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What is Sales Enablement?

Steve Surdez

Sales enablement is about empowering your sales team with the knowledge and tools it needs to succeed more frequently.

While the definition of the process is quite straightforward, actually achieving a strong enablement program is another thing entirely.

The first step toward empowering your sales team is understanding what enabling it actually means. The subsequent steps for arming your sales team for success lies in mapping out the buyer’s journey, linking stages of the buyer’s journey with appropriate tools and techniques and ensuring marketing and sales are always operating from the same playbook.

What is Sales Enablement?

This is actually a simple concept: provide your sales person or team with the tools, processes and knowledge they need and they’ll succeed more. As mentioned earlier, making this straightforward concept reality is no easy task.

The reason enablement is difficult-but well worth it-is this: it requires cross-functional effort and nearly all aspects of your business pulling in the same direction.

To empower your sales person or team you’ll need buy-in and input from operations, marketing, sales and IT, as well as HR’s training and professional development functions. If you’re part of a smaller business, and these responsibilities are managed by only a few people, there’s some legit heavy lifting that needs to get done.

Alignment across the following areas is critical to setting your sales efforts up for success:

  • Marketing and sales team communication
  • Content development and deployment
  • Marketing technology and CRM platforms
  • Marketing data sharing and analysis (lead and customer behaviors)
  • Sales training

Marketing and sales have to be in alignment about lead scoring and have a service level agreement (SLA) in place that defines terms, process and goals.

Great content that’s compelling and appropriate for every stage of the buyer’s journey needs to be created, packaged and deployed.

Marketing tech and CRM’s need to be in sync to increase data capture and enhance analysis of lead and buyer behaviors.

The sales team needs to be consistently and regularly trained in the latest best practices and techniques that close more deals.

Sales enablement is a full-team initiative. All aspects of the organization need to be aligned with providing sales the tools and support they need to meet their goals.

Sales enablement is a full-team initiative. All aspects of the organization need to be aligned with providing sales the tools and support they need to meet their goals.

In other words, the entire organization needs to work together to empower your sales program. Once you understand that enabling sales is a group effort that yields rewards that benefit the whole, it’s easier to overcome the perceived pain involved with sales enablement and take steps toward implementation.

Still dwelling on the pain? Here are some stats that might alleviate it:

  • 32% of organizations say that enablement will be their top priority over the next year (HubSpot)
  • 95% of customers buy a solution from a company that provided them with “ample content to help them navigate through each stage of the buying process” (DemandGen Report)
  • 65% of sales reps can’t find content to send to their prospects (SalesHub)
  • Companies with outstanding enablement experience a 13.7% annual bump in deal size or contract value (Aberdeen)
  • Businesses with aligned sales and marketing teams generate 208% higher marketing revenue when compared to teams with weaker alignment (Hubspot)

What Are Some Key Attributes of Strong Enablement?

Sales enablement is all about getting organized and laying out clear expectations for everyone involved in the process.

Sales enablement is all about getting organized and laying out clear expectations for everyone involved in the process.

Again, enablement is about setting the sales team up for sustainable success. How is this done? Here are a few things to remember as you begin to pull together your program:

  • The who. While parts of enablement are about sales techniques, the vast majority of a strong program focuses on buyer needs and pain points. Your sales team needs to have a deep understanding of your buyers and the way that they make decisions. Mapping out your persona’s buyer’s journeys for your sales team will help them sell more effectively because they know the why behind a purchase.
  • The what. Once buyer demographics and tendencies are profiled and documented, build a tool and resource sales kit based on buyer profiles. This is not about tailoring content and resources to your sales team; rather, it’s about building tools and resources that your buyers want. Sales tools that meet buyer’s needs will increase the likelihood of meaningful, ongoing engagement.
  • The when. Your sales team not only needs to have the content buyers want, they also need to know when to deploy certain tools. Knowing when to deliver content and what type is crucial to attracting, engaging and propelling leads through the sales funnel.  
  • The how. Continually training in sales best practices linked to the buyer’s journey will ensure higher conversion rates.

What Are the Pillars of a Strong Program?

We’ve discussed alignment and some key attributes of a strong program. Now let’s turn our attention to what foundational elements need to be brought together to make a sales program really hum.

Reporting and Service Level Agreements

Strong programs include organized, systematic and robust reporting processes and outputs. Weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reports must be accessible to the sales team so that key performance indicators (KPIs) can be tracked and lead and customer behaviors understood in depth.

 

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What’s more, marketing and sales need to be closely aligned and speaking the same language. Defining leads, lead types and goals across marketing and sales is perhaps the most important pillar of sales enablement. If these two closely linked functions are at odds sales cannot reach its maximum productivity. Creating a service level agreement, or SLA, is a critical component of marketing and sales alignment. You can read more about SLAs here.

Sales Content Library Build Out

Sales staff spend an inordinate amount of time searching for and creating content at companies with weak sales support systems. Every second they spend rummaging through shared drives or creating a one-sheet is less time they have to make meaningful engagement and the less time they have to sell.

For enablement to thrive, marketing and sales need to catalogue their content, identify gaps and create a plan to fully populate the sales content toolbox so that every phase of the buyer’s journey is covered. Then, this content library needs to be highly organized, easily accessible and policed regularly by gatekeepers so that it remains easy to use. Content tools required for strong sales include but are not limited to:

  • Capabilities statements
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Pricing sheets
  • Product demos and webinars
  • Trade Show materials and booth displays

In short, content has to be built out and organized in a central location so that the sales person or team can access it fast, deploy it correctly and focus their time on what they do best: selling.

Technology and Automation

A key facet of the sales team tool kit is automation. Creating workflows and automated processes for contacting and interacting with leads saves time and increases the likelihood of meaningful engagement that delivers value to the potential customer.

Building out sales email templates and sequencing can increase efficiency and sales performance. Creating ready-to-use, personalizable email templates keeps the sales team from reinventing the wheel each and every time. And if you have the technology, automating the follow up email process can maximize results.

In the end, successful sales enablement is about strong internal, cross-functional coordination, organization and communication that empowers people-your sales team and prospects-to connect in a meaningful way more consistently. This increase in engagement, relatability and connectivity results in the formation of trust with your brand and the delivery of consistent value to the customer. The result is higher sales conversions, bigger deals and strong customer lifetime value.

Plus, you don't have to go it alone. Agencies like ours can lend a hand if you need it.

When put in that context, the pain of getting started doesn't seem so awful now, does it?

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