Selling is hard. The roller coaster of wins and rejections alone is enough to make the most seasoned sales professional consider running for the door some days. But ups and downs aside, there’s a lot of “stuff” standing between a salesperson and their sale.
Competition is fierce. There are internal dynamics to navigate. And with so many channels and touchpoints, sales has to work extra hard to shape positive and consistent buyer experiences. Plus, they have to communicate really well. They must tell their brand’s story using content that’s compelling, convincing, and relevant to buyers at each and every stage of the customer journey. It’s no easy feat, especially if marketing and sales teams aren’t totally aligned.
Effective sales enablement starts with sales and marketing teams working together to create resources buyers need and want. It can also include creating content for the sales team to consume and learn from. All of this can result in a lot of content that needs to be easy to use and easy to find.
Not to fear. With the right sales enablement strategy and technologies in place, organizations can establish the foundation they need to deliver superior customer experiences. They can create a support system that promotes productivity and empowers sales and marketing teams to work together — better and faster.
What is sales enablement?
Sales enablement is the process of providing sales teams with the resources they need to efficiently drive revenue. These resources include people, tools, and information that sales organizations use to conduct valuable conversations and support buyers throughout their customer journey.
More specifically, sales enablement aims to remove traditional barriers between sales, marketing, and operational teams. For example, sales enablement can alleviate inefficient content distribution processes or even eliminate an organization’s reliance on a few individuals for answers. As the name implies, it’s about empowerment, activation, and orchestration. It’s about laying the groundwork to help sales teams sell more, more quickly.
Why is sales enablement important?
Sales enablement isn’t exactly new, but it is evolving. Not long ago, sales efforts equaled cold calls, trade show booths, direct mail flyers, and the like. It was a fairly effective sales strategy. But after years of conditioning shoppers to search for and buy what they want online — with the pandemic solidly cementing this change — looking online is not just another option, it’s the option.
According to TrustRadius, we’re in the age of the self-service buyer. Buyers turn to trusted sources to learn about products before reaching out to a specific vendor. This means that as marketers work their magic to get in front of potential customers via organic and paid channels, sales teams need to be ready to pick up the baton once they make contact with a buyer. Sales must be prepared to get right into the details of their product since most buyers will come in with high-level knowledge that they’ve gathered as part of their own research phase.
This handoff between sales and marketing can happen seamlessly if the teams are in sync. If they’re not, it can create a disjointed buyer experience.
The sales enablement process
On the surface, sales enablement is a relatively straightforward concept. Give sales what they need, and they’ll close more sales. But, as we know all too well, putting theory into practice is always more challenging. There’s rarely a magic formula. And depending on your organization’s maturity, size, and budget, your parameters likely differ from your neighbor’s.
That said, there are three ingredients — people, information, and technology — foundational to any successful sales enablement process. Here’s more about this winning trifecta:
Even with all the impressive technology out there, real-life, actual humans still play an irreplaceable role in sales enablement. You need qualified people to hire other qualified people. You need marketing, sales, and operational teams to build and evolve your organization’s sales enablement strategy. You need people to coach and train other people. You need folks to create the content that moves buyer conversations forward. And you need people to leverage and inform the processes and technologies that streamline workflows and make distributing and managing content easier. The list goes on and on, but you get the gist: People are key.
A huge part of sales enablement has to do with the creation, storage, distribution, management, and optimization of information. While it’s a somewhat vague term, “information” includes a wide range of content including:
- Customer stories: These are documents that highlight customers using your products. They often share details about why a company invested in your product and the benefits they’ve experienced after implementing it. Some of these stories could be available to the public, while some are only for the sales team to share on a one-to-one basis.
- Slide decks: These presentations can range from marketing webinars to product overviews. Sales teams will often present these during demos or send them to buyers after a conversation to refer to later.
- E-books/white papers: These longer, typically data-backed, resources are great introductory pieces that the marketing team can use to capture researchers or sales teams can use to support ongoing conversations with buyers.
- Product videos: Demos, product overviews, and how-to videos are a great way to show off key product features.
- Competitive insights: This tends to be internal intel on how your product compares to that of your competitors. It’s a helpful tool especially when a buyer shares which vendors you’re up against.
- Customer research: Another internal tool, this information is a way for marketing and sales to share details about their customers to better understand what they’re looking for and how to relate to different customer personas.
- Customer data: While customer research often focuses on more generalized information about a subset of customers, customer data can drill down to specific details such as interactions, entry points, other vendors being considered, and unique product needs.
Without accurate information and the proper management of these resources, sales has a harder time conducting valuable conversations with buyers. Plus, without information like content analytics to learn about how these resources are being used, marketing and sales has no idea how to elevate what’s working and to fix what’s not.
As an organization matures, workflows become more complex, and there’s more information and people to manage. But technology can help streamline every stage in sales enablement. Building out your technology stack gives teams a way to access and use information when and where they need it. Here are some sales enablement tools you might want to consider.
- Digital asset management (DAM) technology: A DAM solution is a secure, single source of truth for your content. Teams can rely on it for access to the current, on-brand materials they need to support marketing efforts and sales conversations.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software: CRM tools help marketing and sales teams keep track of specific customer data and interactions. It’s designed to improve personal interactions with customers by housing information for leads and existing customers.
- Customer data platform (CDP): A CDP captures broad data about customers and collects information from across customer touchpoints. It pulls together zero-, first-, and third-party data to build comprehensive 360º customer profiles, giving marketers the intelligence they need to recommend products and services at the right time on the right channel with the right message.
Investing in technologies like these is great, but integrating them is even better. For example, when you connect the content in your DAM system with other tools, teams can more easily access and share content quickly. And the permission settings of a DAM solution are upheld across integrations, ensuring that only the right content is accessible. Integrating technologies also accelerates workflows, facilitates personalization, and helps organizations scale and improve their efforts, creating a better customer and buying experience.
Why do companies need sales enablement?
We’ve established that selling nowadays is complex. There’s more competition, more channels, more conflicting information, and more pressure than ever to meet customer expectations. Tapping into the buyer’s journey is no longer a straight shot. It zigs, zags, hops, and shuffles. Sellers and marketing teams need to figure out how to work together to deliver what’s needed at each stage. Even for the most well-oiled operation, this is a challenging environment to navigate.
Sales enablement puts the processes and solutions in place to smooth this tumultuous path to sale. It makes content more accessible and puts safeguards in place to protect the integrity and accuracy of information. It automates processes and makes insights more actionable. In whole, it positions your sales team for success.
How much success exactly? Well, according to the State of Sales Enablement, an industry report summarizing the responses of nearly 400 enablement, sales, and marketing professionals, it drives quite a bit of success. The report stated that companies investing in sales enablement have 4% higher win rates, 8% higher quota attainment, and 9% higher customer retention compared to those without a dedicated sales enablement function.
Sales enablement best practices
Sales enablement looks different for every organization. However, there are a few best practices that you can apply to better support your sellers, create an incredible buyer experience, and drive revenue. Here’s how:
- Create a strategy. Document your sales enablement goals and how to achieve them. To begin, assess your current situation. What technologies are currently in place? What are the biggest pain points that exist between marketing and sales? Asking such questions can inform both your short- and long-term strategies.
- Put the buyer first. The end goal of sales enablement is to support sales teams so they drive more revenue, more efficiently. However, this only works if buyer needs are met. Therefore, it’s important to consider buyers when making sales enablement plans. For example, think about the buyer when you’re evaluating technology options. Figure out what you need to deliver to them and then back into the best solution that’ll get you there.
- Communicate. Ensure that everyone involved in selling or supporting your salesforce understands your strategy, goals, and technologies. With the necessary information, training, and expectations, teams are more aligned, and your strategy is more likely to succeed. But remember: Communication isn’t a one-and-done task. Keep the communication flowing and don’t be afraid to adjust your approach so it’s “stickier” with internal audiences.
- Avoid tech silos. In this day and age, there seem to be a million technology solutions for every business problem. Vet your options carefully and ensure that you’re bringing on the right solutions for your unique needs. Also ensure that your different technology solutions work together to enable your sales teams. For example, consider technologies that “talk” to each other through integrations. This avoids duplicative efforts and combats inconsistencies across your organization.
- Advocate. Even the best sales enablement programs can fall flat if people aren’t adopting the processes, practices, and technologies that you put in place. Get the word out about your sales enablement solutions. There’s a new marketing video available? Great; share data on its effectiveness. Train people on how to find it in your systems. And educate people on how your processes and solutions will benefit them specifically. Lastly, don’t be afraid to rally support from others — especially engaged users. It doesn’t hurt to get some extra cheerleading behind your sales enablement initiatives.
- Improve, improve, improve. Your approach to sales enablement won’t be perfect. Learn from your mistakes. Fine-tune. Grow. And figure out what processes and technologies work for your teams. Also, use sales enablement to optimize your efforts. If you use a CRM system, look at the analytics to inform ideal customer profiles (ICP). Or bring on sales enablement technologies, like a DAM solution, to unlock insights about content performance. Whatever the case, always improve.
Selling today is challenging. It’s an on-demand, 24/7, obstacle-ridden environment. And your trusted salesforce must keep pace. But sales enablement can provide you with the foundational support needed to bridge the great sales-marketing divide and help your salesforce move your business forward. Just make sure to take into consideration the whys, hows, and whats of sales enablement and you’ll be all set.
If you’re starting to look for technology to support your sales enablement efforts, we can help. Our DAM platform helps customers around the world like Heaven Hill Brands and Canon Medical use their content as part of their sales enablement strategy. To see how, watch an or with our Advisor team for a personalized demo.
Note: This article was originally published in December 2019 and has been updated to remain current.