No matter what industry you operate in, there’s really nothing better than seeing your team land a new customer, seemingly without even breaking a sweat.
On the other hand, though, there’s nothing more disheartening than seeing a new prospective customer back out of their purchase at the last moment. Not only does a lost sale mean a loss of potential revenues, but it also means the time and energy your team put into nurturing the lost lead has essentially gone to waste.
The thing is:
A blown sale in business is a lot like a blown save in baseball.
That is, the blame usually falls squarely on the shoulders of the “closer.” While the losing pitcher usually gets the blame in baseball, it’s the sales team that often gets held responsible when a sale falls through.
However, as it is in baseball, the truth is that your sales team isn’t the only entity at fault, here. There’s always something the rest of your organization could have done to help your sales team close the deal.
But this isn’t about spreading blame around, or pointing fingers at other departments. What we’re talking about, here, is sales enablement.
What Is Sales Enablement, and Why Is It So Important?
At the most basic of levels, sales enablement is exactly what you’d think it is:
The process of providing your sales team with the information, content, and tools needed to help them close sales more effectively.
Getting a bit more specific, sales enablement is about:
- Streamlining interdepartmental communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing
- Ensuring all involved parties know what information and data is needed by the sales team in a given situation
- Training current and new employees with regard to newly-implemented processes and tools
- Analyzing, assessing, and improving processes over time
You can probably already see why focusing on sales enablement is important. Still, it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the “nitty-gritty” stats and figures regarding sales enablement.
First of all, it’s worth noting the importance of clearly defining your sales enablement policies and procedures. Case in point, companies that develop a specific sales enablement charter hit their sales quota 27.6% more often than those that do not. Of course, it’s not just “having” the charter that leads to more efficient sales—it’s the alignment that comes with creating it that makes it happen.
Going along with this, organizations that have a dedicated sales enablement team are 52% more likely to have near-perfect alignment between their sales process and their target customer’s buyer’s journey. As we alluded to above, part of sales enablement is knowing what info is needed at a given point to nurture a prospect along the path to conversion. Knowing this, it just makes sense that teams that focus heavily on sales enablement have a clear definition of their customer’s journey.
Looking at things from the opposite direction, a study of companies earning more than $750m in annual revenue found that 83% of them currently have or plan to develop a dedicated sales enablement team. While this isn’t to say that creating sales enablement is a “magic bullet” or anything like that, this correlation is certainly no coincidence. Simply put: the better enabled your sales team is to seal the deal, the more likely they are to do so.
On the other hand, if your sales team isn’t properly prepared to make a sale, the outcome is usually not so great:
- Sales reps in organizations without a focus on sales enablement waste 43 hours a month searching for pertinent info when trying to close a sale
- Misalignment between marketing and sales teams (and others) can cost companies 10% of potential revenue a year
- Marketing content that goes unused or underused by sales teams can cost enterprise companies $2.3 million in lost potential revenue
It’s also worth mentioning that the majority of companies are adopting sales enablement procedures on a more official basis by today’s standards than in past years.
(A 2018 report from CSO Insights found that nearly 60% of companies now have a dedicated sales enablement function within their organization—up from 32.7% the year prior.)
However, this same study found that 34.6% of organizations admit that they have a ways to go in terms of optimizing their sales enablement processes. So, while implementing a sales enablement process into your organization isn’t exactly easy, doing so will likely put you leaps and bounds ahead of your competition.
Without further ado, then, let’s take a look at all that goes into improving your sales enablement processes.
The Six Main Areas to Focus On to Improve Sales Enablement
As we mentioned earlier, sales enablement doesn’t happen in isolation. Rather, it weaves its way through most—if not all—of an organization’s overall operations.
That being the case, working to improve your sales enablement processes involves:
- Assessing your current efforts objectively
- Systematizing and normalizing certain processes
- Introducing useful tools and technology to certain processes
- Organizing training sessions for new and current employees
- Creating high-quality content to be used internally and with potential buyers
- Continuously looking for ways to better enable your sales team moving forward
Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll dig a bit deeper into what each of these aspects of sales enablement entails, and how to implement them within your own organization.
Assess Your Current Sales Enablement Efforts
Your first order of business will be to take an honest, objective look at everything you’re already doing to enable your sales team to finish the job—as well as all the areas in need of improvement.
While you probably already have a general idea of where things are going well (or not so well), you’re going to need to get much more granular, here. In other words, rather than just knowing that a certain area is in need of improvement, you want to know exactly what needs to change in order to make the necessary improvement.
According to Accent Technologies, the main aspects you’ll want to assess are your company’s:
- Training and coaching programs
- Sales performance and outcomes
- Sales efficiency
- Interdepartmental alignment
- Tools and technology used
Now, when assessing each of these areas, you’ll want to do so both quantitatively and qualitatively.
According to Sales Hacker, the most important quantitative metrics to focus on are as follows:
Once you get a better understanding of how your organization’s performance pertaining to these metrics, you can then dig deeper to uncover the more qualitative aspects of what’s going right or wrong, and begin forming a plan of attack for improving in this areas.
Which brings us to the next section of our guide:
Systematize and Normalize Sales Enablement Processes
As you’ll recall from earlier, companies that have a documented sales enablement charter are much more likely to hit their sales quotas.
Generally speaking, the content of a sales enablement charter focuses on two things:
- The organization’s vision with regard to sales enablement
- The actual processes the organization will follow to make this vision a reality
Basically, your sales enablement charter should serve as a reminder of what changes you’re making, and why you’re making them. Overall, the goal is to create and maintain alignment throughout your organization in terms of their specific roles in the sales enablement process.
Getting a bit more specific, your sales enablement charter should define the steps to be taken when completing certain tasks, such as:
- Qualifying leads and preparing them for the next step of their buyer’s journey
- Collecting and delivering relevant customer data to the sales team
- Developing and delivering informational content to be used by the sales team
- Communicating and collaborating “on the fly” on an as-needed basis
In addition to these more “on-paper” aspects of sales enablement, you also want to focus on making sales enablement a natural part of your organization, as well. In other words, you want your team to adopt sales enablement processes because they truly understand the importance of doing so—not just “because the boss said so.”
Educate and Train Your Employees
Once you’ve gotten your team on board with the improvements and changes to be made, your next step will be to prepare them to actually make these changes.
To start, go back to the assessments you’d made earlier and see which areas are most in need of improvement; needless to say, these are the areas you should focus on first. However, you should also call your employees’ attention to the things they’re doing well, and reinforce the value their performance in these areas brings to the organization.
Now, since everyone’s specific areas of focus will different from organization to organization, we won’t be discussing actual training material or courses, here. No matter your specific focus, though, your goals when training your employees are to ensure they know and understand:
- What needs to be accomplished
- The most effective and efficient way to accomplish it
- Why doing so is vital to your organization
Regarding new hires, you want to seek out employees whose vision and abilities align with your newly-adopted sales enablement initiatives in the first place. This means placing a bit more weight on qualities and abilities like teamwork, communication, and critical thinking during the initial screening phase and beyond. After making a new hire, you’ll of course want to make sales enablement a major focus of the onboarding process, as well.
One last thing to note before moving on, here:
When developing new training programs (or choosing from a selection of third-party programs), you’ll want to bring your various departments into the fold. This will allow each department to share their own perspectives and insights regarding sales enablement, and to provide suggestions for how to improve moving forward. In turn, you’ll be better able to assess the quality of available training programs, and choose the one that your team will get the most value out of.
Introduce Useful Tools and Technology
The use of the right tools and technology is pivotal to the success of your sales enablement initiatives.
Need proof? Just take a look at these statistics collected by Brainshark:
- 43% of companies made a moderate or large investment in sales learning and development technology in 2017
- Firms that use technology effectively were, on average, 57% more effective at sales training and development than ineffective technology users
- Firms that were “laggards” in adopting sales technology saw their sales goal achievement drop 12% from last year
So, it’s pretty clear:
Companies that continue to adopt emerging sales enablement tools are putting themselves way ahead of their competition.
As we’ve explained, the key to improving your sales enablement processes is to enable everyone within your organization to do their job more efficiently. That being the case, you’ll want to consider adopting a variety of tools for a variety of purposes.
Perhaps the most important aspects you’ll want to cover are as follows:
- Lead Scoring: Lead scoring software will enable your marketing team to more efficiently identify and nurture high-quality leads that the sales team will easily be able to convert.
- Customer Relationship Management: CRM software (like Salesflare or Close) allows all involved team members to access and add to customer profiles, log recent engagements, and more—in turn allowing for a more streamlined experience on the customer’s end.
- Interdepartmental Communication and Collaboration: The easier it is for teams to communicate, the more likely they are to do so. The right tools can go a long way in terms of making cross-department communication second nature for your employees.
- Informational Content Creation and Distribution: Knowledge base tools (like Helpjuice) or a corporate wiki allow companies to house any and all important information in one central location. In turn, your sales team will always be able to find what they’re looking for with relative ease.
Again, the goal isn’t to simply make your sales team’s job “easier”; it’s to enable your salespeople to be more efficient and effective in their duties. That said, when considering adopting different tools within your organization for any reason, you should also consider how they may—whether directly or indirectly—impact sales enablement.
Create High-Quality Sales Content
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of enabling instant, real-time communication between your various departments up until now.
The thing is, there may be times in which reaching out to a colleague isn’t the most efficient way of collecting certain information.
Think about it:
If a salesperson needed to dig up some information for a potential customer (say, product specs, for example), would it be more efficient for them to:
- Contact the development team and wait for someone to get back to them?
- Look up the information on an internal database?
(Okay, that was a layup, right?)
The same goes for delivering bottom-of-funnel marketing content to customers, as well. If your sales team isn’t instantly able to provide their prospects with material that showcases your brand’s value (e.g., case studies, product demos, etc.), they run the risk of losing the sale altogether.
Now, there are two areas to focus on, here.
Secondly, as we just said, you also need to ensure your sales team has immediate access to all of this information, and can easily deliver it to their prospects as necessary.
Continuous Improvement of Processes
As we begin to wrap up our guide to sales enablement, we need to reiterate that sales enablement isn’t a “thing” your organization does; it’s more about how each of your departments approaches their duties to the team as a whole.
Unfortunately, it’s rather easy for teams to make a few surface-level changes here and there, then slowly slip back into the “old way” of doing things.
Now, we don’t need to get into a discussion on accountability and all that. What we will talk about is what you can do to keep your team laser-focused on sales enablement as time goes on.
Basically, it all comes down to making continuous improvements to your sales enablement processes over time.
More specifically, this means:
- Assessing your various teams’ (and your individual employees’) ability and willingness to do their part in enabling the sales team
- Providing ongoing training sessions focused on specific areas in need of improvement
- Fostering a sense of self-reflection and self-improvement amongst your employees
Again, you don’t want your team to think the recent focus on sales enablement is a fad that will go away sooner or later. By maintaining a clear focus on improving your team’s efforts in this area, you’ll reinforce the notion that sales enablement is not something your team does; it’s part of who you are as an organization.