Highspot Blog

Sales Content Analytics Drive Business Optimization

Sales Enablement analytics

In the Mad Men era, marketing was considered a cost center where “creative types” made glorious advertising campaigns but had very little ability to measure their impact on sales. Now, thanks to the Internet, marketing automation, and other technology, we can measure nearly everything in marketing, tracing our impact all the way down to influence on revenue and ROI. This ability to measure marketing’s performance and receive instant feedback on what works has revolutionized marketing.Continue reading article ›

Highspot Announces Content Genomics™

Today Highspot has announced revolutionary new technology critical for accurate analytics in Sales Enablement solutions. Content Genomics™ tracks the DNA of content as it evolves across an organization and it is the first application of machine learning to marketing and sales content.

Highspot was founded with the goal of solving the Sales Enablement problem—to make it easier for sales reps to find the content they need and make them more effective in closing sales. We knew that a holistic solution would rest on 3 pillars, all vastly superior to the content systems of yester-year; (1) intelligent and flexible content management platform that makes it easy for sales teams to find the content they need, (2) powerful and elegant pitching and email systems that make it easy for salespeople to engage customers, and (3) robust analytics that enable sales and marketing to measure what is working and to optimize performance. While all these pillars represent vast improvements over past solutions, analytics is the cornerstone that closes the loop between sales and marketing and provides the data to systematically improve sales effectiveness. Only through accurate performance analytics can an organization learn, improve and optimize.

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The Sales Content Conundrum

content creation sales content

Where does it come from? How do you measure its effectiveness?  Is it different than marketing content?

Salespeople are in a unique position as they deliver materials and messages to prospects and receive real-time feedback on it whether that be via actual discussion or the fact that a prospect moves through the buying cycle as a result.

Often they create their own content derived from assets supplied by the marketing team that reflect these learnings as well as their personal spin on things.  In most cases, this feedback fails to make its way back to the marketing team and the problem just reinforces itself including no visibility to the gaps being filled by the salesperson’s own efforts.

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Highspot Partners with Box to Build Better Enterprise Apps for Sales Enablement

Highspot integrates with box for seamless Sales Enablement

Both Box and Highspot published press releases today announcing formal partnership and greater integration of our products.

Highspot’s press release

Box’s press release

We’re excited to work with Box as a company that shares some of our core product philosophy. Box is growing like mad and expanding aggressively into the enterprise. Enterprise customers are waking up to the benefits of adopting “new age,” consumer-inspired, cloud applications as a way to improve their business performance.

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Don’t Ignore the Last Mile of Your Sales Process

last mile, sales process

The “last mile” is a phrase that can trace its origins to the communications industry, characterizing “the final leg of the telecommunications networks delivering communications connectivity to retail customers, the part that actually reaches the customer.

It can often be a bandwidth bottleneck as the network tries to deliver communication services to the customer.  This last mile wouldn’t be possible without the network in place but ignoring it jeopardizes the customer experience.

How does this apply to a sales process?

In a very similar way, actually.

You may have spent significant time and money building out a process and system to attract prospects, nurture them to a point they are ready for sales interaction, and report on costs, actions, and outcomes, but if you bottleneck in the “last mile” of the sales process – the point at which a salesperson is directly engaging with prospect in order to convert them to a customer –  you are creating friction at a critical point in the buying process.

Over the last several years there has been considerable investment and optimization of the lead management process with marketing automation systems.  These pieces of technology are designed to optimize the middle part of the funnel and nurture a prospect until they are ready to engage in the sales process.  They capture and score online behaviors like web site visits, collateral downloads, and email campaign opens/clicks until they meet a threshold to be considered a “sales ready lead.”

At this point of hand off from marketing to sales, many processes shift gears to the customer relationship management (CRM) system as the focal point of activity where opportunity management, tasks, pipeline status and forecasting are maintained.  This also is where the marketing’s role shifts from demand creation to supporting the sales process through sales enablement.

But too often, intentionally or unintentionally, marketing’s effort in sales enablement is akin to the ugly stepchild of lore. Marketing loves to focus on creating Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), but spends much less time ensuring that sales has everything they need to close those leads. Sales representatives, meanwhile, are asking for more content and better tools to help them close sales. (And, yes, sadly, we realize that often the problem exists in the sales representatives not being able to find the great content that marketing creates.) Therein lies the bottleneck of the last mile.

The marketing team should take a “full funnel” view and have a keen interest in everything occurring at every point in the process.  This is the promise of the revenue lifecycle marketer.

Similar to the communications network, the amount of time, money, and effort expended to get to this “last mile” interaction is irrelevant if the sales representative is not prepared, doesn’t have the right content available, or is not making the most out of every sales pitch.

Crucial to completing the “last mile” is a sales enablement platform designed to deliver the most effective content to the sales representative for each individual sales opportunity and to engage the prospect via a compelling sales pitch that provides signals when it is viewed or shared.  Wrapping all this together is a set of reporting and analytics that constantly informs the marketing team and sales managers of what content works best, where gaps exist, and how sales representatives are actually using the content marketing creates for “last mile” engagement.

Before marketing teams spend hundreds of thousands more dollars for incrementally more leads, they should fix the any bottlenecks they have in the last mile, and make their sales teams more effective closing the leads they spent so much money to obtain. Not only will this improve their conversion rates and ROI across all existing campaigns, but might, just might, garner a “Hey thanks, marketing! Nice work!” from the sales team.


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Why Context Is So Important In Sales Enablement

sales engagement sales trigger sales enablement

Sales and marketing operations have progressed to a point where we can readily access the contact information of those who we are trying to target with our sales pitch or offer.  In best-in-class scenarios, there is an active mapping of buyer personas to the buying journey so an intelligent mapping of who is going to be involved is any decision process is understood.

We even have the ability to “score” these leads based on implied interest like web site visits, email campaign activity like opens or clicks, and downloading of collateral pieces.  There are even advanced scenarios where predictive analytics can be used to intelligently lead score prospects based on their potential interest and match to your target customer.  This is all done in an effort to improve targeting – who should be contacted first, who has the greatest probability of converting into an opportunity and ultimately becoming a customer.

This is fantastic technology for getting the customer to engage and become a sales opportunity.  The signals, activities and demographics that these technologies leverage are great pieces of information to be maintained as the lead is passed to sales.

How can we better leverage this information in the sales and sales enablement processes to help close deals?

Enter context.  Context is “the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event or situation.”  Great salespeople know how critical context is for a first touch and subsequent sales interactions.  Timing is crucial and knowing when the right time is to follow up or engage makes the difference between exceeding quota and struggling to keep up.

As leads are passed from marketing to sales, a clear set of qualification criteria makes all the difference in the world and provides needed context to something moving from a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) to a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).  This could be a threshold reached on a lead score or some attribute that makes it immediately actionable.

Once the prospect enters sales pursuit, understanding the buyer’s journey and what content is most effective at what sales stage continues to add needed context to the discussion.  If a prospect is in a certain region and interested in a certain product line, having the data to confirm what piece of content is most effective to move the prospect to the next stage provides crucial context to the sales representative.

Once a sales pitch is delivered be it live via webcast or sent along in an email as a link, understanding when that presentation is viewed, shared, or forwarded also provides important to context that arms the sales representative with the knowledge to act and engage.

Knitting all this context together can be a challenge so leveraging a “context-aware” sales enablement platform like Highspot makes aligning sales with the right content easy.  Context-aware solutions constantly learn what content is most effective in each given sales situation and apply contextual data points as criteria for their recommendations, such that content that is appropriate to the industry, company size, sales process stage, integrating platforms, etc. is presented to the sales professional for prospect engagement.

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How To Structure Your Sales Enablement Team

sales enablement sales operations

Making the decision to invest in sales enablement is a huge step towards truly accelerating your customer acquisition efforts but how do you structure this organization?  What are their core objectives and responsibilities?

Sales enablement is different than sales operations.  According to SiriusDecisions, the difference is as follows:

Generally, sales enablement focuses on onboarding and certification, sales asset management, sales communications, and coaching and training skills. Sales operations, on the other hand, handles planning, territory optimization, compensation, sales analytics and technology.

With this in mind, the following three core areas of responsibility lay the foundation for how to structure and staff your sales enablement group.  The roles and responsibilities will vary based on the size of company, sales and distribution model, and markets served but these three areas will remain constant.

1. Optimize Each Sales Interaction

This includes having the right type and quality of sales lead delivered by marketing as well as the tools and techniques to make the most of every sales interaction.  Having defined sales qualification criteria agreed upon by both sales and marketing sets the sales team up for success in their interactions.

Using information to better prepare for and execute sales calls also falls in this category.  This includes access to sales tools that provide company and prospect insights, details on triggering events like the opening of an email or the viewing of a presentation as well as ensuring that the actual engagement with a prospect unfolds without obstacle or interruption.  Having a seamless interaction from email to phone to screen sharing of a presentation keeps prospects engaged and demonstrates that your own operations are running smoothly.

2. Facilitate Access to Sales Content Needed to Move Opportunities Through the Sales Cycle

The work is not done when marketing creates new content and places it in a sales portal for the sales team to access.  The constant flow of new information, copy revisions, document versions, and the day-in-the-life realities of sales representatives create situations where the latest and greatest never gets in the hands of the field and where personal versions on hard drives and cloud storage options become the go to sales content.

Sales enablement teams not only facilitate the flow of information from marketing to sales but work to map that content to the various deal stages in the sales cycle.  By understanding what content works the best at each deal stage, prospects move through the sales cycle faster and sales teams are much more productive.

3. Train the Sales Team on Buyer Needs and Their Desired Outcomes

While important to understand the features of the product or capabilities of the service the sales team is selling, understanding the buyer’s needs in detail is essential.  Demonstrating expertise in the challenge faced by the prospect and then mapping that directly to the outcomes they are seeking makes introducing the product or service being sold much more compelling.  Becoming a trusted advisor vs. a salesperson is the goal for training so making sure the sales team is not just confident in the latest release and how to explain it but in truly understanding the buyer, their needs, and how they buy is core to the sales enablement function.

For more perspectives on how to structure and staff a sales enablement team, check out this great LinkedIn discussion in their Sales Enablement Leaders group where a question was asked about the optimal way to design a sales enablement organization including structure, roles, and responsibilities.  Robert Racine, Vice President and Global Head of Sales Enablement at Wipro Technologies shared details on the six teams that make up his organizational structure which include:

  1. Sales Systems and Data Management
  2. Sales Process Excellence and Sales Coaching
  3. Sales Training and Talent Management
  4. Sales Report Design and Analytics
  5. Sales Knowledge Management
  6. Sales Process and Operations Deployment

We previously covered the difference between sales enablement and sales engagement here on the Highspot blog and a sales enablement platform is a crucial building block for any sales enablement team to meet the three objectives above.


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How to prove your B2B marketing is actually working

b2b marketing, content effectiveness, cost of customer acquisition

It’s a common question asked in executive team meetings, board meetings, and even in marketing staff meetings.

“How do we know our marketing is working?”

“Is the expense worth it?”

“Is the investment delivering the results we expected?”

Marketing is a way to scale a business and requires an investment to do so that rarely pays off instantly.  Good B2B marketing is built on a strong foundation of brand, messaging, and positioning that is then driven into the market through various tactics ultimately paying off in sales funnel activity and customer wins.

There are many steps to the process especially in complex B2B sales environments where there are many decision makers, lots of reviews, and frequent gaps between requirements and what is offered.

While there are many metrics that highlight performance and investment return to choose from, the two key measures that will reveal if your B2B marketing is working are:

1. Customer Acquisition Cost

An area that has received much attention over the past several years is around lead management and attribution.  There is still a huge amount of work to do here but at least most companies know they need to connect the dots between the cost of generating a lead and the resulting revenue.  Unfortunately, many companies don’t include this in a core set of reporting metrics with only 25% of companies reporting Cost per Lead and an even more disappointing 22% reporting Cost per Customer according to a recent survey of over 250 B2B marketing professionals by consulting firm Heinz Marketing.

These are the investments made to attract qualified leads and convert them into customers.  Not knowing this information makes profitability reporting difficult and creates a blind spot around total customer lifetime value.

Knowing what it costs to acquire a customer is an essential data point to determining if “marketing is working.”  If it costs too much to acquire a customer or there is no possibility of payback on the investment, then time to optimize programs, refine offerings, and think differently about distribution.

2. Content Effectiveness

Every B2B marketing organization should be aware they need content and a coherent content marketing plan.  But to truly understand content effectiveness, a full funnel view is required.  So think beyond just what content or collateral is being used to generate top of the funnel interest like whitepapers, webinars, or case studies and include a full inventory of all content used throughout the sales cycle.  This includes both what marketing uses to identify, engage, and capture leads but also what the sales team uses to further qualify, differentiate, and win business.

Knowing what is available and used is just half the battle.  To truly understand if “marketing is working,” the usage and effectiveness of this content must be tracked and analyzed with the best pieces being identified by both their original content and any derivative works.  When marketing creates a 20 slide presentation and the EMEA sales team takes four slides from it to use in their market because they know they are effective, marketing needs to know this to demonstrate that the investment to build that presentation was worthwhile but not as great as it could have been given the utilization.

Unlike lead management which has benefited from years of technology enabled reporting and optimization, content effectiveness is still evolving as it relates to marketing teams understanding what to measure and how to measure it.  An integrated sales engagement platform can go a long way in terms of consolidating, optimizing, and reporting on content use and performance with the ultimate goal of mapping specific content investments to closed business and measurable revenue.


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CIO magazine: Getting a handle on marketing technology

Great ideas

Interesting article from Tom Kaneshige at CIO magazine highlighting Highspot and how we score content based on its performance in the sales cycle.

“This attribution problem is real,” says Highspot co-founder and CEO Robert Wahbe. “One of the ways we try to solve this is to shorten the time horizon. Did this brochure help close a 9-month deal? Hard to say. But did this brochure move to a conversation or proof-of-concept? That’s better.”

Read the article at http://www.cio.com/article/2899092/marketing/getting-a-handle-on-marketing-technology.html.

The Four Pillars of the Sales Technology Stack

Companies have made significant investments to date in tools and technologies to enable their marketing and sales processes.  Usually the core of this investment is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system deployed with high expectations of streamlined selling and new insights.  Unfortunately, CRM systems are rarely fully utilized and often fall short of these expectations.

Shouldn’t sales technology actually help salespeople sell?

Rather than become a chore to update and merely a means to provide activity and pipeline reports to management, why not make an investment in something that actually drives and optimizes sales activity?

Companies need to embrace the sales technology stack to truly take advantage of technology-enabled selling.

The concept of a sales stack has been around for a while with sales expert Jim Keenan sharing a great post on “The Sales Stack” back in 2012 on his A Sales Guy blog.  His seven layers include both enabling technology as well as rewards, recognition, and compensation programs.  Max Altschuler published a more recent take on it on the Sales Hacker blog titled “Welcome to the Era of the Sales Stack.”  He maps the stack to each stage of the sales lifecycle and highlights some great tools to enable the various pieces of it.

To truly take advantage of sales technology, you must break it down into its foundational parts and map it to your particular sales model and buyer journey.  To do this, view the sales technology stack as four pillars to build upon:

1. Targets

This pillar focuses on who should be a customer.  From sizing the total addressable market to developing buyer personas to contact details, core to any sales stack is information regarding targets and prospects that is both detailed and actionable.  Inputs to this pillar include marketing automation systems which help capture and prioritize leads for follow up as well as any other types of inbound inquiries or list development processes.  Knowing who to target, their interest level, and how best to contact them is crucial.

Adding context to this information is even more important.  Merely having someone’s correct contact information who fits the profile of a target customer does not mean they know who you are or are ready to buy from you.  Adding context based on shared relationships (including sites like LinkedIn), previous interactions with other people in the company, or a warm introduction via a referral makes starting a conversation much easier.

2. Engagement

To best start and continue the conversation requires this second pillar in the sales technology stack focused on engagement and communication.  This includes tools and techniques that drive one-to-many engagement like social publishing as well one-to-one engagement via email, phone, screen sharing, or face-to-face meetings.

Having a variety of engagement options available to the sales professional allows them to move from channel to channel in order to best connect and interact with a sales prospect.

3. Content

Knowing who to contact and how to engage with them leads to this third pillar of the sales technology stack.  This includes the materials produced by the marketing team like whitepapers, case studies,  and data sheets as well as the content used by the sales team to engage and drive the buying process like prospecting emails, calling scripts and demonstration plans.

All of these materials must be organized and accessible for the marketing team to manage and the sales team to access.  Also critical here is the ability to measure content effectiveness as evidenced not just by usage but by contribution to closed deals and any derivative works created by the sales team for their specific needs (including industry and geography).

4. Insights

Without a level of intelligence and analytics, sales technology also runs a risk of not meeting its expectations.  The fourth pillar includes the insights necessary to know the best time to contact a prospect, what piece of content is most effective for that prospect at a particular deal stage and when the optimal time for follow up engagement arises.

Merely having a list of targets with contact information and a means to reach them via email or screenshare with some prepared content does not translate into an high performance sales operation.  To truly accelerate sales and understand performance, data and analytics are critical.  This includes knowing what sales reps are doing when, when those activities are most effective, and even what a prospect is doing with your content after it is shared.  Sending a presentation attached to an email without any way to track that email or the viewing of the presentation creates a sales “blind spot” and limits visibility into engagement opportunities.  In addition to these “sales triggering” events, rolling all of this up and making it available for both sales and marketing teams to review and understand is essential.

Ultimately this is about enabling your sales team to spend more time selling and less time doing non-sales related activities.  Sales technology should help your team sell and constantly optimize itself to improve selling efforts.

Highspot is built to do just that.  By closing the loop from marketing to sales to the customer we provide a full view of engagement and what content is performing best while continually optimizing the system to improve overall sales effectiveness.  We make sales technology that actually helps you sell.


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