If you’re not already on board with sales enablement, you should be. But most commentaries on sales enablement talk about metrics that don’t have a dollar sign. Let’s talk about how sales enablement puts money in an organization’s pocket. Experts see a big difference from successful sales enablement implementation:
'Organizations have seen improvement in revenue growth triple when they implement sales enablement compared with companies that don’t - and yours can [see that improvement] too,' writes Jeff Day of the Association for Talent Development.
A 2015 report by Forbes Insights in association with Brainshark agrees with Day.
'[S]ales enablement is a strategic priority among leading organizations today,' says an article by Forbes staff. 'Report data shows that 59% of companies that surpassed revenue targets - and 72% that exceeded them by 25% or more - have a defined sales enablement function, compared to only 30% of underperforming organizations.'
They’re some pretty big numbers - too big to ignore. But how exactly does sales enablement help an organization generate more revenue?
It’s notoriously difficult to fill sales rep positions. It’s one of the few areas of the jobs market right now where demand way outstrips supply - there aren’t enough good reps to go around.
'According to data from ManpowerGroup, the sales representative position was the second-hardest job to fill in 2015,' writes Shelley Cernel for Salesforce. 'Yet even as the economy continues to grow and the number of positions increases, organizations still struggle to fill these openings.'
As we’ve covered before, one of the defining characteristics that separates top-performing reps from the rest is their accountability. A study by Nick Hedges, president and CEO of Velocify, and Prof. Steve W. Martin of USC showed that half of over-performing reps 'strongly agreed' that they were accountable for hitting quota, with only 26% of underperforming reps saying the same.
A company operating a sales enablement tool, which has been shown to make it far easier for reps to hit quota, is therefore far more likely to draw the top reps than a company still sticking to the old ways.
As Cernel says: 'Companies with sales enablement tools in their arsenal demonstrate that they are investing in the success of their sales teams (rather than raising expectations and quotas while equipping reps with yesterday’s sales technologies).'
Hedges and Martin also found that the top reps responded to heavy incentivisation. They found that companies that meet or exceed quota are 48% less likely to cap compensation than companies that achieve less than 50%.
The aforementioned Forbes/Brainshark survey shows the astonishing advantages companies using sales enablement have in this regard. Again, this makes the company far more attractive to reps that don’t want to see their earning potential curbed when it reaches a given level. What’s more, the best millennials simply expect the most advanced technology to be in place to help them sell - why on Earth wouldn’t it be?
'The ability for sales reps to hit higher quotas translates into higher salaries and commissions, making the position much more attractive,' writes Cernel. 'And sales reps today, particularly millennials, demand access to the most current technology. As a result, a company armed with these tools will appeal more to those that recognize the value of modern sales tools.'
2. Onboard, Train & Retain
A well-documented problem in recent times has been how best to onboard, train and retain reps without losing oodles of money in the process. A recent Aberdeen Group study found that it takes seven months and almost $30,000 to recruit and onboard a new rep. That’s a lot of money down the drain if you’ve a high rep turnover - and most SaaS companies do.
Research conducted in 2015 by The Bridge Group and For Entrepreneurs showed that average rep turnover in SaaS companies sits at around 34%, with two-thirds of that number made up by 'involuntary turnover'. The survey also showed that 10% of SaaS companies experience turnover rates above 55%.
Often, companies rush to get their reps selling and productive - but it’s a false economy. The Aberdeen Group study showed that 87% of this kind of 'one-and-done' training content is forgotten in a matter of weeks. A longer program, supported by sales enablement software, is a great way of reducing high turnover and making knowledge stick.
'Sales reps need ongoing training to reinforce what they have learned and to keep them up to date with the latest products, processes, and content,' writes Cernel. 'With the right tools in place, including sales enablement, an organization can decrease ramp-up time by at least 30-40%, as well as reduce the frequency of mistakes and boost job satisfaction.'
If you’re creating more knowledgeable reps who aren’t going to bail - or who you aren’t going to have to fire - in their first year, you’re likely to sell more in the long run.
3. Continued Coaching
Coaching - especially continued coaching - is hugely important in creating successful sales reps, and it just doesn’t happen without accurate data and hands-on input from managers. Sales enablement tools can deliver both.
How much of a difference are we talking about? Let’s have a look at some statistics:
CEB research from 2014: 'Seller percentage to goal is, on average, 19% greater when they have highly effective coaches.’
International Coach Federation: 'The average company can expect a return of seven times the initial investment in coaching.’
Corporate Executive Board Company: 'Sales reps who receive just three hours of coaching a month exceed their goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 26% and increasing the average close rate by 70%.’
Sales enablement is a great way of assisting sales leaders in coaching. Up-to-the-minute statistics allow reps to be coached at critical points of a sale. Both Cernel and Day believe in the value of the playbook when it comes to coaching.
'Tools such as playbooks allow sales leaders to offer reps guidance about advancing prospects and using content effectively in their engagements,' writes Cernel. 'With just-in-time coaching, sales has the information and instruction needed to further the deal. And helping sales also means helping the company, since more reps hitting quota means more revenue.'
What is it about playbooks that makes them so useful?
'Effective playbooks present a guide based on the buyer’s journey that maps all of the available sales content, tools, training and best practices available to help sales reps execute and close deals,' writes Day.
'When complete, the playbook has available content (both customer-facing and sales tools, and training) for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Sales can quickly determine what content to use depending on the buyer’s stage - there’s no room for confusion.'
The reality is, though, that many managers simply don’t have the time to coach. According to the TAS Group, 73% of sales managers spend less than 5% of their time coaching, mainly because they are so busy collecting data for sales forecasts.
Sales enablement software relieves them of this burden and frees up time to spend coaching their reps. Remember, just three hours a month is enough to have a material effect on reps’ numbers.
4. Enabling Reps
If reps are rummaging around looking for content to share with prospects, they’re spending time away from their core activity - and that’s clearly detrimental to selling. A 2015 study by Docurated on the state of sales productivity showed that, in 2014, reps spent just one-third of their time actually selling.
Image Source: State of Sales Productivity 2015 by Docurated
A lot of their time away from selling is spent looking for quality content. The survey showed that 57% of respondents said that high-quality content was a main sales driver. Sales enablement software can provide the information for them more quickly and in an easily digestible form that means reps can focus more time on selling.
'Enabling sales reps means empowering them and making it easy for them to learn about complex products and services quickly and with the level of knowledge deep enough to make the sale,' writes Cernel.
'Further, 58% of pipeline stalls because reps are unable to add value, emphasizing how important it is for them to be able to find and share the right content at the right time. After all, sales teams that challenge and engage prospects are twice as likely to hit quota.'
One way of providing good, consistent content is through templates. Putting together proposals and quotes can be laborious, their content tedious and ineffective. Sales enablement can help change that.
'By creating templates the entire sales team can use, it not only cuts down on the time it takes to put them together, it creates consistent messaging,' writes Mikita Mikado for the PersistIQ blog.
Another of Mikado’s suggestions is the development of content 'battle cards' - cards containing bite-size yet unique content that can be easily internalized and used to clinch a sale. 'Again, this creates consistent messaging across your organization, but they also let each sales rep personalize their pitch for each prospect,' he writes.
5. Performance Evaluation
Your sales team has its playbook and has defined goals as part of the overarching sales strategy. But these are no good unless we can measure how well the team performed against those goals. This is where analytics come in.
'[T]o be truly effective, you need to understand what you are measuring and how those numbers tie to your goals,' writes Cernel. 'For example, which content is most effective at advancing the deal or generating the highest ROI? Which talking points progress the sale most efficiently? Are you offering value at every stage? Where are there gaps in the content?'
It’s especially important for reps to know how to measure what content is working.
'A good, modern sales enablement platform will provide content usage, customer engagement and revenue influence analytics, and possibly other business metrics such as velocity uplift and deal size uplift,' writes Day. 'These platforms provide the in-depth analytics needed to show content usage by sales, and importantly, content usage by clients and prospects.
'With this information, you can provide direct correlations to sales enablement and revenue numbers. You can know for sure which content directly impacted a sale and which content is ineffective.'
6. Lasting Relationships
As we wrote recently, there are huge benefits to be had in selling to your referral network. A 2011 study by Frankfurt’s Goethe University showed that referred customers generated higher margins than other customers and that they were 18% more likely to stay with the company.
The figures on referrals just get better and better. 84% of B2B decision makers begin their buying processes with a referral, while 73% of executives prefer to work with sales professionals who have been referred to them by someone they know. Referred leads also convert up to 30% better than leads generated from other marketing channels.
Geoffrey James of Inc.com explains why referrals work so well: 'The reason is simple. The greatest hurdle that every sales pro faces is TRUST. Rightly or wrongly, most people are predisposed to mistrust sales pros and see them as time-wasters. When you enter a sales situation with a referral, your current customer is saying to his or her colleagues that YOU can be trusted and won’t waste their time.'
You can only build up trust by having a thorough understanding of the customer and commanding their loyalty, and that’s exactly what sales enablement gives you: a lasting relationship.
'A salesperson who knows the name of the potential buyer and is familiar with their needs, pain points, and concerns is in a much stronger position than a salesperson who is simply trying to give a generic pitch to a random name on a list,' says Ironpaper.
'Sales enablement ensures that your team has the information they need to develop lasting, meaningful relationships with prospects over time - substantially increasing the likelihood of closing the deal.'
By turn, lasting, meaningful relationships with prospects over time lead to lots of high-value referrals.
Sales enablement tools lift the heaviest non-selling tasks off reps’ backs, and free managers to manage instead of report. A natural extension of the ideal (if sometimes not the reality) or highly automated, supportive CRM, sales enablement should do what it says on the box: enable the organization to sell. Reps make more commission, and the organization makes more revenue - by double figures in some cases. Implementing sales enablement tools successfully is a topic for another day, but there’s no doubt that sales enablement is tied directly to revenue and plays a powerful role in generating sales and income for the organization.
About the Author
A serial entrepreneur and digital nomad, Geoffrey has been running his own marketing consultancy for the past year.More Content by Geoffrey Walters