SALES ENABLEMENT 101
Sales is tough.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a leading-edge enterprise SaaS tool or a residential HVAC system, it’s a process that requires equal amounts product knowledge, customer empathy, and willpower.
Fortunately, there’s a little something that can help sellers do their jobs more effectively.
Enter sales enablement.
While it isn’t always easy to implement, this process of building easily-accessible collateral in the name of streamlining the journey from lead to customer is imperative when building a scalable sales organization.
In this post, we’ll cover:
- What is sales enablement?
- Which sales enablement KPIs should you be tracking?
- Why is sales enablement important?
- Foolproof sales enablement strategy
- 5 tools to supercharge your sales enablement efforts
All in the name of helping you give your sales reps the ability to work more leads and convert more leads more effectively.
What is sales enablement?
Sales enablement = Helping reps close deals.
That’s it. That’s the tweet.
Unpacking that simple definition a bit, sales enablement is the process of empowering your sales reps with the tools, resources, and competitive intelligence they need to do their jobs effectively.
Therefore, overcoming sales enablement challenges requires bidirectional collaboration with your sales organization.
What does that mean? Great question.
You need to develop a 360-degree understanding of how reps sell your product in order to uncover roadblocks (the things standing between reps and new business). Once you’ve got a handle on the various impediments, you can create and implement solutions. If the solutions you built were the right solutions, you’ll see improved win rates in instances where collateral, for example, was leveraged. If you missed the mark, you can use this same data to go back to the drawing board.
Sales enablement KPIs
Whether you’re a content creator or a sales manager looking to give your AE’s an edge, there you can use these sales enablement metrics to measure the success of your efforts:
Sales enablement metric #1: Lead-to-opportunity CVR
This metric tells you the percentage of leads that are converting into opportunities. The definition of “opportunity” varies drastically across organizations, but let’s say an opportunity is created when a rep gets one of their qualified leads to agree to an intro call. If your lead-to-opportunity conversion rate is improving (thanks to your sales enablement efforts), it’s a sign that your sellers are getting better at delivering the right messages to the right people.
Sales enablement metric #2: Win rate
While an increase in win volume (sheer number of deals closed) is never a bad thing, it’s not necessarily attributable to sales enablement. It could simply mean your business is growing; more leads and more reps means more deals in the door.
If, on the other hand, your win rate (the percentage of opportunities that are converting into closed deals) is improving, it’s a sign that your sellers are getting better at demonstrating value to a bigger swath of the prospects with whom they engage.
Sales enablement metric #3: Length of sales cycle
In a perfect world, a qualified prospect would find your website, immediately book a demo, get on a call, and sign a decade-long contract without hesitation.
We don’t live in a perfect world.
We do, however, live in a world where sales cycles can be streamlined in a way that improves the customer experience and allows sales reps to bring in more deals. The length of your sales cycle tells you how long, on average, it takes to close a deal; sales enablement can help your team create a sense of urgency within their prospects, handle objections underpinned by the competitive landscape, and empower prospects to earn approval from the ultimate decision maker within their organization. What do those things have in common? They all reduce the time it takes to close a deal.
Sales enablement metric #4: Hitting quota
This metric tells you the percentage of sellers who are hitting their respective quotas.
Sales is a zero-sum game. At the end of the day, reps want to earn. And how do they earn? They hit quota. There is no more telling measurement of whether sales enablement efforts are on point than if reps are hitting (and exceeding) their targets.
Sales enablement metric #5: Content adoption
Content adoption can refer to either (1) the percentage of sellers who have leveraged a given asset or (2) the number of times a given asset has been put to use. Put simply, collateral that makes it easier to sell gets adopted; stuff that doesn’t, doesn’t. If overall content adoption is increasing, it’s a sign that the assets you’re creating are enabling your sellers to do what they were hired to do.
Why is sales enablement important?
Sales enablement is important because, done right, it’s transformative.
It can save underperforming reps from a pink slip. It can ratchet your median up a notch. And it can turn your top-performers into absolute legends.
Good sales enablement empowers your entire sales organization with the competitive intelligence, resources, and tools to close more deals more efficiently. It’s more than just creating a few battlecards and wishing reps luck; it’s about teaching them to fish, showing them how to leverage your hard work into better business outcomes.
No matter what you sell or who you sell to, buyers are more informed now than at any other point in history. Gone are the days of taking credit card information over the phone and calling it a day (did they ever actually exist?). Sales is about lightning fast relationship building, not simply inciting a transaction.
It isn’t enough to simply offer useful functionality at a good price. In a very short period of time, your sales reps need to be able to:
- Get a qualified prospect’s attention
- Build rapport
- Highlight pain points and position your product as the solution that delivers x ideal outcome (bonus points if it also makes the prospect into a hero)
- Handle objections
And to do that,sales teams must be armed with training and readily-available materials purpose-built to simplify and hasten the buyer’s journey.
In other words… they must be enabled.
Why should marketers care about sales enablement?
Sales enablement is almost always owned equally by an organization’s sales and marketing teams. The processes’ importance to the former is, well, pretty obvious. The latter, however, requires some unpacking.
As marketers, we tend to focus on granular, technical metrics associated with and directly attributable to our daily efforts. Things like site sessions and social engagement and open rates.
These metrics are important! But at the end of the day, if these or any other top-line metrics are contributing to revenue growth, they aren’t that important.
Revenue is fuel for a business. Sales teams drive revenue. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of marketers to embrace sales enablement as a function of their role. By creating resources–blog posts, videos, talk tracks, one-pagers, emails, etc.– that can be leveraged to bring more revenue in the door, marketers can deliver more organizational value.
Tired of losing to competitors? Tired of listening to call recordings and hearing sellers fumble your core differentiators? Start building high-impact sales enablement materials today!
Foolproof sales enablement strategy
Conducted with the intent of improving efficiency and accelerating revenue, sales enablement is the process of empowering your sellers with the training, knowledge, resources, and tools they need to do their jobs effectively — i.e., to create and close opportunities.
This looks different in every organization.
Everyone will need to make tweaks to the process we’re about to discuss. Nevertheless, if you want to build and implement a successful, sustainable sales enablement strategy, start with this 7-step process:
Sales enablement strategy step #1: Assemble your team
In an ideal world, your organization would have a dedicated sales enablement team, built to deliver strategic training and collateral to sales reps. This should include your sales leaders and anyone who will be overseeing the creation of collateral (e.g., battlecards).
In growing organizations, however, sales enablement often falls on product marketers. When sales reps need help closing business, the go-to resource for all things positioning, messaging, and competitive intelligence is the obvious first step.
Note that too many cooks is (nearly) as bad as having nobody at the helm. Just because, say, a content marketer is going to create sales enablement collateral, doesn't necessarily mean they need to be involved in the minutia of planning an overarching SE strategy.
If someone’s presence on your sales enablement strategy team is not absolutely essential, let them skip this step.
Sales enablement strategy step #2: Establish specific goals & KPIs
We walked through the myriad ways an organization can choose to measure sales enablement success: Now’s the time for you to choose your north star(s).
Obviously revenue growth is at the top of the list, but that’s a lagging indicator. How do you get to revenue growth?
Will you strive to improve win rate by updating your battle cards? Perhaps you’ll aim to shorten sales cycles by rolling out nuanced talk tracks that highlight persona-specific case studies.
Each goal should be accompanied by at least one key performance indicator (KPI), which is a measurable iteration of the idea stated above. If, for example, updating one of your battlecards yields a 15% jump in competitive win rate — a KPI — you can conclude that the update was a success.
Sales enablement strategy step #3: Delegate action items
Your team is built. Your goals are locked in. Now let’s determine who’s going to own what.
This is pretty intuitive. Any goal related to positioning, messaging, or competitive intelligence should be owned by a product marketer. Any goal related to nurturing leads should be owned by a demand gen marketer. Any goal related to thought leadership should be owned by a content marketer.
Ownership of a specific goal can be shared, of course. But make sure it’s clear who owns specific deliverables.
Sales enablement strategy step #5: Create collateral
Whether you're focused on case studies, business case templates, ROI calculators, or something else entirely, now is the time to bring it (or them) to life.
Creating a piece of collateral isn’t as simple as writing an email or publishing a blog post — it’s an activity that (when done well) requires a substantial degree of collaboration and attention to detail.
Sales enablement strategy step #6: Distribute collateral
So, you've just created some game-changing sales enablement collateral. Congratulations!
How are you going to ensure that your sellers know:
- Where to find it
- Why it's important
- How to use it?
I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t involve sending a 1,471 word email riddled with links and attachments. If you want your reps to actually leverage the materials you’ve created, you need to be thoughtful as to how you’re going to roll everything out. Depending on the preferences of your sales team and the complexity of your collateral, it’s entirely possible that each new asset will require (1) a unique distribution channel and (2) a unique training process.
Sales enablement strategy step #7: Distribute collateral
Now that you've answered those 3 questions, make it happen.
Your efforts here should focus on the “why it’s important” piece of the equation.
Ask yourself: If you were a sales rep, which of the following would yield more enthusiasm?
- The new customer case study is live and accessible via Dropbox.
- We’ve got a new case study on deck. We created it because we’re confident it will make an impact at the bottom of the funnel. As you all know, we’ve got a number of competitors in almost all of our deals, and a piece of collateral like this can make all the difference. You can find it in Dropbox: Put it to use whenever possible!
That extra modicum of effort goes a long way in driving adoption.
Sales enablement strategy step #8: Analyze & optimize
We included KPIs in step 2 for a reason: Because the work of sales enablement is never done. Use your KPIs to determine what's working, what's not, and how you can continue to improve results over time.
Unfortunately, no matter how thorough you are when planning, creating, and distributing your collateral, you won’t hit a home run with your first swing. Some materials will be underutilized, and others will prove ineffective. There will always, in other words, be room for improvement.
This raises two important questions:
- How do you identify where, specifically, there is room for improvement?
- How do you proceed from there?
Learn more about how to analyze & optimize your sales enablement strategy here.
Top 5 sales enablement tools
In the stone age, we might have been forced to create assets without version control and dump them into a shared drive, hoping that sales reps could follow a trail of breadcrumbs to (probably outdated) content that might help push a deal across the finish line in some nebulous way.
Today, there are dozens of sales enablement tools to help create and manage materials, train reps, and more, all from a central, accessible location.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Sales enablement tool #1: Seismic
Seismic is a full-service sales enablement platform. It keeps your collateral in one place, while measuring the impact of each deliverable. By training your team with Seismic, you can track and measure the effectiveness of each session.
Sales enablement tool #2: Highspot
Highspot will help you get sales enablement content in front of your sales team, help you train your sales team better, and show how well certain materials are performing with the help of analytics. It's an excellent choice if you’re looking for a sales enablement platform that will help you sharpen your sales team’s skills and provide your team with guidance as they close more deals.
Sales enablement tool #3: Showpad
Showpad is a platform that provides a centralized location for sales enablement materials, so it helps build a stronger connection between sales and marketing. Your sales team won’t have to email, Slack, or call your marketing team to figure out where that one piece of content is being stored.
Sales enablement tool #4: Gong
Gong uses conversational intelligence to help sales teams sharpen their pitch and build a solid script to close deals. Essentially, Gong records sales calls then pulls out key soundbites, questions, and themes, to help you determine what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to winning customers. Once you’ve pulled out the key insights, you can relay the information to your team to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Oh yeah, and it integrates with…
Sales enablement tool #5: Crayon
Last but certainly not least…
Crayon is a market and competitive intelligence solution that helps businesses capture, analyze, and act on what’s happening within their markets.
We use machine learning and artificial intelligence to capture each competitors’ entire digital footprint, catalog their moves, and filter out the noise so that sales teams can leverage just the intel that helps them win deals. Only with Crayon can you create a variety of sales enablement resources - alongside resources for other audiences in the company - including alerts, battlecards, analysis reports, and more.
Crayon also integrates with many of the solutions above so that sales teams can access these resources in the sales enablement tools they may already be using.
Fuel your sales enablement strategy with Crayon
Sales enablement is at once incredibly powerful and criminally undervalued.
By empowering your sales organization with the right training and collateral, rolling it out in a way that conveys its value, and developing the criteria by which its efficacy should be measured, your sales enablement efforts will be a revenue force multiplier.
What are you waiting for?
Featured Resource: The Ultimate Guide to Sales Enablement
Created in partnership with Highspot, this is the definitive guide to empowering your sellers with the training, knowledge, resources, and tools they need to source and close business.
Download your free copy here.