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For many companies, the revenue each month comes down to sales professionals making a sale. And that means being able to make a case for why a specific customer needs what you’re offering.
Ensuring that your sales team can make a good case, when the customer is ready to hear it, is the heart of sales enablement. In this article, we’ll look at what sales enablement is, what it entails, and who is responsible.
What is sales enablement?
Anything your company does to help your sales team be effective is known as sales enablement. This is a really comprehensive term that involves marketing, content creation, resource management, and training.
Traditionally, sales enablement stopped there. But between technology, a pandemic, and evolving customer expectations, the world of the sales professional has changed (and is changing). Today, enabling the sales team, and their leaders, has to be about more than just more tools and more content.
A well-rounded sales enablement strategy provides the resources, support, and coaching that salespeople need to be successful in interacting with their clients.
The elements of sales enablement
A successful sales enablement framework involves several different components. These can be broadly divided into two categories: internal and client-facing.
Internal elements include training, strategy, and tools. These are the aspects that exist to support your sales team on the back end. While the clients don’t necessarily experience these components (like sales training, overall strategy, or a good CRM) they create a better client experience.
Client-facing (external) elements include marketing, presentations, and resources. These are any tools that help clients make a buying decision. Generally speaking, almost all forms of content fall into this category.
Content can be further divided into three categories: gated, ungated, and vaulted. Ungated content is accessible to the public, like blog posts, social media, and podcasts. Gated content requires that the user takes an action, like subscribing to a newsletter, logging in, or paying for a subscription to access. Vaulted content is only accessible with permission. This could be a custom presentation or proposal designed for a specific project.
Why is sales enablement important?
Your sales team has a lot to think about. They have to generate leads, manage relationships, and of course, close deals. For many companies, the product or service is always evolving, too. Existing products get better, and exciting new ones get launched. Sales teams need to know about them. Sometimes they need help talking about them, too.
That process becomes a lot more effective when they have a team behind them. Sales enablement teams — and software — make it possible for sales reps to put their hands on the right piece of content, case studies, and solutions to close sales.
Sales enablement enhances the effectiveness of the sales team. It equips reps with the tools that they need to close more sales, more quickly. With the right tools, the sales process becomes more streamlined and more effective.
The sales enablement team
A sales enablement team handles all of the back-end processes that lead to successful sales. This can be a considerable amount of support. An effective sales enablement team can free up a lot of time for your sales reps (so they can focus on the clients).
The sales enablement team’s responsibilities might include:
Lead generation and qualification: Finding people who are interested in your product — and are at the right stage in the funnel to purchase it — can be tricky. Sales enablement teams can take over this part of the process. This frees up sales reps to spend most of their time on the leads most likely to convert.
Creating and organizing content: Getting the right content in your salespeople’s hands at the right time can make or break a sale. Your sales enablement solution may be focused on creating and optimizing content at each stage of the funnel. This may look like a blog post, an email marketing campaign, a white paper, or a case study.
Analytics: Where are your highest conversions coming from? Which marketing campaigns are showing the best results? What’s making your potential clients buy from you instead of your competitors? Analyzing and interpreting data is key to developing your sales enablement strategy. As you refine your focus, your team will become more effective over time.
Learning and development: Sales might be more performance-driven than any other position. After all, the numbers translate directly to the bottom line. Sales training and coaching on an ongoing basis can bolster lackluster sales performance and help your leaders keep their edge.
The ideal structure of the team
A truly comprehensive sales enablement team works cross-functionally to achieve outstanding results. Ideally, you’ll have people in each of the following roles:
Lead generation: reaching out to potential buyers of your product and gauging interest
Qualification: assessing which clients are most likely to purchase a product or service in the short term
Content marketing: producing anything that helps the sales team communicate value to the buyer
Follow-ups: nurturing potential buyers and existing customer relationships
Analytics: reviewing data to streamline the sales process and become more efficient
Training: empowering sales leaders through skills development and coaching
4 steps to establishing a sales enablement strategy
Your sales enablement strategy is your game plan for how the various departments at your company will empower the sales team. This will look different in every organization. If you’re looking to implement a sales enablement strategy for your sales organization, start with the following 4 steps:
- Analyze your current performance
What are your team’s strengths? Where do they need additional support? Chances are, in order to determine that, you’ll need to first determine which metric is the most important for your organization. Pull an initial report and pick two or three key performance indicators (KPIs) that you’d like to work on. Plan to focus on the same ones over an extended period of time.
- Assign roles and responsibilities
Once you know what you want to get to work on, you’ll be able to best determine how to take action. While sales enablement is the natural alignment between the sales team and the marketing department, every team can play a role. Brainstorm with your leaders and marketers about how they can best support the sales team in hitting their revenue goals.
- Create content
The next step is for each department to create content that supports your sales enablement strategy. It may be an email marketing campaign, call-to-action, webinar, or brochure. Whatever form it takes, you should communicate clearly what the content is designed to do. You may want to train sales reps on how they can use it in the process to maximize their efforts.
- Track your progress
Finally, track your results. What changed as a result of this new campaign? Did you get more clicks, more inbound leads, or more sales? The right sales enablement tools can help you measure your progress. Chances are, you’ll have to keep tweaking this process to understand what works the best for the team and your sales operations.
Be sure to ask the sales team what they think. They’ll be a valuable source of feedback and first-hand field experience.
When is sales enablement crucial?
Sales enablement is crucial all the time. No matter what stage of growth your company is in or what part of the sales cycle your client is in, a sales enablement program can help. Your sales team will be far more effective at driving revenue with strong support behind them.
Depending on the product or service you offer and the size of your sales organization, your sales process may be straightforward — or extremely complex. The sales enablement team takes the metaphorical “walk” through the entire buyer's journey, start to finish. They learn to anticipate points where sales reps or customers may need additional support and ease the transition to the next stage. This makes it more likely that the sale closes and both the client and the rep are happy.
There’s a saying in sales that “Nobody wins unless somebody says yes.” Sales enablement best practices aren’t about driving sales at any cost. It’s about customer success — that is, helping the customer find a solution for their needs. A sales enablement strategy is inherently compatible with value-driven sales. Communicating that value requires tools to understand and demonstrate how you can address their needs — that’s often where your sales enablement software comes in.
Reporting and KPIs for sales enablement
Sales enablement strategy is inherently a data-driven process. When you start putting together your approach, you’ll use the information that your team already has on hand. However, zeroing in on and tracking some specific sales enablement metrics will help you refine and improve your strategy over time.
For example, most sales organizations track their win rate, which is the number of closed deals. Pretty self-explanatory, right? Every company wants to increase its win rate, but where do you start? Do you need more leads? More time spent selling? And what’s a “good” win rate anyway?
Even if you don’t have much data to start with, begin tracking the key performance indicators, or KPIs, that make the most sense for your business. Here are some common reports and numbers that sales enablement technology tracks:
Conversion rate: the percentage of open, qualified leads that eventually become clients
Quota attainment: sales productivity, or whether the sales team is hitting their goals
Average purchase value: the average amount of revenue generated for deals
Sales cycle length: how long it takes for a prospective client to make a purchase or sign a contract
Product mix: how many products or services a single client enrolls in (also known as cross-selling)
Content use: whether relevant content and sales literature are being used in a transaction, which ones, and at what stage in the buying process
Referrals: the number of qualified potential clients a current client sends your way
Retention: how long clients stay clients, and the rate at which they purchase again or renew their contracts
Choose KPIs that reflect progress in the direction that your business wants to be moving. Don't confuse the metrics with the goal. For example, content use may give the sales enablement team some useful insight about why their investment in content hasn't moved the needle, but getting the field to read content is never the end goal.
3 examples of sales enablement in practice
Sales enablement can seem like an overly broad term. That’s because there’s no one definition that encompasses every instance of sales enablement strategy. As Introhive summarizes it, “Sales enablement is the practice of making selling as easy as possible.”
It’s easier to identify the benefits of sales enablement in action. Here are 3 examples of sales enablement in practice:
Company A has a very high win ratio — when clients understand what they’re selling. Because the company’s product is a unique offering, they have difficulty expressing the problem that they’re solving. This makes aligning with their ideal customer difficult. However, the uniqueness of their solution positions them to define and lead this new market.
Company A’s sales enablement strategy might be to focus on generating qualified leads and making it clear what the company is offering. The sales enablement team will work on tracking new business sources. They create and send out customer feedback surveys asking what sets them apart from other companies. The sales communications team uses these responses to create succinct messaging that addresses prospects’ pain points. They also implement an SEO strategy to demonstrate their authority on the topic and increase inbound traffic. Finally, they incentivize client referrals from existing customers.
Company B prides itself on achieving outstanding results for its clients. The sales team wants to be able to show off some of their best projects. They also want to explain how their approach sets them apart from their competitors.
Company B’s sales enablement team focuses on putting together case studies and tearsheets. This new sales content details the projects they’ve worked on in the past and what made each one unique. They organize them in a content management system to make it easy to locate the right one, at the right stage of the funnel, to support sales calls.
To explain what makes them different, the marketing team also revamps the copy on the website. They build out new landing pages and assets focusing on the company’s mission and approach and track real-time leads coming from these pages.
Analytics and training
Company C pays attention to the big numbers, like the number of leads coming in and the number of sales they close. Due to an aggressive outreach strategy, their salespeople are flooded with potential leads. They’re doing everything they can to keep up, but their win rate isn’t budging.
Company C’s sales enablement team decides to pull as much data as they can. In addition to leads and sales, they begin looking at the amount of time spent selling and the average length of the sales cycle. They also look at the product mix and the average value per sale.
When they pull these numbers, they find that of the clients that buy, most of them only buy one product. Instead of continuing to focus on more leads, they develop a cross-selling strategy. Sales management designs a sales readiness workshop that focuses on how to tie multiple solutions together. This increases the amount of time spent with each client, and subsequently, the average revenue per sale.
Supporting your sales team
Sales enablement is a broad process that incorporates the strengths of the entire company. It aligns the marketing and sales teams with potential clients and makes selling — and finding solutions — easier. The most important thing to remember is that, more than a specific tool or platform, enabling the field is a living process and an orientation toward delivering value. As your organization grows, so will your sales enablement strategy.
At BetterUp we believe that while tools, training, and content are important elements to enabling the field, companies must also prioritize investment in the mindsets and behaviors that impact sales performance for individual contributors and sales team leaders.
BetterUp Staff Writer