Sales enablement is an often misunderstood concept that’s related to marketing and selling. This article explains it simply and clearly, along with the value it provides to businesses that practice it in a disciplined way.
Sales Enablement: The Basics
Sales enablement uses coaching, training, content, and technology to:
Improve selling skills
Increase sales team efficiency
Organizations that practice sales enablement focus on:
Making a measurable impact on the business and its bottom line
Creating better sales tools
Launching and executing sales training programs quickly and effectively
Sales is challenging, even in a solid, demand-driven economy. It’s not fair — or smart — for you or your salespeople to enter into deals ill-equipped. Sales enablement is crucial because it provides the education, guidance, content, discipline, and tools required to move prospective buyers through the sales pipeline as efficiently as possible.
Here are some of the common challenges sales enablement can help with.
Expertise. Selling today is more consultative and less transactional than in the past. Sales reps must thoroughly understand the products and services they sell, their brand, the customer, and the competitive market. In-depth knowledge allows them to have the conversations prospects expect to have today.
Selling in the virtual and real worlds. Virtual selling is typically more challenging than in-person opportunities. Sales enablement can help you identify — and train on — the sales tactics it takes to be as effective behind a screen as in a room.
Economic uncertainty. In an economy like today’s, there’s less room for error. Market upheaval puts sellers under pressure to keep revenue from dropping. Buyers are likely to be skittish about commitments. Sales enablement can provide real-time information on how to overcome economic objections raised during sales conversations.
New product and service launches. Proper and timely sales training on novel offerings makes it more likely they’ll be successful.
Brand protection. Proper sales training and the use of sanctioned materials make it more likely your brand will always be well-represented with customers.
Sales Enablement: Keys to Success
To succeed at sales enablement, start by identifying a specific and measurable revenue goal. Then develop sales training, materials, and tools to help you reach it. Track progress toward your goal over time. Learn and adapt as you find better ways to reach your goal.
Choose Your Sales Enablement Goal
Start by identifying the top key performance indicator that’s threatening the success of your business. Some examples include:
Ramp time is how long it takes to onboard sales reps and reach total productivity. Reducing ramp time improves sales efficiency and productivity.
Win rate is the percentage of sales you close. A high win rate means your organization is effective at closing. A low win rate indicates something wrong with your selling process that sales enablement could help fix.
Deal size is the average value of all closed deals. If it’s too low, your salespeople work too hard to bring in too little revenue. You may want to explore upsell or cross-sell opportunities, or ways to identify better prospects.
Sales cycle length is how long it takes to close deals. Shortening your sales cycle drives efficiency and productivity.
Once you choose a KPI to work on, select a measurable target goal. For instance, if deal size is the issue you want to confront, you may want to increase the average deal amount by 25 percent over a quarter.
Define the Selling Behavior that Must Change
Once you identify a goal, figure out what selling behaviors and activities impact it.
Using the example in the previous section, if your goal is to increase the average sale by 25 percent, you may want to compare the sales experiences that resulted in your biggest and smallest deals. This will likely help you identify sales process changes that could generate larger sales at a higher volume.
For example, you might find that your biggest deals occur when customer service is highlighted during the sales process rather than price. You could then incorporate more customer service messaging into your sales content along with training on how to talk less about price while selling.
Create or Update Sales Materials
A crucial part of sales enablement is ensuring you have the right content to facilitate the sales process. If you identify messaging or content issues in your analysis, make a point to remedy them as soon as possible.
Train on New Behaviors
Build out the training it will take to change sales tactics and behaviors. In the example we are using, you might create training sessions that help your sellers understand what it means to explain the unique customer experience buyers can expect. You could also help salespeople know how to handle the price conversation and overcome objections. Additionally, you might offer one-on-one coaching sessions that allow your salespeople to practice new selling tactics.
Each part of the training should become a milestone that you track as the people on your team progress. This process allows them to learn and sell better at the same time.
Learn, Adapt, and Try it Again
Regularly monitor progress toward your goal. Check to see how your sales enablement efforts are working.
Did you hit — or are you on track to reach — the goals you set?
Did the changes you made achieve their desired results?
If what you did worked, keep doing what you’re doing and look for opportunities for improvement. If you didn’t fully achieve your goals, don’t give up. Figure out what is or isn’t working. Then make adjustments to hit the mark. If you’re at a loss, consult with those on the front lines, your salespeople, to gain insights.
Sales Enablement: Best Practices
Sales enablement is about making your sales cycle more data-driven, relevant, and personal. Here are some best practices you should leverage to make your efforts successful.
Connect Enablement and Customer Data with a CRM
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is central to a sales enablement effort. It gives you the data you need to see how your reps perform. A good CRM lets you see whether sellers are hitting sales milestones and how their individual behaviors and activities impact your top-line goal.
Let New Employees Sell as You Onboard Them
In traditional onboarding, sales training is separated from actual selling. Today’s best practice is getting reps selling as they’re onboarding and learning. This approach speeds up ramp time and limits revenue drain. When you sell and train in parallel, reps can learn and apply what they find out as they move real customers through the sales pipeline.
Allow Salespeople to Absorb and Use What They Learn as They Go
Don’t provide the people on your sales team with enormous volumes of educational and sales content. They can quickly become overwhelmed this way. Instead, create short learning modules and offer them up as needed. For example, a new rep who needs to send a quote to a prospective customer could learn and master the quoting step rather than take on the entire end-to-end sales process.
Create a Library of Sales and Learning Content to Support Your Reps
Solid sales enablement requires good, easy-to-access content that delivers the correct information to sales reps and customers at the ideal time. Here are some examples.
For sales training use:
Answers to frequently asked questions provide your salespeople with responses to queries they may not be aware of.
Training videos show reps how to sell correctly.
Replies to common objections help salespeople overcome barriers to sales.
Competitive intelligence helps reps understand how your brand fits within the market and why your products and services are better.
For use with prospects:
Customer stories show why people purchased your products or services and the benefits they've enjoyed because of it.
Powerpoint slide decks can help support sales conversations.
Information sheets provide vital information about products.
Product demos walk through key features.
Before you create any training or sales content, make sure it’s necessary and fits into your sales enablement strategy and plan. Random content development and distribution is a sign of a sales process that doesn’t follow the discipline of sales enablement.
Sales Enablement: The Bottom Line
Before sales enablement, most business owners ask: What should we teach about selling, and what materials do we need?
After sales enablement, it’s: What business value will we get from our sales process, training, and materials?
In short, selling is somewhat random. Sales enablement is, by comparison, intentional, disciplined, and goal-oriented. You owe it to your business to practice this valuable methodology.
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