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Last year, I puzzled over the ways sales enablement can roller-coaster between being helpful and falling flat on its face.

I know most marketers and salespeople want to make sales enablement better. Yet we still end up with inbox overload no one wants.

Is it inevitable?

That sent me down a rabbit hole of existential pondering when... a parallel question came to mind: Nicolas Cage, Good or Bad?

Made famous in the TV series Community, that film-class question posed the ultimate challenge to movie-lover Abed. Remembering that scene felt so familiar as I pondered a foundational challenge to the thing I love—marketing—and why sales enablement feels so hard all of a sudden.


Sales enablement can feel worse than untangling a giant knot of lights from a Christmas tree when you realize half of them don't work anymore.

Lucky for you, I decided to do this metaphorical untangling in the open, in a series for MarketingProfs.

That string of articles is now unwound, and its 10 lessons now shine brightly as guiding principles of sales enablement.

Lesson 1: Ask the right question by starting with first principles

Article: Good or Bad? What We Can Learn From Nicolas Cage About Sales Enablement

Sometimes the seemingly obvious question can be a distraction.

In the Sales Enablement: Good or Bad series, I began by dissecting the concept of modern sales enablement and examined both positive and negative aspects to arrive at a balanced perspective. And—hopefully—identify a North Star for working to improve sales enablement.

Applying first principles, I realized I was asking the wrong question.

Initial question: Is Sales enablement good or bad?

Any marketing discipline can end up with good or bad results when put into practice. That doesn't make it inherently bad.

Better question: How can we spark interest and build trust?

Now that is the right question!


Lesson 2: Make marketing more than a scalable process

Article: What Makes for Authenticity in Sales Enablement and Marketing?

Business leaders want to scale the business. As organizations (and teams) grow, there is often a tendency to try to apply scale to everything. And then business leaders are disappointed when not everything scales successfully. The secret is that some things are scalable and others are merely repeatable but provide high ROI.

Dig deeper into the purpose of your marketing and identify how to truly connect with your audience. Small, sincere efforts often resonate the most. Those genuine, thoughtful touches may not be scalable, but they are often repeatable.


Lesson 3: Marketing should speak with, and not at, your audience

Article: Why Marketing Needs to Cultivate Conversation and Community

I revisited The Cluetrain Manifesto and advocated for marketing to cultivate early Internet roots.

No, I don't mean the continued design influence of '90s retro. But wowzers, have you noticed that lately?

I mean we should develop our craft of marketing focused on real conversations and connecting with people. More tactically, I also shared a separate article on choosing and setting up a community platform (I chose Discourse).

Lesson 4: Deliver value by being human and helpful

Article: Want to Build Trust and Provide Value? Try Being Nice, and Helpful!

If you want to offer real business value, you need to think about how trust is built and earned.

Be vulnerable.

Learn from your clients so you can better understand them.

Then help them solve problems.

Simple. Human. Helpful.


Lesson 5: The Challenger Sale is like jazz

Article: What Nicolas Cage Can Teach Us About the Challenger Sale

No matter what you personally think about Nicolas Cage's acting career, it's likely you agree it's versatile. And that's exactly what Cage can teach us about the Challenger Sale: flexibility is key.

While the framework gives you an approach, the central lesson adapting to the situation with repeatable inputs. Learn the theory, practical things like notes and scales, and spend time practicing songs—but then improvise to create something unique for each situation.

This is not fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants improvisation. This is creatively adapting based on reading a situation that is built on hours of practicing your craft—plus putting the work in on researching to better understand who you're helping.


Lesson 6: Remember that the map is not the territory

Article: Stop Trying to Measure Everything, Use an Outcome-Focused Lens Instead

Modern marketing has gotten weird when it comes to messy metrics and mysterious attribution.

Every marketer I've talked with over the past year is feeling like we're all crossing uncharted territory without updated maps.

Focus on outcomes instead of measuring everything. Go beyond the spreadsheets by testing things in the field and bringing back a better understanding of the changing territory.


Lesson 7: Make it easier to everyone to focus on a shared outcome

Article: Reduce Friction With a Marketing Road Map for Smooth Sailing

Maps are lovely metaphors, and a good metaphor can help frame your efforts, plus simplify the complex.

A well-designed marketing roadmap not only helps guide the marketing team—it also enables clear communication, Tip: make it easy to skim!


Lesson 8: Audiences are not monoliths, so don't treat them like they are

Article: Audience Engagement: What the Performing Arts Can Teach Marketers

The terrifying thing about audiences is that they can seem mysterious. But, really, we just need to learn to listen to the signals they provide.

The wonderful thing about audiences is they can provide you with all sorts of feedback:

  • How you are doing at engagement: AKA, how are your hooks?
  • What types of content do they gravitate toward?
  • What types of content actually converts (and therefore is more closely tied to intent)?

Better understanding your audience is built on those moments. And the audience insights from feedback loops can help you know where to focus your time and money.


Lesson 9: A growth mindset combined with creativity can take you further

Article: How to Be a Gritty Marketer as You Search for Mastery

I explored the balance between the art and science of marketing as I reflected on being a gritty marketer while reading The Rise.

Combining creativity and analytical thinking should feel very familiar to marketers. Less so may be the idea of embracing failure as a learning experience on the road to mastery.

The act of persistence in service of continual improvement provides fuel to grow and innovate.


Lesson 10: Do right by your fellow humans

Article Series Gist: Sales Enablement That's Designed to Do Good and Be Good

Marketing is getting a wee bit scary out there as third-party cookies actually start disappearing. We are all going to be navigating new ways of doing things as marketers, including for sales enablement.

There's a quote from John Adams that always struck me: "Do good and be good." I always took this to be inspirational, around being active in the world and helping others.

The ideas in this sales enablement series are focused on being intentional about approaches and doing right by people.

We can start by providing truly valuable content and experiences—and doing that in ways we can be proud of.

Do good and be good.

More Resources on Sales Enablement

Sorry, Marketing, You Don't Own Sales Enablement

Empowering Sales Success—The Role of Marketing in Sales Enablement: Owen Richards on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Five Ways to Improve Product Marketing and Sales Enablement Collaboration to Drive Revenue

Five Types of Content to Include in Your Sales Enablement Playbook

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image of Cathy Colliver

Cathy Colliver is the marketing director at Test Double, a software consulting agency. She loves simplifying challenges, and her marketing career spans five industries. Cathy volunteers in arts and education.

LinkedIn: Cathy Colliver

Twitter: @CathyColliver

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