Sales Enablement: 2023 Definitive Guide
At its core, sales enablement is everything salespeople need - resources, processes, content, and tech - to engage prospects throughout the sales process and to close as many deals as possible. Companies with successful sales enablement programs see 32% higher sales quota attainment. Learn the basics of sales enablement and how to prepare your winning sales enablement plan.
What is sales enablement?
At its core, sales enablement is everything salespeople need - resources, processes, content, and tech - to engage prospects throughout the sales process and to close as many deals as possible.
Or in the words of Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates and a Forbes Business Development Council member, “sales enablement supports, enables, and equips the sales team with the right information, knowledge, and skills to be successful. It includes tech enablement to automate, accelerate and amplify the sales reps’ effectiveness. In addition, it provides the skills and mindset to improve efficiency and how the team engages with the market and target buyers.”
More specifically, there are 3 pillars on which sales enablement stands:
- Training and coaching
While resources are crucial, if sales reps don’t know how to use them, they won’t do your company any good. For that reason, effective training and ongoing coaching are integral parts of any sales enablement program.
- Ease of use
The tools provided to sales reps should be very accessible and easy to apply. You can make sure that happens by tracking the use of resources and optimizing your sales enablement program according to what is and isn’t used and based on performance.
- Measuring metrics
To make sure your sales enablement efforts are fruitful, you need to track important metrics, such as average deal size, length of the sales cycle, and the number of salespeople who reach their quota.
Sales operations vs. sales enablement
Sales enablement is the preparation of resources and tools, providing training and coaching to move the prospects forward through the sales cycle.
On the other hand, sales operations focus on team organization and logistics, ensuring the execution of the sales process and continually optimizing it.
Yet, the sales process can be effective and efficient only when the two teams work closely together in complete alignment.
Sales enablement vs. sales training
Training is an aspect of enablement.
Sales training focuses on providing guidance and practical experience that sales reps can put into practice, while sales enablement is more about setting best practices and strategies and testing new tactics.
Why is sales enablement important?
Although in the past B2B sales cycles tended to be shorter and more predictable, today, buyers are savvy and empowered, and that creates a new reality for sales reps.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, today, "most B2B sellers think their customers are in the driver’s seat—empowered, armed to the teeth with information, and so clear about their needs...Customers don’t see it that way...research shows that they’re deeply uncertain and stressed."
For that reason, buyers, especially B2B buyers, look for vendors who add value and help them make the right purchase decision, rather than sellers who only focus on the solution.
In fact, according to a Forbes article, 89% of B2B buyers state that the businesses they purchased from successfully “provided content that made it easier to show ROI and/or build a business case for the purchase.” The same article also states that “74% of buyers choose the sales rep that is first to add value and insight.”
What does all that have to do with sales enablement? Well, businesses that want to meet these new buyer expectations can only succeed by providing their reps with the resources they need whenever they need it to keep buyers engaged.
A bit of history
It all started in the late 1990s when both sales and content began moving from the physical realm to the online arena. At the time, businesses started putting their content online with no particular order or plan, and different teams put their content on different portals and websites. This resulted in content being scattered all over the place.
This created a situation in which sellers had to search for the right content and information, wasting a lot of time, often without finding what they actually needed.
In addition, when sales reps found the content they needed, they kept using it repeatedly, even when it became outdated or was ineffective, to begin with, simply because they didn’t want to continue wasting time searching for more relevant information.
At the same time, although marketing did provide sellers with content and resources, they needed an effective way to track how it was being used or how effective it was.
All this resulted in isolated resources that needed to be synchronized or aligned.
That’s when sales enablement solutions came to the rescue.
What are the benefits of sales enablement?
According to Seismic:
- Companies with successful sales enablement programs see 32% higher sales quota attainment.
- Effective enablement framework helps meet quota up to 7 weeks faster.
- Companies with effective sales enablement programs have the lowest annual turnover.
Seismic also found that:
- 99% of respondents who use sales enablement platforms said it makes their job easier.
- 80% of respondents who use enablement technology stated that it frees time to focus on revenue-generating activities.
Here’s how sales enablement solutions solve various aspects of a sales rep’s day-to-day.
The benefits of enablement solutions
Who owns sales enablement?
When enablement is done right, your sales enablement team should include both the marketing and sales team, although each department plays its own role.
While marketing develops and provides the content and all necessary resources based on measurements that show what works and what doesn’t, the role of sales is to share the content with prospects to help them make a purchase decision.
When done right, there is constant communication between the two departments, and sales can let marketing know which materials they’re missing, which means creating content is sometimes a joint effort.
Sales enablement content
So, what types of content can you produce for sales enablement? We like to break down the different content assets into three different categories.
- Content that helps onboard sales reps quickly.
- FAQ. A list of questions that new reps may ask when they join the company, such as questions about the industry, the company and the prospects. Having all the answers in one place can save a lot of time.
- Onboarding checklist. A checklist that includes every step of the onboarding process will ensure the process is well organized and new sales reps learn everything they need to as quickly as possible.
- Buyer personas. With ready made buyer persona documents new reps can practice their pitch and prepare to answer buyer questions, concerns and needs from the get go.
- Training. Training videos and courses introduced during onboarding can help reps know what’s expected of them right from the start.
- Demo scripts. Provide new reps with a few winning scripts they can use with different prospects.
- Content that helps improve sales reps’ productivity.
- Battle cards. Give reps cheat sheets with tried and tested talking points they can use during their demos.
- Scorecards. Help your sales reps perform better by tracking their progress with different KPIs. This way, you know who needs help with what.
- Playbooks. Your playbooks should be based on the winning plays of your highest performing sales reps. This will allow all your salespeople access to effective demos and ensure consistency.
- Content that engages prospects.
- Blogs. This is the simplest way to provide potential buyers with information and generate leads. Answer questions, be informative, provide insights and also add some entertaining blogs to drive traffic to your website.
- Buyer guides. These are content types that help educate your buyers and make the buying process a lot simpler for them. The guides should be easy to read and offer product descriptions and specifications, testimonials and comparisons that explain how your product differs from other similar solutions.
- Newsletters. Position yourself as an authority and thought leader in your industry by sending monthly, engaging and compelling newsletters.
- Brochures. This one is a must. A well designed, easy to understand brochure should concisely present all the important information about the product and company.
- Infographics. Using infographics is a really good way to present important data and stats in a user friendly, non-boring way.
Sales enablement tools
A sales enablement tool is a platform allowing teams access to the resources they need throughout the sales cycle. These tools are designed to optimize the work of sales teams and allow them to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.
A good enablement platform allows marketing and sales teams to work in a fully synchronized manner, helping them track the performance of different resources across the sales process.
Here are some vital features to look for when choosing your sales enablement software:
- Allows easy, real-time access to the most relevant and current content.
- Allows sellers to log notes from discovery calls and demos and sync them instantly with the CRM.
- Helps you to improve and tweak content in real time based on performance.
- Makes it easy to access winning playbooks and best practices.
Sales enablement process
If you’re looking to build a successful sales enablement process, make sure you follow the tips below.
- Formalize your strategy
The practice of sales enablement should always begin with building an effective sales enablement strategy and setting clear goals, for example:
- Aligning messages and teams.
- Eliminating obstacles to help reps sell better.
- Streamlining the sales process.
- Define stakeholders, responsibilities, and KPIs
Define all the relevant stakeholders and their respective responsibilities.
Once you’ve chosen your stakeholders, and with clear goals in hand, you can move on to defining KPIs that will help sellers understand what outcomes you expect of them. These can be a specific timeline for rolling out new tactics, defining how often content should be measured and reviewed, and which measurable actions the sellers are expected to take, for example.
- Define buyer personas
First, ensure you understand your buyer’s pain points and needs, then take it a step further and map out their path.
This will allow your sales team to craft various messages that are relevant to where the prospects are in their customer journey.
- Implement the right enablement software
Generally speaking, a good enablement tool would have the following features:
- Real time access to content
- Real time assistance
- Easy access to methodology and best practices
- Fast onboarding
- Measurement and analytics
- CRM integration
- Create winning playbooks
One of the most important assets sales reps have is a tried and tested playbook.
The best way to create a great playbook is to base it on the practices used by your top performers, because this will allow your entire team to leverage winning enablement best practices.
With the right enablement tech, your star sellers can constantly share their best playbooks, and you can track their usage in real-time, as well as log insights and info after every demo.
- Always analyze
Like everything else in business, a good strategy should evolve constantly, and this is doubly true in sales enablement.
The discipline of sales enablement is very dynamic, with new tools, tech, processes, and content to test, try, implement, or invent popping up all the time. To keep up with the fast pace and maintain relevance and effectiveness, you must always be able to track and measure results and improve where needed.
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