Adopted by a growing number of companies, sales enablement is gaining respect and traction in corporate America.
Defining sales enablement, however, is not easy, because it means different things to different people. Agreeing on what it means for your organization is critical, as leaving it undefined creates confusion – which leads to lower implementation and adoption rates in the field.
What is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is a strategic process to ensure that your sales team is equipped with the right behaviors, resources, content, tools, and skills to maximize every engagement with their prospects. In short, it’s about helping your sales team sell. It’s getting the right content into the hands of the right sellers, at the right time and through the right channel, to help advance a selling opportunity. The sales enablement team is the conduit between sales and marketing.
How does sales enablement differ from traditional sales training and sales operations? Sales enablement programs tend to be bigger and broader, encompassing everything from training and coaching to content and technology, and involve a wider variety of internal stakeholders. Sales training and content can be thought of as components that fall under the sales enablement umbrella.
Sales operations is responsible for putting into place the infrastructure, technology, and tools that the sales enablement team uses for internal and external communication. Sales operations is about efficiency: How do I make it easier for them to do their jobs? Sales enablement is: How do I make them more effective? How do I make them better at their jobs?
Why Sales Enablement?
Why is there a need for sales enablement? Companies realize that their current sales strategy and the process is simply not working as effectively as it could. In many cases, sales training and support is provided, but too often the sales team is too busy to actually use it. You give them a bit of training and then hope or assume that they apply it in front of their customers. But in reality, sales reps become numb to the constant flow of new and improved sales training programs, and may simply ignore or pay lip service to them.
This leads to millions of dollars and thousands of employee hours wasted each year on creating sales training and marketing support that is rarely used. Where’s your ROI?
By introducing a sales enablement function, management can provide more marketing and sales support to their folks in the field, freeing them up to focus on selling.
Who Drives Sales Enablement?
Sometimes there’s confusion surrounding who is ultimately responsible for driving sales enablement – is it sales or marketing? The answer is both. The sales enablement lead is the conduit, coordinator, and champion. Their job is to ensure ongoing communication between the two teams and to facilitate feedback from the sales team on their evolving needs and ensure said needs are promptly fulfilled.
Sales Enablement & Strategy Development
What is sales enablement’s role at your company? Do your co-workers understand it – and more importantly, how to leverage it to advance a sales opportunity? Here is a great process that your team can use to implement a sales enablement strategy, whether you’re building it from the very outset or strengthening an existing program.
Map the Sales Process
Mapping your sales process enables you to discover potential inefficiencies, gain insight into effective strategies, and improve your overall sales performance. As you gather with a cross-functional team to map the sales process, use this opportunity to explicitly ask: What do our sales reps need at each point along the selling journey? This inquiry should uncover specific gaps or needs – product benefit messages or a competitor analysis, for example – which sales enablement can fulfill.
A key part of an effective sales enablement plan is mapping out the customer journey. Mapping out the entire lifecycle gives you a bird’s eye view of the buying process. This empowers your sales enablement team to provide customized content and messaging targeted to where the prospect is in their buyer’s journey.
Consider these stats provided by Hubspot:
- 19% of buyers want to hear from a sales rep during the awareness stage.
- 60% would like to be in touch with a sales rep in the consideration stage when they’ve done their research and are now analyzing possible vendors.
- 20% want to hear from a sales or customer service rep when they’re in the decision phase.
Data Collection & Analytics
Part of the job of sales enablement is to collect, analyze, and disseminate data that lend insight into a prospect. Providing a process and a platform for research and prospecting means your sales team can spend less time on admin and more time on outreach to qualified leads. Some key ways sales enablement uses data to improve prospecting include:
- Qualifying sales leads – think lead scoring. You can use sales enablement software to enrich your prospect data. This might look like finding lead contact information and scanning their social media profiles for insight into what they do for a living and for fun. These little nuggets can be immensely helpful in the sales process, but many sales reps don’t have the time to track them down on their own.
- Using the data within your marketing or product team to make the sales team more efficient. End-user data – for example, obtained from a free trial offer – can be used to help sales reps prioritize their sales leads. Instead of targeting everyone under the sun, through research and data, you can help your sellers reduce their prospects down to the most active leads.
- Using reporting and analytics to improve and optimize your sales enablement program.
Create Relevant Sales Content and Training
Once you have identified critical gaps, it’s the job of sales enablement and marketing to create sales tools to fill those high-priority needs. Develop content that is optimized – relevant to the salesperson, contextual to the situation, and informed by research and data that you’ve uncovered about the prospect’s buying cycle.
- Case Studies
- Email Templates
- Marketing and Product Messages
- Training Manual
- Blog Posts and Videos (Ideal for a sales rep to reference in a follow-up email)
- Data Enrichment to qualify a lead (For example, insights from social media profiles)
When sales enablement is fueled by the latest software technology, it can be very powerful. Many functions, including prospecting, can be automated. You can execute email sequences and enable direct messaging. A sales learning platform, like a learning management system (LMS), can integrate with sales enablement software (e.g., Highspot and Showpad).
Just as important as the content is how it’s communicated and served up to the sales team. Whether it’s a sales playbook or updated product messages, disseminating them to the sales team at the right time and place, and with the right technology, is critical.
If you give them a 400-page playbook, do you think that your sales team will have time to read it? More likely, it’s destined for the proverbial shelf! These days, particularly with the rise of mobile learning (or mLearning) it’s all about sharing bite-sized information that can be easily and quickly consumed via mobile device at the very time they need it.
Ensure your sales team has the ability to provide feedback regarding their ever-changing needs. Without this communication channel, sales enablement cannot work. Weekly meetings with representatives from both teams should be held. Technology – like a learning management system (LMS) – can be used to enhance collaboration and communication between teams.
Many companies ignore this step, but it’s critical. Think about it: Certification is how you test to ensure your knowledge transfer and training is effective. The goal is to change or build behaviors through the certification process – it isn’t meant to embarrass reps that don’t understand the concept, but to identify gaps so you know where additional training is needed. Certification is not meant to be burdensome to your sales team; it’s meant to educate and reinforce. You’re not only educating, but you’re getting out of the gates fast, which encourages faster adoption. Many L&D specialists insist that certification drives adoption, and we tend to agree.
LMS: Fueling Sales Enablement
Why are more companies than ever before deploying a learning management system for sales enablement? Here are a few reasons why LMS and sales enablement go hand in hand:
- Enhanced Measurement
Without good data, your sales enablement program cannot be improved, optimized, or validated. In fact, one of the big factors driving interest in LMS is its powerful and user-friendly reporting and analytics capabilities. You can track numerous data points in real-time, including who completed their sales training and who hasn’t, so you can pinpoint who needs additional support. It includes appraisal and KPI tools as well as automated exit interviews.
As new offices are opened and new employees are hired, sales enablement and training will need to be ramped up to accommodate rapid expansion. An LMS is easy to scale and allows trainers to upload an unlimited number of documents to the system, and places no limit on the number of employees who can be enrolled in courses.
- Incentivized Learning
Countless research demonstrates that introducing friendly competition into the workplace motivates employees to complete their training and also enhances knowledge retention.
Good news: Gamification is built into most learning management systems.