The Who, What, How and Why of Sales Enablement

August 28, 2019

The foundation of sales enablement strategy is to provide salespeople with what they need to successfully engage the buyer throughout the buying process.

The original version of this article, authored by Scott Albro, was published by TOPO, now Gartner. 

Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content and tools that help salespeople sell more effectively. 

Here we answer four basic questions about sales enablement:

  • What is sales enablement?
  • Why is it important?
  • How is sales enablement practiced?
  • Who owns sales enablement?

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What is sales enablement?

The field of sales enablement is predicated on providing salespeople with what they need to engage their target buyers. As such, it’s important to provide sales with the resources the buyer wants. 

What sales enablement provides to salespeople is a critical part of defining your program. What you provide usually takes the form of information. We group this information into two categories: 

  • Content that sales will provide to the buyer 
  • Best practices, research and tools that sales will consume internally

Training and development

As part of sales enablement, salespeople must know how to use the resources you provide to them. That’s why training and development needs to be a big part of most programs. The most effective programs conduct traditional training programs in addition to using technologies like collaboration tools to make sales training continuous.

Usability

One fundamental premise of sales enablement is that it helps all salespeople whether you have a sales organization of one or 1,000. Therefore you need to make sure that whatever you provide to salespeople is easy to use. When designing for usability, make sure resources are easy to find and easy to apply.

The best sales enablement programs track and enforce whether resources are being used across the sales organization. Most importantly, they optimize future sales enablement efforts based on what is used and what is not used.

Measurement

The final defining characteristic of sales enablement is measurement. Some of the more meaningful sales enablement metrics that you should track include:

  • Average sales cycle length
  • Number of reps achieving quota
  • Average deal size 

Customer focus

Effective sales enablement is customer-centric and provides salespeople with the tools and information they need to deliver what buyers want.

Why is sales enablement important?

Sales enablement plays a key role in scaling the sales organization beyond a handful of overachievers. It provides all salespeople with the best practices, knowledge, tool and resources required to be successful. One sales enablement best practice is to designate overachievers as leaders/teachers of the program.

How is sales enablement practiced?

There are five sales enablement best practices that can help you with your efforts.

Define specific objectives 

Your program should provide salespeople with everything they need to engage and convert buyers. But what do you focus on next? Should you focus on detailed information about products and services? What about sharing best practices from top performers in the sales organization? How about the development of sales skills like delivering great presentations? These are all good options to consider.

Focus on buyer experience

Given that sales enablement is about empowering salespeople to engage the buyer, it makes sense that you would make the buying experience the cornerstone of your efforts. 

There are two aspects to this: 

  • Make sure salespeople understand who the buyer is and the journey they’re on. 
  • Map your sales plays and training to the buying experience. 

Create high-quality content 

Content like blog posts, white papers and webinars allow a large number of salespeople to deliver value to a lot of buyers in a scalable, controllable way. Some good salespeople prefer to let high-quality content do the talking, so provide a lot of high-quality content that maps to the buying process.

Make sales training a continuous effort

Training is where salespeople learn how to sell more effectively. Most sales training programs suffer from a fatal flaw: They happen once a year. As a result, salespeople quickly forget what they’ve learned, as well as the information, content and tools they’ve received.

That is why you need to make sales training a continuous effort, with at least one formal training a month. In addition, use tools like newsletters and collaboration platforms to keep sales enablement in front of the sales team.

Ensure salespeople leverage what you provide 

Even the best sales enablement programs can die a quick death if no one is watching how sales uses what’s been provided to them. It’s critical that sales management enforces the use of best practices, content and tools in the sales organization.

Who owns sales enablement?

Sales enablement is owned jointly by sales and marketing. There are five simple organizational rules that can help you structure your program. 

  • Both sales and marketing must collaborate on what resources are needed for the program. Common resource requirements include content, conversation guides and sales training. 
  • Marketing is usually responsible for creating the vast majority of this information. 
  • Marketing should bear most of the responsibility for training the sales organization. 
  • Sales operations play a crucial role in operationalizing the information sales receives as part of the sales enablement program. 
  • It’s up to sales management to make sure the sales enablement program is being put into practice.

Some thought leaders suggest that there be no separation between sales and marketing teams when it comes to sales enablement. This makes sense in an ideal state, but is often unachievable in the real world. When it comes to sales enablement, the best organizational rule is that marketing is a better creator and sales is a better enforcer.

Corporate culture

Sales enablement should be part of the corporate culture. The old saying “you’re either in sales or you’re in sales support”  highlights that you should either contribute to sales enablement or benefit from it. 

If we believe that sales enablement has a positive impact on revenue, then obviously all parts of the organization have a vested interest in the success of sales enablement. Companies that understand all employees are involved in sales performance are the ones that truly recognize the meaning of sales enablement.

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