Sales Enablement Introduction
Sales enablement is a critical topic for both sales and marketing teams. Even a small improvement to sales team effectiveness can have an incredible impact on the bottom line. For example, consider a change in your win-rate from 25% to 30% -- that can be worth millions of dollars in additional revenue, all driven by sales enablement.
Sales enablement drives improvements – in efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. This is especially true today where fast-growing companies hire large numbers of inside and outside sales reps. Many of these reps are experienced, but they need to quickly be brought up-to-speed on your products, services, and value propositions, as well as sales processes.
What is Sales Enablement?
Sirius Decisions, a leading sales and marketing research firm, has written extensively on the topic. One of their major findings is the sales enablement best practices evolve and differ across companies. The survey also found many key shared elements:
- 78% of sales enablement teams guide usage of sales assets (e.g. collateral like video, presentations, and white papers)
- 73% of sales enablement teams share best practices for sales techniques and tactics
- 71% of sales enablement teams are responsible for creating sales assets that are used in the sales process (e.g. call scripts, demo materials, and classic collateral)
These sales enablement experts also cite the importance of sales onboarding to the sales enablement process. This is especially important for fast growing sales teams that want predictable results. Sirius Decisions also cites the importance of measuring the impact of sales enablement. That drives sales enablement managers to move away from pure activity measures like:
- How many calls did a rep make?
- How many hours of training did a rep have?
- How often was content used in a sales process?
Instead, sales enablement experts are moving to a more nuanced approach. A better approach is to look at the context of these activities:
- How many calls connected with decision makers at target accounts?
- How much of the sales training was retained?
- Which content is most effective at pushing deals forward?
Who Manages Sales Enablement?
Surveys of companies have aimed to find out where the sales enablement function reports into. Just under half are under sales, a third into marketing, and the remainder are a cross-functional set of teams.
It’s no surprise that sales plays such a leading role. Yet the magnitude of marketing’s role as the owner of sales enablement is revealing. It shows how far marketing has come in its focus on “Lead to Revenue”. That is, instead of focusing just on generating leads that are handed off to sales, marketing recognizes that its strength comes from pushing leads through to close and beyond in partnership with sales. That’s true sales enablement for marketers.
The Sales Enablement Definition
Let’s circle back on a definition of sales enablement to move forward with our plan.
We can define it as:
A set of processes, tools, collaborations, and guidance that helps a company to drive more revenue.
Let’s look at best practices for sales enablement. The first step, once you’re armed with your sales enablement goal is to map out your entire sales process. That means the full sales lifecycle, from pre-sale to post-sale. It’s every engagement a customer has with your company that matters -- every interaction that influences their decision to spend money with you.
When you have that defined customer journey and you have measurements that you can apply along the journey, you can start to plug-in process, technology, collaboration, and training that can improve your sales, or revenue, enablement.
Determining Your Sales Enablement Goal
Sales enablement is too important to go unmeasured. When even the smallest improvements in the funnel can drive major results on the top line, you need to measure aggressively. That means tracking how sales enablement programs influence conversion rates along the entire lead to revenue process.
By tying sales enablement programs to measurable sales results you can ensure that sufficient attention and budget are devoted to these programs. Select metrics that have clear connections to revenue:
- Lead conversion
- Opportunity creation
- Deals closed
- Upsell and retention rates, etc.
And then look at how your programs influence these metrics. Linking sales enablement metrics to the most important data points in your company is a great way to get more attention and focus from senior individuals in the organization.
Measurement is not easy without appropriate tooling to measure the connection of sales enablement programs and deals won, but the more you are able to connect the two the more you’ll be able to justify and improve your sales enablement activities. That helps to ensure that sufficient attention and budget are devoted to these programs. And it keeps you and the team accountable to what matters most — driving revenue.
Building a Sales Enablement Plan
Now that we’ve identified the importance of the sales enablement function, let’s look at the key elements of an effective sales enablement plan. Marketing, product marketing, sales leadership, and a dedicated sales enablement team will often work together to train and equip sales people. Here’s a good set of categories to focus on for your sales enablement plan.
1) Sales Enablement Processes
The Challenge: Sales doesn’t follow consistent selling processes
The Solution: Your sales team needs repeatable steps that can help guide prospects from initial interest through to close. They can’t depend on ‘cowboy’ like approaches to selling. By establishing sales enablement processes, you can measure and understand why deals break down, where interest gets lost, and more.
Sales enablement processes can be a collection of sales tactics, messaging, and education. They may involve using a standard set of processes, like Snap Selling or the Challenger Sale. These methodologies can help structure a process for you. But ultimately, sales enablement is most effective when it is matched with your own specific corporate needs.
To make a new process effective, you must first determine what works and what doesn’t about your existing process. That means a thorough evaluation of each step in your sales process to see where salespeople trip up and customers stall. By evaluating the full dynamic of your buyers, you can better understand at what points you need to make changes or reinforce best practices.
Sales enablement helps organizations determine which factors advance sales throughout the sales cycle and optimize their sales processes. This means that organizations are continually improving and becoming more effective
2) Sales Enablement Technology
The Challenge: Seeing the ROI of content
The Solution: Technology can be a critical way to reinforce or rapidly extend the impact of your sales enablement plan. That’s because tooling by its very nature focuses on repeatable steps and the elimination of actions that add little value or require higher-level thinking.
When looking back at your customer journey, do it with an eye toward efficiency and effectiveness. Are there steps in your process that are mundane and avoidable? Let’s say your outbound sales team calls into a hundred people a day. If they have to look up the next person to call, find their phone number, and dial it, all before they speak to someone, that can take 1-2 minutes. Multiply that by 100 and it is more than 2 hours of wasted time.
The same applies to other critical sales enablement elements, like content and messaging. Sales people spend up to 30% of their day building or finding content. If the content that would advance a deal were pushed to a rep where they work, they’d be more likely to use it. That’s sales enablement tooling that makes reps more efficient and effective.
3) Sales Enablement Collaboration
The Challenge: Sales can’t find content
The Solution: Marketing creates a ton of great content, but 85% of marketing content is never used by sales. At the same time, 95% of reps think content is essential to advance deals, but they can’t find it, don’t know what content to use when, or lack the confidence that it will help advance their deals. This lose-lose situation is just one of the reasons marketing and sales need to align. Such lack of communication causes organization-wide disconnects, missed opportunities, and lost revenue.
It’s critical to think of sales enablement as a holistic story. How do you do that? It again comes back to mapping the customer journey. But being sure to do so in the broadest sense possible to include legal, finance, support, and all other sales enablement influencers that are outside of sales.
Then the next step comes down to coordinating efforts across these teams. They almost universally want to help drive sales. They just don’t know how. So sales enablement takes on a coordination role — coordinating teams across the organization to more effectively support your revenue goals.
4) Sales Enablement Training
The Challenge: Sales doesn’t know what to say
The Solution: Your customer-facing teams are among the primary ways that your customers interact with the company. Your sales teams need to be trained on the selling space and market, the different buyer personas, and your products, as well as on what to say, what content to provide, and how to steer the prospect through the sales cycle. They need to be knowledgeable about your products, their value, cost, challenges, success stories, and other key elements.
That requires training and ongoing reinforcement of their learnings. To be top reps, your sales team needs to be challenged, educated, and supported throughout the sales process. It’s not enough to simply have an onboarding session and hope that the team will remember. Stats show that the bulk of training is forgotten mere weeks after training happened. Instead, it’s significantly more effective to push training material to reps as they need it — based on the sales context they are in (i.e. guided selling).
When sales training material is pushed to reps and other customer-facing employees “just in time” they are much more likely to use it and it’s more likely to be valuable. Information from talk tracks and training materials to kill sheets and persona-based selling tips can be instantly accessible to reps for any given sales situation. And as you build up sales enablement training, focusing on practical elements more than esoteric elements can further reinforce its use.
Combine these Sales Enablement Best Practices
When you combine these various sales enablement best practices, and aggressively measure their impact, you can quickly help all teams to be more effective and drive more revenue.
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