Working in sales, you frequently come across new terms. One of the hot topics right now is sales enablement. We all find ourselves using it, but what does it really mean? Is it just another buzzword, or does it offer a specific field of practice that is delivering real benefits with measurable results to sales organizations?
Companies who have adopted sales enablement practices are experiencing a change in their sales organization ecosystem. They’re witnessing a thriving environment and experiencing upward trends in areas like revenue, productivity, and win rates. Alternatively, these companies are seeing a downward trend in areas like speed to revenue, sale cycle period, customer churn, and staff attrition rate. Investment in this sales model helps drive sales teams to peak performance and customers to brand loyalty.
With so many questions surrounding the validity of the term and how to implement the model, let’s take a look at the four essential elements of sales enablement:
Defining sales enablement
The importance of implementing sales enablement
Sales enablement best practices
Ownership of sales enablement
DEFINING SALES ENABLEMENT
Sales enablement is about getting the right people in the right conversations with the right decision-makers. To increase revenue, break the complexity of sales enablement into practical ideas through scalable and repeatable practices. It means increasing productivity by adopting a systematic approach to support content and internal tools that drive incremental revenue. The model focuses on metrics, tracking, and reporting to substantiate the ROI that the sales team brings to the company.
The resources delivered can take on many forms like customer-facing content, best practices, CRMs, and tools. Regardless of the type of information or solution used, it should be easy to consume and focus on enabling your sales force to understand who the buyer is and how your solution(s) can help prospects and clients grow their top line or save cost.
Defining Attributes of Sales Enablement:
Sales enablement is straightforward. It relates to equipping salespeople with the resources they need to sell more effectively, engage, and collaborate with target buyers. The term is less about sales and more buyer-centric. As such, it’s important to remember a simple tenet – provide sales with the resources the buyer wants and needs to view your salespeople as credible advisors. Potential buyers will often leverage the resources sellers give to them with other stakeholders in the organization. So, arm sellers with high-quality assets to use in their communications.
Typically, the information provided is grouped into two categories and becomes a critical part of defining your program. On the one hand, you have assets that sales will deliver to potential buyers. On the other hand, there are processes, research, training, and tools or solutions for internal consumption. Providing and implementing proven sales enablement solutions is an essential strategy as it will lower time sellers are spending researching.
Sales teams must know how to use the resources you provide to them. Sales leaders who understand how vital resource adoption is, place a high emphasis on training and development. The most effective programs conduct traditional training programs but also use technologies like collaboration tools to make sales training continuous. Sales leaders optimize future efforts based on providing helpful and useful solutions and training.
Sales enablement is measurable. Tracking metrics such as average sales cycle length, deal size, and the number of reps meeting quota is an excellent place to start.
THE IMPORTANCE OF IMPLEMENTING SALES ENABLEMENT
Sales enablement delivers a compelling benefit – it allows a large number of salespeople to achieve quota in a scalable, predictable, and repeatable fashion. It’s designed to democratize the sales organization so that you’re no longer dependent on a handful of superheroes to hit the team quota. Yes, there will always be those who have a natural ability to exceed their targets, but how do you enable a broader spectrum of salespeople to achieve their goals?
Scaling the sales organization beyond a handful of over-achievers provides all team members with best practices, knowledge, tools, and resources required to be successful. It’s essentially an effort to standardize what it takes to be successful in sales. One critical best practice is to designate over-achievers as leaders or teachers of the program.
SALES ENABLEMENT BEST PRACTICES
Be able to define and outline the specific objectives for your program. At a high level, your plan should focus on helping your team sell more effectively. As already discussed, the process starts with providing salespeople with everything they need to engage and convert buyers. However, what do you focus on from there?
Here are a few options to consider:
Creating high-quality client-facing content
Having a CRM in place that aligns marketing and sales
Providing a sales enablement solution in place such as ClientIQ
Training and having effective internal controls and processes in place
Building an improved business case that is meaningful to your client
Teaching sales to serve in an advisory role to the client
Teaching sales to articulate the value they are bringing to the client
The buyer’s experience should be the foundation of your sales program. Empower your team to engage the buyer by understanding their business and pain points. Provide your team with the skills it takes to walk into a buyer’s office and deliver a compelling, value-based proposition and arm them with case studies and the ability to articulate to potential buyers the value they have brought to other organizations.
With today’s IoT and digital transformation, prospective clients aren’t interested in hearing about feature functions. CxO types want to know what value you are bringing to them with your solutions. These high-level executives don’t want numbers promised to them. They are savvy buyers with loads of data at their fingertips. They know their numbers better than any potential seller would. Most are interested in top-line growth or cost savings. Prepare your sellers to be able to have conversations with C-Suite executives in a way they can appreciate, respect, and understand.
Create and use high-quality content. Content is quickly becoming the “force multiplier” of most modern sales organizations. Creating content such as blog posts, white papers, and webinars allow a large number of salespeople to deliver value to buyers in a scalable, controllable way.
Make sales training an always-on, continuous effort. Training allows your sales force the opportunity to get up to speed on new trends and keeps them fresh, energized, and ready to apply what they have learned. Most sales training programs suffer from a fatal flaw – they happen once a year. To combat this, you should make sales training a continuous effort. Quality training will keep your sellers fresh and bring them up to date on current market trends and verticals.
OWNERSHIP OF SALES ENABLEMENT
Sales enablement is owned jointly by sales and marketing. There are a few simple organizational rules that can help you structure your program.
Both sales and marketing should collaborate on the resources needed for the program. Standard resource requirements include content, sales training, and a sales enablement solution.
Marketing is usually responsible for creating the vast majority of this information.
Marketing should bear most of the responsibility for lead nurturing and establishing lead scoring metrics to determine when a contact has interacted enough to convert to a sales qualified lead.
Sales operations play a crucial role in “operationalizing” the information sales receives as part of the sales enablement program. Finally, it’s up to sales management to make sure that the sales enablement program is in practice.
There is one other organizational point to consider – sales enablement can and should be a mindset or part of the corporate culture. Companies who understand that all employees are involved in helping improve sales performance are the ones that truly embrace the meaning of sales enablement.