You already know a solid sales strategy can lay the groundwork for a successful, cohesive sales organisation. But we’re here to show you how implementing a plan for sales enablement sets the stage for your sales strategy to align seamlessly with your sales goals.
What Is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement does exactly as the name implies: it points sales teams down the path toward closing more deals in more effective ways. And a sales enablement programme that’s founded on the following tried-and-true best practices can help build a company culture that’s designed to prioritise efficiency and inspire peak sales performance.
Here are our picks for the top eight sales enablement best practices to ensure sales team operations actively support cohesive alignment while working to stimulate maximum growth.
1. Define Outcomes and Goals
Sales enablement can perform many organisational functions, which means it can be hard to narrow down the “must haves” for any sales enablement strategy. To get your very own sales enablement program started, then, you’ll need a firm understanding of the goals you want to achieve.
For a better sense of your sales teams’ prime objectives, consider the following questions:
- “What are our overarching sales goals?” (Possible follow-ups include: “Do we want more deals? More upsales? Higher quota achievement? Better customer retention? How will we define success?”)
- “What challenges/frustrations are we facing?”
- “Where are our sales reps spending most of their time? Is this where they should be devoting their efforts? If not, then where?”
- “How closely are we working with marketing on content creation? How can we enhance the content creation process to make everyone’s life a bit easier?”
Bear in mind your sales enablement team should always strive to 1) help increase companywide KPIs, 2) tackle ongoing sales challenges, and 3) streamline company processes overall. Luckily, many sales enablement technologies can assist in translating these “shoulds” into realistic, measurable goals. These codified goals can, in turn, give sales leaders a blueprint for coaching sellers toward tangible objectives, rather than toward an arbitrary quota. And better, more focused coaching can inspire sellers to meet and exceed team targets. (See tip 6 for added information on coaching.)
2. Identify Ideal Buyer Personas
Your potential buyers are probably out there right now researching your products and services.
You should get busy doing your homework on them.
One reliable way to do a “deep dive” on your potential customers is to build a catalogue of ideal buyer “personas,” each detailing characteristics that reflect a desired consumer profile.
Here are a few features/qualities you might want to investigate when creating your sales-focused buyer personas:
- What’s the person’s role and what are their responsibilities within their organisation?
- What are some of their most sought-after objectives and KPIs?
- What industry do they work in and what’s their company size?
- What are their basic demographics? (Age? Education level? Location?)
- What challenges might their role pose for them? What kinds of opportunities does their role afford?
- What motivators might help them do their job better?
- What sources do they use to research new products?
- Do they have a preferred method of contact? (Email? Phone? In-person meetings?)
Once you have this qualitative info in hand, you’ll want to break your profiles down even further using a framework similar to the following:
- Who is this prospect? (background, demographics, preferences)
- What are they looking for and why? (goals, challenges)
- Why might they be resistant to your product? (objections, common concerns)
- How can you best approach them? (viable positioning, elevator pitches, sales call templates, etc.)
Next, use this framework to organise consumer-facing content within your sales enablement system, syncing each asset to a corresponding profile as well as to a corresponding stage within the sales process. Cataloguing your content in this way gives sales professionals the building blocks they need to craft excellent, personalised customer experiences at every turn: from prospecting on through to nurturing, follow-ups, and beyond. (See tips 5 and 8 for more on this syncing strategy.)
3. Collaborate with Marketing and Sales Leaders
One critical question to ask yourself when creating a sales enablement strategy is this:
“How well do my sales and marketing teams collaborate?”
Without an enablement strategy (or a designated sales enablement team to help enforce it), the answer might be: “Not that well.”
It’s entirely possible your sales and marketing departments currently find themselves working in isolation. And sadly, siloed operations can sometimes derail your sellers as they try to move their prospects along the buyer’s journey. In fact, 71% of sales and marketing professionals agree that a lack of alignment between their teams has had a negative impact on revenue.
All this to say: A well-oiled sales machine depends on a closed-loop relationship between marketing and sales…and a collaborative culture among all relevant stakeholders. (Case in point: a good sales-and-marketing alignment strategy can boost revenue by 208 percent.)
But in order to ensure everyone is on the same page, you’ll have to keep the lines of communication open.
As you work to get sales enablement up and running, be sure to involve your colleagues in marketing by hosting regular feedback sessions to help align top-of-funnel content creation with middle-to-bottom-of-funnel sales activity. Marketers should ideally be able to understand which content assets are successful with prospects and why, allowing the marketing team to capitalise on winning messaging strategies going forward. Similarly, sellers should be reasonably familiar with the content assets marketing has already produced. This paves the way for sellers to offer constructive tips re: gaps in content coverage. It also allows them to flag irrelevant or outdated content for review.
But again, collaborative communication shouldn’t be confined to marketing and sales alone.
For sales enablement to thrive, you’ll have to engage in an open communications policy across all teams and stakeholders: from your sales managers to your CSO. Support from sales leaders, C-suite executives, and all other professionals within your organisation can help promote a united front and mobilise the entire company around your sales enablement strategy.
4. Build Content toward the Buyer Journey
Company growth depends on the buyer experience. But with a buyer population that’s more savvy and well-informed than ever before, how can sellers hope to meet customers exactly where they are and inspire positive interactions with prospects?
With a sales enablement strategy that’s built on impactful, actionable content. That’s how.
To make this kind of strategy a reality, your consumer-facing content — from whitepapers to webinars, eBooks, infographics, and more — must be tailored to the needs of each stage in the buyer’s journey. This prepares salespeople to meet and manage prospect concerns at the precise moment concerns are most likely to arise.
And if building and mapping content around buyer stages sounds a little overwhelming, we’ve got good news: Your buyer personas can help.
Once buyer personas have been finalised, sales teams can easily leverage these profiles to identify the common questions, pain points, and objectives that drive each persona.
Teams can organise drivers according to buyer phases, asking questions like:
- When will Objection A most likely surface for this consumer?
- At what point does Concern X usually come into play for this profile?
- When can sellers expect this persona to mention Goal Y as a deciding factor for purchase?
Answers can then be cross-referenced against your content stockpile to give sellers a better idea of which assets to deploy and when. (An initial prospect query might be met with a small introductory video at the “Awareness Stage”. Meanwhile, an in-depth eBook on product features might be a handy response to objections raised during the later “Consideration Stage.”)
Not 100 per cent sure which content is best suited to which buyer phase? Ask your top-performing sellers for intel on which assets they use and when. You can also synthesise buyer and seller engagement metrics to develop content “heatmaps” spotlighting which assets perform best with both sellers and prospects at various touchpoints.
Made a content heatmap but discovered some buyer stages are underrepresented? Collaborate with your marketing team to help fill in any content gaps.
5. Continually Educate Your Teams
It’s no secret proper sales training can help improve your sales department’s overall performance. But with a reported 87 per cent of sales training going the way of the dinosaur after just one month (that is, sellers are almost guaranteed to forget what they’ve learned in very short order), what’s your plan for when training is done?
With a robust sales enablement strategy at your disposal, your plan can be summed up in just one word:
A results-driven sales enablement programme should always incorporate a curriculum for ongoing coaching and up-to-the-minute learning delivery. This is in part because an estimated 90 per cent of new best-practice behaviours should be folded into your sellers’ day-to-day if you want these behaviours to become bonafide habits. As such, your enablement strategy must provide coaching activities (think “just-in-time” content reviews, pitch practice sessions, role-playing games, etc.) that can be integrated effortlessly into the sales process.
On the fence about what your coaching curricula should include? Here again, you can turn to your high-performing salespeople for inspiration. One useful sales enablement practice is to “institutionalise” behaviours exemplified by salespeople who consistently meet their quotas. You can implement this practice by taking the time to evaluate your top-tier sellers. Consider:
- What differentiates them from their teammates?
- Do these high performers have a systematic approach to each consumer touchpoint? If so, what do these approaches look like?
- Do these sellers have “bulletproof” techniques for closing? What do these techniques entail?
- How can winning seller behaviours be adopted at scale by all sales professionals?
Use this information to outline bite-sized lessons that will help elevate the rest of your team. Then build a detailed schedule for delivering these lessons at crucial moments in the sales cycle.
6. Measure Processes and Amend as Needed
In order to reap the full benefits of sales enablement, your enablement strategy must be weighed against all sales metrics commensurate with your goals. Put another way: The true return on investment of your sales enablement strategy should be evaluated based on quantifiable results from out in the field.
These metrics can include (but should by no means be limited to):
- Win rates/number of closed deals per teammate
- Average length of your sales cycle
- Average deal size
- Customer retention rates
- Buyer engagement rates by channel
Such data will be critical to keeping sales enablement as agile and up-to-date as possible. And, as part of your enablement system, you should ensure all applicable metrics are aggregated and synthesised at regular intervals, allowing you to isolate trends and identify changes in your market landscape. The insights gleaned from this analysis can then be utilised to inform future sales decisions, meaning you and your team can “go with the flow” and amend your strategy as needed (using cold, hard evidence to back up your moves).
If collecting this much data seems like too herculean a task, don’t be afraid to lean on your sales enablement tools for help. But first, you’ll need to…
7. Select the Right Sales Enablement Solutions
First, a warning: Not all sales enablement tools are built the same.
Okay, now that’s out of the way, some food for thought:
The best, most comprehensive sales enablement platforms will empower sellers to search and surface relevant content with minimal effort. In addition, a truly effective sales enablement solution will also allow you to track and manage sales performance and data all in one platform.
This “single-source” best practice — in which all seller materials, consumer-facing content, and relevant sales data are housed inside one specified location — can be absolutely vital to the success of your sales enablement programme. Here’s a brief look at some reasons why:
- A single repository for consumer-facing content supports the complete categorisation of all assets according to the buyer stage. This gives sellers added confidence in their ability to produce the right content, for the right customer, at exactly the right time.
- Single-repository platforms can likewise integrate with training systems to match content with digestible learning modules designed to enhance sales performance (yet another confidence booster for sellers).
- Finally, a consolidated digital headquarters for internal sales data (such as buyer engagement metrics, seller success rates, etc.) and external sales material gives revenue-facing teams the tools they need to uncover high-performing assets and earmark them for future use.
By contrast, disparate resource silos can generate confusion around which content assets exist, where they can be found, and whether they’ve been optimised to keep in step with buyer demand. As a result, sales reps can end up delivering outdated materials to their prospects — a mistake that can quickly tank a deal.
When selecting your sales enablement tool, be sure it offers:
- A panoramic view of the entire sales process so your sales enablement team can gain valuable insight into seller behaviour (to help inform coaching and learning activities).
- Easy access to all external consumer-facing content and internal seller data/materials (including performance numbers, playbooks, pitch decks, pitch scripts, etc.).
- Content recommendations based on asset engagement “track records” in the field.
Bonus points should go to platforms that help facilitate interdepartmental communications for smoother collaboration. Marketers and sales stakeholders should all be invited to leverage your sales enablement solution alongside your team, and everyone should be encouraged to exchange ideas inside your platform when and where appropriate.
The Sales Enablement Process
Not all sales enablement formats, templates, or processes will work well for everyone. Keep in mind that, to be successful, you must find and implement a bespoke enablement strategy that’s the best possible fit for you and your team — and only you and your team. Competitor strategies might seem great in theory, but they probably can’t satisfy your unique capabilities because your competitor isn’t…well…you. And they never will be. Their needs, resources, and company culture will always be different. Their sales enablement programme should always be different, too.
One final tip before we sign off: As you embark on your enablement adventure, remember that in sales enablement, things are constantly in flux. To remain competitive, you’ll have to stay on top of the latest sales enablement reports and keep one eye focused on the next initiative at all times. So, while we strongly recommend you build a sales enablement plan to guide you in the present, don’t forget you can always modify your plan to help you chase the future.