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How to build a sales support process that drives growth

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In a distributed sales organization, maintaining proper sales support can feel like you’re walking a tightrope. McKinsey & Company summarizes this issue very clearly, “Call it the Goldilocks quandary: too little support and your salespeople can’t do their jobs well; too much, and you’re wasting money. But get it just right, and your sales efforts can drive productivity and growth.”

Why is this balance so difficult to maintain?

The issue starts with your marketing team’s size. Most organizations have a large sales force supported by a comparatively small marketing team. This team can’t handle a high volume of one-off requests and retain a strategic mindset.

Sometimes their attitude is, “If we can’t personalize sales materials for all of our reps, then we won’t personalize them for anyone.” This creates a missed opportunity. When sales reps can’t personalize the content they send to support the different stages of the buyer’s journey, they can’t give their best pitch. As a result, they could lose out to competitors with a more adaptive sales process.

How can you arm your sales force with content that will resonate with your buyers? How can you keep rogue marketers at bay?

What are the signs of an ineffective sales support process?

Having an inefficient sales support process creates a number of issues for distributed sales organizations.

  1. There’s no transparency or alignment between sales and marketing. For marketing to be effective, it has to know what sales needs. But, most organizations don’t have effective communication or analytics channels in place. Without this data, marketing can’t improve materials, and sales can only provide anecdotal evidence of what works and what doesn’t. This misalignment can cost the typical billion-dollar firm up to $100 million annually.
  2. Marketing loses its strategic mindset. A large number of one-off requests will force your marketing team to regurgitate the same sales materials in a hundred different ways for a hundred different reps. This will cause the department to lose sight of its true goal: creating the most effective, brand-compliant content possible. This shift in mindset can lead to a continual decline in the effectiveness of your sales materials.
  3. Rogue reps damage your brand integrity. When sales reps don’t receive adequate support, they may be forced to personalize their own sales materials. The problem is that these reps generally don’t have the necessary knowledge of design principles, your brand, and compliance standards. This results in ineffective content that could open you up to millions of dollars of fines for marketing non-compliance (if you operate in a highly regulated industry).
  4. Top sales reps become self-fulfilling prophecies. Most organizations are only able to provide adequate sales support to a small percentage of reps (typically, your top performers). This enables top performers to be even more effective at selling since they have access to all the resources they need. At the same time, it will create a barrier that prevents other reps from achieving top performer status, not to mention the impact it will have on your sales revenue.

If your organization is experiencing any of these symptoms, how can you treat them? Is the solution as simple as increasing the size of your marketing department? Would new technology address your issues? While these options might fix some of your symptoms, a more permanent solution will get to the root of the problem.

How can you identify the issues in your sales support process?

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The symptoms of poor sales support are easy to spot, but pinpointing the root cause can be challenging. It requires bringing the right players together to have an open, honest discussion about sales support in your organization. This is a discussion that doesn’t happen enough since most companies stick with the status quo.

To diagnose the actual problems with your sales support. Try taking the following steps:

  1. Bring together sales and marketing leaders and run an exploratory session on your organization's current sales support. Define the answers to questions like how is sales support currently being handled, how are reps preparing themselves for sales calls and incorporating sales material into them, and what are the current issues each department is dealing with. Openly discussing these questions may make potential solutions apparent.
  2. Gather all of your analytical data and review it. Some organizations may have the benefit of seeing how popular each piece of material is with their sales staff, which could help you identify content to cut or opportunities to expand your library in certain areas.
  3. Look at your CRM to find where there’s lag in your sales process. For instance, you may see that your reps are consistently slow to respond to prospects. This would be a clear indication that there’s an inadequate amount of sales support or that the right materials aren’t available to your reps.

Reviewing this information will give you a clearer understanding of what needs to change before your sales support will be effective.

What an effective sales support process looks like.

What should your sales support process look like after investigating the root causes? There are four things that you should do to maintain effective sales support.

  1. Understand how your sales reps are selling based on a buyer’s journey and create content that fills the gaps.
  2. Provide training to your sales reps to help them understand the where, when, why, and how of sharing content.
  3. Create an open channel for sales to provide feedback to the marketing department to allow for continuous improvement.
  4. Run regular audits on your sales material to understand which pieces of content are going unused and creating waste. Ideally, your organization should have access to this data through a centralized tool that tracks the analytics of your sales materials.

By taking these steps, you’ll ensure that your sales support continuously becomes more effective.

Increase your annual revenue and customer retention with the right sales support.

Maintaining the right levels of productivity and growth is important to every organization. The way you choose to power this growth will be a determining factor in its effectiveness and your ROI. It can be tempting to throw money at a problem, but in the long run, it will be more effective to identify and solve inefficiencies before scaling.

Poor sales support is a two-edged sword. It increases waste and can drag down your bottom line. To avoid getting sliced, you need expert guidance. Learn how our team can help you optimize and simplify your sales support process. Schedule a conversation with one of our experts.