportunities based on the demand creation and demand management plans.
In a marketing plan example, Marketing will be executing integrated programs indicated in the demand creation plan that have been reverse-engineered from sales targets. These program components include a database consistent with the market opportunity, tested messaging and positioning, compelling offers, fulfillment and marketing automation.
Sales Development will follow the demand management plan and ensure consistency with the demand creation team across: the database, scripts, qualification criteria, messaging at events, marketing and sales automation.
The Sales Enablement team, working with product marketing, demand creation and management, will shepherd sales messaging derived from corporate messaging and positioning. They will also certify that the sales presentation, use cases, demos, market and competitive information are ready for sales to use effectively.
Executives can greatly assist the sales team by leveraging their existing relationships to establish new inroads to existing and potential accounts. At the end of the day, the sales team is responsible for the entire sales process and must orchestrate resources accordingly. Ideally, a clear and clean set of roles and responsibilities exists, but bidirectional feedback will still be required to make certain that the process is efficient and effective. Reps will harvest the installed base and hunt for new opportunities. Once engaged in qualified opportunities, the sales focus will turn to presentations, business and technical discovery and proof of concept.
Lower Half of the Funnel in a Sample Marketing Plan
In the lower half of a sales funnel in a sample marketing plan, sales reps continue to drive the sales process with assistance from Sales Enablement and key executives.
Sales Enablement coordinates resources that have been created for use in the sales process. These people make certain that reps are aware of all available resources, know how and when to use those resources, and that all resources are in a format easily consumable by the field. In some cases the resources will be dynamic in nature. There may also be some nuances in navigating to the most current resource, even if a sales portal is in place. In particular, the status of thought leadership initiatives that may involve analysts, influencers, authors, academia or new business relationships may change frequently. Other examples of tasks handled by Sales Enablement in a sample marketing plan may include competitive analysis, market research and statistics, references and ever-changing ROI analysis. All of these resources can be managed through Sales Enablement so that sales reps can concentrate on leveraging compelling content with decision makers, and establishing credibility through knowledge and third-party endorsements.
Typically, the most effective sales reps know when and how to bridge key executives into the sales process in order to communicate vision, company strategy, product roadmap, differentiation and the organizations’ commitment to success. Later in the sales process it is essential to have key executives engaged in deals to counsel, review and approve pricing, contract terms and any functionality guarantees that are outside of established guidelines. By implementing a managed process to leverage key executives, it is imperative to optimize resources, shrink the number of days in each sales stage and not stall deals or worse, push them into the next quarter.
After the discovery process, sales reps usually move to solution development and value demonstration. This is where it is paramount for reps to communicate an understanding of the customers’ business problem, workflows and how technology can be used to solve the business problem with a positive financial impact. Next, a statement of work including contract terms and pricing is included in the proposal and delivered to the account. Negotiations continue until the agreement is executed.
It should be no surprise that sales reps are engaged from start to finish in the sales process. The early stages of the sales pipeline are carefully managed with Sales delegating responsibility to Marketing so that Market Development and Sales Development can feed the pipeline with qualified opportunities accepted by Sales and moved to a forecast state. Then, sales reps continue to drive the process with both Sales Enablement and key executives providing deal support through closed won status.
Knowing which resources are available, how to access them, when to use them and having them in a “sales ready” format is the primary responsibility of the Sales Enablement team. It is also critical for Sales Enablement to provide information back to the organization on which resources are working, which are not and what, if anything, is missing.
Executives are a key resource, and the spectrum of usage can span from abused to never used. It’s imperative to set-up a process so it is crystal clear as to when it is appropriate to use an executive and for what specific purpose. Once this is documented, requests for executive time need to be evaluated against the stated criteria in order to maximize the use of executive time and help ensure success for everyone involved.
The best sales reps know how to navigate the organization and pull in resources when they need them. Formalizing this process will raise the tide for most reps and greatly increase the chances that the majority of the sales force is at 80% of quota or more — a key requirement for a successful long-term growth strategy.