What is sales enablement?
Sales enablement is about empowering sales representatives with the information, insights, skills, tools, and training they need to bring value to every interaction with their customers and prospects.
Sales enablement shouldn’t be thought of as a patchwork application of the latest tips and tools, but more of an iterative approach that reshapes your entire sales process. It is a data-driven analysis of what customers want, that then provides your sales team with the training and resources they need to develop their customer relationships in a more holistic and personal way.
The ultimate goal of sales enablement is to position sales as a calculated, collaborative, company-wide practice that will enable your team to more easily connect with new and existing customers and to close more deals, more frequently.
Why is sales enablement important?
Modern technology has lowered the barrier of entry into markets, paving the way for the rise of disruptor companies to compete against established businesses. At the same time, it has empowered buyers to be more informed and independent in identifying and seeking their own product or service solutions. As a result, the sales landscape is more competitive than ever, making it harder for traditional sales and marketing techniques to win and retain customers.
To meet these challenges, sales reps:
- Need to have a better understanding of their products, their customers, and the larger market in order to bring more value to each conversation.
- Should be adept at selling in a hybrid environment, easily transitioning between virtual or remote channels and in-person communication with customers.
- Need to have the right content at the right time in order to make (and maintain) a more personal connection with their customers.
As a process, sales enablement provides sales reps with the training to draw upon the best practices, knowledge, skills, tools, and resources they require, whenever they need them. Organizations that successfully implement and practice sales enablement position themselves to enjoy a host of important benefits.
Benefits of sales enablement
Successful sales enablement positions your sales team — and by extension your entire organization — as more than just a vendor/supplier to your customers. Building a more personal relationship will cause your customers to look to you as a trusted advisor and partner with solutions and services for their problems.
The sales representatives themselves will be more confident in reaching out to customers to discuss their concerns and offer solutions. Employing a sales enablement platform will optimize the representatives’ workflow and make them more efficient in accessing, customizing, and sharing any relevant content they need, whenever they need it.
The marketing team will also benefit, as new processes and technology can encourage more communication between sales and marketing. Marketers can receive more direct insights into their audience, allowing them to produce better-targeted content and supporting materials.
Overall, these efficiencies help to shorten the sales cycle and improve the customer experience, which enables representatives to build longer-lasting, more meaningful relationships with customers. This will result in more tangible benefits such as reduced customer churn, the capacity to close larger deals, and increased opportunities for cross-selling and upselling.
Sales enablement best practices
As you work to implement a sales enablement strategy, follow these best practice recommendations:
- Start by evaluating the current state of your sales and marketing teams, which will serve as the starting point for creating a roadmap for a sales enablement transformation. Decide what is and what isn’t working, where the inefficiencies are, and what needs to be improved. From there you’ll want to create an enablement charter to act as your blueprint, define your purpose, establish KPIs, set your goals, and outline how you’ll achieve them.
- Ensure that your representatives understand who their buyers are and are able to identify where they are in the buying cycle. Gather data from customer engagement, surveys, and feedback to determine what their needs are. Making an effort to truly understand the decisions that occur at each stage of a customer’s journey is the only way you’ll be able to prepare your sales team for the challenges they will encounter in the field.
- Take an inventory of your existing content and training services and evaluate the performance of your existing strategies, materials, and training. From there you’ll need to decide what can be adjusted or overhauled to align with the customer journey, established goals, and other priorities.
- Don’t try to make everything happen all at once. Training should come in smaller learning modules that reach your reps at the most relevant time in the sales process. They’re more likely to retain the knowledge and develop the right habits when they can simultaneously learn and apply those skills with a customer.
- Connect your sales representatives with the right sales tools. They should have access to helpful content like slide decks, data sheets, demos, and case studies. They’ll also need access to technology like customer relationship management (CRM) and sales enablement software that will allow them to review customer data and more easily communicate with other team members.
The key takeaway of sales enablement is that it is a continuous process. You will need to evaluate and identify what is or isn’t working on a regular basis, then make necessary adjustments to hit the mark. Continued training on customer-focused skills is essential for building relationships with customers that will grow with time and with your business.
Frequently Asked Questions
While sales enablement is often owned by both marketing and sales, it works best if it is embraced as an organization-wide mission, with buy-in from key executives, sales leadership, and front-line reps. The specific roles and responsibilities will vary based on industry, the size of the company, and its sales and distribution model.
Comprehensive training for sales reps on how your products and services work and how they can help your customers is essential. However, training that helps your reps build strong customer relationships is just as essential, as it is an effective means of differentiating you from the competition.
A sales enablement platform usually refers to a system or software that supports the sales enablement process. It can provide visibility across the sales content lifecycle, enable communication between marketing, sales, and other departments, and/or help teams track content performance. Common sales enablement platforms include HubSpot, Zendesk, Outreach, and Seismic.
There are a lot of small moves you can make to support your sales enablement strategy. Starting off, you’ll want to establish your immediate and long-term goals along with relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your progress. During the sales training and support process you’ll need to continuously monitor your team’s performance to see what’s working and what’s not. Remember that sales enablement is a constant process, not a set-it-and-forget-it exercise.