What Is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is the combination of technology, processes, people, and content designed to help sales teams sell more effectively and boost conversions. It aims to ensure that your sales team has the strategic resources and information they need to thrive. Although each business has a unique approach, sales enablement should help improve key sales activities such as finding the right prospects, making sales calls, pitching your product, converting sales, and managing accounts.
The responsibility for sales enablement traditionally sits within the sales and marketing teams in an organization. By removing the barriers between sales and marketing, insights and data can be shared freely and a more collaborative relationship can take place. Sales enablement is intended to improve the content process and unify the organization’s teams that influence purchase decisions. When these different functions are working together seamlessly, the sales team is empowered to promote knowledge-based sales interactions with leads and potential customers – and ultimately generate more revenue.
Why Is Sales Enablement Important?
Sales enablement can make a meaningful impact on the growth of a company by equipping all members of sales with the information, sales training, and resources to excel at their job. It can highly improve the onboarding process for sales managers and establishes a system for helping them achieve consistent and scalable results in a way that is repeatable as more sales staff is needed. The knowledge is shared throughout the teams, and it is a best practice to have the most effective sales managers serve as leaders or teachers for navigating the sales enablement program. The hope is that this process will lead sales teams away from having a select few overachievers, and instead empower the whole group with the tools they need to effectively do their job.
Where Does Sales Enablement Fall in the Marketing Funnel?
Sales enablement comes to life through the creation and distribution of content, however not all content is intended for the same purpose.
Take general content marketing for instance. Most content in this space focuses on sharing information and educating an audience while establishing your business as an authority in the space. This content is relevant to what your customers are looking for and it often helps answer their questions. A primary differentiator for content marketing is that it is not intended to be a direct-selling mechanism. Instead, it is a way to engage your audience and give them a base-level of understanding prior to interacting with a salesperson. When considering the marketing funnel, content marketing lands primarily in the ‘attract’ phase but also contributes to the ‘convert’ phase.
Sales enablement content on the other hand is intended to provide sales reps with the right information and content that is relevant and helpful to the prospects and customers they are engaging with. With this in mind, sales enablement is most present in the marketing funnel during the ‘convert’ and ‘close’ phases.
If planned strategically, the materials that you create can establish a clear brand narrative for your audience and can work together as a prospect makes their way down the marketing funnel. Just be mindful of the intent of each piece in whether the content is serving the purpose of content marketing or sales enablement. Marketing and sales groups should be aligned on the editorial calendar, making it easy for members of the sales team to reference or leverage sales enablement content whenever it may be helpful in converting a prospect.
Examples of Sales Enablement Content
The content you create and distribute can be instrumental to the success of the sales enablement process. When presented to qualified prospects, the right content can be a significant factor in closing the deal. This information should resonate with your leads and help build their trust, confidence, and connection to your business. Here are some examples of content types that help to enable sales:
- Persona Documents: By creating documents that outline who your typical customers are, your salespeople will have a playbook of sorts to help convert sales within defined audiences. For each persona, you can provide their motivations for purchase, needs, and specific pain points along with any basic information that provides context on who they are and things to keep in mind during the sales process. This deeper understanding of each audience group will help your sales team relate more effectively and tailor their sales messaging in a way that truly resonates.
- Product Training Documents: It is important that your salespeople know your product or service intricately and the importance of all of its key features. Any lack of competency in product knowledge could be the downfall of a sales opportunity. By providing sales training in a way that turns your salespeople into masters of the product, they will be able to sell with no hesitation and understand what the key questions they should be asking to find a client’s pain points and help address them.
- eBooks and Whitepapers: While we often see instances of eBooks and whitepapers being used as lead magnets to capture email addresses, they can also be valuable sales enablement materials. Know your audience, and craft these documents in a way that provides valuable information and solutions to issues that ideal customers may be facing. These can be given directly to qualified leads or used as a refresher for members of the sales team.
- Blog Posts: By taking a more informative approach to some blog posts (much like the previously mentioned whitepapers), they can be utilized in the ‘convert’ stage of your sales funnel. This is another example of a valuable reference point that can align sales and marketing teams and unify messaging in the sales process.
- Sales Scripts: Think of a sales script as a set of talking points. These should include both the messaging you want to lead with and responses to common questions or concerns that a customer may have. These scripts should be consistent with information in your marketing material but can include additional persuasive data (such as statistics and figures) that can be used when closing a sale. Since effective sales efforts can be heavily influenced by trust and relationship, it is important that these scripts are not read verbatim but are used as a general guide instead. Scripts can also be aligned with key points within the sales cycle for even more relevancy.
- One-Pagers: One-pagers can be particularly useful if there is an aspect of your product or service that can be difficult to understand. One-pagers aim to simplify and clearly demonstrate the benefits of your product or service, turning uncertainty into confidence to help assist a prospect in the decision-making process.
- Social Media Content: Social media can help contextualize your brand, but also be a valuable touch-point with your leads and current customers. Sales enablement content can be shared (or linked to) on social media, and can also be used by salespeople to inform prospects on specific news and discussion points. The sales team also can monitor the engagement and reactions on any given social media post to determine how well the information is being received and what is driving notable engagement.
- Competitor Research: Marketing teams will often conduct industry research on their competitors to have a better understanding of the market and where their brand stands within it. This can be extremely beneficial because it clarifies points of differentiation and can even help define your target customer. By having a grasp of where the business clearly outperforms the competition, the sales team can double-down on those points to help convert interested prospects into customers.
Whenever possible, and depending on the nature of the materials being created, these pieces of sales enablement content should be easily accessible for the sales team. If you do not opt for a complete sales enablement tool, consider a cloud-based storage option such as Dropbox or Google Drive with clearly market folders so no matter where your salesperson is they can always access the resources that they need.
Knowing When It Is Time for a Sales Enablement Strategy
If your business is struggling to meet the financial goals and expectations they have set for themselves, it is likely that developing a sales enablement strategy is necessary. Teams need a viable foundation of information, sales training, best practices, and structure to truly succeed – and sales enablement is a good mechanism to foster that and guide your organization through each sales cycle.
Some common issues that could be hindering your company’s sales and could benefit from sales enablement are:
- Onboarding Inefficiency: If your organization has an inefficient onboarding process for its sales team, or doesn’t have an onboarding process at all, it is likely that this is affecting your bottom line and growth trajectory.
- Low Sales Productivity: If your sales reps are being asked to do too many non-sales related tasks or if they are focusing on the wrong audiences, they will be unable to meet their sales expectations.
- Unorganized, Unhelpful, or Non-existent Sales Content: As we mentioned before a good mix of content marketing and sales enablement content is incredibly helpful to generate leads through brand awareness and ultimately assist with sales conversions. If your business’ content is difficult to access or if you are not creating the right kind of content that will help in sales situations then your salespeople are under-equipped to do their job.
In each of these cases, a sales enablement strategy could help tremendously. By streamlining content that can be leveraged for both specific (like onboarding or audience messaging) and general (key talking points, product benefits, etc.) instances, your sales process will be subject to much less guesswork and inconsistency.
Key Elements of a Sales Enablement Strategy
Having a strategy behind your sales enablement program will ensure that the right type of processes and content will be created. This will make sure that the sales and marketing teams have everything they need to succeed and they are both working from the same set of information and best practices.
- Assess the Situation: Take time to get a clear understanding of how your company will be able to benefit from a sales enablement strategy by asking yourself some key questions:
- Are sales and marketing working collaboratively or are they mostly siloed?
- Does the current content serve the needs of both sales and marketing?
- Are sales reps efficiently and effectively trained? Do they have a mastery of the product or service?
- Are sales materials current or outdated?
- Are salespeople modifying the content they do have?
- Is there a shared location where all content can be found?
- Make a Business Case: You may need to pitch the creation of a sales enablement program to your higher-ups. Demonstrate the problems you are presented with and how sales enablement will directly address those identified issues. Show how an investment in sales enablement now is an investment toward streamlined processes, efficiency, and growth in the future. Of course, make sure your business case is tied to metrics and goals that are realistic and attainable along with providing accountability for the project.
- Clarify Your Personas: Before diving into the sales enablement process fully, you will want to be aligned and in agreement with who your target customers are. It is crucial that both marketing and sales are collaborators in determining this. By clearly defining what types of customers you are creating, the marketing team will be able to create focused and compelling content that addresses the precise solutions those audiences are looking for.
- Determine Content Status: Take a look at what kind of digital content your company already has at its disposal. Consider the website, blog, social media, sales training documents, case studies, and anything else that may be useful for sales reps. Assess how recent and viable sales content is in relation to where you are at as a company. If your materials are lacking, it is time to start mapping out a plan for sales enablement content starting with content areas that are clearly lacking. Aligning your content against the specific segments of the marketing funnel can also be an effective way to ensure you are serving potential customers at all points of the funnel.
- Organize Your Content: Sales enablement content should be stored in an easily accessible, cloud-based solution that is shared amongst both the marketing and sales teams. These materials need to be neatly organized and easy to navigate so sales managers are able to quickly find relevant information that will serve their own education or the unique needs of their customers. Have your sales enablement team determine the most convenient storage platform for the way they work. It is a good idea to have a point person to oversee the maintenance and organization of this content storage so it remains consistent and easy to use.
- Sales Enablement Reporting and Analytics: Analytics and data will give you a chance to see what materials are being used the most and what is driving the most engagement. If transactions can be tied to pieces of sales content, that is even more valuable. The important thing here is to see what is working well and what may need to be improved.
What Are Some Sales Enablement Tools?
When it comes to sales enablement tools, there are a wide variety to choose from. It is important to find a tool that meets your organization’s most pressing needs when it comes to sales training, sales asset management, and sales engagement. Perhaps the most important thing a sales enablement tool should do is allow your sales and marketing teams to work seamlessly together and boost their efficiency. Below are a few sales enablement platforms to consider:
- HubSpot: HubSpot CRM automates standard sales tasks that tend to distract sales reps. The platform supports sales, marketing, and service in one clean, easy-to-use interface, helping break down the barriers between sales and marketing teams.
- Salesforce: Perhaps one of the most robust CRM offerings on the market, Salesforce is an complex cloud-based customer relationship management solution built to increase efficiency and give customers a seamless and personalized sales journey.
- Pipedrive: Pipedrive is a powerful CRM tool that helps you visualize current leads, their status, and the associated activities (such as upcoming calls) that are scheduled with any given lead. While this is a great resource for your sales enablement team to manage their deals and track communications, there is less focus on cross-functional collaboration and content management with this tool.
- Membrain: Geared toward B2B sales, Membrain defines themselves as a sales enablement CRM that can replace or complement your existing CRM. It aims to make it easy to execute on your sales strategy with a flexible CRM database and prospecting engagement playbooks, and equips managers to coach their sales reps to higher performance levels. It also includes content management features, sales analytics and automated reporting, and more.
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Sales enablement holds tremendous power to change the trajectory of growth for your organization over time, and redefine best practices within your company. It challenges traditional organizational structures in favor of collaborative, information-driven environments that change the way you approach your business in a fundamental way. When teams operate in silos, risks of inconsistency and inefficiency will always be present. Sales enablement and the combined forces of marketing and sales can have a huge impact on an organization’s ability to attract and convert leads into customers in a profound way.