Registration for Inspire 2024 is now open!

Register now

Sales enablement

Sales enablement

Table of Contents

    Closing a sale has never been easy. And now that customers have an abundance of information and resources at their fingertips, it’s harder than ever.

    How can sales organizations stay competitive, close deals, and navigate this challenging landscape? 

    By having a robust and effective sales enablement strategy. 

    This guide breaks down the world of sales enablement. 

    You’ll discover:

    • What a sales enablement strategy is 
    • Why a sales enablement strategy matters 
    • Who owns sales enablement
    • Essential sales enablement best practices 
    • Answers to the most common FAQs about the sales enablement process 

    Let’s get into it.

     

    What is sales enablement?

    Sales enablement is the process of giving your sales team all the knowledge and resources they need to close more deals and increase their sales productivity. 

    These resources can include content, tools, training, and more.

    The resources you need to provide to your salespeople fall roughly into two categories:

    • Relevant content that sales teams provide to the buyers 
    • Best practices, research, and sales enablement tools that the sales reps consume internally

    Sales enablement is a strategic and ongoing process in a company. It’s not something that you can approach with a “set it and forget it” mentality.

    Importantly, sales enablement is not the same as sales training. Sales training is about specific hands-on team-level training sessions, while the sales enablement strategy is a wider concept for the entire organization. 

    It’s the organization-level approach a business takes to equip sales reps with the tools they need to be successful. You should tailor the strategy to the specific needs of your salespeople and your buyer’s journey. 

    Companies are waking up to the importance of sales enablement. According to a case study from CSO Insights, 58% of companies had a sales enablement team or program in 2017, while today, more than 60% do.

    Up next, we delve into five reasons why sales enablement is so crucial to organizations.

     

    Five reasons why sales enablement matters

    Alright, now we know what sales enablement is. But why does it matter? 

    Many companies seem to agree it does. Back in 2016, there were only about 3,500 people with sales enablement in their job titles on LinkedIn. As of 2022, this number has increased to more than 15,000.

    So, what kind of benefits can you expect if you create a sales enablement program in your company?

     

    #1: Empower your sales team

    You don’t need to be a sales sage to know that it’s a high-pressure environment. 

    Because of this, anything a sales organization can do to support its sales reps has a direct impact on the bottom line.  

    How does sales enablement help with this? 

    An effective sales enablement program gives sales teams the content and resources they need to become more efficient and perform better. Because of this, they feel empowered and satisfied. 

    And it’s a positive feedback loop too. The more satisfied your sales team feels, the more motivated they are to perform even better. 

    In practice, this works because sales enablement strategies give salespeople the right content and provide flexible ways to present it to buyers. Also, they deliver real-time metrics on customer satisfaction and apply analytics to optimize pitches. 

    On top of this, sellers gain the necessary skills and knowledge through training and guidance. 

    Put all these best practices together, and you have a sales team that feels motivated to perform their best throughout the entire sales process. 

    This is what sales readiness is all about. It’s a core component of sales enablement that ensures sales teams have everything they need to maximize every client interaction. 

     

    #2: Scale sales strategies 

    One of the main functions of sales enablement is to streamline and shorten sales cycles. 

    A long sales cycle is a common pain point for many organizations. It has been somewhat exacerbated by the move to online shopping, both in the B2C and B2B spheres. At the beginning of this digital era, sales content wasn’t centralized, so sales departments couldn’t take full advantage of it. As sales reps struggled to find and deploy appropriate sales content to buyers, sales cycles got longer.

    But, with sales enablement and the use of sales enablement tools, content management, and CRMs, it’s possible to create sales content that’s effective and personalized. 

    What’s more, as part of the sales enablement strategy, organizations typically create a single source of sales-related information and content that helps keep the brand messaging uniform. 

    Without this, scaling your sales strategy is nigh impossible. 

    You should aim to make your entire sales department as effective as possible, moving away from the paradigm of a few overachievers driving the performance of your entire sales. 

    For instance, it’s much better to turn these overachievers into sales leaders who can transmit their skills to the rest of the team.

    Only with the whole team having all the know-how, content, and resources can your sales strategies become successful at scale.

     

    #3: Stakeholders align on sales strategies that drive revenue

    When we look at the sales process as a whole, we can see that the marketing team owns some parts and the sales team owns others. And this is without even including other relevant stakeholders such as production, advertising, and so on. 

    Because of this, these different teams can become misaligned and sales operations inefficient.

    Your company simply can’t afford to let this happen. Buyers have more knowledge and resources than ever and won’t stand for a bad customer experience. 

    Luckily, sales enablement technology can prevent this from happening. 

    A sales enablement strategy gives the sales team the resources and knowledge to sell while also, through the use of tools such as customer relationship management platforms, giving the marketing team actionable insight into what’s working and what isn’t. 

    Sales enablement platforms enable effective communication between teams, aligning them on sales strategies that work and drive revenue. 

     

    #4: Increase customer satisfaction

    If you’re a selling organization, you have customers. Customers these days are fickle, so keeping them satisfied and loyal is harder than ever. 

    Still, it’s important to invest in customer satisfaction because it helps increase profitability

    A sales enablement strategy is a way to increase customer satisfaction. 

    How? Let’s look again at sales readiness. By providing all relevant stakeholders with the right content and skills, they can create a positive buying process at every stage—from the content posted on social media to sales calls to customer onboarding and beyond. 

    Customer satisfaction and engagement depend on your salesforce executing each stage of the customer journey correctly and effectively. 

    If your sales enablement strategy has aligned all your stakeholders on the sales strategies that work, then your sales reps will be able to excel in every customer interaction. 

    Customers will feel they’re getting real value from your sales team, which is crucial for customer success. 

     

    #5: Attract top sales talent 

    There is a lot of discussion right now about what employees want from employers. Professional and career development opportunities are at the forefront of what workers expect from companies. 

    In fact, 94% of employees say they would stay with a company longer if it helped them learn. 

    Sales enablement is not just about learning and development, but they are a huge part of it. 

    So, by providing effective sales training as part of the sales enablement strategy, you’re also making your sales reps a bit more loyal to your company. As a result, your business can retain skilled sales professionals.

    This also means that employees are more motivated to join companies that take learning and development seriously. 

    Sales enablement can be a differentiator to attract top sales talent. This is because an effective sales enablement program can create engaging onboarding, provide efficient sales training, and foster a learning culture

     

    Who is responsible for sales enablement?

    Exactly who owns sales enablement depends on the size of your company, headcount, resources, and so on.

    Typically, the sales department and the marketing department share the brunt of the sales enablement strategy. Some companies choose to establish a cross-functional sales enablement team as well. 

    When there is a sales enablement team, they own the overall strategy, content management, and sales training initiatives

    However, another approach is to have one of the teams own the entire sales enablement strategy. So, which approach is best? Well, that depends on the specific needs and resources of your company. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

     

    Marketing

    When the sales and marketing team split ownership of sales enablement, marketing focuses on developing effective and engaging sales content that sellers use to close deals. 

    Your marketing team should also analyze all the data captured from sales tools, CRM platforms, and other sales enablement software and turn that into actionable insights for the sales team. 

    Because sales enablement depends a lot on sales content, research, and analysis done by the marketing team, they are often the owners of the entire sales enablement process. 

    When a marketing team starts the sales enablement journey, they are committing themselves to a whole new relationship with sales content. Content needs to become easier to find, be more engaging to customers, and enable the sales team to create their own approved personalized sales content. 

    As such, letting marketing (mostly) own sales enablement is great for companies that want to focus on marketing content efficiency and improve the alignment between marketing and sales.

     

    Sales

    The sales team is, clearly, extremely important for the sales enablement strategy. After all, they’re the customer-facing boots on the ground.

    When splitting ownership between sales and marketing teams, the sales department ensures the implementation of enablement strategies throughout the sales team. 

    It’s also vital that they provide feedback to the marketing team and the sales enablement team if one exists.

    Another way to think about sales enablement is to take into account that sales enablement is ultimately about sales. This leads to a sales-owned approach to sales enablement strategies. 

    It’s a good idea for companies that want primarily to improve sales readiness and sales communication. 

    Whatever approach you ultimately take, it’s important to remember that communication between the sales and marketing departments is paramount. No effective sales enablement strategy can happen if the stakeholders in the sales process are not in tune with each other. 

    In a sense, no one department will ever own sales enablement because they all need to collaborate and communicate for the sales content and strategies to be efficient. 

    Up next, we go over the best practices of sales enablement.

     

    The seven best practices for sales enablement

    If you want to implement a sales enablement strategy (and you really should!), then you need to know these seven best practices. 

    No matter what your exact organizational needs are, following these will give you a boost on your way to becoming a sales enablement powerhouse. 

     

    1. Define your organization’s needs

    Building any strategy begins with defining the needs and pain points it’s supposed to address. And sales enablement programs are no exception.

    So, before you can implement a sales enablement strategy, you have to think about what you want to get out of it. Of course, the objective is always to give your sales team the information and resources they need to excel, but there are a lot of possible ways to get started.

    For instance, should your first focus be detailed information about products and services? Or compiling a list of best practices from top sellers in your organization? 

    The answers to these questions will depend on the research and analysis you put into creating your sales enablement strategy.

    Surveying your marketing and sales teams is a good idea. Involve the stakeholders in the creation of the enablement strategy. You’ll have to align them for the strategy to work anyway.

     

    2. Automate (whenever possible)

    Automation is the wave of the future. You should ride this wave because it lets you free up time for the most crucial parts of the sales process, such as face-to-face communication with customers. 

    For example, you can automate sales prospecting with template email sequences in the name of a salesperson that contains links to their calendar. Potential customers interested in buying can schedule a conversation with the sales rep. So, instead of your reps spending time writing repetitive emails, they could be focusing on sharpening their sales conversation skills. 

    Of course, this also saves prospecting time since qualified buyers schedule meetings themselves. All your sales reps need to do is open their calendar. 

    You can also implement direct messaging on your website to optimize the pre-sales (and sales!) process. Don’t worry about overwhelming your sales reps with lots of go-nowhere chats, there is sales enablement software that can make sure only qualified leads see the chat bubble.

     

    3. Use a sales training tool

    Sales training is a big part of sales enablement. Your salesforce needs the knowledge and skills to be effective and perform well. Also, successful sales organizations go beyond just employee training—they do partner training too.

    For all these pieces of training, using a Learning Management System (LMS) is a must. 

    With an LMS, it’s easy to create and deliver training content and create learning experiences that are engaging and meaningful. 

    This case study shows that using an LMS to deliver sales training as part of a sales enablement strategy can be extremely impactful. Learning A-Z, the company featured in the study, had 80% of its new hires meet or exceed their quarterly goals. 

    We won’t get into all the benefits of an LMS here, but suffice it to say they help you centralize all your sales and product knowledge in one place, implement effective training, and streamline the process of sharing information between teams and departments. 

    4. Align marketing and sales

    Sales enablement is essentially a cross-department function shared between marketing and sales. As we’ve already touched on, both the sales and marketing teams own sales enablement jointly.  In most cases.

    So, for a sales enablement strategy to be effective, they need to align and work together. 

    As an example, if the marketing department is creating sales content that the sales team then ignores, the two departments don’t align. 

    While creating the sales enablement plan, you should identify the key stakeholders in sales and marketing and elsewhere where you need buy-in. These stakeholders will drive adoption, generate excitement, and spread the word. 

     

    5. Keep track of your strategies and optimize whenever necessary

    You need to keep track of and optimize all the sales strategies you create and the sales enablement strategy itself. 

    Remember what we said at the very beginning—sales enablement is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. 

    It’s a dynamic, living process that you need to take care of and direct as necessary. 

    First of all, you could optimize your sales training. A lot of sales training efforts have a big flaw—they don’t happen often enough. Using an LMS, for instance, you can create knowledge bases that are accessible any time and from anywhere for quick refreshers on the most important information. 

    Also, your sales enablement software typically collects many useful and actionable metrics—so take action. 

    If a particular sales strategy, automation, or piece of content is not performing well, then optimize or scrap it. 

    Finally, feedback from sales reps and customers is a valuable resource to judge how sales enablement is performing. So don’t ignore it. 

    The bottom line is that sales enablement is ongoing and not a one-time activity.

     

    6. Create and organize sales content

    Sales content is anything you intend for your potential customers to see that influences them to buy your product or service. 

    Blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, ebooks, product demo decks, intelligence briefs, and so on… 

    There are too many types of sales content to list, but they all have one thing in common; you need to create and organize them. 

    A good way to begin this endeavor is a content audit. We know, the word “audit” doesn’t usually spark joy, but a content audit can significantly benefit your sales enablement strategy. 

    Your company, like so many others, probably already has a lot of sales content on its website. Centralizing this content in one place, whether through a cloud platform such as Google Docs or a CRM, means that your sales reps can find relevant content fast and then share it with leads.

    Content is no use to anyone if it’s just sitting somewhere out of sight. 

    One more thing to remember: sales content that worked for a few years may not be so effective today. So make sure to update and optimize pieces in your content library.

     

    7. Listen to what your sales overachievers have to say

    Everyone loves their sales overachievers, but they’re good for more than just closing a lot of deals. 

    Your sales overachievers are a fount of tips, tricks, and general know-how about converting leads into customers.

    Why should this knowledge remain theirs alone? Listen to what they have to say. 

    Consider their feedback on your sales enablement strategy, as they are the ones that are in the trenches. Also, consider setting up ways for your sales achievers to share their knowledge with other members of your sales team. 

    Remember that one of the goals of sales enablement is to scale your sales beyond just overachievers and give the necessary knowledge and resources to your entire sales department. 

    It’s always a good idea to turn sales overachievers into sales leaders so that the entire salesforce can benefit from their skills and knowledge.

    Up next, time to recap. And don’t forget to check out the FAQs at the bottom of this guide!

     

    Key takeaways

    Sales enablement is a process to give your sales reps everything they need to close deals and be an effective salesforce. 

    But to reap the benefits of a sales enablement strategy, such as empowering the sales reps and increasing customer satisfaction, you’ll first have to align your marketing and sales departments and create lots of good sales content.

    Want to learn more about how various types of learning and development can benefit your organization? Take a look at our handy glossary.

     

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Q1. What are sales enablement platforms? 

    Sales enablement platforms are systems or tools that unify sales enablement functions and customer-facing sales execution. Most of them have capabilities for creating and delivering sales content, sales training, and coaching. 

    Q2. What is the difference between sales enablement and marketing? 

    The main difference between sales enablement and marketing is that marketing focuses on creating content that buyers consume. On the other hand, sales enablement is all about teaching sales reps how to best engage with and distribute the content.

    Q3. How do you measure sales enablement success?

    Here are some of the most important metrics to keep track of when it comes to sales enablement: 

    1. Win rate
    2. Average selling price
    3. Length of the sales cycle
    4. Content adoption
    5. The conversion rate of leads to opportunity
    6. Competitive win rate