- Searches for “Sales Enablement” on Google increase by 51.2% year over year.
- Sales enablement’s presence correlates with a 31% improvement in supporting changes in sales messaging and a 15% improvement in improving low-performing salespeople.
- Organizations with sales enablement achieve a 49% win rate on forecasted deals, compared to 42.5% for those without.
- 77.1% of companies with a sales force exceeding 500 people have dedicated sales enablement in place, compared to 39.3% of companies with 25 or fewer.
- Organizations see a significant impact on sales as a result of sales enablement; 76% of organizations see an increase in sales between 6% to 20%
What is Sales Enablement?
Providing sales with the information, research, tools, training, and content to be more effective
- Finding leads
- Engaging prospect
- Building relationships
- Closing deals
Sales enablement enables sales professionals to be able to be better at what they do, move faster, more efficiently, and with a bigger success rate.
To enable sales teams to improve, you will need to take care of them. This in practice means, having prepared marketing assets to collateral just-in-time or give them tools for training, coaching or contact, and give them better data, better prospecting targets or aligned marketing strategy.
Sales enablement is not redesigning sales strategy. It’s a supporting element that boosts and helps sales with what they do best - increase revenue for the company.
Why is it important?
On Monday morning, when you are walking your dog and slurping your roasted bean drink, your prospects are going behind your back talking to competitors, googling solutions, watching YouTube videos to increase their own company goals.
Sales in B2B tech space are notoriously long but that doesn’t mean that you can sit on your behind thinking you have time. Before you reach for your phone and connect with your prospect, you’re already late!
But with Sales Enablement, you will have an unfair advantage before your competitors, have weapons of mass objective destruction, and valuable pieces of content that leads your key accounts (and prospects) further down the sales process.
Having a strategy to reach out pays off, and there’s no better advantage than having the right content and message for the right person at the right time. And your sales team will know that because you’ll have data and information already made for them.
And it’s not just for the sales department. The research and data preparation is also useful for product marketing because they’ll know what needs to be developed next.
TL:DR? Sales Enablement lets you close cream clients faster and with less fuss.
The Value of an Effective Sales Enablement Strategy
What’s in it for your sales team?
The old conversational masteries from Glengarry Glen Ross and the Wolf of Wall Street are long gone, and while you’ll still need to relate to customers over the phone or video call, you’ll need to deliver way more than just a charming oratory performance from one person to another.
Secondly, the options your prospect on the other side has today are completely different. There are dozens of Enterprise CRMs, email management providers, cybersecurity services, or data container products. Guess what, you’ll need to differentiate yourself from your competitor if you want to have a stab at meeting your sales goals.
Lastly, the way we obtain information, and the number of people you have to convince at your key account has changed.
All those elements impact sales cycles.
To start winning at sales today, you’re going to need a sales enablement team to support and do the heavy lifting, so your sales team is equipped with the tools that help them with their engagements and can ceremoniously whip out the next objections-crushing spell or solution formula that pesters their prospect. Sales don’t have time to make marketing collateral or figure where their product and services lie in the competitor intelligence matrix. Their main job is selling!
If you can think of an explorer that needs to reach the mountain peak, then sales enablement is the gear that the explorer is carrying: the weatherproof apparel, climbing gear, proper nutrition, and the map of the territory.
Here’s how sales enablement makes life easier for you:
1. Sales enablement makes you more effective and efficient as a sales professional. It can do so because it focuses on the buyer’s journey and deeply understanding their ideal buyer personas. This way your sales team will:
- Target the right customers
- Give the customers the right solution
- Give the customers information and solution in the right medium/channel
2. It’s a continual process and not just a one time set-it-and-forget-it campaign. Because of this ongoing procedure, you’ll also achieve
- Better marketing and sales alignment
- Focused research for developing new scripts, or even products
- Better (and objective) relevant data-driven and informational decision making
In companies with complex products or enterprises, sales enablement is not just nice-to-have but a mandatory organism that is a bridge between marketing and sales but empowered by reaching (and exceeding) revenue goals and KPIs.
What’s in it for your customers
We all agree that closing big accounts faster and easier is great for your company, but what’s in it for the customers? Do they get anything out of sales enablement?
Sales enablement might be a tough transition. People rarely desire change. The ‘this is how we’ve always done’ approach won’t cut it in the modern times. Darwin's rule survival of the fittest holds true - it’s not the strongest that survives (in that case our world would be littered with mammoths and T-rexes) but he who adapts the fastest.
But, if the sales team knows that these actions would add to customer value, then they would be more likely to get onboard with the changes.
Here are some clear benefits for customers:
- Better product/service knowledge
- Build up trust of the product/service before the first sales connection approach
- It brings them into product development and are the beneficiaries of service evolution (through surveys, or online tools)
Setting goals, objections and outcomes
Endless Drecker’s quote for managers and preached to marketing teams goes like this: “What gets measured, gets managed.” It fits in a sales organization just as well. But we’re going too fast.
The first thing we need to do is set the structure.
Your sales operations team might have some sales enablement elements already - for example they have an objection list (which always includes pricing and lack-of-time, am I right?), or a crude marketing persona, or a valuable whitepaper. The reason why it’s not catching on yet, is the lack of proper structure and orchestration.
To make sales enablement effective you need proper foundations - a true process with strong goals and objectives.
Sales enablement plan
How do you create the right structure for sales enablement in 5 steps
1. Set Goals → Begin with the end in mind!
This is going to be your north star metric around which you will know whether you’re improving or not.
2. Determine roles → There are 4 parts of Sales Enablement toolkit:
- Technology and Tools - what tech stack are you using
- Content - what are must content assets you have or need to product
- Training - who’s going to design training material
- Strategy and execution - you, leading the charge
3. Design your Strategy and Sales process → Write a simplified document and include:
- What actions to take and when
- Who will be involved in the whole process
4. Choose the right Tools and Technology and learn how to use them → make sure the right people know how to use those tools and have a way to measure results
5. Own the process → Keep everyone aligned and communicate the importance based on chosen goals and objectives. Hold weekly meetings with updates, debriefs and optimizations opportunities.
How to get everyone onboard
In the previous chapter, we’ve mentioned that sales enablement needs for technology and tools, content, training and strategy/execution.
But even though it looks like a simple 4-piece puzzle, the secret of success is to have all people in the campaign aligned in the process. A good sales enablement process without strong content management is going to leave a lot on the table.
Example of technology and sales enablement tools:
- Business Intelligence: ClearBit, PowerBI
- Content Analytics: Google Analytics, FullStory
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): HubSpot, Salesforce
- Gamification: Lead Scoring within analytics or CRM
- Automation: Zapier, Make
- Sales Analytics: Most often within CRM in the deal pipeline
The reason why you’ll be in such a big advantage in sales before the completion is because sales are going to be armed with valuable, visually pleasing content assets that directly apply to education, pain-resolution or objection removing pieces of content.
Content could be anything from:
- Objective Data White Papers proving the market/product fit
- Live or On-Demand Webinars providing video business case (especially the one addressing the most prevalent pain points and objections)
- Case Study of the company similar to your prospect’s account with before and after
- Battlecards - one-pagers helpful representation buyers personas and their values
- Helpful playbooks with best use-case scenarios and templates
Salespeople need to know how to use the technology and what content piece to provide to who and at what phase of the sales process.
Know the plan, process and who’s doing what along with the program. Make sure the right people have their own responsibilities and have set goals.
Unleashing the sales enablement into the wild
Have you read Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin? Their book describes the principles of strong leadership and compares examples from the real-world military world (the authors of the book were active commanders of an Iraqi) and how they transfer into the business world. The main premise of the book (which isn’t sales oriented) is taking responsibility for all actions and establishing strong leadership over your team and goals.
It’s no different in sales enablement and sales management. To get it out, someone needs to step up and own the process and ensure success. It’s a lot to pay attention to, especially since there are new tools and technologies to use, customer demands are shifting and your in-house team needs to be informed and aligned around the main goal.
The soft skills of a great leader - vision, team building, and strategy are mandatory, but you need to supplement them with knowing the groundworks, process, technology, and every other moving part inside the sales enablement process.
A sales enablement leader needs to:
- Know the sales team and the sales process - so the leader can “enable” the sales.
- Be exceptional at communication - over communicate rather than leave it for interpretation. You will also need to explain the importance of sales enablement so you can get everyone fired up and buy in to this new exciting experiment (that is going to stay in the long run after first initial results)
- Build collaborative teams - there’s a reason why sales are “people” persons. You will have to align sales, marketing to work together, embrace new technology so they can deliver a seamless experience for users. It’s absolutely crucial that all departments are aligned together towards this new goal.
- Open-minded and be ready to pivot - first tryouts might not produce exceptional returns, or there are going to be inevitable bottlenecks with new technology. As a leader you’ll have to quickly adapt and stay the course so at every step your sales enablement program serves the existing and potential customers.
Build Your Sales Enablement Expedition Team
A good plan on (digital) paper still needs to be executed to work. And we all know that an excellent execution of an average idea is worth way more than a poor execution of a great idea. To make sure you’re getting the success and results, you’ll have to gather together a team of professionals or as they say in the startup world → put the right people to the right seats on the bus.
People that you’ll be bringing onboard have to fit into the right roles, have necessary skills, and talent to execute the demands effectively.
Following the decentralized command doctrine, it’s best to assign key leaders for each department with clear goals and give them the power to deliver the message down the line in their own way.
The size of the team depends on your budget. Large corporations might have more dedicated people on the team with a lot of moving parts. That could be detrimental when it comes to speed of execution. Having a small two or three-person team is not unheard of. By mastering the tools and relying on automation, you can achieve results faster than a team five times your size.
Some roles that you might consider and assign are:
- Systems and automation leader
- Sales training and coaching manager
- Sales reporting and analytics
The skills that you’ll need for executing are:
- Technical skills, training or development of tools and technologies
- Analytical and systems knowledge to interpret data into information
- Insights into onboarding process and the role of content used or created for sales enablement
- Soft skills like creativity, communications and collaboration
Now that you have assigned roles and needed skills, you’ll have to find the right people to carry out those objectives. Sounds easy, but that’s the hardest part.
To get you set on the right path and find the right talent, you’ll have to:
- Define roles and skills
- Prepare documentation of the experiment and communicate the process to all stakeholders
In most cases, you can find the talent in-house within your existing team members or departments. With proper training and focus you can establish a sales enablement department within your company’s sales department.
If that’s not the case, seek outside talent to fill the gaps and outsource some parts of the heavy lifting to professionals.
Measuring, optimizing and scaling your sales enablement program
7 Sales enablement best practices of successful team
1 Hire the right people
Finding the right people is going to be the hardest task for a strong program. You’ll need to find people that are skilled, motivated, and proficient in carrying out the program.
2 Customer first
Everything starts and ends with the customer. Customer satisfaction (if it’s not already) should be the number one goal for every company. It’s the same when it comes to sales enablement programs.
Every touchpoint in the sales enablement program should be analyzed by customer satisfaction criteria. Does it enhance their user experience, deliver the right message, educate and not confuse the prospect. Once you deliver the program, you can go back and optimize the process based on your learnings.
3 Align sales enablement to strategy
Your sales enablement program isn’t a siloed, isolated event but should be congruent with your whole company goals. Make sure that it fits into the long-term strategy and support, enhance, and drive bottom-line revenue with your program for the overall company strategy, vision, and key performance indicators.
4 Model your best sales reps
As mentioned, the sales enablement programs are not implemented to change existing sales processes but to enhance and enable them. If something is working already, don’t “throw the baby out with the bath water”.
That’s why the best programs which are adopted faster, revolve around modeling your best sales representatives. It’s helpful to think about your best performers when you are starting to put the whole strategy together. What would help them to be even better at their job.
5 Align content with the buyer experience
Make sure that buyers receive relevant content at each point in the buyer's journey. According to Hubspot, over 90% of buyers purchase from someone who engaged with content along the buyer's journey. Content serves to educate, gain trust, and prompt the right buyer to get familiar with us and eventually turn them from a cold user to a warm lead. This way the sales process is initiated even before our sales reps make the first contact with the buyer.
6 Ongoing and evolving training
There’s a reason why professional fighters hit bags and spar in the martial arts gyms. They do this to prepare for the actual fight. Implementing training systems in your own departments would ensure your team to be familiarized with the technology, process, and raise their own skills to become even better.
7 Start small
This all seems like a complicated process but you don't have to start big. One small experiment, perhaps focused on a limited number of accounts is a good starting point. This way you can implement account based marketing (ABM) practices (which go hand-in-hand with sales enablement) and record your first results there.
When starting out, identify the points of low effort/high leverage opportunities and start with those. You’ll soon find out that just desilo-ing marketing and sales departments will lead to promising results. And that’s just the beginning.
Or perhaps an email enrichment tool or better CRM that provides easier note-taking could be your first step. Whatever you choose, putting these best practices in place will get you results faster and easier.
Tracking and Measuring sales enablement practices
There’s no excuse anymore. Every company should have some sort of data analytics. Without them, you will be guessing what channel or action worked, or where the actual bottlenecks in the whole process are.
Data will give you a deeper insight into a customer's journey and your customer’s motivations, what they engaged with, when and what they bought, and all the steps taken until they converted into a customer. Doesn’t that sound like a good thing to have?
By having tracking and measuring systems, you will improve sales performance and productivity, identify gaps (“leaky buckets”) and refocus and prioritize those aspects in your sales programs and campaigns.
Does it sound like a streamlined real-time process to get better at closing new accounts? Well, that’s what it is!
What should you track?
With the right technology you could track near unlimited data metrics but it’s better to keep an eye on a small number of important ones - key metrics.
You’ll want to track the traditional sales metrics such as:
- Sales calls made
- Proposals Sent
- Deals Closed
- Revenue Produced
But with sales enablement, you’d want to get a few layers deeper because you want to get an understanding of the whole buying and sales process. You will need a clear understanding of your sales enablement impact, customer satisfaction, your sales team performance and most importantly converting leads to customers.
Here’s what we suggest:
- Training programs for your sales teams - test competency and measure attendance of your sales team
- Value of your content - see if your prospects are engaging with your key content pieces - this can be achieved by measuring attendance on webinars, page clicks and dwell time on your web page content and downloads of your content assets such as ebook, whitepapers, etc.
- Number of customer interactions - check how many touchpoints do sales people have with prospects
- Quality of leads - now that you’ve invested in the tech stack, research and valuable content, the quality of leads should and with that the lead conversion.
- Results - inevitably the most important metric is the revenue. Measure “days to close” metric and determine the performance of your sales enablement initiatives by how much effort and time your sales team needs compared to the previous period.