Sales Enablement: What is it, and How Does it Work?

There's nothing worse than a sales process that's stuck in the 1950s. You know what we mean. A real Wolf of Wall Street scenario, where salespeople are phoning prospects and desperately trying to close as many deals as possible.

But the strategy sucks. Their nets are cast wide, but the catch isn't great. You can't build a connection with stakeholders or figure out their needs.

Sales enablement is changing all this and dragging sales organizations into the 21st century. These days, its what buyers expect. Gartner says 43% of B2B buyers prefer seller-free sales experience, and more prospects now want a way to do their own research through helpful content.

Using a sales enablement strategy, your team can build trust with prospects and streamline sales rep training to ensure everyone is on the same page. It's also the fastest way to increase sales productivity, help them hit their quota, and close more deals.

Want in? Let's get started 👇

What is Sales Enablement, and What Does it Mean to Your Sales Team?

Sales enablement is the information and tools provided to a sales team to help them sell more effectively. It allows them to have a smoother sales funnel for internal operations and creates a better experience for customers.

For example, sales enablement might refer to creating a sales kit for your team to use to close more deals. This kit could include tools to help your team understand your customers better, like market research reports and buyer persona documents.

If you want to take it up a notch, you could also add battle cards, email templates and sales scripts so your reps are on the same page—from sending the first pitch all the way up to signing the contract.

Sales Enablement vs. Sales Operations: What’s the Difference?

They sound similar, right?

But the two processes are very different. To get the most out of sales enablement and sales operations, it's important to understand the nuances:

  • Sales enablement is tools sales teams use to close deals faster and smarter. This might include content, tools, processes, internal resources, and training. They get the big-picture view of what's happening so they can streamline the sales funnel and smash their quotas.
  • Sales operations is the team that plans and organizes sales training, onboarding, territory planning, lead generation, sales analytics, and more. The sales operations team focuses on the non-selling processes that are an integral part of the sales process.

Of course, not every company has dedicated persons for sales enablement and sales operations—it depends on the size of the company. In one study, more than 70 percent of companies with a sales force of over 50 people had a person dedicated to sales enablement. However, only 39 percent of companies with less than 25 sales reps had someone in the same position.

On paper, it might make sense for a sales manager to take on the role of sales enablement manager for a small company. But busy sales leaders hardly want to add more tasks to their (overflowing) plate.

So, why should you invest time in sales enablement?

Simple. Because it empowers your team to sell better and close more deals.

Sales Enablement Benefits: How Sales Enablement Solutions Help Your Team Close More Deals

Want to know if sales enablement is worth the investment?

Here’s what you and your team can gain by implementing a sales enablement strategy:

  • Better sales and marketing alignment: When done right, sales enablement connects sales and marketing and creates alignment between strategies, campaigns and goals that drive revenue.
  • Accurate forecasts: Teams without sales enablement have below-average win rates for forecast deals. However, teams with sales enablement are above average with a 49 percent win rate.
  • More selling time: With sales enablement, reps have access to a repository of sales content, meaning they can execute faster and spend more time selling instead of wasting time building contracts, presentations, and other pieces of sales content they need.
  • Improved customer focus: With easy access to the external-facing content your audience is viewing and interested in, reps are better able to appeal to their prospects and provide real value.
  • Win more deals: The strategy includes sales enablement metrics and KPIs as well as advanced training and coaching. Your sales team members will be even more prepared to close deals and reach their goals by focusing on the activities and strategies that have been proven to work for your team.
  • Stay on the same page: Direct, meaningful communication between marketing and sales means that reps are always aligned to the messaging that’s presented to customers, which builds trust in your audience.

benefits of sales enablement

As you can see, there are tons of benefits if you decide to make the investment in sales enablement. Not only will it free up time in your sales team's schedule, it'll also give them a better idea of what customers want and help them close more deals.

5 Key Components of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement is often described in a vague, non-specific way. We know it includes creating content, training processes and analyzing customers. But what does that mean for real life sales teams?

What does sales enablement plan look like IRL?

Here's a snapshot:

  1. Sales productivity: Sales enablement involves collecting and organizing the information and content that reps need. We're talking customer information, sales data, and documents to streamline sales. The goal is to have an easy-to-use database that improves sales productivity. Curious about the tools that experts use for sales productivity? Check out our guide to discover their secret weapons.
  2. Internal sales content: Sales scripts, email templates, battle cards, playbooks, and a sales objection handling are all must-have parts of a sales enablement strategy. This content empowers reps to sell faster and keeps the entire team on the same page.
  3. External sales content: Providing the right content, including white papers, case studies, blog posts, and testimonials is an important aspect of sales enablement. It helps sales teams understand how these content pieces perform and gives them the evidence they need to prove to prospects and leads that the product they're selling is the real deal.
  4. Sales coaching and training: Sales enablement gives the whole team a solid foundation for selling by capturing and institutionalizing the processes and information they need. Training usually includes practical onboarding documentation and videos to get new hires started faster and cut ramp time.
  5. Meaningful metrics measurement: By tracking and displaying the right metrics, sales enablement can help sales understand what tactics and messaging gets the best results. These insights are crucial to winning over your audience and sharpening future campaigns.

These five factors are the key parts of a successful sales enablement strategy. Combining them forms an all-in approach—the crème de la crème of sales enablement strategy.

8 Sales Enablement and Training Tactics to Help Your Team Sell

Sales enablement has many moving parts.

Depending on your sales cycle, a big part of nailing it will come down to the content you create (think email templates, sales scripts and customer personas) and the sales training you put together.

Get these two parts right, and your sales organization is on its way to a successful sales enablement strategy. Get them wrong, and the time and effort put in by your salespeople will be nothing more than a huge waste of time.

Here are the optimizations and tactics to improve your sales enablement 👇

1. Audit Your Current Sales Content (and Don't Be Afraid to Cut the Fat)

What’s the current state of your sales organization's onboarding content?

Which case studies and testimonials are your sales reps providing to prospects? Are they up-to-date?

How easy is it for your reps to find important sales enablement content, like cold email templates or contracts? (You can also try our AI-powered cold email generator for quick and easy email templates.)

The first step in building a library of useful sales enablement content is to go through your current marketing content and run an audit. First, remove any outdated content. That white paper from seven years ago? Can it. That product video you recorded before the last big release also needs to go.

Whether it’s internal content, training materials, or customer-facing content, make sure it ticks a few boxes:

  • It needs to be regularly used by the team
  • Every piece of content must be clear, informative and helpful to sales reps
  • It must be up-to-date and approved by an internal expert

If a piece of content doesn’t meet these requirements, it may need to be revised (or trashed).

Once you’ve removed outdated content, you’ll be left with the bare-bones minimum (or possibly nothing), and that’s fine. Just make a list of the pieces you need to replace and note the outdated content that performed well in the past.

Anything that performs well with your customers should be replaced with a similar content style (a product explainer video should be updated with a video, not a blog post), as this is the type of content your audience wants to see.

Don’t worry about updating every single piece of content: focus on the content that is truly essential to help your team sell.

How this helps your sales enablement strategy:

Cutting outdated content and stripping down to the bare essentials helps your sales reps focus on content that connects with customers. Your team will stop sending outdated content to prospects and be more aligned with the most current messaging coming out from marketing teams.

2. Organize Essential Customer-Facing Content

The days when prospects came to sales reps for information at every step of the sales cycle are gone.

Now, there’s a good chance your leads come in pretty well-informed. They've done their research, and they want to find answers to their questions on their own—fast. Give customers a way to do just that with easy access to white papers, case studies, testimonials, pricing and discount information so they can decide whether your product is a good fit.

A successful sales enablement plan also ensures this customer-facing content is well-organized and accessible to sales reps. More than half of sales reps say they can’t find content to send to their prospects, and 65 percent of content goes unused by sales. Let's face it—when your reps need a specific piece of content, they don’t have time to go running around your content database looking for it.

Instead, add a searchable content tool in your tech stack. For example, a platform like Seismic has a searchable database so salespeople can find the right content with a couple of clicks. It also uses AI to suggest content that customers may like based on any data you've got on file:

seismic sales enablement tool screenshot

That way, reps can find and use the content being produced and don’t waste time searching for or building content from scratch.

How this helps your sales enablement strategy:

When reps have easy access to these essential pieces of content, they can give prospects answers faster. This helps potential customers move forward in the buying journey.

3. Have Sales and Marketing Brainstorm Content Together

When you are kicking off your sales enablement strategy, get sales and marketing on the same page and figure out what content will be useful in the sales process. Marketing can’t (and shouldn't) try to create content for sales without input from the reps who are in the trenches every day.

Likewise, marketing has insights and experience that can help improve sales documentation by helping create content that ranks well in organic search (which means your prospects will actually find the content!)

Set aside time each week to review your sales documentation and create new content to help the whole team. Not only give you stronger sales content, it’ll also motivate reps to use the content because they helped create it—so they know it's helpful.

We recommend starting with a minimum viable sales documentation. This includes sales scripts, email templates and sales process documentation to get your team on the same page. As they get used to your sales enablement strategy, this content can be revised and expanded down the road.

Bonus tip: Keep a Slack channel open so your teams can discuss ideas and options for relevant content. As sales reps identify common questions and concerns coming from their prospects, marketing will have a clearer idea of the customer-facing content that needs to be produced!

How this helps your sales enablement strategy:

The average salesperson makes 20 percent of the content they need themselves: this is a huge waste of time, and it’s unnecessary. Let your sales team have direct input in customer-facing content so content will be more relevant to your audience.

4. Add Competitive Research to Your Sales Content Repertoire

Your sales team needs to know your competitors inside and out to win.

Put together content so they know what sales strategies they are using, their unique selling points, and how they handle objections. Start by answering questions like:

  • Who are your biggest competitors?
  • Are there any new companies on the scene that could become competition?
  • How does your product compare to theirs?
  • What features, integrations, or resources set your company apart from the others?
  • How does the pricing differ?

If your sales reps have the answers to these questions on-hand, iit gives them an edge when talking to prospects. For this to work, though, this information needs to be up-to-date, including any new features and capabilities.

How this helps your sales enablement strategy:

Sales reps will always have a fast, compelling answer to the question “How does your product compare to X?” Having competition research on-hand allows them to always give a clear, confident answer that sets your product above that of the competition.

5. Optimize Onboarding with Training Guides and Buyer Journey Maps

How long does it take you to onboard new sales hires?

A clear sales enablement process can cut that time in half. Even better, it can improve new rep performance and reduce turnover.

Onboarding content should be simple and practical—not vague and overwhelming. Put together a no-frills onboarding process in three steps:

  1. Write out the top 10 objections and questions your team hears from prospects, and add their best responses
  2. Next, add top strategies and selling techniques your team is currently using to close deals
  3. Finally, add essential content to help new reps learn the product they’re selling. This could include product training videos or even the onboarding content you send out to new customers using your product.

This will give you a bare-bones guide for new salespeople to familiarize themselves with your sales expectations and common customer objections.

Another piece of onboarding content for sales hires is a detailed buyer journey map. According to a study by CSO Insights, only 19 percent of businesses dynamically align their internal processes to the buyer journey. But this group achieves a 17.9 percent increase in win rates and an 11.8% increase in quota attainment.

You can map out a buying journey for your customers by asking:

  • Where do prospects normally hear about your company?
  • Where do the majority of MQLs come from?
  • Where do prospects fall off the path, or where they have that ‘Aha’ moment?
  • What piece of content or strategy convinces people to buy?

Once you understand how the buyer journey works, you can create content appropriate for the stage they’re in. Using in-depth content analysis, you can also see when certain pieces of content perform better, and use that information to better align your content to the buyer journey.

Gathering this information better prepares new hires to close deals from day one.

How this helps your sales enablement strategy:

Optimized sales enablement can reduce ramp time drastically. That means they’ll be selling effectively in a much shorter amount of time.

6. Train Salespeople With the Sales Enablement Tools and Content They’ll be Using

For sales enablement to work, you need tools to organize content and streamline the sales process.

That said, your sales reps need to understand how these tools work. Each salesperson has their own unique style and way of selling. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another. That’s why you need to suck the creativity from your sales scripts and templates.

Hear me out.

Sales documentation works better as a safety net than a daredevil feat that all sales reps are expected to achieve. When you create documentation, it should include the fundamentals of a good pitch, but allow reps to add their own creative flair. When they’re feeling inspired, your reps can jump out of the script and sales performance can skyrocket. But on the days they’re just not at their best, this documentation will still help them perform well.

Giving them the tools to access the right content quickly and easily will make their job that much easier.

Curious about the latest discoveries of AI in sales enablement? Uncover how innovative technologies are reshaping customer engagement.

How this helps your sales enablement strategy:

Whether they’re looking for a case study that reflects a specific feature, creating a new contract, or scripts to improve their cold calling efforts, sales reps need easy access to the right content. If they’re specifically trained on how to use the sales enablement tools you choose, they’ll be in a better position to adopt this strategy and sell better.

7. Make Training Ongoing and Update Materials When Necessary

Sales enablement isn't a once-trained-always-trained situation.

If your team doesn’t continuously train and improve their skills, they’ll stagnate and lose momentum. Regular training must be planned and available to all sales reps, even the most experienced ones. Believe me, everyone can improve.

Any onboarding and training materials you create should be available 24/7 to everyone. You can also organize training events, such as sales calling practice sessions with the whole team. These could even evolve into a fun competition for your reps to see who can deliver the best sales pitch or provide the best answer to an objection.

How this helps your sales enablement strategy:

Cultivate a culture of learning and improvement so your sales team will always push harder to build their skills. This will help you develop an all-star team who is motivated to sell because they have skin in the game.

8. Use Sales Enablement Platforms to Automate the Process

Whether it’s your customer relationship management (CRM) software, email automation or lead generation tools, sales enablement technology can help supercharge your sales processes.

Sales reps spend more than 40 percent of their time on tasks that aren’t sales related. The great thing about sales enablement is with the right planning, you can invest in tools that automate repetitive processes to free up your team's schedule.

For example, a tool like Showpad can track content analytics to see what documents connect with customers. If there is a specific case study or video that's driving conversions or helping sales reps book meetings, Showpad will highlight it so the rest of the team can use it.

If you want to follow up with more leads and send out targeted cold emails, a tool like Close can help you with that too. Close can automate your lead management, data entry, sales forecasting, sales rep activity logs and sales pipeline all under one roof:

close sales pipeline

Close also integrates with BOFU tools like DocuSign and Panda Doc to make sure when customers are ready to sign that contract, you can send it to them without leaving the CRM. It even tracks documents once they're sent and you'll get a notification when the deal is done.

How this helps your sales enablement strategy:

Your team will have more time to sell, and mundane tasks like email follow ups and data-driven analysis happen automatically in the background.

Is Your Sales Enablement Program Ready for Takeoff?

Sales enablement is more than putting a few scripts and templates together: it’s the combined process of:

  • Building and maintaining relevant internal and external content
  • Developing practical training materials for onboarding and ongoing sales training
  • Bridging the gap between marketing and sales for better content management and on-brand messaging
  • Measuring the metrics that matter to constantly improve the customer's buying process

This requires time and effort, but we’ve seen the good results it can bring: increased rep productivity, better sales and marketing alignment, higher sales quota attainment, improved communication with customers, and more closed deals.

With the right tools, your sales enablement strategy can be easily organized and maintained. And using the best practices we discussed above, you’ll create a strategy and documentation with your team while encouraging them to learn from each other and grow together.

Want to get a head start on your sales enablement strategy? We’ve created the ultimate Sales Enablement Toolkit to help you get started, with tons of valuable content you can swipe for your team.

Download the Sales Enablement Toolkit now and jump-start your sales enablement strategy.

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