Jan 28, 2020
It’s not easy to enable a sales team. Different salespeople come from different sales backgrounds with different levels of experience. They each have unique strengths and areas for improvement, and it’s difficult to boost everyone’s performance at scale to match your top performers. Further, you may have a library of sales content and tools provided by marketing or sales operations that are not being used to their full potential. And unfortunately you’re not handed a guide to sales enablement on your first day on the job.
How do top companies help their salespeople stay competitive? The key is a successful sales enablement program.
Here’s the ultimate guide to sales enablement including what it is, why it matters, and how it can give you a competitive edge.
What is sales enablement?
Sales enablement is the training, tools, and resources provided to sales reps to help them successfully close more deals. The goal of sales enablement is to equip salespeople to be indispensable consultants to their buyers, build long-term customer loyalty, and drive profits for the organization as a whole.
With an effective sales enablement program, reps are better equipped to provide their customers with valuable information and offer insight that guides buyers into optimal purchasing decisions. Salespeople, therefore, become trustworthy resources that buyers rely on for the long haul.
Why is a sales enablement strategy important?
The world has shifted to digital, and every aspect of selling is different from what it once was. Rather than settling for templated pitches and gut hunches, effective salespeople rely on online communication, customizable sales content, and the quick absorption of new knowledge and skills on an almost daily basis. Tracking key metrics, such as average ramp time, quota attainment, and win rates has become essential to measuring success and facilitating continuous improvement.
To thrive in this technologically-advanced selling landscape, competitive organizations build effective sales enablement programs to fine-tune their reps for success. Here are just a few hard-to-ignore benefits of sales enablement:
1. Onboard new salespeople faster
The faster a company can onboard incoming sales reps, the faster their quotas can be met. Effective sales enablement programs provide the tools needed to quickly train new salespeople and instill the necessary skills to start closing deals.
Successful onboarding can result in a 14% increase in win rates
2. Enable salespeople to spend more time selling
Almost 65 percent of a salesperson’s time is spent on tasks that don’t generate profits, such as administrative work or data entry.
Effective sales enablement programs help an organization identify processes that waste time so reps can be more efficient and profitable. Some sales enablement technology can also automate CRM data entry and other repetitive, manual processes so reps can spend more time selling.
3. Boost marketing-sales alignment
When marketing and sales don’t work in harmony, departmental knowledge isn’t shared, lead scoring suffers, and definitions of the target market differ between the two departments. These discrepancies result in ineffective sales materials and poor conversion rates.
Effective sales enablement programs help bridge the gap and create powerful synergy
between marketing and sales.
4. Customize training to each rep’s needs
Traditional sales training is often a one-size-fits-all tactic. But effective sales enablement provides highly-specialized training modules with assessments that reveal which reps comprehend a specific concept and which ones need further guidance.
Such insight enables sales managers to personalize each rep’s training program to fill their specific knowledge gaps.
5. Effectively meet next year’s increased quotas
An organization’s plans to increase sales quotas can be a stress point for sales managers. While most of the top salespeople will be ready for the higher requirements, many of the C- and B-players will need to be coached up to prepare.
Sales enablement mitigates this challenge by using bespoke training processes that shorten sales cycles and boost sales rep performance.
6. Maintain a long-term strategy in seasons of high growth
As the business grows, organizations experience new customer expectations, unexpected employee challenges, and other growing pains. When company leadership gets caught up in these urgencies, they’re usually focused on the here and now rather than long-term strategies and future growth. This approach, albeit understandable, leads to unpreparedness over time.
Effective sales enablement programs help organizations conduct effective sales training and
coaching to prepare reps for future growth even while other priorities dominate the attention of leadership.
Naturally, all of these benefits work to achieve the most important goal of any sales team: driving revenue. Sales enablement empowers reps to become more knowledgeable, maximally efficient, and capable of building profitable client loyalty that the competition can’t match.
Roles & responsibilities: Who owns sales enablement?
An effective sales enablement program isn’t built overnight. It requires diligent effort on the part of several stakeholders, including sales, the sales enablement manager, and marketing.
Sales should work closely with marketing in its ownership of the sales enablement function. While marketing takes the lead with content creation, sales leadership should guide the overarching sales enablement strategy.
Sales should also ensure that all buyer personas are agreed upon between the two departments, and both marketing and sales should work together to create an effective lead-scoring strategy. Also, sales leaders should openly share all CRM data with marketing, and both departments should meet frequently to discuss strategies based on the data.
Sales enablement manager
The sales enablement manager helps unify the efforts between marketing and sales. This person creates a sales enablement framework for the organization and oversees the development of sales content and training material. He or she also helps marketing and sales develop effective sales processes and helps decide which tools (such as a sales enablement platform and a content management system) will work best for the team.
Part of marketing’s objective is to help sales be successful, so the marketing team should be a prominent stakeholder in an organization’s sales enablement efforts. Marketing is the sales team’s source for training materials, lead generation, customer-facing content, sales conversation guides, and other material.
Marketing should make sure sales reps have access to the content they need at the right time. This means making sure each piece of content is easy to locate and that it effectively speaks to the buyer’s needs.
How to implement a sales enablement program
Because every organization is different, there isn’t just “one right way” to implement a sales enablement program. There are, however, a few important pillars to keep in mind. Here are a few non-negotiables:
The first step to creating your sales enablement process is to establish your sales enablement manager. This person will be responsible for unifying marketing and sales and overseeing the entire process, so the person should be a great fit for both areas and have the buy-in of executive leadership.
Align your teams
For a sales enablement process to succeed, your organization will need an environment of alignment and unification. No more silos, anywhere! The unification process might be one of the first tasks of the sales enablement manager.
First, the executive team must be aligned and supportive of the organization’s sales enablement mission. Next, all employees in the organization, especially marketing and sales, need to be aligned in their mission to win customers and close deals.
Before engaging with prospects and customers, be sure your sales team will meet your organization’s needs going forward. Do you need to bring more reps on board? Should you let go of some underperformers? You know your current salespeople, so it’s up to you to do what’s best as you build the foundation.
Once you’re confident in your team, it’s time to train. In collaboration with marketing, start developing your onboarding materials. You’ll also want a sales coaching system in place for ongoing encouragement and development.
Next, equip reps with content and vital field resources that will help them effectively sell and
provide value. These can include white papers, data sheets, sell sheets, product videos, and playbooks that outline effective next steps and milestones. Also, offer in-depth information about buyers and buyer personas so your team can effectively maintain long-lasting buyer relationships.
Selecting a sales enablement tool
You’ll also want to equip your sales and marketing team with the tools needed to make sales enablement successful.
First, let the team experiment with a short list of tools to find what works best for everyone. Then, frequently re-evaluate the chosen tools. Ensure that the content management system, CRM, communication technology, and all other tools are consistently meeting the needs of everyone involved in the sales enablement process. If a better tool is discovered, use it!
Finally, measure all marketing and sales performance. Collect data and compare it to established goals. What percentage of reps are meeting their quotas? Are buyers moving along in the sales cycle? How frequently and effectively are reps communicating with buyers?
Once you’ve measured the results of each rep and evaluated your organization’s overall marketing/sales alignment efforts, you’ll be able to provide customized coaching that improves performance at the individual level.
Sales enablement best practices
With a solid sales enablement foundation in place, you can now build on it. These best-practices will help boost the effectiveness of any sales enablement program.
Align sales enablement with sales operations
Just as the sales team should be aligned with the marketing department, sales enablement should be aligned with sales operations. The role of sales ops is to ensure that the sales organization is functioning efficiently. A sales enablement program should therefore be built and maintained with sales-ops in mind.
Sales enablement should glean from the data that sales-ops uncovers. For example, sales ops might reveal certain stages in the sales cycle that are falling flat. When problems are flagged by sales-ops, sales enablement can roll up its sleeves and determine the best fixes.
Make sure reps know about new content, and make it easy to find
Staggeringly, up to 80 percent of content created by marketing goes unused by sales teams. Much of the reason for this low usage stems from a lack of marketing-sales alignment. But
another, simpler reason is that reps either can’t find the content they need or they don’t even know a certain piece exists.
Marketing should regularly communicate with reps and tell them about each new piece of content that’s been created recently. Content files should be well-organized so specific pieces are easy to find, and outdated content should be removed regularly.
Lengthy course work is difficult to remember and frustrating to reps. Microlearning removes the frustration by presenting content in short, easy-to-consume training modules. Short and engaging learning sessions improve memory retention, reduce learner fatigue, and make training enjoyable. Microlearning modules are also easy to update and less expensive than traditional training formats.
Include sales engineers in your sales enablement program
Sales engineers often get left out of sales enablement initiatives. But not including them is detrimental, because their role is often more technical than that of front-line sales reps.
Sales engineers are frequently the go-to people when you need detailed product knowledge, and they’re involved in almost every aspect of the sales process. To remain competitive, an organization should provide them with use cases, roadmaps of future product releases, data regarding competing products, training for technical demonstrations, and anything else they need to help them succeed.
How to find a sales enablement platform
- Learning and testing: Trainers should be able to create engaging micro-learning modules and update them as needed. The modules should be mobile-friendly so reps can access them anytime and from anywhere. Automated training paths are a must for ensuring each team member is progressing in his or her specific role. Also look for gamification capabilities that provide scoring, badges, and leaderboards for healthy team competition.
- Skill certification: Look for a platform that provides certifications to help reps and managers track progress. If you can accurately gauge whether or not reps have acquired the intended knowledge and identify any gaps, you’ll be confident every time a rep comes face-to-face with a client. Skills certifications should include multiple types of objective-driven assessments. And with a great sales enablement program, you’ll bypass time-consuming field certifications in favor of a faster, more effective, digitized version.
- Communication(s): Because of the nature of sales, reps often spend the majority of their time off-site. It’s essential to find a sales enablement platform that bridges any communication gaps this remote work may cause. Your platform should make it easy to instantly share success stories, tips, and errors to avoid through a mobile app. Enabling this type of mobile communication fosters collaboration and encourages team members to share their knowledge.
- Coaching: You’ll want to find a sales enablement platform that enables you to incorporate a structured coaching program. Coaching paths should be guided by competency maps, and your coaches should be able to assign new training and micro-learning modules based on the results of the coaching. In addition, knowledge retention for a range of topics including products, services and industry trends is critical for sales representatives to have educated, direct conversations with customers and prospects.
- SKO and events: Sales Kickoff and Events are intended to make a lasting impact on sales reps’ motivation and readiness. You’ll ensure time and money is well spent by leveraging the technology that a great sales enablement tool can offer. Find a platform that can collect, measure, and analyze feedback during every step of your SKO or event to determine what worked, what could be improved, and whether or not your desired objectives have been met. Even more, your platform should allow reps instant access to videos and presentations shown during the event, which will encourage teams to continue their engagement.
- Integrations: Look for a platform that provides the ability to integrate with CRMs, business intelligence tools, content management systems, and communication tools. This will provide a seamless and efficient sales enablement ecosystem.
- Analytics: Effective sales enablement programs are fueled by real-time analytics. With clear visibility into the progress of your team and actionable insights on skills and knowledge deficiencies, you’ll know exactly areas for improvements with reps.
Getting started with sales enablement
Building a sales enablement program is a tall mountain to climb. But since it will make your reps more competitive and your organization more prosperous, it’s worth it!
If you’re ready to begin, start by collaborating with all relevant departments. Meet with sales ops and explain the organization’s sales enablement plans. They’ll likely have valuable input and data to share. Next, collaborate with marketing and start outlining content for onboarding and training. You’ll also want to consult with your highest-performing reps to leverage their front-line insights on training and coaching.
Finally, give every sales rep in the organization the opportunity to test a few sales enablement tools. After they demo several platforms, hold a vote to see which one rises to the top.
When reps, marketing, sales, and sales operations all work together to build a successful sales enablement program, the benefits speak for themselves: reps will be more successful, buyers will be happier, and your organization will be more profitable than ever before.