"Sales enablement" is a term that's been thrown around a lot over the past several years. It's far more than another marketing buzzword, however; in fact, sales enablement could very well be the key to unlocking the true potential not only of your sales team but of your other customer-facing departments, too.
This article is designed to give you a high-level, yet a comprehensive breakdown of what sales enablement is, what it involves, and why it's so important. They say that "knowledge is power" — and the more knowledge you gain around sales enablement, the easier it will be for you to unlock its power for your brand.
With that being said, let's dive in!
What is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is defined differently depending on whom you ask. For instance, HubSpot defines sales enablement as:
"The iterative process of providing your [business'] sales team with the resources they need to close more deals. These resources may include content, tools, knowledge, and information to effectively sell your product or service to customers."
According to Brainshark, sales enablement is:
"A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and front-line sales managers along the entire customer's buying journey, powered by technology."
Sales Hacker has a simpler definition than either of the companies above:
"Getting the right people in the right conversations with the right [decision] makers in the right way."
As you can see, there's quite a bit of variation when it comes to pinpointing exactly what sales enablement is. However, there are some key features that are shared (or at least implied) by almost every definition of this term:
- Sales enablement isn't just a high-tech cure for poorly-performing sales and marketing teams. Rather, it's a strategic approach to the overall sales process.
- Sales enablement encompasses more than just your sales department. For example, the marketing department is heavily involved in sales enablement more often than not.
- The basic objective of sales enablement is, as the name suggests, to enable your sales team to sell at optimal levels.
- Sales enablement is an ongoing process that must be continually reviewed and refined for the best results.
Of course, sales enablement involves the use of specific tools, software, platforms, and training initiatives to optimize the sales process. And if you are a little skeptical about how important a well-defined sales enablement program actually is, just glance over these statistics:
- 75% of companies using sales enablement tools report increased sales in the past 12 months.
- 40% of those same companies report growth of 25% or more.
- 59% of businesses that exceed their revenue goals have clearly defined sales enablement functions, versus only 30% of underperforming businesses.
Now that we've discussed what sales enablement is all about, and how it can drive tangible results, let's drill down into some of the specifics around this concept.
The Different Aspects of Sales Enablement
Since sales enablement encompasses a broad range of operations and business processes, let's break down some of the key elements of an effective sales enablement program. We'll start with:
Reporting and Analysis
Big data can be a wonderful asset — but it can also overwhelm your sales team with non-vital information. A well-designed sales enablement program can help your employees to harness the power of data without losing sight of what's relevant to the bottom line. For instance:
- Standardized reporting. Sales enablement professionals can bridge the gap between which metrics management needs to see and how sales reps compile their reports. They can also improve the way sales reps guide customers through their buyer's journey. As one example, standardized activity reports, consolidated into a centralized platform, can help one salesperson pick up where the previous one left off when a specific customer reaches out to the company.
- Lead qualification. Lead scoring systems are a big part of most sales enablement programs. After all, why pursue leads that are probably not a good fit for your business in the first place? On the other hand, a data-driven lead scoring system will assign "positive weight" to individuals and/or companies that fit the profile of an "ideal customer."
- Sales process audit. Many third-party sales enablement consultants will begin their contract with a comprehensive audit of the client's sales process. This will help pinpoint "bottlenecks" and opportunities early on, and allow the consultant and client to collaborate in a highly focused way. Of course, in-house sales enablement initiatives should also include such an audit.
Optimized Sales Content
In today's Digital Age, so much of selling revolves around the development and distribution of content — specifically, the right content, for the right consumer, at the right time. Granted, content creation is primarily identified with marketing; but that doesn't mean your sales team can get by without effective content. From testimonials to personalized emails, sales content plays a big role in closing deals.
With that in mind, here are some ways sales enablement can optimize your content:
- Organization. You could have a gigantic content library full of exceptional material — but if your sales reps don't know where to find the information, then it won't have any effect on your bottom line. One of the common functions of a sales enablement program is to consolidate and centralize all sales content in one location. Then, with a little training, it will be a breeze for your reps to find exactly what's needed to guide their lead down the sales funnel.
- Content development. Sometimes sales enablement professionals have to develop a base of sales content for the various funnel stages and customer personas targeted by the client. For instance, sales enablement may mean the creation of case studies to showcase your brand's strengths and capabilities, as well as the benefits to "lookalike" consumers that bought from or contracted with your company. Testimonials are also important since they provide "social proof" that can really move the needle. Whatever the case may be, content development may be a big part of the overall sales enablement process for your business — especially when it comes to video content.
- Template creation. Content personalization can provide a huge boost for sales reps looking to move prospects down the sales funnel. However, it would be unrealistic and counterproductive to expect your salespeople to create personalized content from scratch on a daily basis. That's where templates come into the picture. For instance, email templates give your reps a solid starting point for connecting with a lead, but also allow them some flexibility in terms of customization.
Sales enablement also involves automating routine processes for your sales reps so that they can focus on the more important aspects of their job — namely, connecting with high-value prospects and closing sales. Some common avenues of automation that a sales enablement program can tap into include:
- Email sequences. These are popular among many (if not most) companies that conduct their business online — and for good reason! Think about an email sequence that is triggered by an online purchase: the customer may receive an order confirmation email that provides peace of mind, a follow-up email that keeps the brand and related products "top-of-mind," and an additional support email that helps to enhance the overall buying experience. Automated email sequences do a lot of the "heavy lifting" after the sale has been closed — without tying up your busy sales reps.
- Automated prospecting. Some CRM platforms send out automated emails in a sales rep's name that include a direct link to their calendar. This makes it extremely convenient for the customer to schedule an appointment with the rep, even if they access the calendar outside of normal business hours. All the rep has to do is open his or her calendar to see if any meetings are scheduled for that day, and then it's off to the races!
- Live chat. Visitors to your company's website already have a level of interest in your brand or product, so it only makes sense to engage with them during their session. Sales enablement professionals may set up a live chat option to connect your sales reps with website visitors. Of course, not every visitor to your site is going to be a high-value prospect, which is why live chat automation often incorporates filtering parameters so that only high-scoring leads make it past the "firewall" and into the sights of your sales team.
As you can tell from our discussion up until now, sales enablement is not something to be taken lightly, or implemented in a haphazard fashion. It has many moving parts and requires a certain level of expertise for the best results. Nevertheless, the benefits of executing a well-rounded sales enablement program almost always outweigh the upfront costs.
The Benefits of Sales Enablement
We could talk about scores of benefits that come from sales enablement, but let's just focus on three big advantages:
1. A repeatable process for increasing revenue
By establishing a solid, yet flexible sales enablement program, you're setting your company up for increased revenue for years to come. Why? Because past successes do not predict future results. Sales reps, no matter how skilled or experienced they are, need regular, ongoing training in order to achieve peak performance. In fact, research indicates that sales reps will likely forget up to 90% of a given training program within a week!
This is where sales enablement comes into the picture. A well-established sales enablement program allows you to:
- Spot mistakes and opportunities during your periodic audits
- Adapt your training programs and course materials to your sales team's specific areas of need
- Reinforce practical skills through frequent "upskilling" and "microlearning" modules
2. A shorter sales cycle
The sales cycle is a relatively simple concept, at least in theory. The longer your sales cycle is, the fewer sales your company will make; in other words, if your reps are spending a big chunk of their time on sales-adjacent activities instead of actually selling, then it will take longer to close deals, and you won't be able to connect with as many prospects.
The converse is also true: if you can shorten the sales cycle for your reps, then your company will acquire more customers and experience a higher growth rate. By leveraging sales enablement best practices, you'll be able to do just that. For example:
- Organizing your sales content in a user-friendly library will help your reps to find those case studies, testimonials, and other materials quickly and efficiently — and then share them with the right lead to close the sale.
- Providing your reps with initial, ongoing, and "just-in-time" training will help them to perform up to expectations on each and every sales interaction.
- Leveraging standardized reporting methods will help your reps to access key information and field "hand-offs" from your marketing team so that they can seamlessly pick up where the other employee left off.
And speaking of the sales-marketing dynamic...
3. Enhanced alignment between sales and marketing
One of the biggest and most common pain points for modern companies lies in the disconnect between their sales and marketing departments. There may be disagreement over what constitutes a "marketing qualified lead" versus a "sales qualified lead," what type of content is needed to move a prospect down the funnel, and at exactly what point a lead should transition from one department to the other.
A high quality sales enablement program can make a lot of those problems vanish. For example:
- A sales enablement program may present clear guidelines on when marketing should hand a lead over to sales, and how to score a lead for quality.
- The program may also provide several avenues of communication between the two departments that will ensure a more collaborative approach. For instance, the marketing team may be invited to meetings with the sales team, and vice versa; or one employee from each team may be designated a "point of contact," and regularly share feedback and insights with his/her counterpart.
- Ultimately, the sales enablement process can help sales and marketing to move past the "blame game" and focus on the most important goal: growing the business.
In summary, sales enablement is an impactful, holistic approach to sales and customer retention. It can make your sales team more effective, streamline the overall sales process, and improve alignment between your sales and marketing departments. If you'd like to learn more about the many benefits of sales enablement, and how to implement it in your company, reach out to our sales enablement experts at OverGo Studio today for a free consultation.