What Is Sales Enablement? A Complete Guide to Getting it Right
- by Elay Cohen
- February 2, 2023
-Elay Cohen, Founder of the original Sales Enablement Platform – SalesHood.com
Sales enablement continues to evolve and mature rapidly. The pandemic has changed the way we sell forever—organizations have been forced to make drastic changes to their sales enablement programs, focusing on virtual enablement and virtual selling. Having a sales enablement program is no longer an option. It’s a must-have business imperative.
When you can unlock the power of sales enablement through an optimized sales enablement platform that includes onboarding and new hire training, modeling, pitch practice, and feedback–something really magical happens. All of your revenue teams are aligned with the same messaging, same pitch, and the same strategy–it’s a beautiful thing.
In this sales enablement guide you’ll learn about the personnel, the sales enablement processes and software, and the industry leaders you need to follow to stay attuned to the latest sales enablement strategies and best practices.
What is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is the alignment of people, processes, and priorities using relevant training, coaching, content, and communications.
The idea is that when you deliver the right action to the right people at the right time, it correlates to superior sales performance. When you align your people, processes, and priorities with your go-to-market metrics and revenue outcomes, the magic of sales enablement will come to life at your company, exploding your revenue, deal size and win rate.
You can also read my book, Enablement Mastery, for a more comprehensive understanding of how to master sales enablement.
Or, watch this 2-minute video outlining the book and offering more insight.
Sales enablement is important because it facilitates better use of resources across all areas of the business and aligns the sales and marketing teams. It uses a cohesive strategy for companies to increase win rates and better utilize the sales process.
We’re seeing a massive shift from capacity to efficiency. Companies are focused on improving sales effectiveness and sales efficiency versus hiring at all costs.
The current reality and hard truth of sales team performance today is that:
Most of our customers come to us with very similar performance challenges.
Why is this happening? Most underperforming and struggling with sales efficiency across these dimensions:
These statistics leave a huge opportunity for improvement with sales enablement. Poor sales performance is a direct effect of sales teams not being aligned, not modeling top seller behavior, and not having consistent sales pitch practice & feedback – which are some of the main problems sales enablement platforms aim to solve.
Great sales enablement involves building a successful infrastructure of sales content, and a renewing network of feedback and improvements to the sales process that can be made in real time.
There’s no single approach to creating an effective sales enablement strategy. Different companies and analysts all have varying opinions and implementation strategies, and many of them work.
While great sales enablement can look different depending on industry, organization, and team structure, you can use these four pillars to guide your sales enablement programs and initiatives:
It’s important to make sure that the go-to-market strategy is about everyone in the company – you want everyone in the company to be on the same page.
The seemingly simple question of “what does your company DO” needs to resonate loud and clear with every member of every team.
For sellers specifically this means making sure they have mastered their sales pitch. Read our Sales Pitch Practice blog to get insight on how to enable your sales reps to craft sales pitches that create meaningful conversations with prospects.
Is your sales content easily accessible for your sales enablement team? Sales enablement’s job is to connect the dots and to take all the useful content that your teams produce and plug it into a library that is searchable, and makes relevant, on-message content available exactly when your sales team needs it most. If the content isn’t available sales enablement can create it based on the data and insights your sales team collects through daily conversations and interactions with customers and prospects.
Sales enablement provides sales organizations with a crew that will push the right content at the right time. Effective sales enablement will make a seamless content pass, and give your salespeople exactly what they need at the right point in the sales funnel.
In addition to looking at the data on your programs, be sure to listen to your sales reps in the field – they are your best source of information for determining what is and isn’t working. The flow of information is vital and produces immediate responses at the most critical times in the sales conversation.
A sales enablement professional works as a messenger between the sales teams and HR, marketing, and all other teams found in sales organizations.
Sheevaun Thatcher is one of the best sales enablement leaders on the planet. Her four pillars are universal, practical, and highly impactful if followed by both sales and marketing. Watch the video below to learn her four pillars of sales enablement.
While implementing the four pillars–combine them with the following three sales enablement best practices to ensure a solid foundation for success:
We’ll start with strategic alignment to make sure that you have clear objectives for your organization’s sales enablement efforts. First, know who is responsible for which parts of the process. Make sure your entire team is on board, from the CEO to the newest sales intern.
In the process of exploring your assets, ensure that all of the content is accessible to the necessary stakeholders. Audit the material regularly and update it as needed and in a reasonable amount of time. Remove your old content so that no one uses it by mistake. Verify that all messaging is current on all external materials and that internal materials consistently reflect the culture of the company.
Highlight appropriate steps on the Process map to ensure you start with the processes that work for your company’s strategy. With a map, you can scale efficiently as your organization grows, improve sales productivity and win rates increase. A solid foundation guarantees that performance will increase. As your company expands, you can incorporate more complex tools and technology.
The sales enablement process can benefit sales organizations in several ways, depending on how well it’s used. Below are five practices to help reinforce sales enablement best practices across your organization.
Case study after case study proves that sales enablement software drives more impactful new hire sales training, shorter time to ramp, and shorter time to quota attainment–all of which can be done virtually. Watch the video below to learn the guiding principles of new hire sales onboarding.
With new hire sales onboarding being remote, we’re challenged to creatively deliver amazingly rich onboarding experiences 100% virtually. It’s impossible for us to fly our teams to headquarters to get onboarded with an in-person bootcamp experience.
Download the Essential Guide To Sales Onboarding.
Lindsey Morga, Revenue Enablement Manager, walks us through how her team quickly pivoted to a 100% virtual new hire onboarding and sales training program during the pandemic—nearly overnight. She shares some amazing insights and practical ideas for companies looking to boost time to ramp for new sales hires.
|Sales Onboarding & Sales Training Resources|
When you establish sales enablement as a priority across the entire company, you’ll find that marketing and sales work better together, sales communications improve, and sales productivity increases.
Sales teams no longer blame marketing for creating inefficient content, and marketing stops asking why sales teams don’t use their resources. Instead, it elevates best practices and everyone is aware of and invested in on-brand company messaging, the customer experience, performance analytics, quota attainment and sales success. For more insight read our Sales and Marketing Alignment with Sales Enablement blog.
Sharing, collaborating, sales pitch practice, and feedback is necessary for sales team members to grow, evolve and ultimately become more effective. Of all the sales enablement software out there, SalesHood differs by making peer-to-peer collaboration and learning a primary focus. At its core, an organization is driven by its employees, so we focused on making team sharing easy, intuitive and impactful. Read How to Turn Sales Pitches into Meaningful Conversations.
How would weekly huddles, sales pitch practice and peer feedback impact your sales teams?
Modeling top seller behavior is a sales hack that is easy to understand in theory, but hard to execute effectively at scale. That being said, modeling the performance of top sellers is a critical component to foster professional development among the sales teams and grow revenue. Top teams use sales enablement platforms and initiatives to facilitate the modeling of top sales performer behavior and share those best practices across the sales team.
Through active feedback, sharing, and practicing, the rest of the sales team can replicate the strategies and processes top sellers use.
With cross-department collaboration sales practices in place, sales representatives can spend more of their time enriching each buyer’s journey. Ongoing content training provides sales reps with the most updated resources, so they have the right information at the right time during the buying process. Sellers waste less time looking for that information and can focus that time and energy on the buyer instead. That speeds up the buying process and leads to a shorter sales cycle.
Shorter sales cycles plus consistent messaging and aligned teams means higher win rates. Plus, the insight from your sales enablement platform allows you to figure out what to keep doing and what to change, so that you can continue to drive higher attainment and higher revenue growth.
Higher revenue is a natural byproduct of a whole company adoption. When a sales enablement manager oversees the execution, the marketing department and the sales team work together, and the numbers speak for themselves.
“What’s the difference between sales enablement and sales operations?”
To answer your question, ask yourself one more: Who is the focus?
Is it sales-focused, or is it buyer-focused? Another way to look at it is in terms of an external audience or internal audience.
See that shift in focus? It goes from a technical, numbers-based consideration to one that reflects human needs.
When in doubt, think of it this way.
Sales operations is responsible for planning and organizing sales teams and everything that accompanies that, from sales territory optimization to sales compensation, from analytics to sales technology.
In contrast, sales enablement works with the people who are doing the sales; it encompasses onboarding, training, certification, coaching, sales communication, sales material assets, and finally measurement and optimization of sales performance results. SalesHood’s sales enablement platform helps identify the top sales performers, adding a bit of competition and gamification, which is frequently identified as a key element of improvement. Everyone wants to be recognized for doing well!
Understanding that sales enablement is responsible to sales rather than for sales can also solidify the difference.
The most effective implementation as a company-wide movement happens when it moves from the top-down and the bottom-up. It starts with the CEO and touches every employee, partner, and customer. It includes all departments, teams, and roles.
Everyone plays a part. Everyone is enabled. The essence is to help companies grow their business faster by aligning their people, processes, and priorities. Let’s talk about that in-depth.
The CEOs and CFOs of many companies lament the expense created by misaligned departments. Having marketing, sales, and customer support on different pages or pointing the blame at each other for low sales wastes time and resources. An environment with aligned sales, customer support, and marketing teams will foster a productive organization that delivers a better experience to customers. The focus shifts outward to the buyer journey through the sales cycle, rather than on the internal misalignment and what’s not working.
Aligning across all parts of your organization means that you want to include everyone and keep them informed. Does everybody know the “why” behind what the company is doing? Have you created a collaborative environment with real-time, data-driven feedback on what is working and what is not? If you haven’t, this is where you need to start.
A streamlined sales process like MEDDPICC allows you to achieve consistency in sales, which in turn drives improved sales performance, higher quota attainment, and ultimately increases revenue. It does this by reducing the time to ramp and maximizing sales productivity and sales effectiveness. It provides the basis for aligning sales attainment and achievements to recognition efforts–one of the key components of aligning a sales process.
Many available tools can make sure that these processes and people work in harmony. You can align them through management coaching, learning about the product, and completing certifications that impact how you sell and how well you hit quota.
Common priorities across the company result in clearly communicated goals, especially where it applies available learning paths and training. In turn, content that is both consistent in messaging and in delivery drives culture. Modules that enable sales reps to focus on their learning path increase belief in the product and allows for curiosity-driven sales, thereby enabling your sales team to be the best they can be.
If you still have questions about bringing people and priorities together, read these blog posts to help deepen your understanding.
At what point in your company’s growth should you consider sales enablement? Some company and sales leaders would say from the beginning. Even if you don’t have a dedicated department due to a lack of resources, you should still have a plan for attaining one. You can begin incorporating sales enablement efforts without a dedicated sales enablement department and then tie that integration to a plan for growth.
Some companies find that over time the individual helping with sales implementation and enablement efforts as a side responsibility ends up devoting more and more hours to the practice. The insights and data-driven results speak to the value of investing in the process. You need to remain competitive, especially when so much content is available for consumption, and the speed of its output keeps climbing. If you want to build a sustainable business, being aware of and investing in sales enablement capabilities from the start is critical.
Skilled sales enablement specialists can help increase alignment across departments and drive increased productivity and, in turn, increase revenue. They understand the value of the process and can communicate its necessity in a compelling manner that helps bring stakeholders and decision-makers on board.
There are currently over 279,000 sales enablement specialists on LinkedIn with an array of skill levels and competencies with backgrounds in Sales Training, Product Marketing, Sales Engineering, Learning & Development, Sales Managers, Salespeople & Sales Operations.
Just like a skilled sales enablement specialist, a sales enablement manager should have certain skills. Your sales enablement manager, sales ops leader, VPs of sales, sales manager and other sales leaders should be focused on developing leadership skills that drive the practice.
A strong sales enablement manager needs to know how to:
To learn how to be a strategic sales enablement leader and start executing sales enablement strategy the right way check out our Sales Enablement Leadership Course.
The sales enablement processes represent how you achieve your company’s revenue and business goals. You’ll need to use diverse methods to accomplish different business outcomes.
The Sales Enablement Process Map is based on a framework that works left to right and top to bottom. Start your journey by defining and codifying your processes and turning them into learning programs and tools. That way, this content can be used by sales and marketing, including customer-facing representatives. This approach allows you to work from the company culture and inform your content with your why.
You want to focus on the most basic sales enablement strategies and tactics first before you go into advanced and mature initiatives. That’s how the left to right and the top to bottom flow is designed to work. You can build your process as your organization masters the most basic strategies.
Next, close the loop by correlating attainment to activities and celebrating achievements. You can read all about the Enablement Process Map in the book, Enablement Mastery, written by SalesHood’s CEO Elay Cohen.
When it comes to implementation challenges, the primary concern is that marketing, sales, and other departments may continue to remain siloed and out of sync. This disconnection can result in less than ideal content and, consequently, decreased sales performance. However, the pitfalls of not moving forward with a sales enablement strategy will have a higher impact.
Sellers not being aligned, modeling top behavior, or practicing consistently can weigh down an organization’s revenue. This can be rectified with a sales enablement initiative and using a sales enablement platform to drive the process. Without a sales enablement platform program your sales team will suffer from three common pitfalls.
Without a sales enablement platform, your sales team might end up with a scattershot approach to the sales process. Out in the field, especially in the B2B arena, buyers want short, accessible pitch decks and information. Sales teams use the tools and materials they can find but they aren’t always asking for, using, or even aware of the latest organizational resources. This creates a gap in what the organization is producing, the buyer is wanting, and what the sales team is using. This can be corrected through a stronger marketing and sales alignment strategy. Read more about that here.
Lack of consistency across departments results in a watered-down culture and ineffective branding. If the sales team does not represent the business consistently, how can you expect to support the buyer’s journey effectively? How can you communicate your message to the buyer in a way that results in high win rates for your company? You can’t.
A fragmented approach coupled with inconsistent culture can result in a prolonged sales cycle, missed sales forecasts, and unimpressive numbers. Without sales, you can’t run a successful business. That’s why you need to know what you want to say to buyers and make sure everyone is aligned with that message.
With the explosive popularity, many sales enablement platforms were created with too much of a focus on completing certifications or ticking check-boxes rather than true skills learning and training. For your sales enablement process to be successful, your teams need to engage and learn from each other – consistently, preferably daily. If your sales enablement platform is not driving interaction, modeling, and pitch practice it will not help your team.
Successful sales enablement strategies are tailored to your team’s specific needs and help provide the team with the sales enablement tools they need to increase effective sales. In contrast to a sales onboarding process, or training and coaching alone, an effective implementation process is ongoing, rather than yearly or intermittent.
An effective sales enablement process examines and analyzes all the resources available to sales to ensure that it efficiently and effectively helps sales reps drive successful deals and convert leads into customers.
To scale high-impact sales enablement, activity and business impact need to be measured from benchmarking to performance correlation. Leading and lagging indicators should be systematically reviewed and assessed. Sometimes, it’s too late to just look at quota attainment and closed business. Activities like emails, calls meetings scheduled and pipeline created are great leading indicators to measure and coach. Leading indicators provide insights into what’s working and what’s not working.
Measuring impact doesn’t have to be complicated. With our sales enablement software, you can easily track leading vs lagging indicators and run correlation reports that quickly and accurately measure and visualize the impact of implementing sales enablement best practices. You can see these specific sales enablement KPIs and metrics.
Sales training is a key component of sales enablement. It’s part of a never-ending cycle of enriching your team, and most importantly, it is ongoing. Training cannot only happen on an annual or biannual basis. When considering how to design your team’s training, you must consider modular content and compact elements. Create training content that your team can access via sales enablement technology and can consume in short bursts of time. Some examples of sales training tools might include role-playing scenarios, training videos, or call or email scripts.
Continual coaching is an integral feature of successful teams. Streamlining scorecards and content for managers can maximize coaching outcomes by efficiently using their time and resources. Sales enablement workflows can help with this. An example would be Mutual Closing Plans (MCP Huddles), which is an available component that comes with SalesHood’s sales enablement software.
Having regular coaching assessments that track each individual rep and individual coaching conversations allows your team to see the data behind which coaching is most effective and efficient. Specific coaching assessments managers can access also ensures consistency in the approach and assessment of individual team members as they progress.
What are your win rates? Are your sales reps and managers hitting their quota and delivering sales? What are you doing as an enablement leader to improve sales effectiveness?
Sales content refers to all the sales collateral provided by the marketing and sales enablement team to your sales team. The content might provide best practices or checklists of tasks and should include everything necessary to allow the salesperson to focus on the buyer and help the customer buy your company’s product.
These sales enablement tools can be utilized and leveraged to implement sales enablement across the entire company. SalesHood’s sales enablement software is purpose-built for sales enablement leaders. Find out why you should choose SalesHood.
Customer Relationship Management – There are endless CRM program options available to companies and organizations of all types. An effective CRM integrates with other systems that your company is currently using. Notable tools might include sales tracking and marketing campaign engagement.
Storing all your content in a single place allows your team to access sales content and information when they need it most without wondering where it’s stored. Although content management systems are often seen as falling under a marketing umbrella, they are a perfect example of why and how sales enablement is a company-wide mindset.
Sales enablement is about helping teams onboard faster, along with improving effectiveness and productivity and measuring it constantly. It is about fostering a culture of learning, where teams practice their skills. It encourages mentorship and creates a space for people to learn from each other.
That said, not all sales enablement is equal. Many organizations are plagued with bad sales enablement initiatives that include:
As you start building your team and working with other departments, have an open dialogue about what sales enablement means to you and your team. Create a conversation where team members can discuss their experiences and voice any questions they have or things they don’t understand. Understand their mindsets. Talk about what an engaging and successful process looks like, as well as how a negative process looks. Having these conversations will help increase openness and buy-in among employees. You can also use it to set the stage for implementation down the road.
Sales enablement content is critical to your organization’s efforts. It’s the single most powerful tool that enablement teams can provide the sales team. As discussed in a previous enablement content post, a great content library has to be like a professional kitchen – where every tool is easy to reach, intuitive, and exactly where you want it at the most crucial and often time sensitive moments. It’s also important that it’s searchable and well-organized.
Today’s sales enablement leaders are pioneers in defining sales enablement. They are all revenue multipliers making huge impacts at their companies and in the industry.
Make sure to follow these Sales Enablement Leaders Making it Happen and these Inspiring Women in Sales Enablement as they continue to innovate in the field of Sales Enablement.
Sales enablement collateral encompasses all the tools, material, and content that your team creates and crafts to train sales representatives. It allows the salespeople to present a company’s value proposition to the buyer effectively and includes educational content for your sales enablement team.
It isn’t necessarily external or customer-facing, and it isn’t something that would be available to anyone outside your company. For example, the information presented might have data that examines competitors’ products or services.
Some of the questions that sales enablement collateral might look at are:
From sales coaching, to SaaS sales training, to sales enablement best practices, we’ve compiled our most useful sales enablement resources and tools for your organization’s sales enablement strategy and its implementation.
Sales Enablement is an organizational mindset and commitment to readiness and excellence, starting with the CEO and touching every employee in your company: sales, marketing, business development, partners, engineering, support, human resources, leadership team, etc
A high-impact sales enablement strategy brings departments and leaders together around shared priorities, performance metrics, and expectations and is powered by the right sales enablement platform; book a demo to see SalesHood in action.
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