Sales Enablement for B2B Marketers


I talked with Matt Heinz, a prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger. He is president and founder of Heinz Marketing, a pipeline strategy and marketing execution company, & has fifteen years of marketing, business development, and sales experience moving from a variety of organizations and industries. He's a dynamic speaker, known not only for his keen insight and humor but is actionable in motivating takeaways. Matt's career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success, and customer loyalty. Matt is a repeat winner of the top fifty most influential people in sales lead management, and top fifty sales and marketing influencers, and today we are going to talk about sales enablement best practices for B2B marketers. 

DR:         I'm super excited to dig into this topic, and after seeing you recently speak at CM World, I know that you are going to have some great insight, and your bio lives up to the truth as far as not only your keen insight but your humor. You definitely lived up to that. So, to kind of just dig into everything, I first want to let the listeners out there have you explain what sales enablement is.

MH:         Well, to me, sales enablement is best defined by how we measure it. I think that sales enablement is focused on increasing the efficiency of the sales organization, helping them spend more time actively selling, as well as increasing the conversion rate of their opportunities to close deals. So, if we can help them convert more and do it faster, that is the ultimate measure of value, I believe, of sales engagement.

DR:         You’re saying 'we'. You mean the marketing team, correct?

MH:         I do. I think sales enablement historically has come out of sales operations, but it's often in more of a reactive and administrative role. I think sales enablement is a great opportunity for marketing to embrace more than their traditional role, to really more actively support more of the sales funnel, and huge part of sales enablement is content, it's stories, it's ensuring you've got the right message for the right prospect at the right stage of the buying journey. It is perfectly suited for marketing to own that, and create really more consistency and velocity of customer conversation.

DR:         I'd like to kind of start on the top and work our way through to the end if that's all right, and like to have you maybe talk about at the beginning how marketing can help with providing buyer insights as far as like, who should sales go after? How can marketing help there?

MH:         I think marketing has a perfect opportunity to really own the customer persona, to understand in your target organization, what does the buying committee look like. CED tells us that on average, amongst B2B buyers, there's now 6.8 individuals that are actively involved in making a purchase decision. So, it's not just understanding who the buyer is, but understanding who the buyers are. Each of those individuals often has their own goals, their own perspectives, so they need their own set of messaging. I think where we see a lot of account based marketing programs come into play, is building consensus and coordination among those different people, sometimes from different departments, very often from different perspectives, to build internal consensus towards filling a need, and ultimately choosing your solution.

DR:         And I would like to just kind of give a shout out to Adele Revella. I think she's a great resource for helping you. Are you familiar with Adele?

MH:         Adele literally wrote the book on target personas, and you'd do well to follow sort of her perspectives, but I think just to simply understand who the primary players are, differentiate decision makers from stakeholders and influencers, understand the different stages they're going through as they make a decision, including stages that have nothing to do with your product or service, and simply have to deal with them getting to a change for themselves. What does that change mean, what does it represent for each of those individuals in that group of 6.8?

DR:         Let’s assume we've done our homework, and you have your buyer insights. How and where can this information be best utilized?

MH:         Well, everywhere. I think a lot of times personas get developed, and then they're applied to marketing campaigns. Clearly, I can't think of anything that is in front of one of those target prospects that shouldn't be driven by those target personas. I think probably the biggest thing when we talk about sales enablement, is making sure that the messages coming from sales reflect those personas as well.

DR:         And sales might be too caught up in the weeds.

MH:         You see a lot of differences and conflicts sometimes between sales and marketing. I believe that the vast majority of the time, people are working with the best of intentions. Sales is not trying to just shoehorn people into deals without making sure that they need it, but I think left to their own devices, sales wants to sell, unless you can put a case in front of them that says, listen, you're not going to compel someone to move forward unless they have a fundamental need & here are some tools, messages, & marketing proposal templates to do that. I think that in the same way, marketing needs to understand that a chatty prospect is not a qualified prospect. Someone who attends your webinar isn't necessarily someone who's ready to buy in the next thirty days. So, there's a coming together of sales and marketing, against common objectives that I think will help them find quite a bit of common ground.

DR:         In the last couple years we’ve heard that sales and marketing need to get together in the same meetings. You’re yet another expert out there that's saying, 'Hey, sales and marketing, hold hands, get together, talk everything out, let's get aligned.' Top of mind awareness obviously has always been critical. That's mainly the role of marketing in general. Can you dig into some ways that marketing teams can do this?

MH:         Sure. I think first is just that the approach is important. I don't really want to be known, I want to be known for something, and that for something, I'd rather it not be my product or service, I'd rather it be sort of a specific outcome, or solving a particular pain, or helping someone receive a particular outcome that they care about. And I think you can do that without really helping people understand anything about your product or service, simply by sharing information, becoming a trusted expert in a particular category.

Ideally, a greater and greater percent of your addressable market starts to seek you out and come back, because you are providing value in some consistent way around a consistent theme, and I think this is where content marketing could really play a big role, because companies can create and curate content around some central themes, so people start to associate them with those themes, and when you're known for a theme, when you're associated with approaching and tackling a particular problem, when people have that problem they'll come to you for advice. There have been many studies that show psychologically, there are people making the connection in their head between 'you understand this problem, therefore you may have a solution for me'. Just because you understand and create good content doesn't mean you have the best solution, but that is the connection most people make in their heads, which makes you as the seller the incumbent when someone comes back to you and says, 'I now have this problem. Help me.'

DR:         I think a lot of people don't quite understand content marketing all the way. I always call it the simplest and hardest thing to understand. It's not a linear way of thinking, but once you get it, you're like 'Oh, that's what it is?' You explain it really well. Say you’re a small business owner or marketing person for a small company. How can you create the same sort of brand awareness as big companies with their target markets?

MH:         Well, does a company of one count? I try not to use myself as an example, but I think about when I first started Heinz Marketing about eight years ago, there was just me, and a laptop, and a bus pass. There was nothing else. I didn't have the budget, I was using Constant Contact and pulling a few emails out every once in a while. What I did have was a WordPress blog, and I opened a Twitter account. I tried to think about, okay, what's the kind of content I want to be known for? What's the kind of content that the people I want to attract to my business are going to be interested in? I started writing, started sharing, started curating, and that continues to this day to be foundational for us as a business. We've been investing in that for many years now. For some people, writing comes easier to them than others, and some people, content creation is easier. I'm not going to say it's easy to be consistent and do this on a regular basis, but I also believe that we're living in an amazing time when you can create advantages for yourself, you can create an audience.

You can own a media channel with zero cost if you taking advantage of, and dig into, and put in the time and effort to create it.

DR:         You said eight years ago, and now you're one of the top fifty most influential people in sales and lead management, right? And you started as a company of one, and you basically just practiced what you're preaching now, right?

MH:         What’s interesting about that is, influencer lists and whatnot were never the goals, still aren’t the goals. It’s a nice validation for what we're doing, and clearly, I'll take it, because it helps drive leads in the door as well, but it was never about getting on any lists. It was about leveraging the channels I had in front of me with zero dollars. I think it's an opportunity that almost anyone has. One of my favorite examples to watch these days is actually Carlos Gil, who was at LinkedIn for a while. I believe he's at BMC Software now, but he has become synonymous with leveraging Snapchat in B2B. He’s made something amazing for himself just by being himself, by being generous, by sharing good content.

MH:         Do it on a quality level, respond, be generous, be responsive, create a two-way level of communication. I think the bigger the company gets, the less likely you have individuals that are willing to step out and play that role themselves, but we don't want to follow buildings and logos, we want to follow people, we want to hear from people, and sometimes the smaller the company, the easier it is for someone to sort of be the face of that company, or for someone to step out and be a representative of that company. But I think the more often people can leverage personality, and humanity, and emotion in their content, and in their marketing, the better it works.

DR:         Well, I think a lot of people know this, but buying decisions are actually emotional decisions. They're not they're not analytical decisions. Suppose that you know you have brand awareness that you're creating, your company is a trusted source, but circling back to the whole sales enablement with marketing and sales, how can marketing and marketing departments help create name recognition for individual salespeople, and/or do you feel like this is something that's really important, and marketers should focus on, or should it mainly be more about the company and its brand awareness?

MH:         It’s always going to be a mix of both, but I think it is important to build relationships and to create a bond between prospect and seller. And let's not pretend that the seller is a building. I think a lot of companies are concerned about individual salespeople building into their own personal brand, and when they walk out the door, they walk out the door with that. That’s always going to be a challenge with any employee that you have. You're always going to lose some intellectual capital, you're going to lose something internally or externally when people leave, but in the meantime, I'd rather leverage that, and I'd rather leverage the fact that people can build relationships - that people want to follow other people, not buildings and logos. You as a marketing team can empower every sales rep with content, with tools, with processes that they can follow to regularly and far more frequently engage a wider, scalable audience of prospects. It's everything from curating content into their social channels to remembering to send someone a happy birthday card. There's a thousand things you can do as part of that, some more scalable than others, but all of it is best done when it's people building relationships with people.

DR:         I’d like to move on to lead nurturing and nurture campaigns. These words get thrown out a lot, and they sometimes feel like they mean similar things, sometimes they seem like they mean different things, but I would like to kind of have you explain. Because I think that this is one of the things that's really right up your alley, and I've heard you talk about, and I'd like to first of all just explain what these are, and then I'd like to have you explain some good ways these can be accomplished, the lead nurturing and nurture campaigns.

MH:         Sure. I think in general what I've found is usually between ten and fifteen percent of inbound leads are qualified and ready to buy, and something between sixty and sixty-five percent of inbound leads are qualified and not ready to buy. So, you've got an audience where you have the right person at the right company, they just don't have the level of urgency or a particular interest, or context to move forward right now. Well, without lead nurturing you'd throw them back in the sea and then hope they catch you hook again some day. Today you have the opportunity to stay in touch with them, to put more value added information in front of them, to keep their attention, and in the process also build and reinforce and expand their understanding of the connection between you, your brand, and what you represent, so that when the timing is right, they are more likely to come back to you, but you're also more likely to have the right content in front of them so you can help move them forward.

If I'm sitting in front of a CFO, I'm saying listen, lead nurturing, it has an exponential impact on lowering your acquisition cost, and making your sales and marketing more efficient. There's a media replacement value from a traditional marketing realm of lead nurturing, that is highly material for companies that are in a mature growth stage sales environment.

DR:         Now, on like a practical level, how does this get accomplished? How do you do this?

MH:         Well, I mean I've seen some companies just do it very simply with what we abbreviate as the EFN, the 'email effing newsletter'. Literally just getting a little bit of content in front of people on a regular basis is valuable enough that they see your name, and they associate that with goodness. If you want to take it another step forward, you can say segment salespeople from marketing people, segment your health care targets versus your manufacturing targets. So you can segment a million different ways based on different groupings and contexts of prospects, but in its simplest form, lead nurturing is just staying in front of prospects.

MH:         It can be done with your email effing newsletter, it can be done by a sales rep reaching out and sharing an article every once in a while. The execution can take a lot of different formats., but at the end of the day, what are you doing to keep the attention of your prospects? Earn a right to have that attention on a regular basis, such that it's usually not a matter of if, it's a matter of when that particularly qualified prospect has a need, you want to be there, and you want to make sure they associate that problem and that intended outcome with you, so that you're the first called they make.

DR:         Okay. So, a salesperson engages with a prospect and they don't buy, right? Then are you looking at possibly creating a marketing automated program where the salesperson drops them into that bucket or whatever you want to call it, and then they get pinged every month, every couple months with like another piece of content that might be of interest to them? Would that be one example of staying in front in addition to a monthly newsletter? Is that an example that you like?

MH:         Yeah, you've got the idea. I would differentiate between nurturing leads and nurturing stalled opportunities, though. Here's how I would differentiate those -

  • if someone is a lead and you've never really had sort of an opportunity discussion, maybe

  • sales has tried to qualify them and they're not ready to buy

  • marketing will re-market to them.

It might be in a newsletter format, it might be in a more contextual, segmented marketing campaign. Ideally, it's a combination of channels, so they're seeing you on email, on social, and across the web, and maybe some events and direct mail. I differentiate that from someone who becomes an opportunity and doesn't close. The majority of closed deals are closed lost, they're just closed not now, so when we do pipeline development for clients, we call that 'stage close nurture'. Then you've got a combination of marketing doing outreach as well as sales doing periodic direct outreach, because at that point they actually have a direct relationship with someone on the sales team, and so we want to leverage that as much as possible.

DR:         Okay. Well, that really leads me to my next point here. So now that a salesperson has engaged, is there anything else marketing can do at that stage or is it mainly that I've passed the baton, not counting the content with the monthly newsletters and stuff like that? And the answer might be I've passed the baton, now it's now sales team, but is there anything else marketing can do at the stage of helping them through the sales process?

MH:         Well, I think the answer to that is kind of back to the beginning of our discussion, sales enablement. There's certainly content that can help get the lead over to the sales team, but once sales have that lead, what conversation should they have, in what order? What tools to they have to better facilitate engaging with those prospects? Everything from communicating with the prospect, to presenting a demo, to presenting a proposal - I think about the technology stack that sits in front of the sales team, and I feel like that's a sales enablement function that can be supplied by marketing. So, again, like back to that definition of 'What can you do to make your sales team more efficient?' and 'What can you do to help them convert more deals?', if it helps directly with one of those objectives, I think it falls under sales enablement, and I think it falls within the purview of the modern marketing organization.

DR:         And this would be a combination of potentially some of it being automated, and some of it being as they go through the sales process it sounds like. You basically are like, 'Here are your bullets. You fire which one when you feel like you need to fire it.' At some point, logic and normal conversation come into play. In this day and age, it seems like there's so much talk about marketing automation, and all these tools, and technology, and all this other marketing tech stuff, that you kind of get lost and you forget there is a human and a logical element here, and you don't want to automate yourself where you lose the trust of the contact because it looks automated. So, it sounds like it's a combination of both, is what I'm hearing.

MH:         It absolutely is. I mean a good example of that is the idea of sales scripts. I have never seen a sales script that works. There is no script that you can use in every situation with a prospect. Now, you can script a voicemail, you can script an e-mail template obviously, and you can script the beginning of a conversation, but from that point forward, you can have a sense of direction, you can have some bullet points of where you want the conversation to go, but to a large extent, once you get into a live call, you're in improv time. You have to be good on your feet, you have to know where you want to go with that conversation - you're literally doing custom communication at each one of those times. Look, if you're doing B2B sales, unless you're doing something that is simple and transactional, which is a minority of situations, the human element is extremely important. We're not going to get rid of salespeople anytime soon for these complex deals that need reframing, that need consensus building, that needs someone that can help shepherd the customer to get to the right outcome.

When people are doing this right, and when salespeople are doing their job right, you're not advocating for your deal, you're advocating for the customer's needs. You're advocating for an outcome your customer desires, and when you've got those organizations with your six point eight decision makers, that requires a set of skill. It still requires a deft human hand.

DR:         Now let's move offline a little bit. You have a ton of experience in sales and marketing, and you're obviously super crazy versed with the cutting-edge technology, and tools and everything. But let's go a little bit old school. What are some offline, non-digital activities that you've seen marketing play a role in helping sales with, to maybe give possibly some tangible ideas, some things that maybe are a forgotten lost art that you've seen work for yourself, and that are continuing to work for other people?

MH:         Sure. A lot of the old 'traditional' channels still work really effectively as long as you use them well. Direct marketing works really well. Sitting on the table in the back of my office right now is something called a 'man crate'. Someone sent me this, it was part of a marketing campaign, and I kid you not like I open up this cardboard box, and inside the cardboard box is this wooden crate that is glued together, and it came with a small crowbar. I had to crowbar the damn thing open, and there was something in it, and a message, and look, that's not cheap. You can't do that if you're trying to market to millions of people, but it made an impression. I've talked about it a lot. It's still sitting here, and people ask me what the hell is that thing, and I say, 'It's a man crate. Let me tell you about it. Let me tell you who sent it to me.'

DR:         Let's give them a shout out so that that hard work pays off for them.

MH:         Yeah, the company is Evention, and they're doing some great work in the in the big data ABM space, and it was just unique, it was different, it stood out. We've done a few things like that with some of our clients that have sort of small and strategic targets. You're not looking for lowest common denominator, you're not always looking for the lowest cost per lead. Sometimes you do something to stand out, especially amongst those decision makers and senior people that are hard to get to events. Like if you go to, a couple people in there in the enterprise, IT, services space - what's your most effective marketing channel? And the answer I've heard at least two or three times now is dinners. They do dinners with twenty or thirty people in the room, and seventy percent of them are prospects, and thirty percent of them are customers and partners, and they just have a conversation. It's a relationship building opportunity. It differentiates them. It's memorable.

So, I can go on and on about a bunch of examples that are sort of quote unquote old school, and none of them having anything to do with digital. The channel is simply the conduit of an experience, or a message, or an outcome that helps take you closer to a mutually beneficial sort of resolution or outcome.

DR:         And thank you notes, right? Send those thank you notes, handwritten.

MH:         And thanks to the worldwide web, you don't even have to handwrite them. There's a company called MailLift. You can integrate into the sales force, or you can send them a formatted/templated email. You can't make this up, they have a team of retired teachers that will handwrite your letters for you.

DR:         Well, I don't t think anyone could match my handwriting, so they'd have to contract a specific fifth grader to write for me. And to bring this kind of together with digital - and you mention ABM account based marketing - if I'm reading between the lines, or maybe within the lines of all of this, it's about narrowing down the people that you can then engage with at a higher cost, a dinner level, sending them a crate type of thing. You're right, I promise you, you most likely you weren't one of five hundred people who got that. There was probably a reason that you got narrowed down in some form or fashion, so I think you might know where I'm going at with that if you want to kind of expand on that to bring the technology part to this offline specific part, and how people can narrow that down.

MH:         Well, I want to address it not by technology, but in terms of like business value. And this is where I think the reframe for marketers becomes really important. If you as a marketer are focused on generating leads, if your number one goal is to generate leads, you probably have a lead goal, and you probably have a finite budget you're trying to stay within to generate those leads. But not every lead is created differently, not every sale is created differently. What if I told you that a particular segment of your customer base not only converts to sales at a higher rate but also has a three x lifetime value of your average customer? What are you willing to do to buy that lead? How much are you willing to spend to generate that prospect? So, all of a sudden, if you start thinking about lifetime value, start looking at metrics that are at the bottom if not beyond the sales funnel, it changes the economics, it changes the prioritization of the way you think about what you might do in marketing. Now, too often, marketers, B2B marketers, even marketers in a complex market are focused on volume or focused on economies of scale. We want to get as much impact out of stuff as possible. We like our 'up and to the right' charts that show lead volume.

I could care less about lead volume, and I bet your C-suite doesn't give a crap about marketing qualified leads. They want the pipeline. They want closed deals. They want margin. They want lifetime value. So, at the minimum, start using the language of your business as a marketer, and ideally, you start to focus your efforts on what's going to give you the best ROI on those business metrics. It's the executive dashboard, not your operational marketing dashboard you should be focused the most on.

DR:         So basically, it might be worth taking a slice your budget and going after some of these big fish with really nice smelling bait. Really go after them.

MH:         They may not even be your biggest fish. I mean if you look at your database, if you look at the trends in your business, you may find that there is a unique small segment, maybe a smaller type customer, or a customer in a unique, unappreciated market that loves your product, that loves your service, that sticks around longer, that spends more money, so it's not always the biggest logos. I mean when people do account based marketing programs, you don't go after the Fortune 100 just because they're the top hundred businesses. What are the attributes of companies that are most likely to need your services? What are the attributes of companies that tend to be your best customers? Your top one hundred logos may not be the world's top one hundred logos, but you still need to focus on where you can get deals, and where you can get your best, most satisfied customers.

DR:         Awesome point. As we move a little bit further, now you've got people, you're talking to them, they've nurtured, you're engaged, you're getting close to that sale. As we approach the close of the sale, are there ways marketing teams can help the sales team secure it there, or again, is it the sales' job to kind of close and finish it off? Is there anything marketing can do?

MH:         So, the fifth of six buying journey stages according to SiriusDecisions is what Sirius calls 'justify the decision', and I think that's a critical stage for marketers. I think once you get to the point where you have bought off, you've got a high percentage of that 6.8 decision makers internally bought off on what you're doing, what do you need to arm them with to go to the final decision maker to sign on the dotted line? What's the final set of decision-making criteria? Is it an ROI calculator? Is it case studies? What can you do to get the risk low enough to move forward where someone will finally say yes? And there's a lot of ways to do that. I mean some of that is sales' job, to sort of really cement that internal consensus so that they go to the decision maker with a unified front, to say 'We all believe we should do this.' You may have already set the groundwork to do that, but what other messages, what other supporting points, what case studies and areas of justification can you arm your sales team with that they can use with your prospects, use with closing the deal, to get them across the finish line?

DR:         So, basically, I've always even personally had a hard time thinking about it, because it almost sounds like lead nurturing, you have this stage, this stage, this stage, and 'marketing needs to jump in now', but what you're saying is, marketing, just think it through ahead of time. Think it through, think of these buying stages and the content that would be necessary through those - and obviously one of them is going to be closed towards the end of the sale - what would be something that would be compelling, and develop that piece of content ahead of time, and then just make sure the salespeople know it's at their disposal. It's not anything that they're necessarily needing to jump in at the twelfth hour, it's something that they should have thought of in the first hour, and got the sales team another bullet to use at the right time, with the case study, or ROI paper - all those other examples you gave.

MH:         You're absolutely right. I think there are a couple ways to think about that. One is if you understand your customers well, and you understand the buying journey they go through, you should be able to anticipate the needs from a messaging and justification point they have at the end of the process. But each organization is going to be a little different, and I think if you don't have the ability to be innovative and agile at the end of the process as well - as a team, there may be things marketing can provide, there may be things sales can brainstorm and deliver, there may be one objector inside that 6.8 you've got to deal with, and deal with in a custom way for the culture and politics of that organization. So, there isn't a 'one size fits all' for everybody. I think your playbook, and your content, and your buying journey execution can handle the majority of situations, but you have to also be prepared to go to the war room and get innovative, and creative, to get more of those deals across the line.

DR:         So, they're sold, right? Do you have any examples of how marketing has helped with keeping clients as lifelong customers?

MH:         Well, once someone's bought, ideally the product or service is what keeps them on board I think, but there's an opportunity clearly to resell, to confirm the decision, to communicate overtly the benefit people are getting even if they're seeing it, even if they're not calculating it themselves. I think the mistake a lot of companies make is they approach renewals at the time of renewal, as opposed to beginning renewal on day one. You have to constantly be thinking about, 'What do I do to make sure that the renewal with this customer is a slam dunk? That it's done without a second guess?' Part of that is just your product or service fulfilling the promise that you started with, but the relationship people have with you, the way they feel about the relationship, the service they get, sometimes people aren't choosing the best product in the market, sometimes they're choosing their favorite, someone that they feel comfortable with. Especially when they've got a relationship, it's painful to change vendors, it's painful to change to someone else.

You'd rather just stick with what you've got. So, don't give people a reason to leave, give them every reason to believe in you, to continue to favor you, and to stay with you.

DR:         That’s something that gets forgotten. Business owners don't like to hear it. They want to go, 'Sales, marketing, why are our sales numbers down?' Well, at some point your product needs to take over. What you promised, what you sold - I guess Volvo could have the best marketing and sales in the world, but if the cars weren't actually safe, then at the end of the day, people are going to stop driving them. So yeah, that's kind of forgotten a little bit.

I think you’ve given a ton of great pointers, great information. You’ve really explained how sales and marketing can really work together, specifically how marketing can help sales. Do you have any parting thoughts?

MH:         Make sure that you are seen and/or acting as a profit center for the business. Get out of the trap of reporting on operational metrics, and reinforce in the organization that what you care about is a means to an end. Focus on the same metrics, the same goals that your sales team has, put your money where your mouth is on that as well, and it's amazing to see the change of how companies' marketing departments are perceived, and funded, and supported when that happens.

DR:         Awesome. Matt, how can people continue to learn from you?

MH:         Well, you can find us at We're on Twitter @heinzmarketing. If you have any questions for me directly, I'm just, and we blog every day and try to be as generous with our ideas as we can.

DR:         Or go to any one of these top conferences and they might see you speaking, right?

MH:             Absolutely!


About Matt Heinz

Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 15 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty. Matt is a repeat winner of Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management and Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers.