What is Sales Enablement?
These days, sales can no longer rely on a simple phone call from a sales rep following the same generic script every time. Hyper-informed buyers want to build a lasting relationship with a brand, and salespeople must take on the role of a trusted ally to guide customers through their buying decision. In order to resonate with these expectations, sales materials must be personalized and deeply empathetic to the needs and wants of the individual buyer––but these increasingly complex requirements put a great deal of pressure on our salespeople. That’s where sales enablement comes in: by providing salespeople with the necessary content, tools, and information to engage with the buyer and sell more effectively.
Thankfully, organizations are recognizing the importance of having a sales enablement team, and 75% of B2B companies now have a dedicated sales enablement function. To understand why more companies are adopting sales enablement strategies, we will explore why sales enablement is so important, how it works hand-in-hand with marketing, and what you can do to ensure that your sales enablement strategy is a winning one.
Sales enablement and marketing: like peas and carrots
An effective sales enablement strategy starts by rewriting the traditional assumption that marketing and sales are largely working at odds with each other. Close collaboration between the two is essential to making sales enablement work: marketing provides sales with the resources they need to overcome a buyer’s objections and sell more effectively; sales in turn helps hone marketing content as well as sharing the feedback they’re hearing during their time in the field. (As we discussed in a previous post, talking to salespeople is an invaluable part of market research, persona creation, and post-launch follow-up.)
By adopting a more collaborative mindset, sales enablement eliminates siloed responsibilities and ensures that sales, marketing, and other teams within the company are working together to put the customer first.
Product marketing and sales enablement
Product marketing is one of the functions in the company that provides sales enablement. Product marketers work as a go-between between product management and sales. Product marketing ensures that sales training does not include technical jargon or features and functions, but clearly communicates the benefits of a product in a way that is easy to understand and appeals to the buyer.
Though sales’ focus should be on finding and closing opportunities, a regular cadence of training can be helpful in arming them with the tools they need to be successful. This is especially important during the launch of a new product or functionality.
For example, sales training on a product launch should answer questions such as:
- What is the goal of the product launch? Why are we doing this? Why does it matter?
- Who are we selling to? What’s the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)? Which personas?
- What is the benefit of the product to our buyers?
- What are the product or solution differentiators?
- What’s the value prop? What’s the sales or elevator pitch?
- Who are our top competitors? How do we compare?
- What are the typical objections a sales rep might get on a call? How to handle those objections?
- What are the sales enablement tools and content that are available?
- What are some of the planned marketing tactics that sales could utilize?
As you can see, a lot goes into training sales on a product launch or campaign. But sales enablement isn’t only about regular training around the product or solutions. It’s also about creating sales enablement tools that can help in the sales process.
Arming your sales team with sales tools
The product marketing team will be constantly arming the sales team with sales enablement tools that can help them win opportunities. From assessment tools and ROI calculators to persona decks, competitive battlecards, and customer-facing presentations, these tools help your sales team stay up to speed and focus on what they do best: sell.
After you’ve decided on which sales enablement tools and techniques are going to be the most effective, you can include them in a comprehensive sales playbook. (We covered the specifics of creating a compelling sales playbook in a previous post.)
A good playbook will equip your salespeople to deal with customers’ questions and objections as well as learning about your competitors’ offerings and how they compare to yours. Remember, much of the sales journey is simply giving your prospects the information they need to make an informed decision––and competitive analysis is a critical part of that process.
It helps, too, if your playbook is dynamic, easily updatable, and easily consumable. Sales reps aren’t going to be enthusiastic about turning to a stodgy tome that weighs as much as a ton of bricks, and that lack of enthusiasm will carry over to your customers. Instead, tailor your format with your reps in mind––some may learn better from digital, modular formats they can easily fit into their workday; others may benefit from having a physical book to consult. However it is conveyed, make sure that your reps can easily access the relevant information at the right moment in the sales cycle.
Creating sales enablement content that helps with opportunities
The sophistication of B2B products and buyers and higher purchase prices increase sales cycles. This means multiple touches from the sales team, and at each touch point sales reps can take the opportunity to educate their prospects and manage their objections.
By mapping sales enablement tools and content to the touch points, the sales team can demonstrate their understanding of the prospect and where they’re coming from. The key is to decide which sales tools will best connect and resonate with them at that point.
Awareness and discovery
For prospects at the beginning of the sales process, thought leadership and educational content can be the most relevant. Prospects here will have a lot of broad questions, as they are still trying to define their challenges and decide what is most important to them in a solution. Free educational content such as industry papers, blogs, articles or videos, are a great way to build trust with a prospect when they are just setting out on their decision-making journey.
At this stage, sales will start talking about products and solutions. The prospect is still exploring solutions on a broader level, so it’s still not time to close the deal. The sales tools that are going to be most influential at this point are the ones that give them more in-depth information such as case studies, demo videos, or webinars.
Making an educated purchasing decision
At the later stages of the sales cycle, prospects know exactly what problem they’re trying to solve and what the best type of solution is going to be. They may have narrowed down their list of potential vendors and are now looking for anything that will influence their decision one way or the other. B2B purchasing decisions often involve an entire set of roles, so the point person for the prospect company is going to want compelling information to back up the choice they recommend. Live demos are a great way to reach prospects in this stage of their process, as are videos about product capabilities, FAQs, quotes, or even incentives.
Not sure your sales enablement tools are hitting the mark? Do your research
Evaluating whether your sales enablement tools are connecting and resonating with your customers is simple: ask them. Customer feedback is a great way to keep your sales tools fresh and maximize their effectiveness. You can also ask your sales team to see if they are using the assets and what they think works best.
For example, conducting win-loss interviews, will give you valuable insights into why some opportunities were lost and others were won. This type of analysis allows sales managers and product marketers to keep up to date with changes in the market, test how messaging is resonating, and keep track of what the competition is doing. And the value of that information is clear: companies that did consistent win-loss interviews benefited from a 14.2% increase in win rates.
Finally, by placing your sales tools and content on a platform or portal, you can track the number of downloads or engagement by your sales teams to see how well they are performing.
Create an org-wide sales enablement content library
The Content Marketing Institute reports that 79% of highly aligned teams have a centrally located place where reps can go to retrieve content. What you include in the library will vary according to your organization and product, but it can have customer personas, battlecards, data sheets, email and newsletter templates, etc.
Depending on the size of your organization and your budget, you can invest in a sales-specific CRM program, or you can do something as simple as Google Docs to aggregate enablement materials. Though, as mentioned earlier, it is best to store the content in a place where you can retrieve download metrics to better help understand the effectiveness of your content. Regardless, a content library makes sure that your entire organization is on the same page with regards to messaging––and, with the right assets immediately available, salespeople won’t be tempted to treat marketing as an on-demand content creation station.
Sales enablement as part of a successful sales management framework
Sales enablement provides your salespeople with the assets they need to close faster and bring in more business by creating a seamless, easy buying experience. These sales tools also help your sales reps create relationships with prospects, which in time can lead to higher retention rates and positive growth in your brand reputation.
In other words, establishing sales enablement processes as part of your overall sales management framework can have a multitude of benefits for your company. By ensuring that your messaging collateral resonates with both your customers and your sellers and keeping it continually up to date based on their feedback, sales enablement allows you maximize the benefit of your marketing opportunities and keep your efforts on-topic and on-point.