In a perfect world, all of a company’s departments would work in-sync without any lapses in productivity or communication.
Every customer would feel completely nurtured along the sales funnel, conversions would be higher, and everyone meets their goals.
That’d be nice, but the reality is, things don’t always go as planned. Teams can get bogged down hitting specific goals, sales calls may be ill-prepared, and communication can fall apart during crunch time. It’s not ideal, but sometimes, it just happens.
Fortunately, there’s a concept aimed at bonding multiple departments – particularly sales and marketing. This concept is referred to as sales enablement.
What is sales enablement?
If you’ve been around sales, marketing, or customer service professionals recently, you may have heard them discussing sales enablement and how it can benefit their teams.
For those unfamiliar with sales enablement, below is an entry-level definition.
Sales enablement definition
Sales enablement is the process of providing relevant content, research, tools, and training to salespeople so they’re better prepared to engage customers at any stage in the buying process.
In other words, it’s about prepping salespeople for all interactions with customers in a more personalized way. This is typically done using sales enablement software, which acts as a central database for marketing collateral and sales playbooks.
Sales enablement is on the rise. In 2018 alone, 61 percent of organizations surveyed by CSO Insights said they had at least one person on staff dedicated to sales enablement.
According to HubSpot, companies using sales enablement techniques have increased marketing revenue by 208 percent! It’s easy to see why this concept has become so hot as of late.
There’s actually no universal definition of sales enablement. As a matter of fact, sales enablement can mean a variety of things for different companies.
So, we invited the perspectives of 10 industry experts to see how they define sales enablement and why it’s important today.
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Elay’s longstanding experience with sales enablement has shown him that it’s not just the bonding of a few departments, but the inclusion of all. Consider sales enablement a cultural mentality.
“Enablement is most effective when it is company-wide. This means top-down and bottom-up, starting with the CEO and touching every employee, partner, and customer. It is inclusive of all departments, teams, and roles. Everyone plays a part. Everyone is enabled.”
He continues to say that enablement is more than just training tactics, it’s about equipping employees with the right tools to succeed.
“Enablement has moved beyond a training and on-boarding discipline to become a strategic imperative that requires a data-driven mindset, resource investments, organizational alignment, and buy-in to be effective.”
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Carson Conant – CEO of MediaFly, a sales enablement platform
With review sites like G2 Crowd, Yelp, Groupon, and others, buyers have more research and data at their fingertips than ever before. Carson explains why this has catapulted sales enablement to the forefront.
“First, understand today’s buyer. Through their own research, reviews, etc., buyers are coming to sales meetings more prepared than ever before. For this reason, sellers must be equipped to lead value-driven conversations that can answer the buyer’s questions such as how will your product/solution help achieve their financial goals? This is where sales enablement comes into play.”
Carson resonates with Elay’s statement that sales enablement is a holistic approach, not just one that involves training.
“Sales enablement is a solution that equips sellers with the selling stories, data, and training they need to have valuable conversations with buyers at each stage of the buyer’s journey. This optimizes the return on investment.”
Jim Ninivaggi – Chief Readiness Officer at Brainshark, a SaaS-based sales enablement solution
Jim acknowledges the varying definitions of sales enablement, but when you boil it down, it all depends on how successful your interactions go with buyers.
“For sales and marketing teams, and the organization at large, a primary benefit of sales enablement is an enhanced ability to move opportunities forward and close more deals faster. But regardless of a deal’s outcome, an important goal of sales enablement programs is to leave a positive impression with buyers. You want the buyer to think: “My time was well-spent,” “That’s a company I’d enjoy working with,” and “That’s a salesperson I’d want on my company’s team.”
Leaving a positive impression can be the difference between closing a deal and having a prospect move on to a competitor.
Liz Kane – Sales Enablement Manager at PrimePay
Salespeople need to be equipped with the right content and research at the right times during sales opportunities. This shows readiness and creates a personalized experience for the buyer. For sales enablement to succeed, Liz says a content strategy needs to be in place.
“Content creation follows and includes playbooks, presentations, email templates, referral relationship best practices, etc., anything the field needs to maximize their effectiveness.”
She continues to say that content needs to meet sellers at the right stages. This is why content management is key.
“In line with content creation, comes content management. Ensuring sales has ‘content where they are’ and that it is easily found and deployed is crucial to enablement’s success. Finally, ensuring that overall enablement efforts are having a positive impact on productivity through constant content measurement.”
Gerardo Dada – Chief Marketing Officer at DataCore Software
Gerardo has an interesting angle on sales enablement. He believes to maximize ROI for sales enablement, there needs to be a transfer of knowledge from product marketers to the sales team.
“Sales enablement is often owned by product marketing – the team that owns understanding customers, the market, and competitors along with developing positioning and messaging. In larger organizations, there may be a person or a team that facilitates the process and coordinates logistics.”
He dives deeper into the importance of involving product marketers in the sales enablement process and states:
“Product marketing learns from processes such as win-loss analysis to determine who is the ideal customer, what are the hot points, and what may be the most useful tools (collateral, documentation, testimonials, etc.) to help customers make a buying decision.”
Carol Archebelle – Digital Marketing Manager at Foundations Wellness with a former sales career of 20 years
Carol has spent 20 years in sales and sales management for companies like AT&T, Scripps Media, and Gannett. She understands that for sales enablement to truly work, salespeople themselves will need to be empowered.
“Sales enablement is the exact opposite of the way corporate America has traditionally operated. It involves putting sales at the top of the pyramid and having the rest of the organization in a supporting role underneath. Letting sales run your organization really means the customers are running it.”
For Carol, sales enablement also means being flexible with your sales team and empathizing with the customer’s needs.
“When you are adaptive to your customers' needs – when you are fluid and responsive enough to do this well – you will be leaps and bounds above your competitors who most likely operate in a stifling, top-down environment. It takes commitment from all levels of the organization to do this, but sales managers can start by giving their salespeople the freedom they need to bring the dollars in.”
Alessandra Gyben – Marketing Manager at GreenRope CRM
Alessandra’s take on sales enablement falls in line with more traditional definitions of aligning marketing and sales.
“Sales and marketing must be aligned for sales enablement to really be successful. Marketing needs to create email templates, case studies, blog posts, etc that sales can use to send to their leads.”
In addition to focusing on content creation, sales enablement requires tools to quickly pass on resources.
“Automation ties the two together by automatically sending these resources based on sales conversations, workflows triggered, clicks, etc. Real-time notifications, like push notifications and other email notifications, can also help salespeople connect with leads when they are actively on your site.”
AJ Bruno – Founder & CEO of QuotaPath, a sales performance management platform
Sales enablement hasn’t been around for too long, so teams are constantly refining their processes in ways that work for them. This is why AJ believes it’s key for sales managers to intervene when necessary.
“A large component of the sales manager's job is to remove roadblocks and obstacles for their reps. This may be stepping into a conversation about redlines so the rep can focus on running demos, training the rep on the competitive landscape so the rep can be better prepared for conversations, or even tackling internal issues like reducing friction when requesting time off. Too often, people think of sales enablement as a cool new tool to add to your sales stack. Sometimes sales enablement is removing additional distractions.”
Stephen Hart – CEO of Cardswitcher and form CFO of WorldPay
It’s important to remember that sales enablement is just as much about the buyer as it is nailing down content, research, tools, and training. Here’s what Stephen has to say about being buyer-centric.
“It's important to emphasize that sales enablement is less about the act of selling and more about what can motivate the buyer to follow a particular course of action. It can give your team a better view of the sales process, help you qualify leads more effectively and prepare your processes for automation.”
Putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer and understanding what motivates a sale will only improve sales enablement processes.
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Mark Donnolo – Managing Partner at SalesGlobe and Michelle Seger – Global Sales Strategy and Change Management Expert at SalesGlobe
Mark and Michelle were nice enough to round out our piece by providing eight ways sales enablement has driven results that are real and visible. This is through:
- Proactive engagement with sales leadership to develop and manage quotas, budget, and forecast.
- Management of sales pipeline, forecast and business review meetings. Active engagement using CRM software and other business tools of the sales team to drive the meeting.
- Functioning as the right-hand to sales leadership with the authority to hold the organization accountable for commitments and results.
- Driving segmentation, capacity planning, quota setting, and other key activities for the business by relying on intelligence and a proven approach.
- Leveraging analytics to deliver business insights.
- Delivering value by reducing time sales teams spend on non-value added or non-core activity to the selling role.
- Increasing sales velocity and efficiency of the process cycle.
- Operating as a leveraged, integrated global model.
Again, sales enablement goes beyond just training and tools, it must serve as a cultural approach toward more informed sales opportunities.
As you can see, there are many interpretations of sales enablement, and all of them touch on very important aspects.
Empathizing with the buyer, crafting compelling content, empowering salespeople, finding the right tools, and persistent training are all needed to see the desired results from sales enablement.
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