You already know a solid sales strategy can lay the groundwork for a successful, cohesive sales organization. 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 is a systematic approach of equipping, training, and coaching sales teams to close more deals effectively. It involves connecting sellers to relevant content, training them for repeatable wins, and measuring all against bottom-line results. Your sales enablement strategy requires constant iteration and evolution so you can continuously refine and improve how you support your sales force.
How to Build an Effective Sales Enablement Program
Before you begin building your sales enablement program, you’ll want to take inventory of all your current processes and assets. This will help you understand where gaps exist in order to build a more holistic and effective sales enablement plan.
There are five primary pillars you want to evaluate:
- Content = Sales enablement must ensure quality content is created and easy for sales reps to find, use, and customize that right content at the right time.
- Training and Coaching = Salespeople must be onboarded, trained, and continuously coached with the right sales skills, product messaging, and events like sales kickoffs.
- Tools and Technology = Make sure you have the tools to be successful with your new strategy. You’ll want to find a sales enablement tool that allows you to integrate with your CRM, create automation, and add necessary functionality.
- Strategy and Execution = Sales enablement not only increases process efficiency but also paves the path to becoming more strategic with decreasing rep ramp time, winning deals, forecasting, and one-on-one performance.
- Measurement = Sales enablement is data-driven and includes boosting efficiency through constant analysis across buyer engagement, content performance, and more.
Tried-and-True Sales Enablement Best Practices
A sales enablement program that’s founded on the following eight tried-and-true best practices can help build a company culture that’s designed to prioritize efficiency, inspire peak sales performance, and stimulate maximum revenue growth.
Let’s walk through them:
1. Define Business Outcomes and Goals
The first tip is to understand the goals you want to achieve. You’ll want to speak to sales leaders, business stakeholders, and perhaps, even sales representatives to understand the focus areas for your strategy. Consider the following questions:
- “What are our overarching sales goals?” (“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 sales content creation process to make everyone’s life a bit easier?”
Once you gather this information, start defining goals around how your sales enablement team will:
- Help increase companywide KPIs
- Tackle and reduce ongoing sales challenges
- Streamline sales processes cross-functionally across marketing, sales, and sales operations
Luckily, many sales enablement technologies can assist in translating these goals into realistic, measurable KPIs. These metrics then give your company and sales leaders a blueprint for coaching sellers toward tangible objectives rather than arbitrary objectives.
2. Define Buyer Personas and Customer Experiences
Just as your potential buyers are researching your brand, you should be doing the same. In fact, Accenture reports that 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from retailers that recognize them by name, know their purchase history, and provide purchase recommendations accordingly!
Before you start creating a buyer persona, you’ll want to take a look at current target customers, assess their differences, and group them by their differences. Once you organize them into main categories, research further to add any other valuable information, like:
- What’s the person’s role and what are their responsibilities within their organization?
- What are some of their top goals 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?)
Speak to your marketing team as well for additional insights found on social media or website analytics. Your salespeople and customer care team should also be able to provide you with more intel. Once you have this qualitative info in hand, you’ll want to break them out into the following categories:
- 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.)
After all this, you will be equipped to create a customer experience for each buyer persona and begin personalizing messaging, campaigns, and collateral through their unique customer journeys.
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 designated sales enablement team to help enforce it, the answer might be: “Not that well.”
In fact, 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.
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.)
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 be able to understand what pieces of content are successful with prospects allowing them to capitalize on winning messaging strategies going forward. Similarly, sellers should be familiar with the marketing content being produced. This allows you to see gaps in content coverage or flag irrelevant or outdated content for review. A sales enablement tool that prioritizes sales content management and content metrics can assist you in this process.
But overall, 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 chief security officer (CSO) and all other professionals within your organization that can help promote a united front and mobilize the entire company around your sales enablement strategy.
4. Build Content Around the Buyer Journey
The more you know about your customer and their personal journey, the better you can help them achieve their goals. The idea of showing true interest in your customers and their journey should never be understated. But let’s be realistic: the buyer’s journey isn’t straightforward. It’s dynamic and iterative. They have evolving needs and questions, competing internal priorities, and even pauses in the buying process.
Because of this, sales enablement must be organized in a way to track, predict, and help sales with content, follow-up tactics, data, and insights to meet not only the customer’s end goals but also high-priority issues that may occur at a specific stage in the customer’s journey.
Start building and mapping content to the buyer personas you’ve created, and keep these 5 stages of the customer journey in mind:
- Awareness: The customer begins to familiarize themselves with you and your brand through your marketing channels and website.
- Consideration: A customer is most likely comparing your product or service to many other competitors, assessing case studies, product demos, eBooks and whitepapers, and pricing. Answering any questions and fulfilling major needs here shows how your specific offering helps solve their problems and how you’re most qualified to solve future problems.
- Purchase: Here is where all of your initial efforts pay off. The customer is ready to make their purchase, but there may be additional internal needs that arise, including presenting to additional internal teams for additional buy-in, security, or funding.
- Retention: Your customer has experienced the new product. This stage sometimes requires proper guidance from the sales organization to assist with any issues and hopefully build brand loyalty.
- Advocacy: This stage is where the existing customer shares their experience with your company with others, earning you more sales and better reviews.
Planning and creating content to deliver the right message in the right format and at the right time can significantly benefit your buyers’ experiences, positively impacting your sales and revenue. The last step is implementing a successful sales enablement content governance model to eliminate inconsistent, off-brand messaging and optimize content to become more effective.
5. Continuously Educate and Coach Sales Teams
A results-driven sales enablement program should always incorporate a curriculum for onboarding and ongoing sales training and coaching. This is in part because an estimated 90 percent of new best-practice behaviors should be folded into your sellers’ day-to-day if you want these selling behaviors to become bonafide habits. As such, your enablement strategy must provide step-by-step playbooks and plays, pitch practice sessions, role-playing games, and sales methodologies that can be integrated effortlessly into the sales process.
To begin, clarify upfront how training and coaching will be documented and incorporated to better equip your sales department for success. Next, turn to your high-performing reps for inspiration. You’ll want to identify and reinforce selling behaviors exemplified by reps who consistently meet their quotas by considering:
- What differentiates them from their teammates?
- Do they 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 behaviors be adopted at scale by all sales professionals?
Use this information to outline bite-sized lessons, plays, and one-on-one sales coaching by sales managers that will help elevate the rest of your team. Then build a detailed schedule for delivering these lessons.
6. Measure and Optimize Your Sales Enablement Process
In order to reap the benefits of sales enablement, your enablement strategy should be properly measured against all sales metrics, goals, and results. The true return on investment (ROI) of sales enablement should be evaluated based on quantifiable results produced by your reps.
These metrics may include:
- Average length of your sales cycle
- Win rates and number of closed deals
- Average deal size
- Customer retention rates
- Buyer engagement by channel (LinkedIn vs. email vs. sales call) and content
Such data will be critical to keeping sales enablement as agile and up-to-date as possible. Although measuring your process and success can be difficult, many sales enablement tools have analytics built-in allowing data-driven decisions to be easily accessible and tracked while implementing enablement.
7. Select the Right Sales Enablement Tool
Not all sales enablement tools are built the same, but the best, most comprehensive sales enablement platforms will empower sales reps to search and surface relevant content with minimal effort. They provide visibility across the entire sales workflow, help elevate your sales and marketing team by staying connected and empowering sales professionals to engage customers effectively — all while enabling you to track data and manage sales performance all in one platform.
Finding the best sales enablement software can seem like an overwhelming process, especially considering the plethora of solutions. But by mapping your priorities and seeing how the competition stacks up, you can rest assured that you’re making the best decision for your team.
Read The Forrester Wave™: Sales Content Solutions, Q4 2022 report for a deeper dive into the top vendors. This is a great first step on the path to choosing the right sales tool for your organization.
Put these Sales Enablement Practices to the Test
At the end of the day, all the best sales strategies start and end with you, your team, and your customer. To be successful, use these best practices to formulate a successful strategy and then find what works for your team and evolve with that process. Always keep in mind that with sales enablement, things are constantly shifting, so to stay competitive and up to date, check out “What Good Looks Like” with The Essential Sales Enablement Playbook.