Sales enablement is more than just the content and technology used to increase the efficiency of salespeople.
It’s an ongoing organizational effort meant to support the sales team’s ability to sell.
In this post, we will teach B2B sales leaders the basics of sales enablement.
We’ll explain what it is exactly, why you need it, how to implement a sales enablement system, and how to measure its effectiveness.
At the risk of sounding offensively redundant, this article will enable you to enable your sales team to enable your B2B customers to make buying decisions that enable them to enable their own customers, and so on.
Let’s flick that first enablement domino and get going.
What Is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is the process of providing salespeople with tools, resources, training, and information that helps them sell more effectively in each unique sales situation they encounter.
Each department has a role to play in it.
Legal, product, marketing, and others contribute some of their resources and time to helping the sales team. Those actions fall under the category of sales enablement.
Still, it doesn’t mean these departments are in charge of sales enablement.
The sales enablement owner is the brains of the strategy and the liaison between these contributing groups.
Usually, due to its specialty in content creation and analytics, the marketing department is the one in charge.
Examples of sales enablement include:
- Case studies that help sellers close prospects.
- White papers that help sellers explain the product or service.
- Product sheets.
- Company comparisons.
- Research reports that help sellers generate leads.
- New messaging from marketing.
- Training that helps sellers learn a new skill.
- Technology that helps sellers manage their pipeline, engage prospects, or give better demos.
Now, let’s look at the most important types of resources that sales enablement entails.
Sales Enablement Resources
Usually, sales enablement elements are broken down into two categories.
First, there is the content sellers will share with the prospect, such as white papers and case studies, testimonials, cold email messaging and cold call scripts, etc.
For example, a salesperson might be struggling to convince a prospect of the potential ROI and therefore request some backup to help them make their case.
Perhaps the marketing department interviews a few top clients and produces some case studies that the seller can send during these situations.
Those case studies are sales enablement content, but they can also be used for marketing purposes.
Then, there are resources the salesperson will consume internally: training materials, tools, software, a speed dialer, accurate reporting, etc.
In this second group, there could be a video course on the challenger sale methodology or a new technology that helps them send out prospecting emails more quickly.
When creating a sales enablement strategy, what matters most is that you are helping your sales team reach their full potential.
Additionally, the resources you buy or create have to be something sellers want to use. Buy-in is key.
So, let’s go over why sales enablement is important.
Why You Need Sales Enablement
Pretend a sales rep is struggling to book meetings through cold emails and cold calls. They might feel they lack the resources to convince people to take a meeting.
They wish they had more interesting articles, research reports, or top-of-the-pipeline content to send to prospects to get their attention.
Slowly, resentment builds. They feel like no one has their back and their pipeline struggles.
They miss their quota, and some blame it on the company—or, potentially worse, blame themselves and lose confidence.
This is a worst-case scenario, but it reveals what happens when sellers are left to fend for themselves without any support.
This is the main reason why sales enablement is important.
Sales enablement makes your sales reps feel supported, cared for, and happy to be a part of the team. All of these feelings give rise to heightened motivation, productivity, and, yes, revenue.
Ramping up your sales enablement production has some other benefits as well:
- Aligning Sales and Marketing Teams: When you have a sales enablement system in place, your sellers and marketing talk more often. Silos break down, goals become aligned, and the content that marketing creates is actually needed and put to use.
- More Efficient Sales Teams: Sales enablement efforts, such as using the right technology, can help your sellers spend less time in data entry, prospecting, or CRM fiddling and more time talking with prospects.
- Personalizing Each Prospect’s Journey: When sellers can easily find content, they can pick out the pieces relevant to each customer’s specific needs, situation, and questions.
If you want to get serious about enacting sales enablement, there are some great sales enablement platforms out there to help.
Sales Enablement vs. Sales Operations
Often, sales enablement and sales operations are lumped together. But, they do not mean the same thing.
The main difference between the two is that sales operations focuses on the logistics of sales team organization, such as hiring and training, setting quotas, and compensation plans.
They also handle territory and developing revenue strategies.
Meanwhile, sales enablement takes those logistics as the plan and then figures out how to make it a reality.
For example, the sales ops team sets the quota that helps the company reach its revenue targets.
The sales enablement team helps the sales reps hit their quota by giving them content, tools, and training.
However different, both departments are engaged in helping salespeople succeed, so it pays to have them work together. Meetings between the two should be frequent.
An example of them working together is when a company buys a new sales engagement tool.
The sales ops team will set up and implement the new technology and create standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Then, the sales enablement team will create training content like videos or SOP documents to teach sellers how to use it.
Who Owns Sales Enablement
Sales enablement has become so popular over the last few years that some companies are actually creating sales enablement departments and hiring professionals with “sales enablement” in their job titles.
However, most companies still place the responsibilities with a pre-existing department: marketing.
Before making a hasty decision, give it some thought.
The departments you choose to take on the responsibilities will dictate the shape of your sales enablement strategy.
Here are the three most common choices and their associated effects.
When Marketing Owns Sales Enablement
If you want to improve sales and marketing alignment while optimizing your content creation plan, let marketing handle sales enablement.
When you do, you almost instantly change marketing’s viewpoint on the content they create.
All of a sudden, the blog posts, videos, and case studies are easy to find, satisfy the customer and seller’s needs, and directly contribute to closed revenue.
Usually, marketing is also already set up with the analytical framework they need to measure the success of each addition to a sales enablement plan.
When Sales Owns Sales Enablement
Letting sales own the process is best for businesses looking to improve sales communication and collaboration with other departments.
They are forced to figure out what they need to achieve their goals, and to go ask for it.
When the sales department manages this process, they also feel more ownership over their own success. If they fail, it is nobody’s fault but their own.
For example, if they lack a type of content, they cannot moan and groan.
They have to spearhead the initiative and go explain the benefits and purpose of this content to convince marketing to create it.
If they feel they need more discounting opportunities, they have to sell it to the finance team.
When Sales Enablement Owns Sales Enablement
If you have the resources to create a separate team or role in charge of sales enablement, it can set you up for long-term success and make the lives of marketing and sales easier.
Marketing and sales won’t have to think up sales enablement strategy or initiatives—a time-consuming process.
Yes, they will offer up input like requests for a new product demo video, but it is up to the sales enablement experts to do the hard research, thinking, and planning.
Then, marketing can focus on creating the content that sales enablement tells them to build out, and sales can focus on using it.
Also, neither of them has to worry about measuring the effectiveness of the content, training materials, or tools. The sales enablement team will handle that, too.
Sales Enablement Elements
There are three main elements of all sales enablement plans: talent acquisition, talent coaching and management, and tools and software.
Let’s dive into each.
Sales enablement can help you hire great reps and set up personalized onboarding regimens that turn them into phenomenal sales reps.
Your sales enablement team can outline the core traits that make successful sales reps at your company by interviewing and analyzing currently successful sellers.
They can then sift through the applicants and find the ones who match the profile.
Also, sales enablement can take part in the interview process, during which they can ascertain each applicant’s challenges, weak spots, and motivations.
Then they can lay out personalized learning paths for these reps.
This will excite the applicants, who likely look for opportunities to learn during their job search.
Seeing that there is a team dedicated to their personal development is a huge draw that can help you land the best sellers over competitors.
Moreover, if they join, they will come out of onboarding as well-rounded salespeople who drive revenue growth.
Talent Coaching and Management
Talent coaching and management are core elements of a successful sales enablement process.
When included, they help you get the most out of your reps while also reducing turnover and increasing job satisfaction.
The best sales enablement training programs follow a just-in-time training model, where sales reps learn the skills, customer insights, and approaches as they need them.
This helps with retention.
Imagine watching a video about negotiating pricing with an enterprise client while you are a new rep selling small transactional deals.
The information just won’t stick—that’s the problem with traditional training programs.
We learn best when we immediately apply what we learned. Our brains label that knowledge as useful.
So, a rep who just failed to overcome a specific price objection should have access to materials and courses on-demand that can teach them how to overcome it next time.
The best way to ensure that your reps have easy access to training content is to centralize all of your SOPs, guides, lessons, training videos, and more in one online location.
There are many digital solutions that enable you to do that with ease, like Coassemble, which actually allows you to turn any training materials, even the offline presentations, into accessible online courses.
In short, ongoing learning is crucial if you want to keep your team up to date.
Hold training sessions consistently and make sure that what’s being taught aligns with the company’s goals and the sales reps’ desires.
Developing a sales enablement coaching and management program can be a big task, especially if you try to personalize the learning paths for each rep.
That’s why more and more companies are putting it in the hands of sales enablement experts.
Sales Enablement Tools and Software
Another element of sales enablement is the technology that helps sellers be their best.
Think of tools like sales engagement software, which reduces tedious administrative work, or of an analytics tool, which shines a light on market opportunities sellers never would have noticed.
There are plenty of categories of tools and software solutions that can help your sellers operate at their highest potential.
Here are four of the most important.
- Market Intelligence Tools like Soleadify supply you with customer information like email addresses, job titles, and technology used that help you make data-driven decisions.
- Prospecting Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator help you connect with potential buyers in a personalized manner and turn them into leads.
- Content Sharing Tools like Box help you centralize your training and customer-facing material such as articles, how-to guides, head-to-head infographics, and more. That way, your salespeople can easily find the right piece when they need it.
- Sales Training Tools like Brainshark help you manage, deliver, and track training progress. With a platform dedicated to training, your reps reap the benefits of continuous and on-demand learning.
Go schedule customized demos with two technology companies who solve a problem you might be having.
Even if you don’t have a budget right now, at least you will start to get a feel for what is out there. If that sounds like a pain, read a few white papers or watch some videos.
Sales Enablement Process
Like most things in the B2B world, there is a process for introducing sales enablement into your business.
You have to get buy-in from stakeholders, assess the current state of sales, improve cross-departmental communication and sales processes, and enhance reporting.
Let’s go through each one.
1. Get Buy-in
Before beginning building out your sales enablement infrastructure, you need to win stakeholder buy-in, whether that is from the CRO or from the board of directors.
That way, you won’t run into the situation where you have to throw out all of your hard work.
As a seller, you already know a good amount about pitching ideas, so here are a few tips for internally selling the idea of sales enablement to your stakeholders.
First, prepare for lack of understanding.
Some older sales leaders may not understand that data can be used to measure reps’ actions and develop them in real-time.
To increase your chance of succeeding, you should study your decision-maker to find out which metrics and objectives matter most to them.
Then, show them how sales enablement will help them reach and exceed these goals. They’ll be sure to back you up when they see what great results they can expect.
Your next step will be to educate the stakeholders.
Send articles, videos, and guides to sales leaders to keep them up-to-date on the power and trends of sales enablement. This will get them excited about the journey you are taking together.
In any case, your best course of action is to start small.
Begin with one focus area and pick one problem your decision-maker feels the sales team has, and then address it with sales enablement.
If it works, you can start expanding.
The hardest part is getting that “yes” to the first small sales enablement project. Once they see how much it enhances the sales team, they will want to see more.
2. Assess Your Current State
Alright, now that you have sold the idea, it is time to assess the current state of your sales department.
Run an audit and figure out what they lack and opportunities for improvement. Where are the bottlenecks holding up deals?
Perhaps your reps are failing miserably when going up against a specific competitor.
Maybe you need more customer-facing content on that specific head-to-head along with more training content on competitive sales.
Let’s add a bit of structure to this analysis. Here are six steps for running a successful sales audit.
- Examine Your Current Sales Process: Where do most prospects fall out of the sales process? The presentation stage? Are there not enough leads coming in? Find the answers.
- Evaluate Your Technology: Figure out if your reps are actually using the tools you are paying for. Assess their ROI.
- Review Your Marketing and Training Content: Is your sales team using the content? Are they struggling to find it? Do they have what they need to move prospects through the pipeline?
- Rate Your Leads: Analyze the quality of the leads coming into your pipeline. How likely are they to buy? Do you need to start using other channels to generate better ones? Do you need to re-create your ideal customer profile?
- Evaluate Your Reporting: Are reps getting the data-driven feedback that they need to grow? Maybe you need tools to help make the reporting process more automated.
- Check Your Veins: Assess the health of the systems you have in place for carrying support to your sales team, the heart of the organization. Check into how well you collaborate with finance, marketing, product, legal, and more.
Once you figure out what’s holding your sales team back, you can start to develop a sales enablement plan to address these gaps and issues.
3. Improve Communication and Sales Processes
Clear communication with your customers through your marketing content is key.
Salespeople miss out on opportunities when they can’t locate the right piece of content for a specific scenario.
They often spend too much time digging through files and email chains for the material they need.
That’s why, when building out your sales enablement infrastructure, you need a centralized, searchable, and online location to house this material.
The content should also be well-organized within the system, so it’s easy to find.
Pro Tip: After creating your content, pitch it to the salespeople using the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) framework: when you send it, explain why it will help them in up to five short sentences.
Will it solve a specific selling problem—or simply help them close more deals?
Lastly, it helps to automate portions of your sales process so that sellers can spend more time selling.
For instance, a lead generation tool like Soleadify will provide them with quality leads on which to call. No more time wasted scouring the web for email addresses.
Make these infrastructure changes early on in the development of your sales enablement strategy.
4. Enhance Reporting
Accurate reporting tells you if your sales enablement strategy is actually working.
It also helps you prove the effectiveness of the strategy to upper management so you can continue building it out.
Accurate and effective reporting and analytics help your salespeople improve, allowing them to see where they are struggling.
For instance, from the data analysis, a few of them might find that they struggle to close deals for a certain product.
That insight will then dictate the sales enablement content strategy. Perhaps sellers need access to more training materials or customer-facing content on that product.
There are reporting and business intelligence tools that can help you with this.
When picking out a reporting tool, look for the following:
- Automated report generation, so you don’t have to think about running them.
- Ability to download reports as CSV files that you can put into excel and further analyze.
- A user-friendly dashboard that makes it easy for each rep and manager to understand the data.
Secrets to success hide within your cumulative actions and results. Go capture the truth with better reporting.
Measuring the Success of Sales Enablement
When you have a sales enablement strategy in place, you need to analyze its performance to figure out where it needs tweaking.
There are both quantitative and qualitative metrics you can track to measure its effectiveness.
The first set of quantitative metrics to look at if you want to see how well your sales enablement methods are working are the post-adoption productivity metrics.
Measure things like content share rate, i.e., how often content is shared with prospects.
Also, look over emails sent, data accuracy, calls made, and other metrics that are indicative of increases in sales productivity.
Furthermore, a lot of sales enablement resources lighten the administrative load on salespeople. Assess if this is happening by measuring the time spent talking with prospects.
In other words, see how many minutes the members of your team spend on demos, prospecting calls, discovery calls, etc.
Finally, sales enablement advancements are often meant to make it easier for salespeople to communicate value with customers.
An increased lead-to-opportunity rate shows that this is, in fact, the case.
There are more subtle ways to gauge the effectiveness of your sales enablement efforts that don’t rely on numbers.
Let’s go over some qualitative metrics that can tell you if you’re doing sales enablement right.
In one-on-ones, ask your salespeople if they are enjoying the changes. If your productivity is going up, but your team members are unhappy, you run the risk of losing valuable reps.
What is more, they can give you pointers on how to make the new processes work for them, which will help you make the necessary improvements.
Therefore, learning what your salespeople say is a valuable qualitative metric.
Another important qualitative metric to track is call and presentation improvement.
Sit in on some interactions between sellers and prospects and see if their knowledge and skills have improved.
Finally, to see how effective your efforts have been, simply poll your buyers.
Ask them, “How knowledgeable was the sales rep who helped you on a scale from 1-10?”
If their answers are increasingly positive, this can tell you your training methods are actually producing results.
The Lone Wolf Mythology
Some salespeople like to think of themselves as lone wolves, hunting for deals, taking their income into their own hands, and playing the role of the company hero.
However, this mythology is far from the truth.
In fact, salespeople are part of an ecosystem. They rely on the support of other departments. And the more smoothly these contributions flow to the sales team, the better they perform.
Not only will building a sales enablement system improve the sales reps’ performance. It will also improve the connectivity of your entire organization.
Your sellers will retain their individualism while enjoying the benefits of belonging, support, and community that appears in a company dedicated to sales enablement.