Sales is the engine that powers your company. But what’s powering your sales?
By now it’s universally known that sales and sales team practices have undergone a tectonic shift in recent years. And, even more alarmingly, buyer needs and behaviors seem to be moving way ahead of the sales learning curve.
Some head-spinning facts about this disconnect include:
- As of 2020, companies had an average quota attainment rate of below 30%.
- Only 32% of B2B buyers feel sales reps are surpassing expectations (that is, going above and beyond what’s necessary to secure buyer business).
- 44% of millennial purchasers prefer not to deal with a seller throughout the entire buying process.
So, what’s contributing to these numbers?
Obviously, COVID-19 plays a significant role. But there’s also a troubling trend on the rise: Salespeople often lack the tools, training, resources, and ongoing coaching they need to meet buyer demands in the field. Reps also tend to miss out on crucial metric reporting that can uncover areas for improvement. This makes for a cognitive dissonance that can cause sales bottlenecks and lead to subpar performance overall.
Now for some good news.
Sales enablement can help bridge this coaching/performance divide.
A sales enablement program can serve as an invaluable guide for boosting rep confidence, strengthening sales training techniques, and optimizing sales practices both today and tomorrow. Yet despite its many benefits, sales enablement often exists outside traditional sales operations. This, in turn, means sales enablement strategies and sales goals can often be misaligned.
But now for some even better news…
Revenue-facing teams can resolve cognitive dissonances by building and implementing a sales enablement plan.
Here’s a look at how to get started.
What’s a Sales Enablement Plan?
Let’s begin with the basics: What exactly is a sales enablement plan and how does it work?
Sales enablement – the process of providing reps with the necessary training, content, coaching, plays, practices, etc., in order to help them sell… well – covers a lot of ground. And it does it on a massive scale. So, to keep things moving as painlessly and effectively as possible, your company needs a plan of action: a definitive guide for what should be done, how to do it, when, and with what tools. You also need a detailed framework for your sales teams to follow (more on this below), including a library of training playbooks, in-field resources, and relevant buyer and seller content.
This combination of elements is what makes up your sales enablement plan.
Skeptical if a sales enablement plan will actually work for your organization? A few stats to review:
- Companies with best-in-class sales enablement programs have 38% higher quota achievement than the industry average.
- Sales reps at these companies achieve quota at a rate of 75% (a full 25 points above the industry average).
- Organizations with optimal sales enablement programs see an average 13.1% uptick in year-over-year revenue.
What’s a Sales Enablement Framework?
As helpful as a sales enablement plan can be, it won’t be very useful if it isn’t formalized. A sales enablement framework provides a codified set of rules and steps that practitioners should follow to help drive optimal sales enablement outcomes. (Think of it as your internal sales enablement “user’s manual.”)
With those definitions under our belt, let’s work on getting your new sales enablement plan off the ground.
Here are six steps to constructing (and maintaining) an effective sales enablement plan.
Step #1: Build a Sales Enablement Charter Aligned to Sales Goals
Remember when we said your plan needs to be formalized? Here’s where that idea comes home to roost.
Sales enablement won’t get far without a standardized strategy in place. (And if this seems like an obvious point, consider only about 28% of companies operated under a systematic sales enablement program as of 2021.) Consequently, the first step in building a sales enablement plan is to draft a charter directly in keeping with your sales strategies and objectives.
Questions to ask when building your charter include:
- How will onboarding and training be defined? What learning management systems, sales methodologies, educational software, etc., will you use and when?
- How will your coaching strategy unfold? When, where, and how often will sales reps meet with coaches and/or undergo learning “refreshers”? Will coaching be in person or delivered remotely (or a combination of both)?
- What kinds of internal and external sales content will you need to provide to your reps? Will you have a rotating database for playbooks and pitch decks? How about for customer-facing material? Will these assets live in a content management system? How will they be updated? And how frequently?
- What KPIs will determine performance levels? What weekly, monthly, and yearly goals will spell success for your sales teams?
You get the picture. Admittedly, it’s a lot. But it’ll be worth it when you end up with a concrete sales enablement roadmap to help move your company forward.
Step #2 Talk to Sales Management about Their Needs
To be fair, Step #2 and Step #1 should probably happen simultaneously.
That’s because sales leaders know what good selling looks like. They’re also your direct link to the sales rep frontline. And, if you’re starting a sales enablement plan from the ground up, you’ll need to be sure the sales POV informs all your sales enablement team activity.
As you create your sales enablement strategy blueprints, consult with your colleagues in sales leadership. Get their take on where pain points and sales processes stand and how they can be improved (read: enabled). Familiarize yourself with their language, sales cycles, and target revenue objectives, as well as their parameters for sales rep success.
Next? Make this a regular thing. Decide on a prescribed schedule of leadership check-ins to help evaluate sales trends and strategize on how sales enablement can meet fluctuating demand in areas like coaching, content creation, and goal achievement over time.
In short: Sales leadership should always have a say in ongoing sales enablement efforts.
Step #3 Define Sales Enablement Metrics to Track
Not to be confused with sales performance metrics, sales enablement metrics look at how well your sales enablement practices have taken hold and whether your reps are actively engaging with your team’s sales enablement materials and processes. As such, a critical part of your sales enablement plan is to define sales-enablement-specific metrics that will help track the success of your program in the short and long term.
Critical numbers to monitor include:
- Training course completion rates
- Training turnover rates
- Sales rep quota attainment
- Win rates
- Talent retention
- Revenue influence
- Number of closed deals
And that’s only the beginning.
Reviewing this type of data on a continual basis will help your sales enablement team gauge effectiveness/efficiency and avoid missteps going forward.
Step #4: Map Sales Enablement Efforts and Materials to the Buyer’s Journey
Once you’ve defined your appropriate sales enablement metrics, it’s time to build a resource stockpile for sales reps to use in the “dugout” (for training and coaching purposes) and “out in the field” (for consumer-facing sales activities).
First up on the stockpiling checklist: Create content.
“Sales enablement content” amounts to any sales collateral reps can leverage on the road to closing a deal. And because this road involves a lot of twists and turns, your sales enablement content has to be agile and diverse: that is, it must be applicable to all stages in the proverbial customer journey.
Look at the content your sales teams have on hand. Then start categorizing these assets according to buyer persona and stage. (Example: Pitch scripts? Those are “BTS” assets to be deployed at the top of the sales funnel. Case studies? Those are consumer-visible materials best used during “consideration,” when buyers are deciding if your product is truly for them.)
Eventually, you should have a comprehensive catalog of relevant content (searchable by persona and stage) that salespeople can employ with prospects. Notice certain stages have thinner resources than others? Work on crafting added content with your marketing team to help fill in those gaps. Not sure which content performs best at which stage? Your consumer engagement metrics can help you.
As you continue with your sales enablement plan, you can even cross-reference consumer engagement data against sales engagement data (i.e., which reps are utilizing which asset, how often, and to what results) to pinpoint materials that have a proven track record at precise moments in the funnel – which will allow reps to deliver impactful messaging at the exact right time.
Step #5 Get Stakeholder Buy-In
As with any new business initiative, sales enablement needs everyone on board if it’s going to work properly. When constructing your sales enablement plan, remember sales enablement should be a company-wide collaborative strategy. Without the support of the C-suite and other accompanying decision-makers, resistance is likely to creep in, which means funding and supplemental resources are likely to dry up. Fast.
Make stakeholder check-ins a priority. Share your sales enablement plan with colleagues in the corner office and across the aisle. Encourage them to help shape your overarching sales enablement goals and inspire them to think of sales enablement as integral to company success. When in doubt: Always aim for collaboration over isolation.
Step #6 Outline Your Launch Timeline and Next Steps
If you’ve successfully executed steps 1-5: Congrats! You’re almost ready to launch your sales enablement plan.
Before you get underway, you should make sure you have a realistic timeline in place, as well as a detailed schema for next steps once you’re up and running.
A few things to remember:
- Onboarding and training. As you finalize your calendar, you should budget for ramp-up times. Your sales enablement plan will no doubt require added sales training programs so reps can absorb new resources such as sales enablement-powered sales playbooks. Leave room for these sessions in your timeline.
- Continued coaching. Be sure to factor coaching and guidance activity into your ongoing schedule as well. This can include everything from updating sales plays to organizing one-on-one pitch practice. Whatever form coaching takes for your sales organization, make space for it in your company datebook.
- Necessary tools. Your timeline will progress a lot more smoothly if you have the right tech stack at your disposal. Here are two absolute essentials:
- A sales enablement platform, which will empower you to centralize sales enablement materials and workflows. A sales enablement tool will also give you the insights you need to streamline and optimize all sales enablement strategies and touchpoints (training, coaching, analysis, etc.), so you can continue to scale growth and improve your bottom line.
- A customer relationship management solution (CRM), which (ideally) will integrate with your sales enablement software to help you get a 360° view of your sales pipeline, gather consumer data, and mine for real-time engagement metrics.
- Measuring and implementing feedback. Defined your metrics back in Step #3? Great. Now start measuring them. Data analysis is imperative for establishing accountability within your sales enablement team and for calibrating training and coaching effectiveness as you go. Helpful hint: You can also utilize content engagement data (for both buyers and sellers) to create a feedback “loop” – allowing marketing and enablement team members to update/edit less-than-impactful materials and surface the right content to sellers. But no matter which metrics you choose to monitor, always pay attention to the lessons they provide and allow for added time to implement what you’ve learned.
Where to Go from Here
Want more information on sales enablement before you start building your plan out in the real world? Download our latest State of Sales Enablement Report for a deeper look at sales enablement best practices and how they can help augment and expand your business.
Think you’ve got this planning thing down and feel ready to investigate a robust sales enablement platform for your team? Schedule a demo with us today.