What Is Sales Enablement? The Hypergrowth Secret Sauce
- by Elay Cohen
- September 2, 2019
SalesHood - Sales Enablement Platform
“The essence of Sales Enablement is to help companies grow their business faster by aligning their people, processes, and priorities.”
Founder of the Original Sales Enablement Platform – SalesHood.com
When you think of today’s hyper-growth companies one of the most prominent – if not the most prominent- company that comes to mind is Salesforce.
If you could learn the key selling methodology Salesforce used to grow into a $13 Billion dollar company directly from one of the executives that led the charge – would you be interested?
If so – read on.
This is for you.
This repeatable, results-focused selling system exponentially increases company revenue, unites departments, strengthens company culture and facilitates hyper-growth for businesses of all sizes.
Sales Enablement is the alignment of people, processes, and priorities using relevant learning, coaching, and communications.
The idea driving sales enablement 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 enablement will come to life at your company, exploding your revenue, deal size and win rate.
Sales Enablement is important because it facilitates better use of resources across all areas of the business—the marketing department, the sales team. It uses a cohesive strategy for companies to increase win rates and better utilize the sales process.
The percentage of achievement starts breaking records when you integrate sales enablement and execute it well. It’s not just about the concept—it’s about the practice and the drive behind it. Before we get into why you should consider this technique, let’s look at what you miss out on if you’re not using it.
Without a sales enablement program, your 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 aren’t always accessing or aware of the latest resources created by the marketing teams.
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 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 on board with that message.
The process can benefit sales organizations in several ways, depending on how well it’s used. Here are three that can fix the detriments we just talked about.
When you initialize 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 teams stop asking why sales operations teams don’t use their resources. Instead, it elevates best practices, and everyone is aware of and invested in on-brand company messaging, customer experience, performance analytics, and quota attainment and sales success.
With cross-department collaboration sales practices in place, sales representatives can spend more of their time enriching each buyer’s journey. The ongoing content training provides reps with the most updated resources, so they have the right information at the right time during the buying process. They 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.
Higher revenue is a natural byproduct of a whole company adoption of sales enablement. When a sales manager oversees the execution, the marketing department and the sales team work together, and the numbers speak for themselves.
Shorter sales cycles plus consistent messaging and aligned teams means higher win rates. Plus, the insights from sales enablement software and tools allow 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.
“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.
Sales operations encompass all the pieces that go into making sales happen: the quotas, the territories, how many people you need to hire, and so on.
Sales enablement is about enabling your team to help buyers. It provides them with all of the tools they need to present your product in a way that shows buyers how your company can help them. It is about ensuring that your salespeople have the right resources, training, and information to optimize their interactions with buyers during every step in the buying process.
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 territory optimization to compensation, from analytics to 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 results. In addition our sales enablement platform helps identify the highest performers which adds 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 of sales enablement is to help companies grow their business faster by aligning their people, processes, and priorities. Let’s talk about that in-depth.
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 allows you to drive consistency, which in turn drives better performance and better attainment. Better performance and attainment drive up revenue. It does this by reducing the time to ramp and maximizing productivity and lift. The key to aligned processes is connecting attainment to activities and celebrating achievements.
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 reps to focus on their learning path increase belief in the product and allows for curiosity-driven sales, thereby enabling your team to be the best they can be.
You can also read my latest book, Enablement Mastery, for a more comprehensive understanding of how to master this method. If you’d rather watch a short intro, watch this 2-minute video outlining the book and offering more insight.
At what point in your company’s growth should you consider sales enablement? Some would say from the beginning. If you don’t have a dedicated department due to a lack of resources, you still need a plan. And yes, you can incorporate it without a dedicated department.
Some companies find that over time the individual helping with implementation as a side responsibility ends up devoting more and more hours to sales enablement. 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 these capabilities from the start is critical.
When done right, it’s definitely no small task. But that doesn’t mean it’s unattainable.
Often, Sales Enablement leaders say things like, “My job covers many departments.” For some enablement professionals, their job becomes a place where companies incubate new ideas and wandering initiatives. They sometimes take on projects no one wants, but that still serve a purpose.
These professionals quickly become administrators, logistical experts, and event planners all rolled into one. Sales Enablement professionals are the ones doing the late-night run to FedEx to get the workshop agenda and training content printed. They do it because they care.
To be most effective, the practice requires a specialist. That specialist may take the form of a sales manager, or they might appear as another type of sales professional. A sales enablement specialist knows how to bridge the gap between sales operations, sales, and marketing.
Marketing is traditionally responsible for creating and crafting content designed to attract leads and inform customers about products or services. As an example, they may develop brochures or draft email campaigns.
The sales department, on the other hand, is responsible for converting leads into customers. Reps then use the content that the marketing department has produced. They may search for content to find the right information to share with the customer.
The CEOs and CFOs of many companies lament the expense created by misaligned departments. Having marketing, sales, and management on different pages or pointing the blame at each other for low sales wastes time and resources. An environment with aligned sales, sales operations, and marketing teams will be a productive one. The focus shifts outward to the buyer journey through the sales cycle, rather than on the internal customers and what’s not working.
Skilled sales enablers can help increase alignment across departments and drive increased productivity and, in turn, increase revenue. They understand the value of the process, they can communicate it’s necessity in a compelling manner that helps brings stakeholders and decision makers on board.
“Having marketing and sales on different pages or pointing the blame at each other for low sales wastes time and resources. An environment with aligned sales, sales operations, and marketing teams will be a productive one.”
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.
One way to surmount this challenge is by using sales enablement software and tools. Frequently, a multitude of programs and cloud services house content and information. Keep all that material in one space, where data can be evaluated across systems and departments can provide valuable insights into what is and is not working. Consolidation via enablement software also makes information more accessible to the team as a whole.
Overcoming this challenge has impactful benefits. A unified team can provide better value to buyers. Better value, when communicated effectively, results in improved sales for your company.
Based on my time leading Sales Productivity at Salesforce and accelerating revenue from $300M to $3B, we’ve packaged our proven methodology into SalesHood.
“A unified team can provide better value.”
For sales enablement to be effective in a company, buy-in across all levels of the sales organization is critical. Communicating the benefits to the stakeholders can help increase engagement.
The first followers are the hardest to convince. Beginning with alignment allows for unity around company messaging and culture. As buy-in spreads throughout the team, the impact will have exponential results beyond the company walls.
There’s no single approach to creating an effective strategy. Different companies and analysts all have varying opinions and implementation strategies, and many of them work. You’ll find the foundation of a successful strategy when you combine Sheevaun Thatcher’s four pillars of sales enablement with the Enablement Process Map.
Let’s examine the four pillars first.
Sheevaun Thatcher is one of the best sales enablement practitioners on the planet. Her four pillars of sales enablement are universal, practical, and highly impactful if followed by both sales and marketing.
Does everyone in the company know the sales strategy? How widespread is the understanding of your company’s why? Understanding the why is what drives behavior and creates culture.
Is there a clear articulation of why you do what you do? Are there value statements and mission statements that affirm these values? All of this information must be reinforced across your company’s website content, brochures, and training materials and coached accordingly. When the culture is aligned, you eliminate the most challenging step.
The next step when it comes to assets is to create playbooks that are accessible in small, bite-sized pieces of information. Those assets will typically be sales collateral, videos, websites, podcasts, training modules, or whatever tools best support the visual delivery of the why.
How current are these materials? Are they on brand? The assets pillar hones in on collaboration and communication between the sales and marketing departments.
Additionally, you want to ensure that the information and resources are easily accessible either on the company network or in a visibly physical area. Where are they located? How easy are they to find? How are they available to the people in the organization? If you have the best sales collateral, but no one can find it, how often is it being used? It probably isn’t.
We need to organize content so that sales teams are provided with the right content at the right time, in the proper format, at the optimal stage of the sales process to be successful. You have to think like a salesperson and create a system for “withdrawals” instead of the typical sales organization “deposit” document-management environment where files sit in the system collecting digital dust. Information has to be quick and easy to access.
For example, with a brochure, you want to ask, “How will it help the sales reps get the customer to buy from them? Remember, sales enablement is responsible to sales, not for sales. A sales team owns the creation of the sales content, but they can’t always make sure that the material is consumed. The key to just-in-time content usage is to create an opportunity to teach your team how to catch their own fish rather than just giving them fish on a platter, ready to eat.
The best way to reinforce knowledge is with better team collaboration and by sharing best practices, deal wins, and customer stories. Create an environment with tools that make it easy for everyone to provide feedback and hear what’s working and what’s not.
You want to have the ability for people to share, for folks who are shining in the field to become visible, and for others to follow their example. What are the best practices that people are using, and how can you increase that behavior? Find what isn’t working and change it now.
Sales Enablement teams come in many sizes and structures. You can approach a sales enablement team through a dedicated group of people or use a basic framework such as a RACI matrix.
A RACI matrix organizes duties by asking several questions. Who will be Responsible? Who will be Accountable? Who will be Consulted? And finally, who will be Informed?
Usually, one or two individuals will be Responsible, several more will be Accountable, and as you move to who is Consulted and Informed, the number of stakeholders increases. Sometimes, the entire sales organization falls into the Informed category.
The approach you take to the sales enablement team may depend on the size and age of your company. Larger companies with more resources might be better equipped to have a dedicated program. Regardless of the size of the team, it is critical to have a strategy in place so that your team can optimize the buyer’s journey and increase sales.
It helps to have sales managers who make sure that the process is being implemented. Having a dedicated individual will help ensure sales enablement success.
Sales enablement strategy is not solely the responsibility of the marketing team, nor does it belong only to sales teams. For a sales enablement program to be effective, the strategy used must be a collaborative effort across departments of your sales organization.
The marketing team needs the input of the sales department, and the sales department needs the marketing department to craft useful marketing content and build a thorough content library of useful information that can facilitate sales professionals to guide the customer journey, make sales interactions solve buyers pain points, improve clarity for the buyer, improve customer relationships, customer engagement and improve buyer experience.
This can be tricky in large organization. This is where our sales enablement tool comes in.
Sales enablement is an ongoing process and approach that allows your team to grow and adapt. Sales enablement tools can help the dynamism of the process, but only if everyone uses them.
What is a sales enablement manager? Simply put – the person that does whatever it takes to get the job done.
The sales managers overseeing the process own the strategy. A sales enablement manager’s responsibilities may also encompass all of the technology and tools and training programs associated with sales enablement. This technology could include CRMs, CMSs, and sales enablement technology.
A successful process is tailored to your team’s specific needs and helps provide the team with the 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 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.
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 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:
Sales enablement should help salespeople explain to the buyer the benefits of the product or service your company offers.
For salespeople, it should feel exciting. It’s important to create buy-in around sales enablement because as belief grows in the process, so will its impact.
Now that we’ve gotten an overview of Sheevaun Thatcher’s four pillars, as well as sales enablement team structures, sales enablement collateral, and what makes a successful sales enablement program, we can zoom out and name some critical best practices.
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 person at the front desk.
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, 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 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 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 your sales and marketing teams, 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 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 published in 2019 by Elay Cohen.
There are many varied and useful types of sales enablement resources and tools that you might consider for your company or organization’s strategy and its implementation. Here, we’ve gathered some of the most critical terms and definitions in one place, as well as several sales enablement tools for you to consider.
This 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 teams training, you must consider modular content and compact elements. Create training content that your team can access and 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 enablement technology.
Sales Coaching Assessments
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.
How effective is your sales content? What is your win rate? Are your sales reps and managers hitting their quota and delivering sales?
Sales content refers to all the sales collateral provided by the marketing and sales enablement team to your reps. 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 tools can be utilized and leveraged to implement sales enablement across the entire company.
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 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. It is possible to do negative enablement.
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 programs don’t have to be complicated or complex. You can begin with some simple resources to get you started. The Process Map is one of the most useful tools to audit what you’re currently doing and how well it’s working. Above all, remember that this approach is more than just a training program. It shouldn’t just be limited to the sales, marketing, or any single department, for that matter.
Sales Enablement is an all-company initiative involving sales, marketing, business development, partners, engineering, support, human resources, and the leadership team. It translates messages and training delivered by subject matter experts for customer-facing employees, empowering them to have more fruitful conversations with curious customers. As professionals, we empower our people to be the best they can be and improve their results with coaching, knowledge sharing, and mentorship that are both scalable and measurable.
“As sales enablement professionals, we empower our people to be the best they can be and improve their results with coaching, knowledge sharing, and mentorship that are both scalable and measurable.”
Sales Enablement is an organizational mindset and commitment to readiness and excellence, starting with the CEO and touching every employee in your company. It is bigger than merely content and training. A well thought out and precise strategy brings departments and leaders together around shared priorities, performance metrics, and expectations. A well-documented and socialized plan will connect organizational dots, enabling teams to work better and know who is doing what.
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