Your sales team needs more than a slick marketing campaign and a great product or service. There’s a host of other elements that help power the success of your salespeople and that’s what sales enablement is all about.
Sales training, product, and market information, a great CRM, and sales enablement software are all essential factors that can shape the sales reps’ chances of success.
In this article, I will cover the basics of sales enablement and how you can build a successful sales enablement team at your sales organization to support your sales team.
What Is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is, quite simply, giving your sales team everything they need to be successful at their jobs. That applies whether you’re establishing a B2C or strategy or a B2B sales enablement strategy.
If you don’t have a dedicated sales enablement team at your organization, the most obvious department that enables salespeople to reach out to potential buyers is the marketing department.
The marketing team has to let the world know that your product or service exists and create a desire for it. Whether it’s physical media, such as brochures and newspaper ads, or online campaigns and social media activity, generating warm leads gives your sales reps a head start in getting in front of potential clients.
Even if the client hadn’t previously heard of your company or its products, a well-designed sales collateral piece (a brochure or a video, for example) is a tangible way for the salesperson to convey key features of what they’re offering. This is particularly important when selling a service because there’s no physical product for the potential client to pick up.
Let’s say, for example, that you are selling a CRM. A brochure can be a great tool for presenting facts such as the number of active users, statistics on its effectiveness, and customer testimonials.
However, the software itself remains a vague concept in the buyer’s mind unless they can see it in action. That is where a live demo or a free trial are useful.
Or let’s say you are offering virtual sales training, like we do here at Vengreso. The sales team would need a great landing page with testimonials, a one-page document with the main selling points, video explainers and video testimonials, infographics, and other assets.
Now let’s dive in and explore the sales enablement best practices for your company and how everyone can reap the benefits of sales enablement.
Sales Enablement Basics
In the short video below, I interview Mark Hunter, a.k.a. The Sales Hunter, about the importance of simplifying sales enablement. He suggests you begin with an issue, and then build your strategy from there. Don’t hurriedly dive in and invest in technology simply because a thought sales leader recommended it. They may not understand your business pain points.
As Mark points out, sales enablement tasks were once called “sales operations.” Don’t let the coolest, most innovative technology and a new name cloud your judgment about what your team needs, he says, “Keep your focus on the focus.”
Are you applying technology without a plan or using it to address a problem or void? At the core of your sales enablement efforts is your buyer’s experience. Your objective should center on finding ways to serve your customer in the most efficient, effective manner, and to optimize value for them.
Circle around what makes the best and fastest impact. I suggest you ask yourself this simple question, “How can you better enable Sales?”
In the areas of content, tools, and guidance, here are five more questions to direct your sales enablement strategy:
- Can your reps find the content they need to engage buyers?
- Are your salespeople hitting their quotas or are they below average?
- How long does it take for a new salesperson to be fully productive?
- Does your organization offer ongoing sales coaching?
- Are your sales tools going unused?
- Are your salespeople less productive than you’d like them to be?
Why Is Sales Enablement Important?
Sales enablement is about selling faster and winning more deals. What could be more important than that?
When your sales team has access to the best tools and content, their prospecting efforts will be much easier.
Imagine a sales call where a seller has to explain a complex product to a prospect just by talking. Now, imagine if the seller had a well-designed slide deck along with videos and supporting materials. That would make a great difference, especially in a remote selling environment, where you need to use remote selling tools.
In a recent episode of The Modern Selling Podcast, I interviewed Kyle Healy, the SVP of Sales Enablement and Strategy for NFP. He said something that really caught my attention:
“Make your salespeople really effective marketers. I know that sounds really silly or maybe pretty basic but for us, it’s hyper-specialization. Make sure you’ve got something of value to give and then upscale those traditional marketing skills like demand generation and content creation. I want my sellers to be thinking more like marketers and less like sellers, that we get into this digital environment where email becomes questionable as the primary means by which you get somebody’s attention. I want people to focus on being fantastic. If every one of my sellers could be a really successful social influencer, we’d be doing okay.”
If you want to know more, you can listen to the whole episode here:
Sales Enablement Framework
Companies will normally establish a sales enablement management team. To guarantee a cohesive sales enablement strategy, the management team should be drawn from all areas of the company. There needs to be a unified way of thinking across the departments involved.
It’s natural for the primary focus to be on the marketing and sales teams. The results of their work can be seen in the sales content delivered and sales enablement metrics. However, this is just the front end of the business.
It’s important to remember that no department can work in isolation from other parts of the business because everyone’s work affects colleagues in other areas of the company. To keep everyone on the same page, you need sales enablement software that suits your business.
Regardless of their role, everyone should be aiming to have a positive impact on their colleagues’ ability to perform their jobs.
For example, although sales and marketing traditionally get most of the attention, back-office functions such as sales admin, IT, HR, and payroll are also vital. With these departments running smoothly, the sales team has the support they need to focus on selling.
In their Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study, CSO Insights reports that, from over 900 participating companies, over 60% have sales enablement strategies. It also shows that companies with a sales enablement strategy have a 15% higher win rate for forecast deals than those without one. The benefits of sales enablement are reflected in your bottom line.
How To Build a Sales Enablement Team
As we previously mentioned, companies usually create a management team to ensure that the sales enablement strategy stays on track and that all stakeholders fully understand it.
It will usually include managers from various departments to ensure that the process stays on message. As well as implementation, they will also be responsible for sales enablement training.
A specific sales enablement leader may be selected to lead the sales enablement process. Larger companies may have enablement leaders in specific departments.
To monitor the effectiveness of your sales enablement strategy, you need metrics. It’s essential to have someone on the management team who’s specialized in data crunching.
You’ll also need a bridge to the firm’s executive team, so it’s recommended that you have at least one member from the company’s C-suite on the sales enablement team.
They’ll help to reinforce the urgency of the sales enablement plan, and they’ll have wide cross-functional experience. It’s also beneficial to have someone on the team who can authorize expenditure on items such as sales enablement software, like a suitable CRM.What Is Sales Enablement? Click To Tweet
Sales Enablement Plan
Customers are increasingly using the Internet when making purchasing decisions. They can access a wealth of information, so the traditional sales model driven solely by marketing departments may no longer be the most effective one.
By aligning your sales enablement plan to that path, you’re removing the guesswork from your sales and marketing operations.
In their latest Sales Enablement Study, CSO Insights found that only 19% of companies aligned their sales processes to the customer path. However, their win rates were almost 18% higher than in businesses that didn’t take that approach. This is a staggering proportion that highlights the benefits of sales enablement leading to customer success.
When you understand the real sales cycle, you can adapt your sales operations to simplify the sales process.
In this model, the sales and marketing departments are your internal customers, so your sales enablement tools must evolve to improve their sales performance.
Your sales enablement management team is there to ensure that the agreed plan is carried out. With the help of metrics, they should also adopt the plan when necessary so that it remains aligned with the customer’s path.
For example, if statistics show an increase in sales resulting from product reviews, marketing can encourage existing or previous customers to post reviews of their own.
As mentioned earlier, by having at least one member of the executive team involved in the sales enablement plan, you’ll have a natural liaison with the rest of the executives. It’s the senior management team or board that will endorse a sales enablement charter to make it a key element of the firm’s culture.
Sales Enablement vs. Sales Operations
Sales enablement and sales operations are interdependent functions.
The main focus of sales operations is supporting the sales force by ensuring that the sales process works efficiently. This usually involves more administrative tasks. Operations aren’t usually involved in the buyer-seller relationship.
In partnership with sales operations, the sales enablement team will support salespeople and sales managers through coaching and training to improve the interactions between the salesperson and the customer.
If technology such as CRM or marketing automation software is used, sales operations will take care of its implementation and possibly provide training on it.
Sales operations departments usually produce KPIs, but they’ll often be guided by the sales enablement team on what’s most useful to them.Sales Enablement vs Sales Operations. What's the difference? I highly recommend reading this article by @M_3jr, CEO and founder of Vengreso. #leadership #entrepreneurship Click To Tweet
Sales Enablement KPIs
We’ve already established that initially, at least, customers have more control over their buying journey. Therefore, you need to monitor how effective your sales enablement strategy is.
There are certain metrics that apply to sales regardless of whether there’s a sales enablement plan in place. However, they become even more useful when measuring your sales enablement performance.
Here are some of the KPIs commonly used to measure the level of sales engagement.
Average Time Required to Close a Sale
As we adapt our sales processes to the customer path, this figure should reduce. A sales enablement strategy that’s customized to the client experience helps sales personnel understand their customers. It means they can move the sale forward more quickly and with better results.
Time Spent Actually Selling
With an efficient sales enablement strategy, salespeople get better quality information, so they can spend less time researching and more time selling.
Statistics on sales content usage are helpful for telling us which website content your site visitors have spent the most time on and how they’ve interacted with it. It gives you a clear indication of what content marketing is most effective, guiding your team in their creation of future sales content creation.
Lead Conversion Rate
If your sales enablement strategy is working well, the proportion of leads that result in sales should increase.
If that rate isn’t increasing, sales managers should find out why and adapt the sales strategy accordingly or provide coaching.
Sales Enablement Tools
For their Sales Enablement Optimization Study, CSO Insights asked 500 sales professionals about the sales enablement services they received from their teams.
The top four tools cited were:
- Sales training services (70.1%)
- Sales tools (62.8%)
- Sales process improvements (59.1%)
- Content services (51.1%)
Sales Enablement and Marketing
It’s a given that a sales enablement strategy doesn’t allow for siloed thinking, with departments working in isolation. That’s why marketing initiatives should be created in collaboration with the sales team.
Marketing materials aren’t always customer-facing. Often, sales enablement content created for the sales team can provide them with invaluable information.
For example, blog posts, webinars, and how-to videos can be helpful for your sales force and potential customers. If the customer is interested in your product or service but isn’t ready to buy yet, the salesperson could refer them to that content. It can keep them interested in the company, and the salesperson could agree to follow up with them later.
With so much marketing data available, it’s easy for reporting and analysis to become irrelevant to the end-user—the sales representative. This is another excellent reason to have engagement between the marketing and sales departments. The sales colleague can guide the marketing department on what information they would find helpful in preparing for customer contact. A sales enablement strategy has to involve all stakeholders for it to work.
A CRM that works for your sales enablement strategy is essential to enable efficient sales content management and exchange of information between departments.
Who Owns Sales Enablement?
It’s different for every company. Several factors, including the size of the firm, the company’s values, and the management structure, influence who owns the sales enablement process.
A large company may create a cross-departmental enablement team. A small firm with few staff is more likely to appoint one person as the sales enablement manager.
In the first case, it’s still perfectly valid for responsibility to shift between departments according to what aspect of the business is being focused on at the time. In a large company, the danger of sales enablement sitting permanently in one department is that it could morph into a mechanism to only benefit that particular department. That, in turn, can lead to team members in other departments feeling disenfranchised.
In small companies, the staff is likely to work across multiple functions, so they’re probably aware of issues that need to be addressed. Also, communication is usually much simpler in a small team.
Genefa Murphy, PhD, SVP and CMO at Micro Focus, one of the world’s largest digital transformation solutions providers, believes that Marketing should own Sales Enablement.
Genefa believes that the buyer’s journey is influenced by both marketing and sales. Marketing delivers messaging to the marketplace, which establishes brand identity and reputation, while sales delivers the message first-hand to potential customers. She says it’s crucial that consistent messaging is happening in both of those scenarios and that Marketing is best equipped to ensure that happens.
Listen to this episode of the Modern Marketing Engine podcast to learn more about her perspective on sales enablement and marketing:
Sales Enablement Resources
There are many sales enablement tools and platforms available—we’re going to take a look at some sales enablement platforms that are worth investigating further.
The Sales Enablement Society (SES) is an excellent resource for your sales force to connect with other sales enablement professionals. It has forty-six chapters across the USA, comprising over 8,000 members. SES is a great organization to join for sharing experiences and attending a wide variety of online events.
In large or small companies, it’s vital to have a shared platform to keep everyone updated.
Although sales and marketing are usually the main focus, it makes sense that all stakeholders have access to a sales enablement platform. It’s particularly important if the focus shifts between departments. Even if the main focus isn’t on their department, it’s essential that everyone else still feels engaged with the process.
We’ll summarize a few of the most-used sales enablement technology and marketing automation and CRMs.
Whether you choose one of these or an alternative sales engagement tool, make sure you investigate it thoroughly before investing in it.
HubSpot offers five different CRM solutions, three of which are free and two available on a free 14-day trial. The three free ones cover marketing, sales, and service. Premium features are available on all five.
As one of the largest suppliers of CRMs, Salesforce is well-placed in the market to provide solutions for businesses of all shapes and sizes. They have a specialized sales engagement platform that, like all their products, can be customized.
Outreach is a dedicated sales enablement platform that facilitates seamless sharing of customer intelligence and customer analytics and includes social media tracking.
The Seismic sales enablement solution focuses on the flow of information to sales personnel that’s relevant to each buyer. One of the stand-out features of this sales enablement program is the marketing automation and AI-driven social selling tools.What Is Sales Enablement? Click To Tweet
Are you Ready to Implement a Sales Enablement Strategy in your Company?
From providing sellers the right content and cadence techniques to combining training with continuous learning and development, there is a lot to sales enablement that can have a positive impact on your sales revenue.
Check out our 100 Modern Sales Enablement Best Practices, curated from sales enablement practitioners in the trenches. Just click on the image below.