I'm on a journey to explore what makes Sales enablement good or bad. And in the first installment of this series, I reflected on first principles and asked questions.
What is the ultimate point of B2B demand generation? It's an exercise to force you to keep asking why until you get to the foundation.
Are we trying to generate leads? Yes, of course. But those are lagging metrics. They are the result of Marketing and Sales enablement activities.
To understand how we can make Sales enablement good, we need to know more about leading metrics. What generated interest in the first place?
So, I posited the better question: How do we spark interest and build trust?
Testing Your Assumptions
To dig into interest and trust, you need to understand whom you're connecting to.
That isn't a radically novel idea. But getting to that understanding for B2B services as opposed to B2B SaaS is different. Perhaps it's even more challenging, because available data on trends tilts toward SaaS. Inevitable, because that's where venture capital has focused. (What has VC money not skewed these days?)
When third-party data is not available, you need first-party insights.
We at Test Double partnered with Ryan Gibson at Content Lift to conduct qualitative research with current and past clients. Those clients represented a mix of companies (size, industry, business model) and roles (founder, CTO, VP of engineering). We also included a mix of loyal fans and people who were definitely not cheerleaders.
Our CEO/Co-founder Todd and I spoke with our staff consultants to better understand their inside perspective: What are the patterns around challenges they observe with clients? How do we make an impact and elevate the work consultants are doing? What could we do better?
The benefits were twofold:
- Testing the assumptions that inform our core brand positioning
- Digging for deep understanding on challenges and how our company helps and unlocks business value
We tested assumptions and we continue to tweak our positioning. (Note: Obviously Awesome by April Dunford is a great read on better brand positioning.)
We're also hiring a senior content manager to level-up our content creation abilities—experiment with new formats and new approaches, engage a target audience of software engineering leadership that's a wee bit more relaxed than its C-suite peers, connect with decision-makers who are most often Gen X or Millennial.
We're growing and supporting a kaleidoscope of voices. And we're poised to build out a multiverse of content inspired by our core beliefs.
"Find what causes a commotion in your heart. Find a way to write about that." —Richard Ford
Qualitative research told us that the main reason engineering leaders chose us was a sense of fit on culture and software development philosophy. Other things emerged on the deeper value we provided through our services, but the culture and philosophy alignment were key to making the decision.
There was a dotted line back to two things in particular: referrals from someone they trust, and following our thought leadership. Our other co-founder, Justin, shows up in communities we care about, and shares iconoclast opinions with empathy. Things that caused a commotion in his heart did the same to a lot of other people.
Our refreshed content strategy will focus big time on the intersection of common problems and stuff that causes a commotion in our hearts. Because we know that is relatable and relevant to people who care about the same things we do.
So, my real goal for Sales enablement is to build intentional thought leadership that offers...
- Strong point of view
- Specificity of relatable situations
- Authentically vulnerable content from subject-matter experts
- Great reframes for challenger sale conversations
That's how we spark interest to connect and build trust.
Community's "Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad?" episode started me on this journey of Sales Enablement: Good or Bad. And once again, being intentional is the secret.
Here's how Nic Cage does it in National Treasure: He keeps things close to his chest. (Skip the rest of this section if you haven't seen this movie and don't love spoilers.)
That sounds boring, because it's subtle. But when Nicolas Cage plays the everyman with intention, it unlocks the on-screen chemistry.
Even when he plays it straight, he has seriously expressive features. Like, raise-one-eyebrow-at-a-time expressive. Opening his eyes impossibly wide. Slightly sneering smiles. Deadpanning when other actors would be emoting like hell.
And playing it straight makes moments of raw emotion so much more effective. You get Nic Cage good-or-bad energy in the form of unexpectedly large gestures. His character gives a toast to treason at a National Archives gala (as a nod to the founding fathers' act of rebellion against the English crown). It's in tune with witty party chat until he pops while describing the punishment for treason:
But what's more interesting is the bit at the end. He softens and repeats a line directed toward the eventual love interest. He's telling her—without revealing the heist—that he has good intentions, even if it seems awful when she finds out.
Later, when the main characters stand in Independence Hall with the stolen Declaration of Independence, Nicolas Cage shivers as his character realizes that the last time the document was there, it was being signed.
Little Touches That Pack a Punch
What if that's the secret to unlocking how we make Sales enablement good and not bad?
Play it straight. No BS. Be authentic. Little touches. Connect with people.
What if Sales enablement is not about being loud and obnoxious to cut through the noise, but is instead about hooking people by being honest and true?
That's what I'm feeling more and more, and here's how I define that goal for content strategy and inbound marketing:
Bold, Yet Empathetic Opinions + Alignment on Values = Implicit Trust
It's deceptively simple. But it feels right. Like deep-in-my-bones true. The same way I know that AI tools can't replicate the unique stamp of brand voice but they can still be useful tools.
Thought leadership powers authentically true Sales enablement by helping people consider things from a different angle.
So you can help them ask the better question.
More Resources on Authenticity in Marketing
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