Why Customer’s Path Alignment Is Essential to Sales Enablement Success
Sep 19 2019
I’m sure you’ve heard me say this many times: Customer’s path alignment matters a lot if you want to be successful with sales enablement. What does the term “customer’s path alignment” mean? There are two components to it.
There are two aspects of customer’s path alignment: process alignment and the alignment of enablement services. (Click to tweet)
Let me quickly explain the first one, as it’s a prerequisite for the second one. The first one is about process alignment, which means how well your internal selling process is aligned to the customer’s path or the variety of relevant customer’s paths. In detail, it indicates how well you have reflected the buyers’ steps and gates they have to go through to make a buying decision in your processes. Having these steps and gates reflected in your selling processes helps you avoid buyer/seller misalignment and ensures sales managers are always reminded to include specific questions in their coaching practice.
Based on our 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study, 20.7% of organizations did that really well and improved their quota attainment by 8.9%. And I can already tell you from the 5th Annual Sales Enablement Study (coming soon!) that the percentage of organizations is almost the same (19.0%), but the impact is even bigger: 11.8% increase in quota attainment. If you’re interested in more and how to get there, click here. This step requires a lot of collaboration with customers, CX, marketing and sales operations.
The second component, our main focus today, is about the purposeful alignment of your enablement services – especially your content services – to the customer’s path. To do that, you should have the first aspect in place, combined with a clear understanding of your relevant customer’s paths and their main phases.
Only World-Class organizations really focus on providing effective content aligned to the customer’s path to drive results. (Click to tweet)
In our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study, 88.0% of the World-Class segment reported that their sellers have access to effective content aligned to the customer’s path, compared to 35.0% of all respondents. As the World-Class segment covers only 9% of the overall population (those that apply all of the Top 12 World-Class practices consistently and collectively), the reality in the industry is that only about one-third of organizations apply this practice.
Overall, only one-third of organizations have their content services aligned to the customer’s path and improve win rates by 16.6%. (Click to tweet)
This data point reflects what we see in more detail in our annual sales enablement studies. This year, nearly one-third (31.5%) reported having their content services aligned to the customer’s path. And this practice matters, as this group achieved much better results. They could improve their average win rates for forecast deals by 16.6%. Such an improvement, similar to the 2018 data, proves that this practice should not be ignored.
Here are five steps to align content services to the customer’s path even if you have no idea how to get the content chaos sorted. (Click to tweet)
#1. Determine where your content comes from. (Click to tweet)
The first step is to determine who creates all of the content your sellers need. For best results, be thorough in your search. As we know from our studies, marketing doesn’t create even half of the content sellers needs to create business; also check with product management, sales operations, legal, sales managers, etc. Depending on your organization’s context, you may have additional sources such as product, solution and industry selling teams.
#2. Define “content,” and assess what you have in categories and types. (Click to tweet)
Content can be either customer facing (white papers, references, case studies, proposal templates, etc.) or internal enablement content (playbooks, battle cards, objection handling, etc.). Define those content types and relevant formats (pptx, pdf, mp4, mp3, etc.) to gain clarity.
#3. Map content types to the different phases of the customer’s path. (Click to tweet)
This is usually an eye-opening exercise because too many content types are not yet tailored to different stages of the customer’s path. A good example is all of the various client presentations that are out there in every organization. Is this a business-focused high-level asset, written in the language of a CFO in the finance industry? Sounds good, but is it also designed to help with a specific customer’s path phase? Is it created to develop a future vision of success with a certain buyer role based on laying out the business problem, its potential impact and how to fix it? Or is it written to provide all of the solution- and implementation-related details for a conversation with the future project manager just before closing the deal? If the former is the case, map it to the awareness phase; if it’s the latter, map it to the buying phase.
More often than not, you won’t be able to map content assets to any customer’s path phase, simply because they have not been designed that way. Build buckets such as “mapped and good to go,” “mapped but needs adjustment” and “not mapped, to be redone,” etc. Content gaps (yes, this exercise helps you identify those gaps) can go into a “to be created” bucket, and redundancies can go into a “to be deleted” bucket.
#4. Develop your content strategy, and implement it. (Click to tweet)
Following the definitions you set in Step #2 and the mapping results, you can define your content strategy, stating where you are, where you want to be and what goals you want to achieve with it. Think about things such as average deal size, win rates, sales cycle length, conversion rates, etc. Then connect your content to the role of content you laid out in your charter (purpose and goals), and define how each content type in various formats will help you achieve those goals.
To effectively implement a content strategy, two other components should be considered as well: a formalized collaboration model and a production process. Both are topics for future blog posts. For now, let’s assume that you know how to collaborate with the involved teams and also have a high-level process for how to design, create, localize and track content services.
#5. Orchestrate the content improvements. (Click to tweet)
Create a detailed plan for all of the content assets that are in your “mapped but needs adjustment” and “not mapped, to be redone” buckets. Define what roles have to be involved to get the work done. And if you need third-party help, don’t hesitate to get the required expertise – the earlier, the better. Especially if you have to deal with too many product-focused content services, you may have a hard time being heard regarding how to make changes so that the content attracts buyers at different stages of the customer’s path. Whatever way you choose, put your framework, your mapping of the current state and your desired future state front and center to stay focused.
Purposefully aligning content services to the different phases of the customer’s path is no easy task. It requires detailed analysis, a bold vision and lots of staying power, orchestration and networking skills to ensure proper implementation. It’s absolutely worth the effort, though, as you probably want to belong to the group that improved its win rates, on average, in a two-digit manner.
If you haven’t already, take a look at our book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. It contains lots of valuable information, frameworks and approaches to make you a better sales enablement leader. Regarding the topics discussed here, check out Chapters 5, 8, 9 and 11.
Questions for you:
- How is the content your sellers use designed? Customer focused, product focused or tailored to the different phases of the customer’s path?
- Have you ever assessed your content and mapped it to the customer’s path?
- If you’ve never assessed your content and mapped it to the customer’s path, will you do it now?
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