Companies who have some form of sales enablement program and resources has grown from 19% in 2013 to 59% in 2017, according to a survey from CSO Insights.
The same survey also found that the sales enablement initiatives that were implemented met or exceeded most if not all of the expectations of the organizations using them.
However, 51% of those surveyed said their sales enablement program met some or few of their expectations.
What could be causing this disparity? One is clarity.
It seems as more organizations adopt sales enablement, less of them agree on an objective definition of sales enablement. And because of this confusion, organizations don’t know what tools to use or what sales enablement strategies to execute.
We want to clear up this mess.
It won’t be the last word on sales enablement, but it will help you get started on the right foot.
So let’s begin with the primary sticking point:
What is Sales Enablement?
The sales enablement definition we like to use is:
The process of aiding salespeople to sell better using tools, strategies, knowledge, and resources.
In practice, this means collaboration between sales, marketing, and other areas of your organization to create this content.
Sales teams are the main benefactors.
But marketing plays an important role in implementing the sales enablement strategy.
And it should be stated that you’re probably already doing some kind of sales enablement.
For example, if you help a sales rep improve a customer relationship, close a deal, prospect, etc., then you’re involved in sales enablement.
Successful sales enablement plans include 7 major components:
- Enablement-focus - Providing resources and support to help salespeople sell more effectively.
- Customer-centricity - All enablement resources and processes are ultimately used to better satisfy customers.
- Content - Enablement content is broken into two main categories: one set of resources for helping customers directly, and another for helping salespeople help customers more effectively.
- Training - Providing salespeople with training on how to use what they’re given.
- High usability - Resources provided can be easily used and accessed by all salespeople in your organization.
- Tracking and enforcement - Organizations should track the use of enablement tools and resources to ensure they’re utilized and helpful.
- Measurement - Organizations should measure the effectiveness of the sales enablement tools used.
Establishing a Workable Sales Enablement Plan
Before you implement your sales enablement program, it’s important to create a sales enablement plan that’s tailored to your company’s unique needs, structure, and existing processes.
A plan that plays to your strengths and shores up your weaknesses.
Here are a few steps to take to do that effectively:
Clarify Your Objectives
You won’t be effective if your only objective is to “enable our sales staff to sell more.”
“Increasing revenue” is also insufficient.
A clearer, more precise objective could be increasing a sales rep’s “active selling time.” Since most reps spend around 30% of their time actually selling, sales enablement can help push that number up to 40% or more.
The goal would be to eliminate manual work, redundancies, unnecessary work, and anything that can be cut or streamlined to allow sales reps to do more of what they’re there to do: Sell.
Obviously, you want increased revenue. But that’s an organization goal, not a sales enablement goal.
By structuring sales enablement objectives over tangible, actionable, measurable, objectives that salespeople and those helping them are in control over, you end up reaching your organizational goals faster.
Discuss Sales Enablement with Your Sales Reps
You need to get buy-in right away from your sales reps.
Without it, your exciting new sales enablement program will fall flat and die quick.
More importantly, talking to your reps about sales enablement will reveal exactly where sales reps are struggling, where the chokepoints in the pipeline are located, and what you need to do and provide to help them succeed where they’re failing.
Sales reps are in the trenches day in and day out. But they’re not the only ones you should talk to.
Marketing, sales operations, account managers, and even customer service reps should have their voices heard and opinions considered. They’ll have insights that sales reps simply won’t, and vice versa.
Understand Your Customer
This should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway.
You have to understand the buyer’s journey generally, and who your specific customer is and the buyer’s journey they’re on when getting closer to your product specifically.
This means moving beyond basic pain points and challenges. Going deeper than superficial demographic data.
You need to analyze buying signals and trigger events. Assess their behavior.
And anticipate what they’ll need when they’ll need it to feel confident in buying from you.
Align Your Sales Process with the Buyer’s Journey
Once you understand the buyer’s journey, you can sync up your sales process with it.
Too often sales leaders only consider their salespeople when planning a new strategy, completely neglecting the customer, when the customer is the most important part.
First, look at the experience of the buyer. The various touchpoints with your company.
Then consider how you can design the sales funnel to optimize each point along the way, providing the necessary resources, content, and tactics to customers as they need them.
If you get this right, the customer will feel like you truly know and appreciate them. And they’ll give you all their business as a result.
4 Steps for Implementing a Powerful Sales Enablement Program
After you have a clear plan for what you want and need to do, now it’s time to implement your sales enablement program.
Here are a few steps you can take:
1. Organize the Content You’re Going to Need
There’s a theory for how sales enablement came about:
Sales reps needed some way to leverage the content that marketing was creating.
Admittedly, there’s a lot of crap content created, too.
Of course, there’s plenty of valuable content that could be optimized to aid in the sales process by helping reps establish expertise and build trust.
But many reps don’t know where to find that content or how to use it.
Sales enablement will help you organize this content and make it useful.
This means gathering:
- Templates, proposals, quotes, and contracts that are pre-filled and ready to be tweaked or changed depending on what the sales reps need to use them for. These documents also create consistent messaging and branding - enhancing your brand identity and authority.
- Battle cards - A concise collection of critical info about your product, customers, and competitors. They can take the form of text, graphics, or even videos. They help you educate customers about why you’re different from the competition, why they should choose you, and your major benefits and outcomes, etc.
- Case studies, surveys, and feedback from simple questionnaires that give you deep insights into what they think about your products, customer service, and buying experience overall - including their initial objections and how to overcome them.
- Content distribution channels, from email to social media, must be organized and prepared for use to share content and start productive conversations, moving leads closer to the sale.
2. Prepare the Training Required
Sales enablement training encompasses much more than basic sales skills.
It brings in product knowledge, ways to cooperate and coordinate with marketing, how to manage projects, how to use various CRMs and other tools, and so on.
Training also reinforces the processes and methods learned and being used in the field.
The problem most organizations have is that they conduct training once a year when it should be conducted once a quarter, maybe more. Because what’s the use of training if it’s not being reinforced, remembered, or refreshed?
This is distinctly different from coaching.
Coaching is about personal and professional achievement and development. It’s personalized and centers on behaviors and attitudes.
Training seeks to instill the same skills and capabilities into every single sales rep. It’s standardized and ensures everyone is using the same strategies when dealing with customers.
Also, while coaching can and should be undertaken by management.
Training is fully in the realm of the sales enablement program and the people they elect to conduct the training.
3. Gather the Required Tools and Technology
Let’s make something clear here: Tools come last in the order of priorities.
They’re simply a means to an end. A better way to execute strategy.
Sales enablement doesn’t start with technology, it always starts with what’s best for the customers first.
That includes technology that helps your sales reps better track and communicate with them, but more importantly it includes content that helps customers better understand the value you offer and training to help reps maximize the customer’s understanding and receiving of that value.
It’s important to keep this in mind.
Too often executives and managers get geeked out about the latest sales tool, falsely believing it’s going to be a silver bullet or a shot in the arm for the bottom line.
Technology is only as good as the people using it. Which is why tools come last in how you implement sales enablement.
But after your processes, strategies, content, training, and everything else has been understood and organized, tools should be brought in to optimize its implementation. This goes hand-in-hand with training to effectively use these new tools.
The major categories we see sales enablement influencing are:
- Marketing automation.
- Business intelligence.
- Communication solutions.
- And content/knowledge management.
4. Implement, Analyze and Iterate
Your starting sales enablement strategy will constantly change over time. And it should.
Sales enablement is a fluctuating program, not a static one.
New tools, processes, pieces of content, content delivery systems, technologies, and strategies are always being invented, adopted, and tested.
That’s why you need to track, analyze, and improve upon your sales enablement program year after year.
Validate what works and what doesn’t. Iterate the good, scrap or change the bad.
This is another reason why clear objectives are so important. Without them, you won’t know what’s working, how to adjust, or where to pivot.
This is very NOT fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants selling. You should work to eliminate randomness and haphazard processes. It’s fine if it somewhat begins this way.
But over time, your sales enablement strategy should become more refined, more streamlined, and easier to execute.
3 High-Return Sales Enablement Strategies to Optimize Your Program
Once your program is at work in your organization, here are a few techniques you can use to optimize your strategy:
Consult and Coach Sales Reps on Their Sticking Points
Sales reps are underperforming. You wouldn't be reading this if that weren’t true.
One of the primary sales enablement strategies you can use is on-demand consultation. It’s an agile way for you to supply support to reps, including advice, coaching, and resources.
The first step is to document sales rep’s requests. Identify patterns and recurring issues. Then start working with each sales rep individually.
Work through sticking points such as being able to anticipate what the competition will offer and knowing how to beat that offer. Or identifying choke points in the pipeline and moving deals to close. Or simply responding faster to leads to qualify them quickly.
Use A.I. to Answer Common, Low-Value Questions from Sales Reps
You’re not going to be available to answer every question from sales reps.
Especially using sales enablement.
Your time is best spent on higher-priority, high-value questions and problems your reps need help resolving.
Most everything else can be given a templated response.
You can even combine this strategy with the last one. As you listen and provide advice on individual problems that repeatedly crop up, you can turn your answers into basic responses.
You can send these responses via email, but that wouldn’t really be automating it.
We recommend using a chatbot service like Slack.
This way you can give them a complete answer very quickly, without repeating yourself over and over again, allowing your knowledge database and chatbot to do that for you.
Which brings up something else you can do:
Create an internal knowledge base.
This should be a repository for frequently asked sales questions your reps can reference at any time.
Offer Personalized Training for Underperforming Sales Reps
Here’s the truth:
You can put your whole team through as much training as possible, give them all the high-tech tools available, and some of them will still fail and lag behind.
Now you have 2 choices:
- Fire them.
- Or provide personalized training.
If they have the right soft skills and are teachable but seem to struggle with group training sessions, then you should go for option #2.
Your high-performing reps will most likely continue to be high-performing.
But your entire sales operation will benefit from raising a few bad apples into good ones, even if they never become great.
Analyze their needs and create a learning and training program that suits them. This is not the time for slides and lectures. They need a competent teacher who will walk them through whatever they’re learning.
Give them that, and they’ll hopefully start firing on all cylinders like the rest of your sales team.
One Tool You Should Include In Your Sales Enablement Strategy
Sales enablement is about empowering your sales reps to better persuade customers.
There are 4 things you can use for persuasion:
And, of course, your voice. What do you think customers prefer? Overwhelmingly, it’s images and videos.
In order to present your products in the best light, solve customer issues while forming a human connection, and effectively communicate internally to turn prospects into customers, you need a tool that can create the visual content you need to sell better.
That’s what you get with CloudApp.
CloudApp has consistently been ranked by G2 Crowd as one of the top sales enablement tools.
This one, easy-to-use software allows your sales team to:
- Create HD Screen recordings.
- Record webcam videos.
- Take screenshots.
- Make Gifs.
- And annotate images with text, comments, or drawings.
Discover why CloudApp is an essential sales enablement tool today.
How to Create a Sales Enablement Strategy
- Organize the Content You’re Going to Need
- Prepare the Training Required
- Implement, Analyze and Iterate
- Consult and Coach Sales Reps on Their Sticking Points
- Use AI to Answer Common, Low-Value Questions from Sales Reps
- Offer Personalized Training for Underperforming Sales Reps
- Choose and Utilize the Right Tools and Technology