When it comes to measuring the success of your enterprise SaaS sales team, you likely pay close attention to the percentage of opportunities in your pipeline that you either win or lose. But what about the percentage of deals that end with no decision?
According to The Sales Benchmark Index, 58% of sales pipelines stall because sales reps don’t add value. In other words, almost 6 in 10 deals in pipelines end with “No Decision.”
Why do so many deals stall? Because sellers don’t demonstrate enough value. Or they don’t create enough urgency to overcome a buyer’s inertia. Or they don’t provide enough relevant, timely content during the sales process.
The way to energize stalled pipelines is to engage and challenge buyers. To do that, you must use sales enablement. But first, a definition. “Sales enablement is the iterative process of providing your business’s sales team with the resources they need to close more deals. These resources may include content, tools, knowledge, and information to effectively sell your product or service to customers (HubSpot).”
Here are six keys to effective sales enablement for enterprise SaaS sales teams.
Key 1. Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams
Your sales and marketing teams have the same goals—increasing sales, boosting revenue, and reducing churn. But if you peek around the door of many enterprise SaaS firms you discover that many sales and marketing teams operate in silos. Each team has different priorities, goals and ways of measuring success. Mistrust and lack of respect between teams is common.
The consequence of this misalignment is disaster. For example, sales teams never use around 65% of the content that marketing produces because sales teams consider the topics irrelevant to their buyer audience (Content Marketing Institute). And around 79% of marketing leads never convert due to a failure of marketing and sales to nurture leads (HubSpot).
If you want to boost the efficiency of your pipeline, start by aligning your sales and marketing teams. The easiest way to do this is to make both teams accountable for the same company goal—revenue. “When sales and marketing teams unite around a single revenue cycle, they dramatically improve marketing return on investment, sales productivity, and, most importantly, top-line growth (Marketo).”
To align your sales and marketing teams:
- Make both teams accountable for the same revenue goal
- Collaborate to create your buyer personas
- Document a single buyer journey
- Track joint KPIs
- Keep sales and marketing messages consistent
- Communicate well, and often
Key 2. Create One Buyer Persona
One of the main reasons that enterprise SaaS sales teams use so little of the sales collateral that their marketing teams produce is that the content does not address the needs and challenges and questions that buyers face.
The reason for this misalignment is typically that sales teams have one idea of what a buyer looks like and marketing teams have another idea. The solution is for both teams to work together to create a buyer persona (or buyer personas, plural, to be more accurate) that both teams agree represents reality.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and data you gather about your existing customers. Since enterprise SaaS buying decisions involve multiple stakeholders, you must create a buyer persona for every role or job title who sits on the buying committee.
Once you create a set of buyer personas that both sales and marketing agree with, you start enjoying the benefits that come with having a unified idea of what your buyers look like—and behave. You quickly learn how to:
- Gain better understanding of your ideal customers
- Prioritize leads
- Determine where to focus your time and energy
- Develop relevant, timely content
- Align sales and marketing
- Increase efficiency
- Overcome buyer objections
- Identify negative personas (people you do not want to target)
Key 3. Document a Single Buyer Journey
Pipelines stall when sales and marketing teams have differing ideas about how a lead becomes a customer. Sales teams tend to think in terms of sales cycles or sales pipelines. And marketing teams tend to think in terms of buyer journeys.
In many enterprise SaaS organizations, marketing teams see the buyer journey as a simple, three-stage process. A lead starts at the Awareness Stage (buyers realize they have a problem), moves to the Consideration Stage (buyers define their problem and research options to solve it), and ends at the Decision Stage (buyers chooses a solution).
Enterprise SaaS sales teams, on the other hand, see the buyer journey as involving many more steps, and a lot more complexity:
- Prospecting. Through sales and marketing activities, leads discover that your business exists.
- Lead qualification. Sales and marketing teams use a variety of methods to determine if leads are qualified.
- Demo or meeting. Sales team conducts a demo or meets with leads to introduce your solution.
- Proposal. Your sales teams make your case by summarizing how your company will address your potential customer’s needs.
- Negotiation and commitment. You discuss expanding or shrinking the scope of work, adjusting pricing, and managing expectations to come to agreement.
- Opportunity won. You close the deal and onboard the customer.
- Post-purchase. In enterprise SaaS, the sale doesn’t close at contract signing. Retaining customers year after year requires you to deliver on your Service Level Agreement and to deliver excellent customer service and technical support.
As you can imagine, marketing teams and sales teams that look at the buyer journey in these two different ways are likely to be at odds with each other. They are unlikely to create content that aligns with what buyers need as they move from being leads to being marketing qualified leads to being sales qualified leads to being prospects to becoming customers.
The solution is for sales and marketing to sit down together to create one buyer journey that reflects the reality in the field. A unified buyer journey that documents each stage of the sales pipeline helps both teams find better ways to educate and engage buyers—and move them down the pipeline towards a purchase.
Key 4. Deliver Relevant, Timely Content
Today’s buyers of enterprise SaaS solutions are hungry for content. Which means that sales teams that engage and challenge prospects with relevant, timely content are more likely to hit quota.
The key words here are “relevant” and “timely.” When salespeople deliver the right content to the right prospects at the right time, they generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% of the cost (Forrester). Content leads to contracts.
What this means in practical terms is that your sellers must give prospects content that is relevant for where they are in their buyer journey. A buyer at the start of your pipeline, for example, needs content that answers common questions about the business challenges that your solution solves.
Further along your pipeline (before they have watched a product demo, for example), your buyer is ready to read product comparisons.
And towards the end of your pipeline, your buyer is ready to read case studies and product factsheets.
The mistake that so many marketing departments make is producing boilerplate sales collateral that is aimed at the decision end of the pipeline (where the purchase is made), and not enough content that sales reps can use during the earlier stages.
What you need to be successful is lead follow-up email sequences and sales enablement content that educates, differentiates, and adds value throughout the pipeline, not just at the start and the end of the pipeline.
Key 5. Focus on Follow-Up
Only 2% of sales happen at the first meeting. Sixty-three percent of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months. Another 20% will take more than 12 months to buy. Which means the fortune is in the follow up. If you want to increase your win rates, you must improve your follow up.
The workhorse of follow-up in enterprise SaaS sales is email. So, start there. Create a series of follow-up email templates that your sales reps personalize and schedule for each lead they are nurturing. Email templates ensure that your sales messages are consistent. They also increase the quality of your follow up while reducing the level of effort and creativity your reps require to stay in touch.
Then create content that your sellers can offer to leads at each stage of the buyer journey. Every touch in your lead-nurturing campaigns should include an offer of new information or resources. This way, your sales reps always have a reason for reaching out that is better than, “Hey, I’m calling just to stay in touch.”
Think of the content your buyers need as they move from being a cold lead to being a paying customer. Then create the case studies, buying guides, answers to frequently asked questions and other assets that your sales reps need to stay in touch and to add value during the buyer journey.
Key 6. Work from Playbooks
The final key to effective sales enablement for enterprise SaaS sales teams is to enter each sales conversation knowing what you are going to say, and how, and why.
The days of picking up the phone and calling prospects just to “stay in touch” are long gone. Today’s buyers are sophisticated—and busy. They have no time to shoot the breeze with sellers who have time on their hands. They want every interaction they have with your sales team to be productive—for the buyer.
They best way to ensure that your conversations with leads and prospects are profitable is to work from call scripts that are crafted for each stage in the buyer journey. Create documents that include creative ways to start conversations, segue into the purpose for a call, handle common objections, and so on.
Make these call scripts part of a broader, internal sales enablement content library that preps your sellers for the most common conversations they have with buyers. These assets include:
- Sales playbooks
- Sales training materials
- Sales scripts
- Pricing calculators
One irony of enterprise SaaS sales is that the salespeople involved in the process are often lost for words. In a profession where the practitioners are known for their ability to gab, enterprise SaaS sales, with its long sales cycles and multi-person buying committees, often leave sellers not knowing what to say when they pick the phone or fire off an email.
The one key to successful sales enablement is relevant, timely content. When you have a library of customer-focused content, content that is written for buyer personas, aimed at a specific point in the sales pipeline, and delivered by sellers who aim to add value, your pipeline improves. You educate and engage buyers throughout the pipeline, and you increase your chances of moving buyers from the No Decision category to the Won category.
This blog is part of a six-part sales enablement series. Please find links to the remainder of the series below:
If you need help in any of these areas, give us a call. LAIRE Digital is a SaaS Marketing Agency. Whether your solution is highly technical, constantly changing, or getting lost in a sea of similar tech solutions, LAIRE has strategies to boost growth for your business. Read our Checklist: 6 Steps to Marketing Your SaaS Product.