What is sales enablement?

The dynamic between buyers and sellers is evolving at a break-neck speed.

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The dynamic between buyers and sellers is rapidly evolving.

Buyers no longer rely on salespeople to provide the information needed to make a purchasing decision.

They’re performing their own research. Sellers still face pressure to influence the buyer’s journey—but often lack the resources or the skills to make it happen.

Sales enablement aims to tackle that challenge, providing a systematic, repeatable process for hitting sales objectives–at scale. Sales enablement is a strategy that equips sellers with the tools, information, and support they need to sell effectively.

High-growth companies are quickly realizing that sales enablement is essential for securing a competitive advantage.

According to Highspot’s State of Sales Enablement report, sales enablement adoption has increased by 343% in the last five years.

In this article, I’ll break down sales enablement meaning and explain how it works within the context of the sales process.

Sales enablement definition

Sales enablement is a strategy that equips sellers with the tools, information, and support they need to sell effectively.

Sales enablement is one of those terms that changes meaning depending on who you ask.

When asked “what does sales enablement mean?”, here’s how the experts answer:

  • Per CSO Insights, sales enablement is a strategic, cross-functional discipline for increasing sales performance and productivity by providing access to content, training, and coaching.
  • Gartner defines it as the activities, processes, systems, and information that promotes knowledge-based interactions between reps and buyers.
  • While Forrester defines sales enablement as a strategic, ongoing approach that equips sellers with the ability to have valuable conversations at each stage in the sales cycle.

Though sales enablement has been part of the sales landscape for years, there’s often confusion about what this strategy actually entails.

In part, that’s because the strategy is evolving as the B2B sales environment becomes more data-driven and customer-centric. Sales enablement is still about giving sellers what they need to engage with customers and close deals, but the focus has shifted.

Now, enablement aims to improve the customer experience by giving sellers the insights, content, and often, some help from AI, to engage buyers in a meaningful conversation and provide tailored solutions.

Bottom line: sales enablement not only enables salespeople to sell, but it also makes it easier for buyers to buy.

Difference Between Sales Operations and Sales Enablement

Sales operations and sales enablement are different in many ways.

Sales operations takes charge of managing and enhancing sales processes to help salespeople do their jobs better. Setting territory structure, managing sales tech stack, developing compensation policies, hiring and training new sales reps, etc. — these are sales operations responsibilities.

Meanwhile, sales enablement focuses more on providing the sales reps with the right resources throughout the sales cycle to improve their sales performance.

Who Owns Sales Enablement?

Obviously, sales enablement is owned by your sales team. It can also be handled by other departments like marketing, human resources, and finance.

For example, your marketing department can provide buyer insights, content, and other resources to help enhance sales processes. Human resource is a good source for information about onboarding, training, and hiring strategies.

By involving these areas in implementing sales enablement, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of how to boost your sales rep’s productivity.

Sales Enablement Team

Your sales enablement team can include roles like chief enablement office, VP of sales enablement, sales enablement manager, project manager, sales enablement coordinator, and content specialist.

As said earlier, your sales enablement team can be responsible for developing sales onboarding and continuous learning programs, creating sales assets and sales training content, implementing sales coaching strategy, reporting success, and more.

Sales Enablement Strategy

A successful sales enablement process should be able to help sales reps engage buyers throughout the buying journey, which can be achieved only based on a solid strategy.

A sales enablement strategy often includes onboarding programs, coaching and training content, marketing materials, a set of KPIs and metrics, and more. It also involves communication between sales reps and buyers.

Think about questions like “what is the quality of those social interactions?”, “how do well sales reps engage with clients?”, “how successfully do they convert leads into sales,” etc. Answering these questions can be useful to your sales enablement strategy.

Sales Enablement Content

Sales enablement content has a significant effect on your sales team’s performance. Why? Because if a sales rep gets the right information about a buyer they’re trying to sell, they can understand the buyer better and know what they should mention in the demo talk to convince the buyer.

Some sales enablement content types you can create are blog posts, case studies, white papers, customer testimonials, interactive content, print materials, email campaigns, and more.

How sales enablement benefits organizations

Why Is Sales Enablement Important?

Here is a short answer: Sales enablement gives the entire sales team a systematic process for driving revenue and closing more deals in less time.

According to a 2018 CSO Insights report, organizations with a mature sales enablement strategy saw the percentage of reps achieving quota rise by more than 10%.

According to Highspot, companies that move from using a random or informal alignment between the sales process and the customer journey saw win rates rise by nearly 18% for win rates and quota attainment increase by 11.8%.

Sales enablement also democratizes the sales process. Another CSO report found that the top 20% of sellers generate over 53% of a company’s total revenue.

For organizations, this means that you’re no longer relying on one or two all-star reps to carry you into the next quarter. Instead, you’re powering up the B-team by providing them with the knowledge, training, and tools they need to succeed.

By providing a systematic process for closing deals, companies can create more accurate forecasts, reliably hit sales goals, and set the stage for sustainable growth.

Infographics: Sales Enablement Benefits

Done right, sales enablement can boost your revenue growth and accelerate your buyer experience. Its benefits can include:

1. Increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of your sales processes.

2. Allowing your sales reps to develop a better relationship with buyers.

3. Providing your reps with a systematic approach to driving revenue and closing more deals in less time.

4. Boost sales and marketing team alignment, helping them work better together.

5. Promoting ongoing sales coaching and training initiatives.

Sales Enablement Best Practices

Sales enablement needs to follow a few best practices to unlock its potential.

Here’s how to implement sales enablement successfully:

Set clear objectives for your program

At a high level, sales enablement is about helping sellers do their job more effectively. Do your sellers currently have everything they need to engage buyers and close deals?
If not, what’s missing? Where are sellers falling short?

Goals might include:

  • Increasing sales efficiency
  • Generating more revenue
  • Disseminating best practices from top performers
  • Developing better closing tactics
  • Creating closer alignment between

Align around the buyer

Sales enablement initially sought to end the long-standing rift between marketing and sales, but the strategy is expanding to include customer success teams, field service reps, and in some cases, the entire organization.

Each team provides a unique set of insights that others can use to provide a better experience at every touchpoint.

Define your messaging

According to Forrester, roughly 90% of sales conversations fail to address what matters most to buyers.

While buyers have more information than ever, that often creates a lot of confusion and uncertainty.

Focus on developing a clear value prop and creating content and sales plays that frame the benefits of your solution in a way that resonates with each persona.

Customizable templates can help, here, allowing sellers to select content based on persona, industry, or stage in the buying process, and from there, adding personal details to make them more relevant to the buyer.

Develop a process for creating high-quality content

Content is critical for sales enablement. It allows buyers to self-educate at their own pace, and sellers to position themselves as trusted advisors with answers to their problems.

To do this well, you’ll need to make sure you have content that answers questions and provides helpful information for each stage in the sales funnel.

  • Start the process by taking stock of existing content.
  • Dig into audience insights and map the sales assets you already have to the buyer’s journey.
  • Make a list of common questions buyers ask at different stages.
  • Then determine what information you’ll need to provide to move deals forward and set expectations for the next step.

Ideally, you’ll be able to reliably provide the right message to the right person, at the right time.

It’s also worth noting that sales enablement content falls into two main buckets: internal content that supports the sales process and external content that you’ll present to customers.

Sales training must become an ongoing effort

Learning on the job is no longer reserved for bi-annual retreats or yearly sales training seminars. Today’s sellers should focus on continuous learning and upskilling to stay one step ahead of customers and the competition.

According to SiriusDecisions, high-performing organizations provide more continuous learning, peer learning and advanced skills training than their low-performing counterparts.

For best results, make sure learning is easy and interactive. Look toward multimedia training content, video sales coaching and short, practical lessons learners can consume on-the-go and put to use immediately.

Sales enablement tools: what belongs in your stack

Sales enablement tools: what belongs in your stack

According to Salesforce, 70% of companies say that connected processes are “very important” for winning new business, while 56% say that they’re more likely to buy from “more innovative solution providers.

While technology matters (a lot) you’ll want to make sure that sales reps are maximizing what they’ve got—and from there, you can determine where sales enablement technology can improve existing processes.

The sales enablement platform—or stack—you choose should align with your goals and overall sales strategy. Meaning, define your strategy, build your culture, then select your tech.

That said, here’s a quick rundown of the core features you’ll need to power up your strategy.

  • Central content repository. CSO Insights reports that 42% of salespeople say they can’t find the information they need before hopping on a sales call. When sellers can’t find conversation records or product information when they need it, they’re at a disadvantage.
    A central repository is essential for giving sellers easy access to the content and training materials they need to effectively engage buyers. Look for sales enablement software that provide version control and automated delivery to ensure sellers always have on-brand, compliant assets at their fingertips.
  • Smart guidance. Buyers expect sellers to share relevant insights that speak to their unique pain points and goals. According to LinkedIn, 93% of B2B decision-makers are more likely to consider working with a company if sellers personalize the outreach process. To pull this off, you’ll need to enlist the help of tools with smart suggestions.
    You might look toward Revenue Guide, which uses unique and customizable guided selling to automate your playbooks, ensuring sellers apply the right tactics for every situation. Or, use Revenue Engage to automate nurturing sequences and log performance results back to Salesforce.
    For prospecting, you might try LinkedIn Sales Navigator or ZoomInfo. Salesforce Einstein digs into CRM data to uncover opportunities and optimize communications down to the touchpoint.
  • Advanced reporting tools. Building on the last point, you’ll also want to look toward data analytics tools with embedded AI, to help you make sense of all the customer data you’re collecting. According to Salesforce, sales teams leveraging AI to build connections with customers are likely to have better relationships.
  • Integrates with a wide range of tools. Finally, sales enablement success hinges on connectivity. To measure the impact your email templates or case studies have on the sales process, you’ll need to connect all relevant data sources.
    Again, Revenue Grid proves to be a capable solution because it offers several tools designed to work together and log all data changes to Salesforce automatically. Each tool also offers customizable reporting based on that reliable CRM data.

Sales enablement KPIs for measuring success

Sales enablement metrics go beyond the traditional sales metrics like quota attainment, dials and average deal size, instead, measuring the impact of your enablement program.

This includes everything from how easily sales teams can access sales collateral to marketing activities like content creation and lead gen efforts to sales training and coaching.

You have business-level metrics, which essentially measure traditional sales performance like conversion rate, revenue, and leads. But, you also have learning and behavior metrics, which track engagement with training content and achievement, and metrics that represent alignment between marketing and sales.

Revenue, of course, is the most obvious indicator of success, however, these KPIs can provide more insight into how well your strategy is working.

  • Lead-to-conversion rate. Sales enablement exists to help sales close more deals. Is your sales enablement effort bringing in more leads? What percentage end up becoming customers? If your rate drops or stays the same, you may need to make some adjustments to your qualification strategy or update your message for better results.
  • Sales cycle length. Effective enablement strategies should power up your pipeline. If for some reason, cycles slow down, something isn’t right and you’ll need to dig into the data to see what’s holding things up.
  • Win-loss rate compared to key competitors: Looking at win-loss rates through a competitive lens will allow you to assess how well you’re preparing your sales team to engage with prospects.
  • Percentage of reps hitting sales goals. This metric measures the impact of your enablement initiatives and can help determine whether training is effective or whether you’re using the right approach with buyers.
  • New hire ramp-up time: New employees don’t show up on day 1 ready to provide customers with tailored solutions based on in-depth product knowledge. According to Accenture, about 42% of sellers take 10+ months to become productive enough to contribute to the company’s goals.

Final thoughts

The strategy’s focus on content speaks to the modern buyer, who often comes to the sales process with more information than the rep, while the emphasis on training and coaching helps sellers continuously build their knowledge and keep pace with change.

To sum things up, sales enablement:

  • Provides a sustainable process for driving repeat wins—and more importantly, revenue.
  • Streamlines the sales cycle and the onboarding process
  • Aligns the entire organization around the same set of goals

Today, sales success hinges on a well-defined enablement strategy and the tools that support it.