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February 22, 2021

What Exactly Is Sales Enablement?

 

business man with heroic vision

Sales enablement is having a moment. Selling is harder than ever and more organizations are dedicating people, processes, and technology to supporting this critical function.

If you work in sales or marketing, chances are you’ve recently heard the term sales enablement. Although it’s a hot topic, there seems to be some confusion around how the profession is changing during this inflection point in its history.

With that in mind, I asked our experts to answer five questions about sales enablement:

  1. What is Sales Enablement?
  2. How Do Analysts Define Sales Enablement?
  3. Why Is Sales Enablement Important?
  4. What Does Sales Enablement Include?
  5. How Do You Know You Need Sales Enablement?

What is Sales Enablement?

At its core, sales enablement is the ongoing process of maximizing revenue per rep, by ensuring sellers convey the right concept using the right content throughout each stage of the buying process.

The essentials include content, skills training, knowledge, coaching, and tools to effectively sell your product or service. These tactics must be integrated, driven by a unified strategy, and enabled by sales enablement technology.

Today’s competitive economy—and the new requirements of virtual selling—have increased demand for sales enablement. There is a greater need for sales teams to be flexible and responsive and to align more closely with their marketing teams. Functions that were siloed—training, learning, and coaching—are merging with content creation and management. Now that most B2B sales are virtual, a holistic approach to sales enablement is more critical than ever for keeping teams on track.

How Do Analysts Define Sales Enablement?

How you define sales enablement often depends on who you ask. Different organizations have different views on what it means, how to approach it, and what the role encompasses. You don’t have to take our word for it. Here’s how the top four industry analysts define this critical function.

Gartner: “Sales enablement is the activity, systems, processes, and information that support and promote knowledge-based sales interactions with clients and prospects.”

SiriusDecisions: “The job of sales enablement is to ensure that salespeople possess the skills, knowledge, assets, and processes to maximize every buyer interaction.”

Forrester: “Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips employees with the ability to consistently have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s journey.”

CSO Insights: “Sales enablement is a strategic, cross-functional discipline, designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services.”

Why Is Sales Enablement Important?

Simply put, sales enablement helps companies achieve better results. What could be more important than that?

The data is clear: sales enablement leads to better win rates. CSO Insights’ data shows that organizations with sales enablement achieve a 49% win rate on forecasted deals, compared to 42.5% for those without. It’s also correlated with more effective sales training, stronger customer relationships, and higher quota attainment.

Sales enablement is about providing sellers with the right resources, processes, and technology to sell effectively and increase revenue. Sales enablement maximizes every point of engagement salespeople have with buyers and improves the experience they provide.

It also helps organizations streamline and shorten sales cycles by improving buyer interactions with relevant sales content that is tailored and personalized. Sales enablement technology unlocks insights into content engagement and how it affects sales performance.

Salespeople have better conversations and act as trusted advisors which allow them to foster long-term relationships with prospects and customers. When executed properly, sales enablement has a measured impact on time spent selling, win rates, and deal size.

What Does Sales Enablement Include?

Sales enablement teams handle a wide range of different activities and priorities. Any or all of these areas can fall under sales enablement, depending on company size and industry, the needs of the sales force, and enablement team structure.

Ultimately, every sales enablement team exists to support sellers. How each company accomplishes that tends to look a little different. These are the core functions that comprise a holistic sales enablement practice.

#1 Sales Onboarding & Training

Sales training includes onboarding new hires and supporting them with continuous learning and reinforcement on product information, messaging, competitive positioning, and the skills needed to have valuable interactions throughout the sales process. The most effective sales enablement programs bolster training with collaboration tools to make sales training continuous.

#2 Content Activation

Sales enablement drives the creation, distribution, and management of sales assets and sales training content of two types: 1) customer-facing content that sellers will share with the buyer and 2) best practices, research, and tools that sales will consume internally. All content needs to be easy to consume and reusable across the sales organization. It’s not enough to simply make assets available, sellers must know how to use these resources. Teams who know what’s working—and what’s not—can improve sales content to be even more effective.

#3 Sales Methodology

Sale enablement owns and implements the sales strategy, processes, and methods that the organization has developed to qualify leads, nurture prospects, engage buyers, and close deals.

#4 Sales Communications / Marketing Alignment

Sale enablement facilitates communication within the team and across other functions. Alignment and continuous collaboration with the marketing team is critical. This allows the team to empower reps with relevant knowledge and information from all departments committed to their success.

#5 Coaching

Sales enablement extends not only to sales reps, but also to sales managers. Equipping front-line managers to inspire, motivate, and support reps with good coaching and communication skills improves seller productivity and leads to better results.

#6 Sales Tools

Effective use of sales tools is also a core element of the role. Sales reps typically use several different tools every day—CRMs, engagement tools, intelligence tools, communication tools, role playing tools, call coaching, and many more. Some of these represent major investments for the company, so ensuring reps know how to use all the technology, and use it well, is essential. With the right preparation, reps can even turn their sales tools into a differentiator for the organization.

#7 Sales Analytics

The final component of sales enablement is measurement. Meaningful metrics include: average sales cycle length; number of reps achieving quota; and average deal size. Measurement and reporting extends to the overall success of the sales enablement program. Teams who know what’s advancing deals can continuously iterate and optimize the process.

How Do You Know You Need Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement delivers a really compelling benefit – it ensures your sellers achieve quota in a scalable, predictable, and repeatable fashion. You might be wondering whether your organization should develop a sales enablement program—or expand an existing one.

Here are a few important questions to ask. The answers will show whether it’s time to take sales enablement seriously.

  • Are we meeting all of our sales goals?
  • Are we confident reps are always on-message?’
  • Are we 100% sure reps are using sales content properly?
  • Are marketing and sales on the same page?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, then it’s time to take a deeper look at sales enablement. Even if you answered ‘yes,’ it’s important to remember that businesses—and markets—change all the time. New competitors, new products, and new customer needs can disrupt your current plans overnight.

Your company might be growing, making it risky to rely on an informal or dated onboarding process. Your reps may sell a rapidly-changing product or service. You may do business in a regulated space with stringent compliance requirements. Your buying process may have become more complex. You could have significant messaging changes related to M&A or a new go-to-market strategy.

These are challenges that most companies will face at one time or another. According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, there are over 30,000 new products introduced every year, and 95% fail. Many organizations must shift their sales strategy or make major changes to their value proposition over time.

Look no further than the start of the global coronavirus outbreak. Businesses shut their doors and employees were told to stay home. That meant no more business travel, in-person meetings, or nonessential trips to the store.

This created new challenges for businesses in all industries. Demand for some products and services dropped, while some industries experienced heightened demand, such as desks, webcams, and computer monitors for remote workers.

Sales teams and marketers had to pivot rapidly to sustain their business while prioritizing the safety of their employees and customers. The new normal is continuous disruption and adaptation. And in this environment, sales enablement is critical to sustain or drive sales success.

Empower Your Sales Team

Now you know what sales enablement is—and why it’s so important! When you empower your sales team with the right training, content, coaching, and tools, they simply have the ability to sell more effectively and efficiently. Don’t overlook this vital function to accelerate growth, boost revenue, increase your client base, and drive long-term success in a volatile world.

Learn More

To learn how to accelerate your results with modern sales enablement, download our eBook: Demystifying Sales Enablement: How to Plan for the Next Normal.

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