The future of B2B sales enablement in the digital age with Robert Knop

The world has changed. We live and work in an age that is more mobile, digital, and social than ever before. It follows, then, that B2B sales enablement has evolved to be more mobile, digital, and social too… right? Expert Robert Knop, CEO of Assist You Today, is not so sure. Some sales teams are still lagging behind.

Pair Knop’s insights with our B2B sales recipe “Prospecting with Vendasta: A winning strategy” to increase win rates now.

At our most recent Conquer Local Connect event, Knop highlighted social selling as a powerful B2B sales enablement tool, provided tips for “turning off the marketing brain” for higher sales success rates, shared best practices for creating a sales enablement strategy driven by data and deeper KPIs, and more.

Here are Knop’s five key takeaways. We’ll dive deeper into the actionable insights associated with each one below.

  1. The world has changed
  2. Utilize social media for sales
  3. Data is key
  4. Go narrow and deep
  5. Plan for the future

1. The world has changed: Has your B2B sales enablement strategy changed along with it?

When talking about the future of sales enablement, it can be instructive to reflect on the past. For Knop, that means discussing his beginnings as an agency owner nearly 25 years ago.

Targeted, civilized, successful

“I started out owning my own business as a result of a major market change,” Knop says, noting that many agency owners might relate, given the current economic conditions.

How major? In the span of a week, Knop’s agency lost three out of the four biggest clients they had—and two owners jumped ship.

Knop was the creative director on the client accounts that remained, and he was not ready to let go. He made the bold decision to buy half the company.

“It was an enormous shift for me,” Knop says, “because, at that point, I’d been doing predominantly creative work… I knew nothing about sales.”

Overnight, it became Knop’s job to know.

“At that time, my [B2B sales enablement strategy] was to get a phone book… and just start dialing,” Knop reflects. “Or I’d reach out via email about people’s website design. It was very untargeted, it was very uncivilized, and frankly it didn’t work that well.”

In today’s world, salespeople have a wealth of free information on social media to power their sales outreach and make it more targeted, civilized, and successful.

And that’s just the beginning.

Digital transformation and B2B sales enablement

The world is more mobile, digital, and social than ever, which can translate into huge B2B sales enablement opportunities. It’s easier than ever to get in front of key individuals nowadays if you opt out of using more traditional channels.

According to Knop, digital transformation simply means going where your audience is.

Consider that, on average, people spend two and a half hours a day on social networking sites (Statista). It’s much easier to connect with someone over social media (where most people already are) instead of, say, getting them on the phone or to visit your website.

But going where your audience is doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. It means moving the racetrack.

“Let’s take everything that’s made us so successful in sales for the past ten or twenty years and move it online,” Knop says.

2. Utilize social media for sales: Leveraging LinkedIn

Moving your B2B sales enablement strategies online inevitably means moving them to social media, where you can also leverage a wealth of information on prospects to boost your success rate.

2% vs. 83%

Why is social so key?

The average cold calling response rate sits at around 2%. That means for every 100 calls you make, you might get two responses.

Email response rates aren’t a whole lot better unless you invest in learning the latest email outreach strategies.

So you have to ask yourself, “What is a better use of my time?”

For Knop, that answer is simple: Social media. Social selling on LinkedIn, to be more specific.

“For myself, I get an 83% response rate for my invitations to connect on LinkedIn,” Knop says. He attributes the higher success rate with the following points.

  • People are already spending their time on social media platforms like LinkedIn
  • Four out of five users on LinkedIn drive business decisions at their company (LinkedIn)
  • It’s not cold outreach, as you can find out key information about prospects to warm up your intro
  • People are receiving way more emails and calls a day compared to LinkedIn direct messages, making it more likely that your outreach will be read

LinkedIn for B2B sales enablement

Knop is obviously a LinkedIn enthusiast, and for good reason. While various platforms can be leveraged for social selling, LinkedIn is the best fit for B2B sales enablement.

“If we were selling tacos to Gen Z like Taco Bell does, you’d want to be on TikTok, Instagram, or Snapchat. But for us as agency owners selling B2B, LinkedIn is our tool,” Knop says.

Using LinkedIn for B2B sales enablement over other social platforms makes sense for the following reasons.

  • Most professional
  • Most business information
  • Most used for business
  • Most expected to be used for business
  • Sales enablement tool built in

Turning off your marketing brain

Knop cautions against using a marketing mindset while approaching B2B sales enablement on social media. When doing outreach, you need to turn on your sales brain.

Turning off your marketing brain means distributing less product content, less company content, and fewer campaigns. Otherwise, you risk turning LinkedIn into just another PR channel or an extension of your company website.

“No one logged into LinkedIn today to talk about your products and services. If you think of LinkedIn as a 24/7 networking event, you wouldn’t walk around the room introducing yourself by pitching, pitching, pitching. Nobody wants to talk to that guy! Instead, focus on content that adds value to your target audience.”

Robert Knop

CEO, Assist You Today

The content you distribute on LinkedIn, if you want it to fuel your B2B sales enablement strategy, should solve client pain points, provide tips and tricks, and build confidence in you and your brand—without coming off as a sales pitch or linking back to your website.

Turning off your marketing brain means more:

  • Value-add content
  • 1st-person authentic approach
  • Standalone pieces that can be shared (“snackable” content)
  • Content that keeps views on the channel (native, no-click)
    • Tip: Add links in the comments, rather than including them directly in your LinkedIn post. The algorithm will reward you!

3. Data is key for B2B sales enablement success

Being able to measure what’s working and what isn’t is critical to B2B sales enablement success—today and in the future. And it starts with the right data.

According to Knop, people tend to focus on high-level metrics, especially when it comes to social selling: Views, likes, clicks back to the website, and more.

Measure down the funnel

While there’s nothing wrong with tracking high-level metrics, especially if that’s all you can pull from your activities, remember that you’re ultimately looking for sales, not leads. Leads are an important aspect of pipeline generation, but ultimately you need to convert them into paying clients.

“We want to close. So the further you can measure down that funnel, the better off you’re going to be,” Knop says.

In addition to high-level metrics, try tracking:

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator activities 
  • Response rates to LinkedIn outreach
  • How many meetings generated
  • How many of those meetings resulted in sales

Data and analytics for B2B sales enablement

“I was at a conference recently where someone [on a panel] said you couldn’t measure the ROI of social media,” Knop says. “But I’ve measured the effectiveness of social media both at my own company and at Fortune 500 companies. It’s easy to do.”

The easiest way to do it? Conduct an experiment with your sales team, where half of them use social media and half of them don’t. Compare the results.

“People who are utilizing social media for business purposes get significantly more leads, more meetings, more sales, and their average sales are higher,” Knop says, from his own experience.

For leveraging data for B2B sales enablement, Knop breaks it down like this.

  • Make sure you get all relevant information into your CRM
  • Measure channels head to head as much as possible
  • Place strategic bets based on the data

AI and automation for B2B sales enablement

Being able to see as far down the funnel as possible will help you place strategic bets. A strategic bet you can place right now? Lean into AI.

New technologies will continue driving B2B sales enablement success, and AI and automation are currently some of the most powerful sales intelligence tools in your kit.

“This is where the puck is going,” Knop says. “If you think about where to put your time and effort going forward, think about how to use these tools to your benefit rather than trying to fight it.”

Here are some examples of how AI and automation can boost B2B sales enablement:

  • AI can analyze a salesperson’s performance metrics and offer recommendations on how to improve
  • Referring back to “turning off your marketing brain,” plugging a resume and a few guiding prompts into ChatGPT can help optimize a LinkedIn profile in minutes
  • Automated follow-up and nurturing, such as scheduling meetings and sending reminder emails, can help teams work smarter, not harder
  • AI can help with sales prospecting and lead generation by analyzing data from social media and other sources

4. Go narrow and deep

With 20 years of experience as the foundation, along with tried and tested expertise in current trends, Knop provides three best practices for developing a winning B2B sales enablement strategy in the digital age.

B2B sales enablement best practices

1. Build your digital brand

Building your digital brand starts with your website and your company’s LinkedIn page, but that’s table stakes.

  • As the CEO of your organization, be active on social media, add value, and build your digital brand. It will reflect well on your company and empower your employees to be brand ambassadors as well!
  • Bring your offline network online. Some sales veterans have thousands of offline contacts in their rolodex but only 300 connections on LinkedIn. Time to migrate them over.
  • Catch up with your contacts after you add them on LinkedIn. It might open up the possibility for warm introductions to others as well.
  • Distribute content that adds value to your target audience. Sprinkle in calls-to-action and direct references to your company sparingly. For B2B sales enablement to work on social media, your content should not be a sales pitch.

2. Engage with others

It’s called social media, not anti-social media! Engagement is a key component of success when it comes to B2B sales enablement.

  • Public engagement such as liking, commenting, and sharing other people’s posts is essential to making connections, being memorable, and warming up potential leads.
  • Create a relationship-building opportunity by referencing a specific piece of content that you liked or engaged with.
  • Build your digital brand AND engage with others at the same time by tagging folks in the value-add posts you create, when relevant.

3. Reach out in a personalized way

The first half of engaging with others on LinkedIn happens publicly, on the newsfeed. The second half happens in the DMs. Private messaging is the secret sauce of LinkedIn.

  • Stay top of mind with your connections by reaching out once or twice a year.
  • LinkedIn makes it easy to find opportunities to reach out naturally, as often you will get a notification when one of your connections has a birthday, receives a promotion, announces a title change, etc.
  • Ensure that when you reach out to clients, it’s not always business-related—you do not want your relationships to become transactional!
  • From both an acquisition and retention perspective, relationship nurturing is key to positioning yourself as a trusted expert rather than just a vendor or salesperson.

Wide and shallow vs. narrow and deep

It may seem counterintuitive, but Knop’s most important strategy involves refusing to cast a wide net. Instead, you want to go narrow and deep.

Going too broad results in shallow, transactional relationships. For B2B sales enablement, going narrow and deep offers a far better ROI.

For agencies selling marketing services, focus on one or two industries and create a curated client list. Learn everything you can about these businesses and their executives, follow them across their social media accounts, and set up Google Alerts to stay up to date with new company developments.

With a steady stream of information backed by meaningful research, reaching out to potential clients will be so much easier, and your win rate so much higher.

Remember: You’ll get fewer leads if you go narrow and deep.

But the leads will be of higher quality and generate a lot more closes, a lot more business, and a lot more revenue than if you try to go wide and shallow.

5. Plan for the future

When thinking about the future of B2B sales enablement, Knop likes a paraphrased quote by Wayne Gretzky: I don’t go where the puck is, I go where the puck is going.

How to stay ahead of the curve

Knop advises thinking about how your products and services are going to be relevant to the world in five or ten years down the line, with north star metrics including both short-term and long-term goals.

“What new opportunities are going to exist in the future that you can capitalize on and shift your business to be able to include? And can you do it ahead of your competitors? That’s how you’ll stay ahead of the curve,” say Knop.

Go where the puck is going.

Frequently asked questions

What does sales enablement include?

Sales enablement includes everything that sales teams need to effectively engage with prospects and close more deals. This can include technology, training, and resources such as access to customer data, sales automation tools, and sales coaching.

Why sales enablement is important?

Sales enablement is important because it helps sales teams drive better performance results and increase revenue growth by equipping them with the tools they need to succeed in their roles.

About the Author

Domenica Martinello is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta and her diverse career has revolved around an appreciation for storytelling, education, mentorship, and facilitation. She has taught English Literature to college students, published a book, worked in EdTech, and cut her teeth at an inbound marketing agency. Off hours, you can find her reading, writing poems, and playing with makeup (not all at once).

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