Before we start, let’s get one thing straight. Today, sales enablement is not an option. It is a necessity. It forms the backbone of your company’s sales team and plays a pivotal role in impacting lead conversions, revenue growth, and other key metrics that your sales team can deliver.
Even as we speak, there are companies out there that are moving sales enablement from being an aspect of marketing, sales, or customer support, to become a separate function in itself. In fact, a 2019 sales enablement study by Quark, an omnichannel content automation software, indicated that companies in the financial services, high-tech, and telecommunications industries saw the highest adoption of sales enablement processes and techniques.
But why is sales enablement important for companies? What kind of impact does it deliver?
Owing to low entry barriers, increased competition, more information access to buyers, higher bargaining power for buyers, and more, there is more pressure on the sales team to customize its conversations to sell better and achieve its targets, be it to bring in more revenue, to reduce the sales cycle, or retain more customers.
One of the key goals in developing these materials, building a knowledge base, and creating training programs is to achieve specific objectives for customer service, such as improving customer engagement and ensuring that sales reps are able to effectively answer common questions while delivering exceptional service.
To enable sales teams to perform more effectively and efficiently is where sales enablement comes into play. Sales enablement can mean different things to different companies, but ultimately it’s about increasing seller productivity and enhancing buyer experience.
In September 2019, CSO Insights and Highspot released a report that analyzed the impact of sales enablement on companies across the globe. It found that companies that had an informal and random sales enablement process in place recorded a little over 3 percentage points lower than average win rates and quota attainment, as compared to companies with a formal and strategic sales enablement process which recorded higher than average win rates and quota attainment.
Naturally, a formal sales enablement process works proactively in ensuring that a company’s sales process works hand-in-hand with the customer’s buying process, thus delivering better results. Accordingly, the report revealed that companies that aligned their sales process to the customer’s path recorded 17.9% higher win rates and an 11.8% increase in quota attainment.
What sales enablement is NOT
There are many misconceptions about what sales enablement is.
In a 2019 article, Brian Lambert, senior director of enablement and readiness at Spectrum, who also shares extensive knowledge on what sales enablement is and is not, wrote, “I spoke to my peers about misconceptions they have encountered in their organizations. It’s eye opening. Some believe sales enablement is a task that sales people need to do better, such as sending better emails or filing expense sheets better. Or, they think it’s a job title - a training team re-branding, or, a technology roll-out for sales teams that needs to be spearheaded by the sales enablement team.”
Here are more;
- Sales enablement is not just about the content. You may have great marketing content that present convincing arguments on why a buyer should purchase your product or service. But, unless your sales team is trained to use the content in the right context and at the right time, it may not prove to be useful.
- Sales enablement is not about having tools, technology and information operating in silos. Are you engaging your sales team when determining what information they need, what tools they are familiar with, and how they want data and information to be delivered to them?
- Sales enablement is not a knee-jerk reaction to sales teams’ need of the hour. It’s not an effective sales enablement process if the team waits for the salesperson to come back with a request, and delivers information based on specific use cases. It is about being proactive and continual in determining the sales team’s needs and challenges, buyer’s expectations, and overall company’s goals, and presenting content and data in a manner that quickens the buyer’s journey along the funnel.
- Sales enablement is not about merely relying on reporting. Data and reports are for the marketing team to analyze. Developing material based on the reports and delivering it to the seller to help him/her close more deals is sales enablement’s responsibility.
- Sales enablement is not about measuring the efficiency of the sales team, but about identifying how the tools, technology and content has helped sales teams achieve their targets better.
In the same article, Lambert explains that when sales enablement leaders focus on overcoming specific sales challenges that are identified by sales leadership, and have executive sponsorship to resolve, they can be successful. He explains, “For example, if sales people are below quota, sales enablement can help align to improve quota attainment. But, not in a random, one-off manner. Instead, they should engage sales leadership with a thoughtful strategic portfolio of initiatives and programs that are co-created with sales leadership and have executive sponsorship.”
How to get your sales enablement training right
- Design specific objectives that align with the company’s overall revenue and growth targets. Then, define what collaterals sales enablement teams need to create to help sales teams achieve these targets. The collaterals can be something as high-end as creating content on products and services, to performing competitor mapping, analyzing potential buyer behavior and providing actionable insights for sales teams to quicken the prospect’s buying journey.
- Define clear responsibilities for the sales enablement team. Given that sales enablement is a relatively novel concept, it often finds itself clashing with the sales operations team. While in many companies, both sales operations and sales enablement teams report to the head of sales, the former comes into play early in the buying process. Sales enablement focuses primarily on content, training and sales process, whereas sales operations focuses on negotiation and deal closing. The responsibility of the sales enablement team leans more towards content planning, sales communication, customer analysis, identifying effective customer engagement tools, performance analysis and the like.
While we are on this subject, it is also imperative for the sales enablement team to be represented by a leadership team that can manage its liaison with other departments in the company.
- Sales enablement cannot operate in a silo. It needs to collaborate with other departments in the company, such as human resources, marketing, customer support, and legal teams to ensure that everybody is in line with the company’s larger goals. For example, the sales enablement team needs to liaise with human resources to ensure that talented salespersons are recruited to help companies achieve their sales targets. Once a newbie comes on board, it becomes the responsibility of the sales enablement team to train the sales representative on the company’s products and services, optimal and contextual use of collaterals, and effective sales strategies to adopt based on prospective buyer analysis and such. In another instance, the sales enablement team needs to liaise with the marketing team to ensure that the content it creates is easily available across a wide range of platforms for buyers to consume.
- Sales enablement is not a one-size-fits-all and one-time process. Keeping the buyer experience and buyer journey at its core, sales enablement needs to ensure that on one hand, it creates high-quality content such as blogs, white papers, webinars and SEO content that caters to different buyer audiences, and on the other hand, develops customized training material such as presentations, performance insights, case studies and other material for sellers to align with the buyer’s needs. The content and information created by sales enablement teams needs to be relevant, effective, and customized to its internal (sales teams) and external (prospective buyers) audience. More importantly, training needs to happen on a continuous basis to ensure sales teams stay on top of their game.
- With the sales enablement market slated to touch $2.6 billion by 2024, there are numerous tools cropping up in the market to make the task of whoever is working with or in the sales function easier. While the tools are being marketed to achieve specific purposes such as sales asset management or sales analysis, the ultimate objective of these tools should be to help the salespeople sell easier and better and find the most efficient way to achieve the company’s revenue objectives.
Be it sales acceleration tools, sales intelligence tools, content management systems or CRMs, you need to ask yourself these questions before investing in the right technology; is it aligning with the process you have laid out, is it easily accessible and navigable, does it ensure that all content is available in a central location, is your sales team comfortable using that particular tool or technology?
- Measure the impact of your sales enablement collaterals on the sales team's performance. It’s not just about measuring the efficiency of the sellers and identifying how effectively they are achieving their targets. It’s also about analyzing what kind of measurable impact the training, team coaching, and sales assets have had on the sales targets. Some metrics that sales enablement teams can look at are content usage, time to revenue, sales cycle, average win rate, and more.
Let’s look at an example. A 2020 Planning Assumptions report by SiriusDecisions revealed that companies often have a high number of sales assets, of which only 45% of the content is directly linked to deal progression, and 42% is linked with won deals. Thus, instead of spending time and resources on creating sales assets that may or may not be useful, companies can identify assets that are linked to won deals and create more related content that is more likely to be effective in deal closures.
To sum it up, it’s proven time and again that if done right, sales enablement can create a visible impact on buyer experience, in turn accelerating a company’s revenue and growth. What we need to keep in mind is that sales enablement cannot operate in a silo, and it is not a one-time deal. It needs to tie in with the company’s overall objectives, the messaging, content, and process needs to resonate with every team in the organization, and the training and coaching need to happen continually and contextually for it to create a positive impact on sales.