22 Apr Sales enablement: What is it and why is it important?
Among the vague sales and marketing terms that get bandied about, “sales enablement” may generate the most confusion. Ask ten people what it is, and you’ll get ten different answers. Maybe sales training or onboarding will be mentioned – or maybe sales methodology. Perhaps technology will be among the responses. Certain customer relationship management systems (CRMs) might be brought up, or maybe sales operations or sales assessments will enter into the conversation. While none of these perceptions are invalid, each is too limiting in and of itself.
The problem is grounded in the fact that sales enablement is often aligned to a particular role or function whereas it’s actually much too broad for that. Sales enablement is, in fact, an ongoing, organization-wide strategy that’s intended to make it possible for a sales team to focus on the essential, core task of selling. Simply put, it’s a collection of tasks and tools that are meant to support successful selling. As such, sales enablement should be weaved into the fabric of an entire organization.
So how is this done? How does an organization enable sales?
Sales enablement spans the horizon and is therefore best executed when thought of as a mindset that’s extended across all departments within an organization. There needs to be cross-functional support and alignment around sales objectives when decisions are made regarding, for example, hiring, training, tools, branding, content and performance measurements. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every strategy and tactic that’s put into place should begin with the question, “How does this aid the selling process and enable our sales team to operate at the optimal level?”
Let’s look at some specific examples.
Hiring and training
Sales enablement needs to be in the minds of sales managers, HR, consultants or whoever is doing your hiring. It’s critical that the right number of candidates are hired, that they’re the right people and that they’re effectively trained. Are new hires experienced or junior, and does your sales training serve differing levels of experience? Is your sales process robust enough in regards to company values, product knowledge, tools training, customer personas, partners, competitive information, market research, industry knowledge, deal types, contracts, use cases and customer references? And is all of this documented and tiered so that experienced sellers can hit the ground running while more junior sellers can ramp up? Are there outcome-based milestones in place so that progress can be assessed? Think about the end goal of supporting successful selling when it comes to hiring and training.
A recent sales productivity study by Docurated indicated that 31% of reps’ time is spent searching for or creating content. Your organization simply cannot afford this inefficiency. Whether we’re talking about a CRM, a content management system (CMS), a company portal or any number of tools, all of them should be focused on enabling the sales teams, allowing them to easily collect and utilize information that supports their sales activities. Employ a sales enablement mindset when selecting, structuring and maintaining tools so that sellers can access and leverage the most relevant, targeted information during the particular stage of the prospect’s journey.
Sellers don’t have time to scavenge across clunky, disparate, outdated systems every time they need something. In fact, after they do this a few times, they will lose faith in your tools and will instead gather a small set of content on their hard drives, or they will even create content on their own. This leads to problems in that these resources will soon become out-of-date, and they’re often way off-brand. They may even violate your organization’s legal guidelines.
Especially in this day and age, when buyers have become more independent, the solution is to implement tools that enable your sellers by allowing them to readily access what they need to support conversations with prospects and to optimize every interaction with the ultimate goal of increasing pipeline, advancing opportunities and winning deals.
Here’s another astonishing statistic…a recent report by the International Data Corporation (IDC) stated that “sales team members don’t use as much as 80% of the content that marketing generates.” That’s staggering. When it comes to developing content, instead of inconsequential, random acts of marketing, let’s begin with the question we set forth above: “How does this piece of content aid the selling process and enable our sales team to operate at the optimal level?”
In order to win deals, content must be targeted, data-driven and in the format most useful to the particular buyer and the particular stage of the buyer’s journey. And, in order for this to happen, we must bring the gap between marketing and sales. No longer can marketing operate in a vacuum or guess at what might be useful. Content, including sales pitches, must be relevant, and advanced analytics have an important role to play in ensuring optimal results. Moreover, there must be visibility into the performance of that content, i,e, whether or not prospects and customers engage with it in a valuable way.
Enable your sales team and win more business.
By viewing sales enablement as an organization-wide mindset, you’ll discover that each and every department has an important role to play in aligning with and supporting the sales team and ultimately driving profitable growth for your company. From hiring and training to tools and data-driven content – and even beyond that into areas of performance assessment, for example – effective sales enablement is essential to equip your sales team to compete in today’s competitive marketplace.