Sales

What is Sales Enablement and Why Does it Matter?

Learn the basics of sales enablement and how it can catapult your business' success.

Introduction

The current buzzword in marketing and sales is sales enablement. In the last two years, sales enablement roles have increased by 200 percent, 18 times faster than the sales organization as a whole. 

While we know it works, that doesn’t mean we know what it means. What would you consider a sales enablement activity? Who’s involved? How does it support your business? 

We’ve outlined how sales enablement supports modern businesses to help you start your journey. 

  1. What is sales enablement? 
  2. Why is sales enablement important? 
  3. Who owns sales enablement? 
  4. What do sales enablement teams do? 
  5. The sales enablement process in five steps
  6. Sales enablement best practices 
  7. Sales enablement is the ultimate partnership

What is Sales Enablement?

Gartner defines sales enablement as “the activities, systems, processes and information that support and promote knowledge-based sales interactions with clients and prospects.”

Marketing and sales teams can use data-driven insights from sales enablement analytics to improve their operations and generate revenue.

Focusing on sales enablement improves performance by:

  • Connecting sellers with promotional content.
  • Providing a variety of methods for presenting content.
  • Giving customers real-time visibility into their interactions. 
  • Optimizing pitches with sophisticated analytics. 
  • Providing training and guidance to sellers. 
  • Measuring all of the above and correlating them to the bottom line.

Why is sales enablement important?

Sales enablement saves sales and marketing teams time by educating and empowering them against increased competition. 

Traditional sales and marketing must meet the modern customer. Purchasers are skeptical. They need to know what value and support they’ll gain from your product or service. A B2B buyer will only spend about 17 percent of their time with sales reps throughout the buying process. To ensure your sales team invests that window wisely, ensure they share the right information and materials at the right time. 

Sales enablement begins with managing digital content. You can then scale your results once you’ve organized your content so that it’s:

  • Clear what content supports which phase of the sales cycle.
  • Easy for the sales team to access and share. 

Now your sales team can focus on closing deals. 

Who owns sales enablement?

The process involves marketing and sales, so they will likely share responsibility. 

For example, marketing will likely control the dissemination of information and content generation. Sales will put these tactics and materials into practice. Then, the two teams can collaborate to determine what’s working, what isn’t and what fits which step of the buyer’s journey. 

What do sales enablement teams do? 

Sales enablement covers a whole spectrum of activities. Some responsibilities are delegated directly to a sales enablement team. This includes

  • Developing programs for onboarding and coaching.
  • Creating assets and content for the sales team.
  • Integrating a coaching strategy. 
  • Managing the techniques for customer communications. 
  • Administrating sales enablement technologies and processes.
  • Reporting on the effectiveness and performance of services. 

The sales enablement process in five steps 

Sales enablement focuses on the early to middle stages of the sales cycle, such as discovery, solution mapping and presentation.

For a lead to turn into a sale, enablement should work closely with marketing. Here are a few ways that your marketing team will support sales efforts. 

1. Develop realistic buyer personas that your sales representative will use.

Your sales professionals have to tell the story of your product or service. Specifically, they need to show what value it brings to your intended customers. They learn how to speak to those audiences by identifying the appropriate buyer personas for your business. Sales enablement and marketing collaborate to: 

  • Identify the target buyers.
  • Create targeted campaigns and collateral.
  • Monitor conversations to enhance your sales cycle. 

You'll be able to tailor your sales pitches to each customer, which will help your sales team better connect with customers and generate more income.

2. Ensure that the sales process is consistent with the buyer's journey.

Once you’ve identified your personas, marketing and sales must pay attention to how prospects respond to the pitch. 

With a persona in mind, you can think and act like the buyer to better understand and meet the customer's demands and questions.

Also, don’t be afraid to go straight to the source. Gather information from your customer-facing sales reps, or ask prospects for direct feedback. 

3. Align marketing materials with personas and sales cycle stages.

Anticipate and meet the need. By uplifting your sales team to share materials that provide ongoing education, they can create a valuable experience that moves the consumer closer to the sale. 

There are different ways to describe the buyer journey, but generally, you can divide them into three relative phases. 

Awareness stage

During the awareness stage, a sales rep will point out the pain point that their product or service resolves. Depending on the lead’s experience, it’s like up to sales to illustrate why that issue hinders the lead’s bottom line. 

Sales enablement and Marketing can identify relevant statistics to show time wasted or money lost by the issue. 

This stage is all about identifying a customer problem. If your messaging focuses on what your company does, most customers will not respond. Messaging like "We're the industry leader" or "We help you manage and improve your finances" likely won’t be effective. 

Consideration stage

We begin to address the buyer's impressions of the product or service. They will likely ask questions, express concerns and evaluate the solution. 

This stage is an excellent opportunity to emphasize how your product is the solution to the problem and outline tangible successes. Relevant customer stories, case studies or metrics are a great way to promote the sale. 

Decision stage

At this point, your buyer has opted to purchase something. Use information gathered in the previous stages to show them why your solution is the answer. Marketing materials should outline the pricing and benefits for each package and offer any customizations or add-ons available. 

Buyer persona research will also support this stage by helping marketing identify what other tools these audiences use and how they might approach the purchase. 

4. Customize sales communication tools to engage with buyers.

Customers need a variety of touch-points, whether via your website, social channels, email… the list goes on. 

The modern approach to sales requires a cutting-edge setup. Sales enablement should structure CRM systems with sales goals and target metrics in mind. This way, you can use relevant data and KPIs to track and reevaluate. 

Find a tool that your sales team can use comfortably. Simple is almost always better. User-friendly CRMs like Zendesk can save you time and money in productivity. 

5. Act as a feedback loop between leads, customers and internal teams

The client is at the center of sales enablement, and different groups will support various processes and solutions. 

Marketing and product teams benefit from the sales reps' expertise in dealing with potential customers and resolving their objections. Meanwhile, customer success teams get direct feedback from current customers. Marketing could use these insights to produce or refine sales enablement content.

[this would be a great design as a feedback loop]

Sales enablement is all about providing the tools your team needs to succeed. Training and coaching programs yield the highest return on investment. Tailor these programs to employee needs and personas. 

To keep the salesforce in peak condition, implement a knowledge base to house training documents, how-to guides and webinars. 

Sales enablement best practices

Here are five best practices for enhancing your sales enablement program. 

Senior-level support

Recognize sales enablement as a business enabler. Leadership should encourage and reward best practices and prioritize KPIs. These metrics should be related to specific business outcomes, like increased commission. 

[Example KPIs in a call-out box] KPI Examples:

  • Increasing average contract value and speed of closing deals by X%.
  • Decreasing customer attrition by X%.
  • Spending X% less time and money in litigation (due to non-compliant presentations).

The bottom line is that successful sales enablement leads to successful sales, which support company goals. 

Focus on buyer experience

Sales enablement content should help sales representatives establish trust with prospects by providing resources and materials to back their claims. 

Research shows that 95 percent of customers will buy from someone who gave them relevant content during each sales phase. Your company's ability to quickly close deals and answer prospects' queries depends on your sales enablement materials. 

The sales processes and content strategy should directly link to the buyer’s path to purchase. Customer engagement win rates will significantly increase if your team is prepared to lead conversations with training and collateral. 

What content do buyers want to see? It can be as simple as asking them. Then, conduct your research on the industry and run experiments to find what works. 

Make sure your supporting content and tips are reliable, transparent and consistent. Your messaging represents your brand as much as your product. 

Create high-quality content 

Whether it's a pitch deck, blog article or one-pager, high-quality content can usher in leads and keep them invested. Give your sales team an array of content to use in their conversations, and have your marketing use strategies like 10x content marketing to support lead development. 

Your sales enablement software dashboard should be a central repository for easy access. Sales should be able to use this content anywhere. Avoid intricate folder structures and clearly label each item. 

Incorporate an auditing system so that only the most recent content is available. 

Consistently invest in sales training

According to Gartner's research, B2B sales professionals forget up to 70 percent of what they learn a week after training, and 87 percent forget it in the first month. To combat this, provide ongoing coaching and training sessions that maintain everyone’s know-how. 

Use your sales enablement strategy to build "just in time" (JIT) skill development suited to active deals in your pipeline. Use your CRM or sales enablement solution to provide educational updates. 

Make sure your salespeople are engaged 

Even the best initiatives succumb to failure without an invested team. Educate your sales reps on how their education directly impacts the company’s bottom line. You can also enforce the use of best practices and materials with required training sessions, tools and standardized sales decks. 

Sales enablement is the ultimate partnership

Your brand is a partnership between marketing and the sales team. These two divisions can (and should) support and strengthen each other. Great things happen when data, content and processes align toward a single aim. 

For small and large businesses alike, the keys to successful sales enablement are the same. That is:

  • A consistent focus on company-wide objectives
  • Open channels of communication across teams
  • Easy access to relevant tools, resources and materials

You need all hands on deck to foster effective sales. It starts with working together.