outsideinview.comIn a recent blog post, Forrester CEO George Colony wrote that CEO’s want better sales forces. As the sales enablement arm of the organization, how do product marketing professionals, ensure that our sales team is effective and ready to sell our new products and have well designed sales tools aligned to the ever-changing sales cycle?

One of the comments by Walter Adamson in reply to this blog post said “that salespeople are simply not needed in the same way as before, and not at the same points in the cycle, as they were due to the social web and the information available. The buyer’s cycle has changed faster than the seller’s cycle.”

True…in some cases. While the social web and information available certainly has changed the way buyers find information, it is even more critical to understand your buyer personas, addressing the buying process as part of your persona development, and direct sales down the correct path by creating and using tools that complement the sales cycle. By understanding your personas and how they typically gather information you can more effectively spend your marketing resources to help buyers speed up the decision making process. Fair warning – social media in itself is not the answer. Understanding the buyer and how he prefers to find his information will be more effective. Should you take out full page ads in the Wall Street Journal, advertise on HGTV or exhibit at a trade show instead of using social media? Your persona will tell you.

By creating a sales enablement role or point person, a dedicated champion, the organization can have someone focused on helping sales to succeed in a rapidly changing environment. The sales enablement function in the organization provides information, tools and technology that helps sales to succeed. This role might sit in field marketing or in sales, but acts as a bridge between the academic personas and the actual buyers. Sales enablement may include training, product knowledge or tools to collaborate. This nimble role is better suited to monitor changes in buyer behavior than sales would be.

Who is better suited in the organization to understand the changing buyer’s cycle than product marketing? In this case, product marketing acts as command and control software to sales as the guided missile leading towards a sale. If sales is not enabled with the tools necessary to hit the mark, who will the CEO hold accountable? Would you expect sales to understand rapidly changing market dynamics? Usually sales is in repetitive motion and has difficulty with change. Would an on-going sales training effort help to keep sales focused?

Mr. Colony, with all due respect, if your sales force is not keeping up, perhaps they need better guidance and tools from the folks who have developed and targeted your buyer personas and product launch plans. Looking in from the outside, the key to a better sales force may, at least in part, lie with the strategy, not the implementation.