What is Sales Enablement? Hint: It’s Not Just an App
May 24, 2017
Google what is sales enablement, and you’ll find varying definitions alongside dozens of companies offering apps that claim to be the silver bullet. We’ve seen first-hand that companies are often grasping at technology as a quick fix, rather than slowing down to align on a comprehensive initiative. However, making it easy for an entire sales force to use consistent messaging, keep up with product knowledge, add value to the customer experience, and drive sales growth can’t be accomplished with a single app. We must think bigger.
According to CSO Insights, while sales enablement is a growing trend, overall sales performance is not improving. In fact, while sales enablement as a discipline grew from 19.3% in 2013 to 32.7% in 2016, quota attainment actually decreased from 63% to 55.8%.
How can you expand your sales enablement efforts into a 360-degree strategy? We have some ideas.
What Is Sales Enablement: The Unboxed Definition
To start, here’s our answer to the what is sales enablement question.
We define sales enablement as:
A strategic initiative that aligns sales, marketing, and training to equip sales teams with the training, technology, content, and ongoing coaching they need to increase productivity, sell more, and improve the customer experience.
Let’s break that down.
IT’s a strategic initiative
Sales enablement is a comprehensive, forward-thinking initiative that employs a smart mix of technology and training. It’s not a quick-fix or a shiny new tool that lacks staying power.
If every employee company-wide embraces a mindset that they are either salespeople or sales support, your success will skyrocket. According to Salesforce’s State of Sales Report, 60% of sales professionals say collaborative selling increases their productivity by 25% or more, and over half say it also increases their pipeline.
It aligns sales, marketing, and training
In our experience, sales enablement originates in marketing. It’s marketing’s responsibility to position products, create talking points, and create a value proposition to make the customer experience more consistent.
Sales reps are your organization’s frontline revenue drivers. They build strong relationships with customers, provide solutions, and close deals. But it takes all three departments―sales, marketing, and training― working together to cultivate a successful, cross-functional sales enablement initiative.
Marketing typically owns the budget, sales executes the strategy, and training fosters the necessary skills and behaviors to sustain it. When this powerful trifecta aligns, the ultimate customer experience emerges.
It demands training
Sales reps require knowledge, skills, and behaviors to effectively sell to modern buyers. Without great training, they won’t share your value proposition with ease or overcome difficult objections.
Unfortunately, 80% of marketing content is rarely or never used by sales, according to ITSMA. Without strategic, insightful training on how to use them, high-end sales enablement tools and content are useless—but with the right training, these tools are priceless.
And with microlearning, reps can make the most of small chunks of time and train on the go. They can access training information whenever they need it. Quick refresher course before a big customer meeting? Yes, please.
It’s powered by technology
CSO Insights explains your organization can create the right tools, training, messaging, and content, but if your sales team can’t access them easily, you’re effectively fighting with one hand tied behind your back.
The sales productivity gap―widened by administrative tasks, manual data entry, and time spent searching for the right content―means less time for what sales reps do best: selling. Selling Power says some reps spend as little as 3% of their time actually selling. That’s shocking!
That’s where sales enablement technology comes in. And remember, don’t look for a silver bullet. Your reps will likely use different tools for different tasks. From rep-facing tools like CRMs and sales training platforms, to customer-facing solutions like guided selling tools and customer feedback platforms.
It centralizes content
Message consistency is vital to your organization’s brand. Sales enablement gives every rep access to the same high-caliber marketing content. Customers in every region are guaranteed to receive the same (stellar!) level of information and service. Marketing consistency thus becomes reality.
Easy access to interactive demos and content serves a dual purpose: they’re customer-facing (hello, customer experience) and also help keep your reps’ knowledge on point.
Let the content do the talking: interactive demos can explain your products quickly, while some sales enablement tools recommend the right training content at the right time to help reps close a deal.
Enablement? We’d call that empowerment.
It requires ongoing coaching
According to Topo, “Most sales training programs suffer from a fatal flaw―they happen once a year. As a result, salespeople forget what they’ve learned.”
Products change, messaging evolves, and competitors encroach. The solution? Make sales enablement training a continuous, cyclical effort.
Conduct regular training sessions and provide reps with refresher training to maintain their competitive edge. The more modern and interesting you make it, the more your team will engage with it.
And coach, coach, coach. Observe your reps in action and provide feedback. They want to be better. Help them.
The Goal: Increase productivity, grow sales, and improve customer experience
When sales enablement is done right, the benefits are three-fold.
First, reps are more productive. They spend less time on administrative tasks and more time selling. And don’t forget about onboarding. Getting new reps up to speed is a challenge. With the right sales enablement strategy, reps are more productive, sooner. Often twice as fast.
It empowers reps to educate customers and make smarter recommendations about the best product/service for their needs. When customers experience this transparency and see that a rep isn’t just suggesting a solution to meet quota, they start to trust. And trust quickly morphs into increased sales.
Finally, it simplifies the increasingly complex buyer’s journey and adds value. A comprehensive sales enablement strategy makes it easy for your reps to sell and easy for your customers to buy from you. When you create a unique and exceptional customer experience, customers will buy from you again and again, and tell their friends to do the same.
Think before you launch
Without a well-planned strategy to accomplish your organization’s sales enablement objectives, you could waste time, effort, and money on so called “silver bullets” without achieving results.
Avoid failure to launch. With good planning, and a smart mix of training and technology, your sales force will be enabled, empowered and unstoppable.
So what is sales enablement to you? Share your definition in the comments below.