In his book To Sell is Human, Dan Pink explains that sales has changed more in the last 10 years than in the last 100. However, this is wrong, and the reality is that the buyer has changed (especially in a complex B2B environment). Sales is only now catching up thanks to a new function called sales enablement.
Research by Aberdeen reveals that sales enablement leads to 62% higher team quota attainment, 205% more revenue growth, 725% higher sales velocity, and a 23% increase in lead conversion rate in organizations with structured sales enablement programs versus organizations without it. That’s how powerful it is.
Scott Albro, CEO of TOPO, is also a big proponent, stating, “It allows a large number of sales people to achieve quota in a scalable, predictable, and repeatable fashion.”
It’s clear that sales enablement is a sales driver, not just a nice-to-have. Many high growth companies are deploying this function with incredible results, as they jump on the opportunity to supercharge the revenue-generating side of the business. However, other companies are laggards, and they suffer the consequences.
Where does your company stand?
What Is Sales Enablement And Its Scope?
Sales Enablement is an evolution of sales ops and marketing but elevated to a more strategic, proactive and hands-on level. With more tools, more resources, and a more complex sales process, you need a person or department who owns this and can deliver it to sales reps.
There’s no single agreed upon definition of sales enablement, as it’s still maturing and evolving in function and scope, but I like the definitions from David Brock in his new groundbreaking book The Sales Manager’s Survival Guide: “It’s all about providing tools, systems, processes, training, coaching, and development that ‘enables’ sales to be more effective and efficient.”
Though the responsibilities of sales enablement is still being defined, we can begin to clarify its scope. The following four functions are key in a successful sales enablement program:
There’s evidence that the sales enablement function grew largely out of the need for sales reps to leverage and optimize the content that marketing was creating. The two problems that needed to be solved were quality/value and discovery/utility. There’s an overwhelming about of mediocre content on the web. By creating more valuable content, you’re helping reps stand out in the noise, establish expertise, and build trust with prospects faster.
When it comes to discovery/utility, among the many studies conducted, they all agree on one thing: only 40% of the content being created for sales is being used. This is in large part because either the content is not easily accessible and discoverable, or reps simply don’t know the most appropriate time to use which piece of content. It’s sales enablement’s job to make sure the right content is being created and reps can find and use said content.
This goes much further than training for sales skills. It’s sales enablement’s job to ensure product knowledge with product training, assess marketing information for relevant industry training, and establish project management for critical thinking. Not to mention it’s their job to guarantee reinforcement as well. The fatal flaw that most organizations suffer from regarding training is it happens only once per year. What’s the good of investing time, money and energy in training if it’s not reinforced?
Strategy and Execution
With the goal set by the c-suite, sales leadership is beginning to pull sales enablement in to help define steps to increase efficiency and effectiveness from their reps. They establish the go-to-market strategy and sales enablement ensures sales effectively accomplishes it. However, the breadth of influence sales enablement has goes beyond winning deals and extends to hiring and on-boarding, forecasting, budgeting, and performance reviews.
Tools and Technology
This should be the last piece of the puzzle because tools are just a means to get a job done or execute a process. It never starts with the technology, as it just supplements and often augments a rep's abilities and behaviors, both good and bad. Always start with process first, and technology will follow if you have that process well. Too many organizations get caught up letting the tail wag the dog.
Once the process is established, it’s sales enablement’s job to guarantee adoption of the technology to execute against the process. This function also overlaps with training, as tools and technology add functionality and become more complex.
Many companies are bought into the vision of sales enablement, however, according to research by Highspot and Heinz Marketing, there’s a huge disconnect.
When you ask about the importance of activities that are under the sales enablement umbrella, there’s a Grand Canyon-sized gap between how important companies rate those activities and how they rate their current efforts.
Establishing The Need For Sales Enablement In Your Company
Most sales leaders and practitioners agree you need a full-time sales enablement function once your team hits a certain size. The size varies depending on the complexity of the sale and the maturity of the market, but the consensus is that you need to pull the trigger somewhere between 50 and 75 sales reps.
If you’re a smaller organization, you may not need a dedicated person full-time, but it’s highly recommended that you get someone who is responsible for this function. Sometimes responsibility falls under sales ops, marketing ops, or product marketing. I've even seen the responsibility placed on a sales manager or a sales rep.
The job of your sales reps is to show up on a call (or meeting) knowledgeable, skillful and with the right assets to help prospects buy. If there’s any indication that any of these elements are not there, you need to invest in sales enablement now. These gaps in efficiency and effectiveness are robbing your company of money.
You’re never too small to have a sales enablement function.
When establishing your sales enablement program, you need to be able to clearly answer the following:
1. What are the objectives for our sales enablement program?
2. Who is responsible for sales enablement?
3. What tools does my sales team need to be more effective? What tools should be cut?
4. How do we make content for sales to use accessible, discoverable and more effective?
5. How do we get full adoption for our new sales enablement initiatives from the sales team?
6. How do we create a more effective playbook for sales reps?
7. What kind of additional training does my sales team need?
8. How do we measure the effectiveness of our sales enablement program?
Adopting a sales enablement program will dramatically impact your sales team and catch them up.
Even though there’s no single agreed upon definition of sales enablement, no definitive scope of the function, and no clear department that owns the program, there is one thing that we can all agree on - sales enablement should be a mindset. If the foundation of sales enablement is the customer and the ultimate goal is revenue, then all parts of your organization have a vested interest and should support this function. You need a true sales culture where all departments are on the same page. Once everyone truly understands this, you can begin to impact the bottom line in a major way.
This is just an introductory overview of sales enablement. There are many more moving pieces to complete the puzzle and give you a full picture. That's why my team at PersistIQ is teaming up with the experts at PandaDoc for a webinar about “How to Use Sales Enablement to Increase Pipeline and Drive Revenue.”
On this webinar, you'll discover:
The keys to an effective sales enablement program
How technology can help you drive revenue and shorten the sales cycle
6 Steps to get up and running with sales enablement
How Sales Enablement drives productivity and closes more deals
How marketing and sales can develop effective Sales Enablement content
4 types of content that sales can use to close deals faster
About the Author
Brandon Redlinger runs Growth at Engagio. He has been in sales and marketing his entire career, leading teams across the country from NYC to Denver to the San Francisco Bay Area. In his spare time, you will find him buried in a book, hitting the gym or on an adventure exploring the world. You can follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Lee_09.Follow on Twitter More Content by Brandon Redlinger