What Is Sales Enablement?

Marketers tell the world about your business. Salepeople close the deal. Wouldn’t it be great if they could work together so they can both do their jobs more effectively?

That’s what sales enablement is all about. The core concept is simple—but putting it into practice can be complicated. If you’ve tried getting your sales and marketing teams to work together effectively, you know what I mean.

What if I told you that you could make this process not only easier, but automatic? Wouldn’t that be great?

That kind of collaboration is absolutely possible. We’ll show you the right tools, strategies, and best practices you need to close more deals with sales enablement. And at the end, we’ll look at three concrete steps you can take to start enabling sales in your business.

What Is Sales Enablement?

Before we get into the details, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page regarding sales enablement. In short, sales enablement includes the systems, processes, and tools that help sales departments sell more.

You’ll find more complex definitions, but that’s what it comes down to. In this particular case, we’re talking about sharing information between marketing and sales teams so salespeople have the information and tools they need to be better at their job.

And it works.

 

A study conducted by CSO Insights found that 28% of companies that instituted sales enablement content management systems saw increased win rates. That’s not a coincidence.

And what’s driving those improved sales numbers? Increased sales rep efficiency, easy access to content, best-practice sharing, improved sales training, and similar improvements in other foundational aspects of successful sales.

One of the most astounding findings from the study is that “[m]ore than 27 percent of sales professionals reported spending more than six hours a week creating their own content, and another six [or more] hours per week searching for content to use with their prospects.”

That’s twelve hours not spent on selling.

 

Even though sales enablement has been shown to be effective, many companies aren’t putting it in place. Content creation at 20% of businesses is a complete free-for-all. And that’s not good for anyone.

Getting marketing and sales on the same page is clearly beneficial—but lots of companies aren’t taking advantage of it.

Let’s take a look at how you can start reaping the rewards of sales enablement.

It’s a simple idea, really. And it comes down to sharing more information.

Even though sales enablement has been shown to be effective, many companies aren’t putting it in place. Content creation at 20% of businesses is a complete free-for-all. And that’s not good for anyone.

Sales Enablement Strategies and Best Practices

Putting a sales enablement system into place seems like a complicated undertaking at first. But if you stick with these four strategies and best practices, the process will be much easer.

1. Encourage good communication.

This is the number one best practice when it comes to sales enablement. It seems too simple to be true, doesn’t it? But effective communication is the bedrock upon which sales enablement is built.

One of the most fundamental things that you can do to improve your sales and marketing alignment is to simply give your sales team better access to marketing materials. Which means they need to know when marketing has created new materials, where they are, and any other information that will help the team take full advantage of those resources.

Has marketing created a new whitepaper? Tell sales about it. Did they improve upon a previous one-pager that salespeople have used in the past? Make sure the sales department knows where it is.

This goes the other way, too. If salespeople are getting the same question over and over from potential customers, marketing should create content that addresses that question. Or if sales is finding that a particular type of resource resonates strongly with the customers they talk to, they should let marketing know, because marketers don’t always see the effects of their content on the ground.

It works both ways. But if you can go one step further, you’ll hit sales enablement gold.

What’s that next step?

2. Make sure that marketing is creating materials that sales can use.

Sure, your latest blog post on how a customer used your product to cut their costs by 37% is great. But is a salesperson going to read all of your blog posts? Probably not.

So how can you make that content useful?

You might create a sheet of talking points that includes the 37% figure and a little bit about that company so salespeople are ready to use it as an example when talking to decisionmakers at similar companies.

Materials created by sales teams are—perhaps unsurprisingly—used much more frequently by sales teams than materials created by marketers. But the marketing department often has more training in creating effective content. Using those skills on behalf of the sales team can be a big help.

The form that this takes will vary between companies. Maybe your marketing department can create one-pagers on all of your products that emphasize the benefits like your website does. Or they can provide shortened versions of blog posts that salespeople can read in a minute or two to help them see what sort of messaging is going out into the world.

Your marketing team is creating materials that hook leads, and while it’s the sales team’s responsibility to convert those leads into customers, sharing materials can be a huge help.

But you also need to know if sharing those materials is helping. How do you do that?

3. Track everything related to sales enablement.

If your sales enablement strategies are working, you need to know about it. There are a few metrics you can reference to see if sales enablement is working.

We’ll start with the philosopher’s stone of sales enablement, the ultimate statistic: the effectiveness of sales interactions that use marketing materials. If you can keep track of which interactions make use of materials from your marketing department, you can see if those materials are directly affecting your sales. And that’s the most valuable knowledge in improving your sales.

Putting that level of tracking in place, however, isn’t easy. You’ll need detailed CRM software, a strong commitment from your sales reps, and a way to analyze your data. If you can do it, you absolutely should. If it sounds like a bit much, though, there are a few other pieces of information that you’re probably already tracking that can be co-opted into giving you information about your sales enablement.

For example, you can look at your lead-to-customer conversion rate before and after you’ve put new sales enablement practices in place. If that rate increases after you make changes, your enablement is working.

You can also look at the average length of your sales cycle to see if it changes. If it goes down, you’re headed in the right direction.

Many other metrics can tell you about your sales enablement efforts. Sales rep onboarding time, selling time, quota fulfillment, win/loss rates, time to quota, and even the success of sales content posted online have been recommended as good sales enablement metrics.

The ones you choose depend on your business, your goals, and your sales enablement process and tools. Before we get to specific tools, though, there’s one more best practice we need to address:

4. Automate everything.

Effective sales enablement requires a lot of communication and coordination. Managing all of that could be a full-time job. But using automated tools can drastically cut down on the time you spend coordinating these activities.

Because each company’s sales enablement process is different, the methods of automation will differ as well. The processes and tools you use will depend on the software you already have in place, the types of content you’re sharing, and how your teams work.

If your businesses processes are getting in the way of your sales team, you need to start optimizing those processes. And automation can be a big help. Not just in sales enablement, either; automating processes throughout your business can save you thousands of hours of time spent.

 

If your businesses processes are getting in the way of your sales team, you need to start optimizing those processes.

Sales Enablement Tools

Though it’s a relatively new field, there are already lots of sales enablement tools popping up. Some are specifically designed for enablement, while others offer integrations between existing apps that help you move the information you need.

Plenty of sales tools are now offering the ability to share content and engagement metrics. Salesforce, for example, is placing a strong emphasis on cloud-based information sharing, making it easy for sales reps to access all kinds of information at any time and from anywhere.

Because you’re probably already using a sales tool, adding these capabilities to it might be an simple and affordable way to start your sales enablement process.

Hubspot is also placing a strong emphasis on sharing information between marketing and sales. It distributes both sales and marketing CRMs that can work closely together; they can be used independently, or paired up for maximum sharing power.

Kapost is a marketing platform that makes it easy to share materials created with anyone, making it a great tool for marketing teams to use when they need to send information to sales.

No matter what kind of sales or marketing tool you’re looking for, there’s one out there that will give you the information-sharing functions you need to better support your sales team.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are software platforms specifically dedicated to sales enablement. Look at Seismic, for example; their system includes content planning and automation, sales administration, materials compliance, analytics, intelligent discovery tools training delivery, and a wide variety of other capabilities. You may need to completely restructure your software workflows, but these tools pack a lot of sales enablement power.

But not all sales enablement platforms are as all-encompassing as Seismic. SAVO, for example, provides a powerful CRM that lets salespeople customize content to their leads. Easily tailored presentations and proposals make every sales interaction a unique one.

There are even lighter-weight sales enablement tools, too. Fatstax, for example, exists to help sales and marketing share collateral. Attach.io is similar, and includes analytics for tracking your most effective marketing and sales content.

Sales enablement is a very hot topic in business right now, and tools like this are popping up all the time. Choosing whether you want a huge platform or a smaller sharing-and-tracking tool may come down to how much you’re able to spend.

In the middle, there are learning management systems—they don’t include sales and marketing functions, but they make it very easy for companies to facilitate information exchange and training. (Don’t get an LMS mixed up with a CMS or LCMS; there are important distinctions.) You don’t need to make your sales software any more complicated or set up an entirely new platform.

Our own Continu learning management software is built with modern teams of salespeople and marketers in mind. It serves as a content hub from which you can distribute new materials, trainings on best practices, and any other information that will help your employees do their jobs.

It even includes analytics to help you make better decisions about information sharing.

A learning management system might not seem like an integral part of your sales process, but it can provide serious gains in productivity among your team.

Many apps also offer integrations that will let you set up a simpler sales enablement system. Most marketing and sales software packages can integrate directly with tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft Office, and similar tools to make sharing information easier. They’re not tailored to the task, but they’re very inexpensive and easy to set up.

No matter what tools you’re using, and how much you’re willing to spend to get your sales enablement process up and running, there’s a solution for you.

Now all that’s left is getting started. Let’s talk about that for a moment.

Download the Free Continu E-Book: The Benefits of Next Generation Learning Software. Get the E-Book Today

Kickstarting Sales Enablement at Your Company

Now that you understand the strategies and tools you need to better integrate sales and marketing, you’re probably ready to get started. But where do you start? What are the first steps you should take? That’s an entire post in itself, but we’ll go over a few basics here:

1. Schedule a meeting with sales and marketing.

Both your sales and marketing teams need to be on board, and they need to know what you’re planning. Even though some of the sales enablement process entails more work from your employees, you might be surprised at how positively they’ll react.

This is all about helping your employees more efficiently and effectively do their jobs, after all.

2. Ask questions.

You might have a good idea of what your sales team needs. And you might have a good idea of what your marketing team can offer. But the people on those teams will know exactly what they need. And they’ll tell you.

Ask your sales team to think about the kinds of materials they would find useful in the sales process. What information do they wish they had access to? What’s difficult to find? What types of resources would make their jobs easier?

Get your marketing team thinking, too. Which types of content have resonated the most with customers? What’s useful in generating leads? And how could they turn that information into useful tools for the sales team?

3. Get a tracking system in place.

As soon as you start your sales enablement process, you should start tracking its effectiveness. The more detailed your metrics, the better.

But you can get away with very basic tracking, too, when you get started. Keep a list of resources that marketing has created for sales. Ask each salesperson which resources they used at the end of the week and how useful those resources were, and make note of the answers.

And add things that you’re probably already tracking, like conversion rate and sales cycle length. This will get you a good baseline that you can work from.

4. Adopt the right mindset.

Remember that aligning your sales and marketing departments isn’t a one-time thing. You’ll need to provide ongoing training, stay in close communication with your teams to see what they need, adapt to changing business goals, and be willing to experiment.

Once you’ve made these preparations and adopted this mindset, you’re ready to start selling more effectively!

Sales Enablement: Not as Complicated as It Sounds

“Sales enablement” is a pretty intimidating phrase. And when you start reading up on sales enablement strategies and tools, it can be a bit overwhelming. But if you keep in mind the fact that sales enablement is simply a fancy term for better communication and collaboration, it seems not only reasonable, but very sensical.

You don’t need to restructure your entire company to take advantage of sales enablement. As we saw above, you can start with a meeting or two and a tracking spreadsheet.

And with all of the benefits that come along with effective enablement, why wouldn’t you?

Have you started putting sales enablement practices in place at your company? How has the process been so far? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Dann is a long-time freelance writer with a passion for doing more with less. He writes about productivity and efficiency for businesses of all sizes.