Sales enablement involves far more than excellent technology.
“Sales enablement” is a broad term, but at the end of the day, its main goal is to increase sales productivity. That’s done on multiple fronts, including consistent content throughout the buying cycle, training, coaching, and sales process improvements. Sales enablement is part of the sales transformation process, and it requires an ongoing effort not just from sales reps, but executives and departments like marketing and IT.
Sales enablement works to help businesses discover new ways to allocate efforts to increase revenue. A big part of it is alignment between sales and marketing, so sales enablement tips tend to focus on content generation, sharper strategic focus, and training on new technologies.
And, yes, when sales enablement works, it does increase revenue. According to research by CSO Insights, companies with a sales enablement strategy outperform companies without it—to the tune of 8.2 percent. Companies with strong alignment between sales and marketing achieve higher annual growth rates. Yet three-quarters of businesses don’t have use the strategy, and those that do still have room for improvement. Following are some tips to help you get started and move forward with a true sales enablement mentality, beyond just new and shiny tech.
How Technology and Sales Enablement Work Together
While sales enablement is about more than technology, a technology roadmap is a key jumping off point for how well such efforts succeed. Key questions to answer before moving forward include:
- How do you serve content to the sales team? (Typically a question for the marketing team.)
- How will the team access the information?
- How will they navigate through content (e.g., will they have the opportunity to story-sell?)
The right technology can increase mobility by helping reduce or eliminate sales team members needing to search for content, and marketing team members scrambling to pull together last-minute decks. Mobility has made enablement even more powerful, and there’s no question that it will continue to do so. Sales enablement can also offer guided selling so that sales professionals can make the most out of every unique customer interaction.
Alignment Between Sales and Marketing Is Essential
Technology can only do so much. Your people and their practices and behaviors are necessary for excellent sales enablement. More specifically, you have to ask yourself whether your marketing and sales teams are working toward the same goals.
Some organizations create service level agreements (SLAs) that hold both marketing and sales accountable to ensure everyone’s reading from the same playbook. Another best practice is to not only define rules and criteria for designating prospects as Marketing Qualified or Sales Qualified, but to make sure that both your sales and marketing teams know what those rules are and why they’re there. Of course, none of this works without good cross-departmental communication, so it’s important to ensure that multiple communication channels exist and are used. For example, our sales and marketing teams use Slack to send quick messages to not only stay aligned, but to have a little fun too.
Slack allows 90% of our alignment to come from sharing GIFs.
Training and Coaching are as Important as Ever
Coaching is more individualized than training, and involves practicing to overcome weaknesses.
Training and coaching are part of any successful sales enablement endeavor. It starts with sales training, but certainly doesn’t end there. Continual learning is required (and is a good practice for healthy living anyway), if for no other reason than the constant moving and changing of customers, markets, and competitors.
Coaching is closely related to training, but is more personalized than a set of videos or a group class. It’s about the person being coached: his or her strengths and opportunity for improvement. With coaching, a sales or marketing team member identifies and works to overcome deficiencies, with practice and with guidance from a dedicated mentor.
The Alliance Between Sales Enablement and Sales Process Improvements
The buying process undergoes constant change as markets evolve, new competitors enter the market, and customer demands evolve. Sales enablement must accommodate changes to the sales process to ensure that it’s continually aligned with the buyer’s cycle.
Successful sales enablement measures and reevaluates the sales process and works with, not against it, as it advances. We’ve seen some companies approach this by creating a sales enablement function, sometimes even an entire team, that’s tasked specifically with sales process improvements. Whoever takes care of the partnership between sales enablement and sales process improvement should have the support of both the sales team and the marketing team.
With technology pervading every aspect of our lives, it’s easy to view achieving quotas and growing revenue as a problem that can be solved with a software app. As powerful as technology is, however, successful sales enablement must have clear goals, understanding of processes it will use, and a strong mix of human skills.
Technology is a tool. The best practice relative to sales enablement is to use it consciously, train and practice sales teams thoroughly, and realize that the technology should work for you, and not the other way around.
Image credit: Mediashower