7 Best Practices for Optimizing Sales Enablement

Marketing and sales have traditionally had a bit of a contentious relationship in many companies. With miscommunication, vastly different goals and objectives, and sometimes an inability to see the other’s point of view – these two teams who need to work together often find themselves at odds. And out of that contentious relationship, a new role was born: sales enablement.

Sales Enablement is a strategic, ongoing process to equip the sales team with the tools, resources and skills to make them more efficient, and ultimately improve sales execution and drive revenue. As the head of sales enablement at Act-On, I tried to do this in three unique ways:

  1. Sales training (onboarding, continual training, sales methodology training)
  2. Communications (sales newsletters)
  3. Tools and resources (prospecting tools and company tools to tee up appropriate content)

Successful sales enablement involves a lot more than automated pricing guides and managerial oversight of the sales funnel. B2B companies are making huge investments in sales enablement tools, but too many begin with little understanding of the people, processes, and enterprise-wide insights they must bring together in order to make sales enablement a success.

“Research shows that 70 to 80 percent of the time, under-performance is due to environmental rather than individual factors, yet most of the time sales enablement solutions focus on improving the individual,” says Robert Koehler of TOPO Inc. (Koehler was employed at LinkedIn at the time of this interview).

Crucial to the success of your organization is ensuring that both marketers and sales understand the perspective of their prospects and customers. “Sellers tend to think in terms of features and benefits, but buyers think in terms of capabilities — the unique set of problems they can solve by purchasing your product,” says Candyce Edelen, CEO of PropelGrowth.

Clearly, it pays to take some time to understand the best ways to go about implementing effective sales enablement methods. Truly successful sales enablement looks at the bigger picture and earns the right to make both a strategic and tactical contribution. Here are seven best practices to help you succeed with your sales enablement efforts.

1. Hire the right people.

Theories about how to hire the right sales personnel are as old as the profession of selling itself. But modern sales enablement strategies and disciplines require professionals who are more flexible and teamwork-oriented than in decades past. Your company’s goal should be to hire salespeople who are able and prepared to help their customers dream and achieve.

2. Observe, evaluate, and understand your sales reps.

Successfully introducing new sales enablement technology and processes means looking beyond individual bottom-line production and taking on the attitude and role of a sales performance consultant. Approaching the sales enablement process with an open mind and inclusive attitude will help avoid common pitfalls, such as focusing too much on process automation, or forcing the entire sales staff to follow overly rigid scripts.

3. Provide continual product, competition, and buyer training.

If you have a physical location, maximize your calls to action at the point of sale or interaction with customers. Even if people are just window shopping, you can reach them with CTAs to engage with you via an email program that offers benefits and value. That could be discounts, sales alerts, new product releases, contests, and so on.

4. Use your own crowd to crowdsource sales enablement tools.

Nothing can doom a sales enablement strategy faster than the perception that it’s something marketing is imposing on sales. Instead, the development and refinement of sales enablement should be a collaborative and open process.

5. Align content and tools to the buying cycle.

The longer buying cycle and the highly informed buyer are facts of life which aren’t going anywhere. Using marketing tools to help your reps be more effective communicators is vital to winning business under these conditions.

6. Be vigilant over time to ward off fragmentation and drift.

As organizations grow, expand, seek new audiences, merge, and spin off, disconnections and inconsistencies crop up. Products have different names in different regions. Pricing tables seem arbitrary because the CFOs who tried to reconcile them left after the merger was complete. Territories are drawn along gerrymandered lines. The sales enablement process can help you discover and weed out many of these anomalies and vestigial artifacts to eliminate confusion and prevent the team from communicating at cross purposes.

7. Integrate sales enablement across the business.

Effective sales enablement not only brings the sales department’s reps, managers and leadership to the same table, but includes voices and input from the entire organization. This should, at a minimum, include the entire marketing and customer success departments. Remember that these three teams are the face of your company – delivering a consistent experience across the entire customer lifecycle is crucial to creating long-lasting, happy customers.

The thing that I can’t stress enough is that all of these best practices are tied together by one thing to have successful sales enablement – consistency. Everything on the sales enablement side should be consistent, from trainings to newsletters, to tools and resources.

In the end, sales enablement is first and foremost about attitude. It’s a team approach to sales that gives everyone in the organization a support role in aligning resources to make the right sale to the right customer. Marketing plays a key role, ensuring that the right information, tools, and subject matter experts can be delivered in a way that is relevant to each unique selling situation.

Do you have any advice for those seeking to ramp up their sales enablement abilities? Share it here!