In his book To Sell is Human, Dan Pink explains that sales has changed more in the last 10 years than in the last 100. However, this is wrong, and the reality is that the buyer has changed (especially in a complex B2B environment). Sales is only now catching up thanks to a new function called sales enablement.

Research by Aberdeen reveals that sales enablement leads to 62% higher team quota attainment, 205% more revenue growth, 725% higher sales velocity, and 23% increase in lead conversion rate in organizations with structured sales enablement programs versus organizations without it. That’s how powerful it is.

Scott Albro, CEO of TOPO, is also a big proponent, stating, “It allows a large number of sales people to achieve quota in a scalable, predictable, and repeatable fashion.”

It’s clear that sales enablement is a sales driver, not just a nice-to-have. Many high growth companies are deploying this function with incredible results, as they jump on the opportunity to supercharge the revenue generating side of the business. However, other companies are laggards, and they suffer the consequences.

Where does your company stand?

What is Sales Enablement?

Sales Enablement is an evolution of sales ops and marketing but elevated to a more strategic, proactive and hands-on level. With more tools, more resources, and a more complex sales process, you need a person or department who owns this and can deliver it to sales reps.

There’s no single agreed upon definition of sales enablement, as it’s still maturing and evolving in function and scope, but I like the definitions from David Brock in his new groundbreaking book The Sales Manager’s Survival Guide: “It’s all about providing tools, systems, processes, training coaching and development that ‘enables’ sales to be more effective and efficient.”

Though the responsibilities of sales enablement is still being defined, we can begin to clarify its scope. The following four functions are key in a successful sales enablement program:

  1. Content: Sales enablement must make sure that quality content is created and sales reps can find and utilize the right content at the right time.
  2. Training: Reps must be trained in not only sales skill, but product, marketing/industry and business skills as well.
  3. Strategy and Execution: Sales enablement has goes beyond winning deals and extends to hiring and onboarding, forecasting, budgeting, and performance reviews.
  4. Tools and Technology: Once the strategy is established, you must guarantee adoption of the technology to execute against the process. This function also overlaps with training, as tools and technology add functionality and become more complex.

Many companies are bought into the vision of sales enablement, however, according to research by Highspot and Heinz Marketing, there’s a huge disconnect.

When you ask about the importance of activities that are under the sales enablement umbrella, there’s a Grand Canyon sized gap between how important companies rate those activities and how they rate their current efforts.

Let’s dive into each of these aspects a little more.

How To Build and Execute a Sales Enablement Program

Content: There’s evidence that the sales enablement function grew largely out of the need for sales reps to leverage and optimize the content that marketing was creating. The two problems that needed to be solved were quality/value and discovery/utility. There’s an overwhelming about of mediocre content on the web. By creating more valuable content, you’re helping reps stand out in the noise, establish expertise, and build trust with prospects faster.

When it comes to discovery/utility, among the many studies conducted, they all agree on one thing: less than 60% of the content being created for sales is not being used. This is in large part because either the content is not easily accessible and discoverable, or reps simply don’t know the most appropriate time to use which content. It’s sales enablement’s job to make sure the right content is being created and reps can find and use said content.

Ultimately, content’s job is to drive more deals. Here are four ways that sales enablement can help:

Reusable Templates for Proposals, Quotes, and Contracts: Creating templates the entire sales team not only saves hours of writing content from scratch, it also creates consistent messaging.

Beat Out the Competition with Battle Cards: A battle card is any type of content that educates and differentiates you from your competitors. This gives your sales team fuel to keep the deal moving forward.

Let Your Customers Become An Additional Salesforce: What your customers say about you can be 10 times more powerful than what you say about yourself. Get case studies that speak to every type of customer you have, whether it’s by industry, company size, or specific use case.

Optimize Content Utilization By Diversifying Your Channels: With all the different channels to promote content -- from email and phone to social and direct channels -- you must be everywhere your prospects are to stay top of mind. It takes a joint effort from sales and marketing to execute this.

Training: This goes much further than training for sales skills. It’s sales enablement’s job to ensure product knowledge with product training, assess marketing information for relevant industry training, and establish project management for critical thinking. Not to mention it’s their job to guarantee reinforcement as well. The fatal flaw that most organizations suffer from regarding training is it happens only once per year. What’s the good of investing time, money and energy in training if it’s not reinforced?

There’s a distinction that needs to be made between training and coaching. Coaching is about personal and professional development, and it deals with real situation and behaviors that are unique to each individual rep. Training develops the same skills and capabilities for everyone and should be standardized across your entire sales team. Coaching is done by managers. Training should leverage the sales enablement program.

David Brock, President of Partners In EXCELLENCE and author of The Sales Manager’s Survival Guide, emphasized that there are so many other things that are important to the success of your team beyond sales skills training. Your sales enablement program should also include the following

  1. Product training (monthly)
  2. Sales training (monthly)
  3. Tools/technology training (quarterly)
  4. Market and industry training (quarterly)
  5. Change management/project management (quarterly)
  6. Critical thinking and problem solving (quarterly)

Tools and Technology: This should be the last piece of the puzzle because tools are just a means to get a job done and execute a process. It never starts with the technology, as it just supplements a reps abilities and behaviors. Always start with process first, and technology will follow. Too many organizations get caught up letting the tail wag the dog.

Once the process is established, it’s also sales enablement’s job to guarantee adoption of the technology to execute against the process. This function also overlaps with training, as tools and technology add functionality and become more complex.

The key categories of technology that sales enablement will influences are CRM, marketing automation, sales intelligence and automation, communication solutions, CPQ (configure, price quote) and content/knowledge management.

Here are the major things to keep in mind when setting up your technology stack to make your sales team more effective and efficient:

  1. The technology is for your salespeople first and foremost, not you.
  2. Regularly use the tools yourself, and observe your sales team use them as well.
  3. Tools and technologies only supplements and often augments a reps abilities and behaviors, both good and bad.
  4. The amount and variety of tools in the tech stack can become counterproductive. Don’t go overboard.

Strategy and Execution: As you can tell, there are a lot of moving parts and sales enablement touches and influences. With the broader vision and company goals set by the c-suite, sales leadership is beginning to pull sales enablement in to help define the strategy and steps to increase efficiency and effectiveness from their reps. However, the breadth of influence sales enablement has gone beyond winning deals and extends to hiring and onboarding, forecasting, budgeting, and performance reviews.

Demand Metrics put together one of the best charts that help visualize and conceptualize sales enablement and the execution against the strategy in their Sales Enablement Best Practices Report (2014).

Sales Enablement

(link to download the image)


Adopting a sales enablement program will dramatically impact your sales team and catch them up.

Though there’s no single agreed upon definition of sales enablement, no definitive scope of the function, and no clear department that owns the program, there is one thing that we can all agree on - sales enablement should be a mindset. If the foundation of sales enablement is the customer and the ultimate goal is revenue, then all parts of your organization have a vested interest and should support this function. You need a true sales culture where all departments are on the same page. Once everyone truly understand this, you can begin to impact the bottom line in a major way.

This is just an introductory overview of sales enablement. There are many more moving pieces to complete the puzzle and give you a full picture. That's why we’ve teamed up with the experts at PandaDoc for a webinar about “How to Use Sales Enablement to Increase Pipeline and Drive Revenue.”

On this webinar, you'll discover:

  1. The keys to an effective sales enablement program
  2. How technology can help you drive revenue and shorten the sales cycle
  3. 6 Steps to get up and running with sales enablement
  4. How Sales Enablement drives productivity and closes more deals
  5. How marketing and sales can develop effective Sales Enablement content
  6. 4 types of content that sales can use to close deals faster

Author: PersistIQ Head of Growth Brandon Redlinger.

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