What Is Sales Enablement? The Path To Predictable Revenue Growth in 2022
- by Elay Cohen
- February 2, 2022
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
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 programs, focusing on virtual enablement and virtual selling. Having an enablement program is no longer an option. It’s a must-have business imperative.
When you can unlock the power of sales enablement – the onboarding & new hire training, the modeling, the pitch practice, the feedback – something really magical happens. All your revenue teams aligned with the same messaging, same pitch, same strategy – the revenue – it’s a beautiful thing.
If you’re here, you’re curious about the benefits and impact sales enablement can have on your business. However, you may not be sure how to build a practice for your organization – that’s OK. You’re at the right place.
Read on to learn more about the personnel, the processes, the industry leaders you need to follow, the software – all the things you need to know about sales enablement – in our guide below.
Sales Enablement is the alignment of people, processes, and priorities using relevant learning, coaching, 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 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 and aligns the sales and marketing teams. It uses a cohesive strategy for companies to increase win rates and better utilize the sales process.
The current reality and hard truth of sales team performance today (based on a study from CSO Insights) is that:
Less than stellar.
These numbers leave a huge opportunity for improvement and are a direct effect of sales teams not being aligned, modeling top seller behavior, having consistent pitch practice & feedback – which are some of the main problems sales enablement platforms aim to solve.
As mentioned above, 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 an enablement program your sales team will suffer from:
Without a sales enablement program, 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 using or even 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 aligned with that message.
Great sales enablement involves building a successful infrastructure of content, and a renewing network of feedback and improvements to the sales process that can be made in real-time.
While great sales enablement can look differently depending on industry, organization and team structure, you can use these four pillars to guide your 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.
Is your content easily accessible? Sales enablement’s job is to connect the dots and to take all the useful content that your teams produce (or even create user-friendly content based on data that the teams collect) and plug it into a library that is searchable, and makes relevant, on-message content available exactly when your sales team needs it most.
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 where they need to happen most.
A sales enablement professional works as a messenger between the sales teams and HR, marketing, and all other teams found in sales organizations.
With these four pillars guiding sales enablement, teams can execute powerful and high-impact sales enablement.
The sales enablement process can benefit sales organizations in several ways, depending on how well it’s used. Here are five ways to fix the detriments we just talked about.
In the video above, Lindsay Morga, Manager of Enablement and Training at Tanium, walks us through how her and 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 hires.
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 stops 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, the customer experience, performance analytics, quota attainment and sales success.
Sharing, collaborating, 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 human-to-human collaboration and interaction a primary focus. At its core, an organization is driven by it’s employees, so we focused on making team interaction easy, intuitive and impactful.
How would weekly huddles, pitch practice and feedback impact your 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, top seller modeling is a critical component needed to lift the revenue of sales organizations and help them grow. Top teams use sales enablement platforms and initiatives to facilitate the modeling of top sales performer behavior and share across the team.
Through active feedback, sharing, and practicing, the rest of the company reps can replicate top performers’ processes.
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 sales 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.
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.
Higher revenue is a natural byproduct of a whole company adoption. When a sales 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 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 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 like MEDDIC 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 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.
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 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 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 sales 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 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 professionals 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
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.
“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. Keeping 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 an enablement program to be effective, 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.
Yes, bad sales enablement can happen, and it’s shockingly common! It can look like any or all of these below:
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 enablement process to be successful, your teams need to engage and learn from each other – consistently. Preferably daily. Not just check off boxes. If your sales enablement platform is not driving interaction, modeling, and pitch practice it will not help your team.
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. 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 (see below).
Let’s examine the four pillars first.
Sheevaun Thatcher is one of the best sales enablement practitioners on the planet. Her four pillars 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 relevant 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 sales process is being implemented. Having a dedicated individual will help ensure success.
The 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 multiple departments of your organization.
The marketing and sales teams need to work together; The marketing team needs the input of the sales department, and the sales department needs the marketing department to craft useful marketing content. Marketing is responsible for building 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 organizations. This is where a sales enablement platform, like Saleshood, 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 sales enablement strategy. A sales enablement manager’s responsibilities may also encompass all of the technology and tools and training programs. This technology could include CRMs, CMSs, and sales enablement software.
Successful sales enablement solutions 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.
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 sales enablement process, so will its impact.
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.
See the image above for correlation templates for KPI by role: account executive, sales development and customer success. You can also see these specific sales enablement metrics and KPIs.
Now that we’ve gotten an overview of Sheevaun Thatcher’s four pillars, as well as team structures, collateral, processes 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, 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 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 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 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.
This 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 enablement technology.
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 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.
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 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 enablement leaders are pioneers in defining sales enablement. They are all revenue multipliers making huge impacts at their companies and in the industry. Check out these videos below for more incredible information.
Make sure to follow these 15 thought leaders of the space and watch as they continue to innovate in the field of Sales Enablement.
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 strategy and its implementation.
Sales enablement technology has come a long way since 2013. Sales enablement programs don’t have to be complicated or complex. You can begin with some of the simple resources above to get you started.
“As 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: sales, marketing, business development, partners, engineering, support, human resources, leadership team, etc
A well-thought-out and precise strategy brings departments and leaders together around shared priorities, performance metrics, and expectations. Sign up for your free SalesHood demo today.
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