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. But ups and downs aside, there’s a lot of “stuff” standing between a salesperson and their sale. Competition is fierce. There’s internal dynamics to navigate. And with zillions of 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 in the customer’s journey. It’s no easy feat, especially if marketing and sales teams aren’t totally aligned.
But 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, faster.
The sales enablement process
On the surface, sales enablement is a relatively straightforward concept. Give sales what they need, and they’ll perform better. But, as we all 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, you’ll likely have different parameters than your neighbor.
With that said, there are three ingredients — people, information, and technology — that are foundational to any successful sales enablement process. Here’s what goes into this winning trifecta:
People: 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.
Information: 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 everything from sales collateral and content to data about prospects, performance metrics, research, and more. Without accurate information and the proper management of it, sales will have a harder time conducting valuable conversations with buyers. Plus, without information like content analytics, marketing and sales would have no idea how to elevate what’s working and fix what’s not.
Technology: As an organization matures, workflows become more complex, and there’s more information and people to manage. Technology can help streamline every stage in sales enablement. For example, the right digital asset management (DAM) technology gives sales teams 24/7, on-demand access to the most effective materials for specific buyer needs. It makes the distribution of content easier. It ensures that only the right content is accessible. And it accelerates workflows, facilitates personalization, and helps organizations scale and improve their efforts.
Why do companies need sales enablement?
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 488 sales and marketing professionals, it drives quite a bit of success. The report stated that companies investing in sales enablement have 13% higher win rates, 11% higher quota attainment, and a 25% reduction in sales rep turnover.
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 what to do:
- Create a strategy. Document your sales enablement goals and how you will achieve them. To do this, it’s helpful to assess your current situation. What technologies are currently in place? What are the biggest pain points that exist between marketing and sales? Asking questions like this 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 can drive more revenue, more efficiently. However, this is only achieved 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. However, remember that 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 your internal audiences.
- Avoid tech silos. In this day and age, there seems 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 helps prevent duplicate 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 will not 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 customer relationship management (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. 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. Looking for technology to help? Here’s how to choose the right sales enablement tool for your team.