What is sales enablement and should you invest in it?

Posted in Sales team management.

Today’s sales reps are generally expected to achieve more using fewer resources, and it’s a system that is at high risk of failing. At a time when traditional sales processes are slowly but surely being phased out — cold calling and outbound sales as a whole — modern sales reps typically have fewer strategies in place for meeting their targets and achieving their goals. Despite this, business demands are ever increasing as the market becomes more competitive, and it’s reasonable to assume that we’ve reached an impasse.

So, what’s the solution? ‘Sales enablement’ is a recent buzzword in the sales world, and it’s a growing trend that’s being cited as a possible solution to a situation where we’re finding progress to be a major challenge. A part of the notable ‘digital enablement’ trend that’s spreading across the world — the notion of creating a fully operational, comprehensive end-to-end journey — sales enablement looks at providing sales teams with the knowledge, skills, tools, and equipment they need to handle every aspect of a successful sale, right through from lead generation to closing the deal.

According to The International Data Corporation sales enablement is focused on the idea of “getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place, and in the right format, to move a sales opportunity forward”. The ultimate aim is to make it quicker and easier for sales teams to do their job; to conduct their direct profit-making duties efficiently without the need to ‘waste’ time with unprofitable tasks. This is something that has never been more important than right now, a time when the average sales rep spends less than half of the work day selling. This is clearly hindering ongoing progress and success.

Implementing a Sales Enablement Approach

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to sales enablement, and the approach you take will largely depend on your sales team’s goals and targets, your current performance, and the stage of business maturity. However, there is an important consideration to take into account when implementing new systems, approaches, and ways of working. This is that, despite sales enablement focusing on empowering your sales team, the concept is actually less about the seller, and more about ensuring the seller has what they need to engage the buyer at the most appropriate and beneficial times. It’s all about the buyer.

Here are some ways that businesses can adopt a sales enablement approach:

Apps for Sales Reps

At a time when selling is largely driven by data, it is becoming essential for sales reps to have that data at hand, no matter where they are, or who they’re selling to. Apps for sales reps are designed to ensure that every piece of relevant data that holds the potential to be instrumental in securing a sale is all in one place – and can be accessed from any device, from any location, at any time with just a single touch.

Analytics Tools

Online analytics tools can succeed in providing sales teams with a greater understanding of what their buyers are looking for, enabling reps to resonate with their B2B clients through an in-depth insight into their needs, preferences, and requirements. While analytics tools are frequently used within marketing environments, it is believed their use can be extended to deliver a more effective sales solution.

Looking beyond technology, and beyond digital enablement tools, we also have…

Seller-Focused Content

Seller-focused content can help to bridge the gap that’s currently found between sales and marketing teams. The idea is for marketers to create internal content especially tailored for sellers, detailing more information about the marketing funnel, and about matching content — and indeed sales approaches — to each stage of this funnel. It’s a way for marketers to help their sales colleagues to succeed and to help marketing tactics stay congruent with sales tactics.

Customer-Facing Content

Customer-facing content can be created and delivered to sales reps to help them to engage with buyers during ‘micro moments’ — small windows of opportunity where customers are in the buying mindset. It is vital that sales reps have access to the necessary information to secure a sale on the spot, along with relevant, customer-friendly content to match each stage of the sales funnel and engage at the right time.

Sales Enablement Forums

Forums such as the Forrester Forum create unrivalled networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities to enable sales reps to learn from external resources. Forums and similar events discuss the benefits of end-to-end platforms, look at ways to transform the B2B sales force, and examine ways of sales enablement automation. This is a ‘tool’ that encourages new perspectives and new ways of thinking.

Should I Invest in Sales Enablement?

Many sales-based businesses would benefit from investing in sales enablement. At the very least, what it does is help to create, solidify, and define your selling processes. It can minimise the risk of ‘flukes’ and produce a completely replicable system that will, ideally, deliver reproducible results across all sales reps. Sales enablement gives every sales rep the tools they need to succeed, not just the top performers.

However, it’s important to remember that to invest in sales enablement is to invest in training, too. Simply providing the necessary tools and resources for your sellers will largely be useless unless your sales team knows how to use them. Training and development are key to sales enablement success. Your sales team must not only use the tools, but actually use them optimally, in order to see the best results.

The success of a sales enablement approach can be determined through measurement of key performance indicators, such as average sales cycle, percentage of reps meeting targets, average deal size, and so on. In many cases, businesses investing in sales enablement are likely to experience:

  • Improved productivity
  • Improved effectiveness
  • Improved sales-marketing alignment

While sales and marketing are generally considered to be two separate entities, research by intelligent growth solutions firm Sirius Decisions shows that companies with a better sales-marketing alignment typically show a 19% increase in revenue on average, highlighting the importance of consolidation. Ultimately, sales enablement is the natural evolution of the sales landscape. As we move away from traditional processes and departmentalisation, an end-to-end approach is the logical next step.