In today’s sales environment, your buyers have access to more information than ever before. So it makes sense that your sales reps need access to more information, too — but such an approach without proper training could be self-defeating. Forrester reports that an estimated 65% of content marketing assets are irrelevant to buyers — either not fitting their specific needs or addressing relevant problems. Providing your sales team with data, tools and other assets won’t be of much use if they’re unable to determine how to personalize that content for each individual customer.
Sales success comes from more than empowering your reps with information, insights and tools. They require the skills and training that enable them to add value at every interaction with customers and prospects, and ultimately close more deals. They need sales enablement training.
What Is Sales Enablement?
Why Is Sales Enablement Important?
Key Benefits of Sales Enablement
Key Elements of Sales Enablement
16 Sales Enablement Tips & Strategies
Who Owns Sales Enablement?
Sales Enablement FAQs
What Is Sales Enablement?
To be successful, you must enable your sales enablement strategy not as a patchwork approach to providing your sales team with the latest tips and tools; but holistically, as a calculated, collaborative, company-wide practice.
“Sales enablement is the kitchen sink of product knowledge and information, collateral, digital tools, demo capability, etc.,” says Fabrizio Battaglia, Partner at Global Partners Training, “but what we find missing most often is training in the skill of stepping completely into the customer’s shoes and understanding a prospective purchase from their point of view. And this is the important part, irrespective of what you are trying to sell.”
Makes sense, right? Not only that — it works. We know because, in our three decades work as a B2B training partner, we have been helping sales and service organizations leverage the most effective principles of sales enablement.
Programs like Engaging Up™ allow salespeople to better understand their customers — and how to build stronger relationships.
Why Is Sales Enablement Important?
Today’s B2B sales landscape was already trending to be more competitive and more complicated by digital technology — and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic disruptions. Every customer counts now more than ever, which means retaining customers and finding ways to cross- or upsell is just as important as generating new leads. Any company that wants to compete needs to ensure that its salespeople are able to connect with customers and build long-lasting relationships.
Here are some recent statistics that demonstrate how more and more companies are realizing the importance of sales enablement:
- The average Google search volume for “Sales Enablement” in the U.S. has continued to increase over the last five years.
- A study by the Sales Management Association showed that firms that invested in sales enablement saw a 29% increase in overall sales training effectiveness compared to other firms.
- The Sales Management Association also found that a sales enablement strategy correlated with a 31% improvement in supporting changes in sales messaging and a 15% improvement for low performing salespeople.
- A Hubspot survey found that 65% of sales leaders who outperformed against revenue targets have a dedicated sales enablement person or team.
- A Forbes study reported that 59% of companies that had a defined sales enablement function surpassed their revenue targets — with 72% exceeding the target by 25% or more — compared to only 30% of underperforming organizations.
The results speak for themselves: organizations that successfully practice sales enablement position themselves to enjoy growth and success thanks to a host of important benefits.
Key Benefits of Sales Enablement
At the most fundamental level, the chief advantage and overall goal of successful sales enablement is to position your sales team — and by extension your organization — as much more than just another vendor/supplier to your customers. Instead, you develop a deeper relationship which positions your people and your company as trusted advisors and partners who are invested in your customers’ success.
Doing so ultimately leads to increased long-term revenue through benefits like:
- A shortened sales cycle and more effective closing
- More upselling and cross-selling opportunities
- Reduced customer churn and better retention rates
- A stronger network to reach out to new audiences and markets
- More support for the sales team, which improves their effectiveness and morale
…all of which contribute to an improved customer experience which fosters longer lasting, better relationships with your clients.
Key Elements of Sales Enablement (Best Practices)
For organizations just getting started in sales enablement or those looking to formalize existing strategies into a focused, iterative approach to organization-wide sales strategy, Korn Ferry suggests the following sales enablement best practices:
- Create an enablement charter documenting the expectations of senior executives and the desired impact on business and sales strategies, as well as anticipated challenges.
- Evaluate your current state, which serves as the starting point for creating an actual roadmap for any organization’s sales enablement transformation.
- Align to the customer journey, making an effort to truly understand the decisions that occur at each stage and the related challenges your sales team will encounter along the way.
- Inventory existing content and training services. Evaluate your existing strategies, materials and training and adjust or overhaul them to align with the customer journey, buyer roles and other priorities. (A key question to examine here: Are you currently providing two distinct types of sales training? Product/knowledge training and customer-focused skills/behavioral training?)
16 Sales Enablement Tips & Strategies
The most effective means of sales enablement combines a best practices approach with the right tools and technology. Whether you’re an organization just getting started in sales enablement or you’re looking to formalize existing strategies into a focused, iterative approach to organization-wide sales strategy — consider the following tips as a general guidance. Each strategy builds on the previous in order to create a culture of sales enablement success.
1. Set goals for what you want to achieve.
The first step is to approach your sales enablement transition with the goal of gaining organization-wide buy-in from your key executives, sales leadership and front-line reps, with an eye toward fostering a close collaboration between sales and marketing. Start by creating an enablement charter documenting the expectations of senior executives and the desired impact on business and sales strategies, as well as anticipated challenges. Your goals will also relate closely to each of the steps and strategies that follow below.
2. Be data-driven.
Establish which key performance metrics (KPIs) like quota attainment, productivity or lead quality will help you measure success and adjust strategies as you go. Reviewing past data will give you initial insight into which tactics have been working and which haven’t. Keep that mindset going forward, as you’ll need to evaluate your progress to determine if you’re on the right track or need to switch to a different approach (see step 13 for more details).
3. Understand your customer(s).
Utilizing that data to develop deeper insights to every aspect of your customers’ and buyers’ journey is essential. Invest in time and training to systematically research and intimately understand the customer’s business and point of view. This makes it easier for your sales team to truly understand the decisions that occur at each stage of the customer journey and how to approach the related sales challenges that they’ll come across.
4. Evaluate your current sales operation.
Evaluate your current state, which serves as the starting point for creating a roadmap for any organization’s sales enablement transformation. Take inventory of your existing content and training services. Audit your sales practices, materials and training with an eye toward where improvements can be made in how they align with the customer journey, buyer roles and other priorities.
The key question to ask is whether you’re providing both product/knowledge training and customer-focused skills/behavioral training — or if you’re overlooking one to focus too much on the other. Upskilling your sales team for interpersonal interactions is an essential component of any sales enablement strategy.
5. Reimagine your sales collateral.
Some of your existing materials might be terrific; others may not be serving their intended purpose. Don’t be afraid to start from scratch with some (or all) of your collateral; the goal is to equip your team with the most effective sales tools.
6. Create new sales content.
Even if you’re keeping much of your existing collateral, you’ll need to develop new materials as the buyer’s journey continues to evolve. Keep your customers front of mind as you determine what types of sales content will be most effective. Examples include:
- Written and video case studies
- In-depth blog posts
- White papers
- Demo decks
- Pricing and product sell sheets
- Competitive intelligence briefs
- Email templates
- And more
Developing each of these tools requires an understanding of what your customers go through to make a purchase. Be sure to discuss with all members of the customer team — from customer service to key influencers to decision makers — and ensure they’re aligned on the use and purpose of each piece of content.
7. Organize your sales collateral.
Having useful content is great, but it’s useless if it’s not easily accessible. Make use of organizational tools such as Google Docs, customer relationship management (CRM) systems and sales enablement software to allow your team to better create, share, edit and manage materials and resources.
8. Leverage helpful technology.
The right technology provides essential tools for sales enablement. Here are some of the most important types of software you should be incorporating into your strategy:
- CRM Software — Customer Relationship Management software is essential. According to the Hubspot survey on Global Sales Enablement, 61% of overperforming leaders use their CRM to automate parts of their sales process, vs. 46% of underperforming leaders. There are generally understood to be three types of CRM — operational, analytical and collaborative.
- Customer Communication Tools — It’s vital to be able to communicate whenever and wherever your customers find it most convenient. One example of this is to enable live chat functionality that positions you to speak directly with any potential customers who may be checking out your website.
- Sales Enablement Tools — A platform or system that integrates with your CRM and customer communications to provide visibility across the sales content lifecycle. Effective platforms will include search, scoring and syncing functionality.
- Learning Management Tool — Training is a constant process, so you’ll need the capability to digitally manage all of your training materials, activities and assessments. A learning management system can help engage your employees no matter where they are.
- Content Management Tools — Content management tools or systems allow your team to create content, store it in a consistent location, assign appropriate permissions and roles and edit and publish as needed. It’s an essential tool for allowing your team to design their own digital content without having to know programming languages.
- Call Coaching Tool — A quality management tool that provides your team with feedback, examples and performance assessments on their communication with customers. Modern tools make use of AI, natural language processing and speech recognition to effectively automate the process.
- Profit Margin and Sales Pricing Calculators — Profits are the lifeblood of any business, and these tools are helpful for determining the right selling price for your products and increasing your profits.
9. Communicate more efficiently through email.
Email may be the most classic form of digital communication, but it’s still the most widely used and effective. Developing email templates and automated email sequences can help save your team valuable time in customer outreach. Such tools should also allow for customization so reps or support staff can tailor the message to the prospect.
10. Align sales and marketing.
This is key because your marketing team is typically involved in creating your sales collateral and will need to be on the same page regarding strategies, buyer’s journey considerations and so on. In general:
- Marketing should provide sales reps with a variety of resources they need to effectively sell, communicate the purpose of assets, provide instruction and/or training and send out updates as necessary.
- Sales should provide feedback to marketing about which types of content, materials and information are missing, which are proving to be most effective in the field and which need to be updated.
11. Define responsibilities clearly.
Part of aligning your teams means clearly defining which people in which departments will be responsible for such functions as: onboarding, software and tech implementation, creating sales playbooks and materials, CRM admin, sales support, etc. Things will go more smoothly when everyone is clear on what they will be held accountable for.
12. Streamline your lead qualification.
Minimizing time spent filtering out unqualified leads means more time spent getting the right messages to your marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs).
13. Continuously monitor performance.
Measuring sales enablement is essential to give you big-picture insights into what’s working and what isn’t, plus generating granular insights will help you fine-tune campaigns and strategies. The following are helpful key sales performance indicators that can help measure your sales enablement success:
- Lead-to-Opportunity Conversion Rate — This directly reflects the effectiveness of your business development representatives and will indicate if your reps are getting the right message to the right people.
- Content Performance — All that content we discussed in step 6? You’ll need ways to measure its performance over time to know what’s working for your sales reps and what’s proving to be most valuable to your customers.
- Gross Margin — The measure of your sales minus the cost of goods sold (COGS). The higher your gross margin, the more capital you’ll retain, so this is essential for determining whether you can afford to raise prices, or need to cut costs.
- Win Rates — You’ll want to measure the percentage of deals your team has won over a given period of time. You’ll also want to measure this against the competitive win rate of your closest competitors.
- Average Selling Price — This will help you determine how much your customers typically pay for your products or services. Is your sales team accurately portraying your brand’s value or are they relying on discounts to make their sales?
- Sales Cycle Length — An essential KPI that tracks the length of time from first contact with a new lead to making the final sale. Shorter sales cycles are always better, though be sure to account for outside factors that may be affecting the sale.
- Quota Attainment — The standard measurement of your team’s performance, to give you insight into who is consistently reaching their sales goals and how the sales team is performing overall.
- Content Adoption — How well is your team integrating new content into their sales process? This KPI can not only ensure that everyone is on the same page, but can alert you if some materials are proving to be incompatible or otherwise challenging to adopt.
- Knowledge Retention — Initial training will fade and bad habits will crop up unless knowledge retention is reinforced over time. This will help keep your team informed about your services as well as developments within the industry.
You’ll want to enable a mix of these metrics and KPIs as a means of constantly and consistently measuring your sales enablement efforts.
14. Add value in every customer interaction.
This is far easier said than done, but you’ll want to leverage all of the resources and insights generated in the previous steps to provide your customers and prospects with unique insights into their own needs. What are the core issues that are causing them problems? How might they be more efficient? What new tools or resources might be useful to them?
Proactively offering them your support will demonstrate your ability to add value beyond just selling products and services. This is the gold standard of sales enablement.
15. Provide training and support.
Because sales enablement initiatives often involve equipping reps with new materials, new tools and techniques, new skills and a new way of approaching sales success, training and ongoing support are essential. As noted in step 4, you’ll want to consider both product/knowledge training and customer-focused skills training.
16. Commit to continuous improvement.
As is now obvious from the discussion so far, successful sales enablement is not a set-it-and-forget-it exercise. Quite the contrary. Baked into this philosophy is a commitment to ongoing discovery, strategy adjustments/pivots and sales content creation in order to stay nimble as you align with buyers’ changing needs and attitudes.
Who Owns Sales Enablement?
While sales enablement is often owned by both the marketing and sales teams, the exact roles and responsibilities will vary based on the size of the company, sales and distribution model and markets served. In all cases, a clear definition of roles, ownership and responsibilities will define a successful sales enablement solution. This is especially true for strategic account management in large, complex sales that involve many different people across both sides.
According to Harvard Business Review, misalignment on sales and marketing costs businesses $1 trillion annually in decreased sales productivity and wasted marketing efforts. However, successful alignment can allow sales and marketing to see significant improvement at closing deals. Comparatively, Marketo found that businesses are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing work together.
All stakeholders across teams should communicate and coordinate to ensure that the sales enablement strategy is optimized. A sense of shared responsibility will go a long way toward generating the necessary content knowledge, training strategies, best practices, tools and processes that play a critical role in sales enablement.
Sales Enablement FAQs
What is sales enablement?
Sales enablement is “the iterative process of providing your business’ sales team with the resources they need to close more deals,” according to HubSpot. “These resources may include content, tools, knowledge and information to effectively sell your product or service to customers.”
What are the benefits of sales enablement?
Sales enablement empowers reps and sales teams to: close larger deals, shorten the sales cycle, enhance upselling/cross-selling, improve the customer experience and build longer lasting, better relationships with clients.
What are some sales enablement strategies and best practices?
Sales enablement works best if it is embraced as an organization-wide mission, with buy-in from key executives, sales leadership and front-line reps, as well as close collaboration between sales and marketing. It also requires a deeper understanding of and alignment with the customer journey.
Why is it important to provide both product/knowledge training and customer-focused skills training?
Comprehensive traditional training on how your products and services work and how they can help your customers is always essential. Training that is focused on building strong customer relationships and establishing your organization as a trusted business adviser helps differentiate you from the competition and in ways that increase customer lifetime value.
This report is presented by Global Partners Training, an innovative sales and service training provider that helps B2B companies empower their sales professionals with advanced customer relationship building skills and sales techniques. Contact us today to talk about how we can help your team with sales enablement and other revenue-driving sales and services initiatives.