There are plenty of business functions that support sales.
Marketing works to attract new customers, developers deliver solutions as promised, and customer support helps new buyers optimize their experience while using it. While the activities of those departments happen to benefit your most revenue-focused sector, nobody supports reps like sales enablement does.
It’s not that other departments are neglecting their sales-supporting duties. It’s that sales enablement teams are built with one goal: helping the sales team close deals as efficiently as possible.
What is sales enablement?
Sales enablement refers to the process of providing a business’ sales team with the information, tools, and resources they need to sell more effectively. The purpose of sales enablement is to ensure all sales reps have everything they need to successfully engage the customer throughout the entire process.
Essentially, sales enablement works with sales operations to make it as easy as possible for reps to close new deals and maintain existing customer relationships. This can take many different forms, including providing relevant customer-facing information, offering training on sales techniques, and implementing helpful technologies. No matter what sales enablement looks like, its key function is to equip reps with everything they need to sell successfully.
Key functions of sales enablement
Again, the overall goal of having a sales enablement team is to offer any and all support that reps require during their interactions with customers. But what does that look like in action? There are four main functions of any effective sales enablement team or department.
1. Recruiting and hiring
You can’t successfully support your sales team if you don’t equip them with the right talent. One of the key functions of any sales enablement strategy is to recruit and hire people who will make the sales team as strong as possible. These hiring efforts need to focus on both quality and quantity of candidates. Sales enablement will likely work with human resources to make sure they understand the characteristics, skills, and experience required to be a part of the sales organization.
2. Training and coaching
While the recruiting and hiring efforts will bring in solid sales reps, they’ll still need training and coaching to get acclimated. These new sales reps have the potential to add significant value to your organization, but that can only happen if you invest in them. Another function of sales enablement is to do just that. Sales training and coaching will include extensive information regarding the solutions your business offers, how that value is demonstrated to customers, and how to stand out among competitors.
3. Providing resources
To keep customers engaged throughout the entirety of the buying process, sales enablement teams need to ensure reps have two different kinds of sales collateral. The first set includes relevant content that can guide the rep through the selling process, such as customer data, sales techniques, and a cadence to follow. In the average sales pipeline, 58% of deals will stall at some point because the sales rep doesn’t have the right content to offer the customer.
The second type is information that is given to the customer, such as product descriptions. That distributed content needs to be somewhat reusable and intriguing to whoever is receiving it.
Reps also require the right software to streamline the sales process, automate tedious tasks, and keep customer details in order. Remember that the point of having a sales enablement team is to help the sales team do their jobs, and a part of that is providing software solutions that can free up their time to focus on the customer.
4. Assessing sales strategies
Lastly, sales enablement teams need to look at the big picture of the sales organization and find what’s working and what needs to be changed. Sales is not a “set it and forget it” type of business action. As your business, industry, and customer base changes, your approach to closing deals needs to adapt. Sales enablement assessments need to be able to answer all of your questions regarding whether or not the team is operating as it should.
Here are a few examples of sales enablement assessment questions:
Are we recruiting and hiring the talent we need to make our sales team as strong as possible? Are there any types of candidates we need that our strategy is missing?
How effective is our sales training program? How quickly are sales reps ramping up and starting to contribute to the organization?
Are there any areas where we can further support the personal and professional development of our sales reps?
Are we providing reps with everything they need to move customers down the sales funnel? Is there any information that customers are requesting that we don’t currently provide?
Does our current software stack empower the sales team as much as possible? Are there any features that could help them be more efficient or successful?
And of course, they will have to measure the success of the sales team. Because if they aren’t hitting their goals, that might be in part due to the lack of support from sales enablement. Overall, sales enablement needs to determine if their actions are supporting the sales team, helping them be successful, and contributing to the organization as a whole.
Sales enablement strategy
Technically, sales enablement can happen naturally throughout your entire organization. The daily activities of certain departments tend to work to the advantage of your sales team. However, if you want an uber-empowered sales team, you should have a deliberate sales enablement process in place as well. Here’s how to make one.
The first step in any business strategy is going to involve establishing goals. While the overall purpose of having a sales enablement team is to support sales to ultimately close deals and increase revenue, those general north stars aren’t going to cut it.
When setting goals, be as clear and specific as possible. Take an organizational goal and make it explicitly actionable for your team. For example, if you wanted to open up more time for sales reps to focus on selling by helping them with manual tasks, your goal might be to increase the metric associated with time spent actively selling. Make sure every sales enablement goal is SMART, meaning specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, and time bound.
Talk to your sales team
Sales enablement team members are expert sellers, too, but they can’t successfully empower the sales team without collaborating with them. Have conversations with the sales team to determine the most effective ways to support them. Find out where they are struggling and where they are succeeding. No team is the same, and this way you know what to focus on for that specific set of sales reps.
These conversations should also include marketing and customer service teammates. Selling is a team effort that involves cross collaboration, and aligning all involved departments is necessary for success.
Understand the buyer
Understanding the customer is a priority for sellers, making it a necessary aspect of your sales enablement strategy. A key function of sales enablement is to equip reps with the right information they need to keep customers informed and engaged throughout their entire buying process. This requires a deep understanding of their thought processes for each stage.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a mind reader. You can use customer data to gain insights into the types of people who are most often buying your solution and then find ways to appeal to those characteristics. While no customer is exactly the same, you can still create a buyer persona based on people you’ve already done business with. Make sure to pay extra attention to their industry, business size, and job title.
Beyond basic demographics, make note of buying signals that customers give off and pair each one with an accompanied action for the rep to take. Assess past customer behavior and use it to inform your sales enablement strategy.
If your sales process and buyer journey don’t align, you can kiss any chance of closing a deal goodbye. With the information you found regarding your typical buyer’s journey, double check that it all aligns with your approach to selling. Instead of matching your sales process to your ideal buyer journey, take your real life buyer journey and designate sales process steps accordingly. Find ways to capitalize on your customer’s current stage as much as possible. Don’t forget about including the right content to keep them engaged.
It’s more important to focus on the customer over your own selling process. If you tailor the journey for them, you’ll stand out and be more likely to earn their trust.
Find the right resources
A crucial part of any sales enablement strategy is equipping the team with the right resources, primarily content and software.
Your reps will need a wide range of reusable content that they can present to customers, including but not limited to the following items:
Collections of information regarding your product, customers, and competitors
Marketing materials that demonstrate the value of the solution at hand
Reps also need the right software that can streamline the process of moving customers down the pipeline. Sales enablement needs to identify any sales activity that can be streamlined, automated, or simplified with software and then deliver that solution to the team. Examples of those sales tools will be described later on in the article.
Implement and analyze
With your sales enablement strategy ready to go, it’s time to implement. Don’t worry about the entire approach being perfect. There’s always going to be room for improvement. In fact, it’s going to be necessary for the sales team to be as empowered as possible.
Sales enablement is an ever-changing strategy. No part of business is static: your industry will implement new regulations, your business will introduce new products, and your customer base will evolve accordingly. With those changes, your processes, content management, delivery channels, technologies, and strategies will need to adapt.
Assess the sales enablement strategy after implementation and never stop from that point forward. Especially after your business experiences a drastic change. Compare progress to the goals and objectives of the strategy and reevaluate areas that aren’t getting you to where you want to be.
Sales enablement metrics
After all that effort, you’re probably wondering what success looks like for a sales enablement team. While the feeling of satisfaction that accompanies the act of empowering your sales team, you can’t fight numbers. Because the success of your sales enablement efforts relies heavily on that of the sales team, most sales enablement goals involve measuring sales metrics.
Here are some metrics your sales enablement team should measure from day one.
Reps using the sales process: the number of reps abiding by the sales process provided by sales enablement. This is usually measured by monitoring their behaviors and sales actions. If they aren’t following the sales process, it probably needs to be modified to adhere to their preferred methods of selling.
Reps using software stack: the number of reps utilizing the software provided by sales enablement. This is measured by implementing a software management tool. If reps aren’t using your software stack, you might need to evaluate the solutions it includes.
Impact of content: how receptive your customers are to the sales content. This can be measured with page views, content downloads, and retention.
Time to quota attainment: the amount of time it takes for a rep to hit their quota goals in a given time period. If they aren’t hitting their goals in a timely manner, enablement might be lacking.
Time spent selling: the actual amount of time reps spend interacting with customers. It’s possible that they’re spending too much time on things like data entry or content creation. If this is the case, that should become a job of sales enablement.
Employee turnover: the rate at which reps are leaving the organization. If turnover is high, sales enablement could be attracting the wrong talent, or it could be a bigger issue for the entire organization.
Employee engagement: another indicator of employee happiness, engagement refers to the relationship between an organization and its employees.
Quota attainment: the rate at which reps are hitting or missing their quota. Sales enablement is responsible for improving the chances of reps reaching this goal.
Sales cycle length: the average number of days it takes for a rep to convert a lead into a customer. If the sales cycle is too long, customers mighty lose interest. It’s the job of sales enablement to free up time for reps so they can move the process along faster.
Sales funnel conversion rates: the conversion rates between each stage of the sales funnel (lead to prospect, prospect to opportunity, opportunity to customer). Poor sales funnel conversion rates can be the result of issues in lead generation, sales content, or rep training.
Win rate: the rate at which prospects are converting into customers and resulting in closed deals. Low win rates can be solved by reevaluating the sales process.
Average deal size: the average amount of money earned from each deal. Measuring average deal size is most valuable when comparing it with other metrics like customer acquisition cost (CAC). If your average deal size isn’t generating enough revenue to cover CAC and return a profit, this could mean there’s an issue with your pricing model or the methods you use to acquire customers.
Sales velocity: the amount of revenue a business can expect to make in one day. Sales velocity is another indicator of how efficiently reps are moving customers down the pipeline.
Rep lifetime value: how much value a rep is bringing to your organization. This can be measured by something as simple as the amount of revenue a rep generates throughout their time at the business.
Who owns sales enablement?
Ideally, every person and department within your organization would always be thinking about ways they can support the sales team. After all, they are your most revenue-focused department. However, the typical sales enablement ownership consists of both your sales and marketing teams.
Marketers are responsible for equipping sales reps with all of the content they need to keep potential buyers engaged. Materials that reel the customer in like videos, blog posts, and product guides fall into the hands of the marketing team. This information is shared with the customer so they can decide whether or not they want to move forward with the buying process.
Sales is responsible for selling. Obviously. But they also have a duty to communicate with the marketing team regarding the effectiveness of the content they are using, as well as insights into data of current customers. It’s a “help me help you” type of deal.
To make the sales enablement strategy and efforts a success, your sales and marketing departments are going to need to be aligned every step of the way. A study done by SiriusDecisions found that businesses with aligned sales and marketing departments undergo communication developments that can cause growth to increase by 19 percent. When setting goals, aligning processes, finding the right tools and content, and evaluating, it needs to be a group effort. Sales might know how to close the deal, but marketers bring the customers there in the first place.
Why is sales enablement important?
Nothing beats a strong and readily equipped sales team, making sales enablement a key player in the success of your entire organization.
First of all, it helps ensure sales readiness. When reps have the knowledge, skills, and content to sell to their customer base, they can maximize every interaction. Activities like onboarding, training, and professional development help sellers be the best contributors they can be, increasing likelihood of profitability.
A well-oiled sales enablement operation can also result in retaining a talented workforce. When supported and well-equipped to do their job, reps are more likely to be successful. And when they feel that satisfaction, they’ll recognize the contributions made by the company, boosting engagement levels. Knowing that your employer wants you to succeed and develop as a professional can make a world of difference, and sales enablement has the power to make that happen.
Both of those benefits of sales enablement can have a positive impact on your bottom line, including win rate and customer retention. Sales enablement creates better sellers by helping reps appeal to customer pain points and making the solution at hand seem like the best answer. Another function of your sales enablement department is to help reps and customer success teams nourish relationships with buyers. Both of which will increase sales and positive customer relationships.
Sales enablement tools
Along with the content used for selling that’s created for your customer base specifically, technology is going to pull most of the weight in sales enablement. Here are a couple of different software options that will make your sales team strong.
Sales enablement software
Sales enablement software is a solution that offers a place for teams to hold all of their relevant marketing materials and sales collateral. The ultimate goal of this software is to keep reps prepared as they interact with customers. Everything that a rep should need throughout the sales process can be stored in a sales enablement solution. Features of this software include content storing and distribution, customer engagement measuring, and marketing and sales alignment.
Customer relationship management software
Customer relationship management (CRM) software can track and manage every interaction you have with a customer, painting a clear picture of their buying journey. All customer data can be stored in a CRM, offering a single secure place of reference. The purpose of implementing a CRM is to gain insights into how to better sell to a particular customer based on their preferences and history with the company.
Lead generation software
A big part of enabling sales is making sure they have enough material to work with. In this case, material is referring to leads, or potential customers. Lead generation software includes a variety of tools that can generate, score, and prioritize leads. And the more solid leads you have, the more likely the sales team can convert them.
Customer chat software
Other tools like chatbots or live chats can instantly connect a customer to a sales rep. If they want to start talking about making a purchase, they can do it in an instant. While this isn’t necessarily a sales enablement tool, it definitely unlocks the potential to tap into sales qualified leads you might be missing otherwise.
Enable, empower, succeed
A strong business requires a solid sales team, and the best way to get there is with an entirely different team dedicated to supporting them. Sales enablement happens naturally throughout your organization, but a separate strategy that empowers your revenue generators even further never hurts.
When it comes to business processes, having a strategy in place is the way to go. Take reps from start to finish by equipping them with a sales cadence that works for your customers.
Empower your sales team
Implement a CRM tool to make your sales team stronger than ever.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 based in Burlington, Vermont, where she is currently exploring topics related to sales and customer relationship management. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)
Empower your sales team
Implement a CRM tool to make your sales team stronger than ever.