8 Keys For An Effective Sales Enablement Program

Brandon Redlinger by

The job of a sales rep is to show up on a call (or meeting) knowledgeable, skillful and with the right assets to help prospects buy. If there’s any indication that any of these elements are not there, you need to invest in sales enablement now. These gaps in efficiency and effectiveness are robbing your company of money.

Google trends shows the growing demand for this crucial business function.

Sales enablement demand
The verdict is in, and the research proves that sales enablement has a dramatic impact on revenue growth.

Studies by Aberdeen reveal that sales enablement leads to 62% higher team quota attainment, 205% more revenue growth, 725% higher sales velocity, and 23% increase in lead conversion rate in organizations with structured sales enablement programs versus organizations without it. That’s how powerful it is.

It’s clear that sales enablement is a sales driver, not just a nice-to-have. Many high growth companies are deploying this function with incredible results, as they jump on the opportunity to supercharge the revenue generating side of the business. However, other companies are laggards, and they suffer the consequences.

Where does your company stand?

What is Sales Enablement and Its Scope?

Sales Enablement is an evolution of sales ops and marketing but elevated to a more strategic, proactive and hands-on level. With more tools, more resources, and a more complex sales process, you need a person or department who owns this and can deliver it to sales reps.

There’s no single agreed upon definition of sales enablement, as it’s still maturing and evolving in function and scope, but I like the definition by Brainshark in Sales Enablement For Dummies: A systematic approach to increasing sales productivity, by supporting reps with the content, training, and analytics they need to have more successful sales conversations.”

Though the responsibilities of sales enablement is still being defined, we can begin to clarify its scope. The following four functions are key in a successful sales enablement program:

  • Content: Sales enablement must make sure that quality content is created and sales reps can find and utilize the right content at the right time.
  • Training: Reps must be trained in not only sales skill, but product, marketing/industry and business skills as well.
  • Tools and Technology: Once the strategy is established, you must guarantee adoption of the technology to execute against the process. This function also overlaps with training, as tools and technology add functionality and become more complex.
  • Strategy and Execution: There are a lot of moving parts in that sales enablement has touches and influences, which is why it has to be thoughtful and strategic. However, at the same time, sales enablement goes beyond that to executing on strategy to win deals, hire and onboard, forecast, budget, and performance reviews.

Many companies are bought into the vision of sales enablement, however, according to research by Highspot and Heinz Marketing, there’s a huge disconnect.

When you ask about the importance of activities that are under the sales enablement umbrella, there’s a Grand Canyon sized gap between how important companies rate those activities and how they rate their current efforts.

sales efforts

But there are clearly 8 keys to any successful sales enablement program:

The Program is Customer Centric: It’s becoming more understood that sales needs to know more about marketing, marketing needs to know more about sales, but what’s missing is the customer. We all need to know more about our customers! Once we align the sales process with the buyer’s journey, then we’ll be able to deliver the right information to the right customer at the right time and place to move the sale forward. This ultimately will affect your most important metrics: pipeline, revenue, lifetime value and customer advocacy.

The Programs Includes Sales Process Development: As I mentioned, strategy is part of sales enablement’s role. You must have confidence in your process, and you must be constantly iterating as you learn. Sales enablement’s interactions with the various teams can help deliver those insights. Sales enablement is a very hands-on role, as you need to be talking to all the people who are closest to the problem.

The Right Tools and Technology Support the Sales Process: My approach to tools and technology is don’t let the tail wag the dog. What I mean by that is nail the process first, and technology will follow. If you have a well defined sales process, it becomes a matter of finding the right technology to help accomplish your goal. Too many people and organizations get caught up chasing the newest, shiny objects and build their process around the technology. That said, there are a lot of great tools and technologies that will help sales teams utilize content, execute strategy, and make sales reps more effective, like PandaDoc and PersistIQ.

The Sales Systems Are Integrated: Though the sales enablement function is relatively new and the vendor space has only begun to get traction, cutting confusion and non-active selling time is crucial. Having tools that that automate tedious tasks and seamlessly integrate with all the other tools reduces time spent on admin related tasks, like logging activity, transferring data, and finding the right content.

Playbooks Are Accessible and Up-To-Date: Simply put, a playbook is a sales facing asset that tells people how to prepare for a series of conversation, what to do in those conversations, supporting materials needed to sell, and how to drive certain outcomes. How many companies have playbooks that are collecting dust and pulled out only when onboarding new reps? Chances are those are out of date. It’s important that a rep not only has quick access to updated playbooks, but also uses them regularly. In the quickly evolving sales landscape, it’s often hard to keep the playbook up to date and relevant, but you must prioritize that if you want to maintain your competitive edge.

Access to Better and More Insightful Data: Having the right data can be your competitive advantage, but it’s not easy, and there are a few aspects that you have to get right. First, you have to collect the right data. Most sales enablement, sales acceleration and sales automation platforms will track your most important metrics, so next, you have to regularly report it. And finally, the most important piece is analyzing and taking action. The numbers themselves don’t mean anything — it’s what you do with them.

Streamlined Workflow: Since the key objective of sales enablement is to increase a rep’s active selling time, integrations are going to be key. Reps should spend less time going back and forth from tool to tool. Every minute more spend in your CRM or any other selling tool is time that a rep is not selling.

Content Optimization: I touched on it in the previous section, but since it’s such a critical part of sales enablement, it deserves more attention. The two problems that need to be solved regarding content are quality/value and discovery/utility. There’s an overwhelming about of mediocre content on the web. By creating more valuable content, you’re helping reps stand out in the noise, establish expertise, and build trust with prospects faster.

When it comes to discovery/utility, among the many studies conducted, they all agree on one thing: less than 60% of the content being created for sales is not being used. This is in large part because either the content is not easily accessible and discoverable, or reps simply don’t know the most appropriate time to use which content. It’s sales enablement’s job to make sure the right content is being created and reps can find and use said content.

In the End

In his book To Sell is Human, Dan Pink explains that sales has changed more in the last 10 years than in the last 100. However, this is wrong. The reality is that the buyer has changed (especially in a complex B2B sale), and sales is only now catching up.

Though there’s no single agreed upon definition of sales enablement, no definitive scope of the function, and no clear department that owns the program, there is one thing that we can all agree on – sales enablement should be a mindset. If the foundation of sales enablement is the customer and the ultimate goal is revenue, then all parts of your organization have a vested interest and should support this function. You need a true sales culture where all departments are on the same page. Once everyone truly understands this, you can begin to impact the bottom line in a major way.

For a more in depth look at sales enablement, join us and PandaDoc for a webinar on “How to Use Sales Enablement to Increase Pipeline and Drive Revenue.” Register here.

  • Steve

    This is an excellent article. Interesting stats, followed up with strategic guidelines for executing the sales enablement function.

  • Hi,

    I loved reading this article. In fact, I am planning to recommend it to few of my friends as well.

    I have a suggestion for the author. I think you can add ProProfs knowledge management software which is an excellent sales enablement tool.

    It works to highlight the content that is most popular with the stakeholders. It empowers the sales team to identify desired information like pitch, blogs, ebook, wiki, user guide or details related to a product.

    Understanding that most organisations these days use a host of tools, ProProfs.com knowledge management software can be integrated with CRMs and helpdesk tools like Zendesk, Desk.com, Freshdesk as well.

    According to me, readers should be aware of this productivity-boosting tool.

    All the best!

  • Marah Sayaman

    Nice article, Brandon! This is a great place to start for my team as we go for 2017 with the hopes of achieving our sales goals. Thanks for sharing this. By the way, if ever you or your readers are looking for something to revolutionize your calls, give Tenfold a try. Tenfold is a phone intelligence platform that integrates CRMs and phone systems quickly, enabling companies to enhance prospect and customer interactions. Hope you check us out! https://www.tenfold.com/tenfold-explainervideo