Putting Together a Next-Level Sales Enablement Strategy
Today’s sales environment is a different beast than it was a few decades ago. Thanks to the internet’s leveling of the information playing field, today’s buyers aren’t only able to conduct their own research, they prefer it. Rather than ringing up a sales representative at the beginning of the buyer’s journey, clients now prolong picking up the phone until their finger’s on the trigger. It begs the question: how can modern sales teams tackle the new normal? More importantly, what sales enablement strategy do they need to come out on top?
Now that they’re dealing with customers who know exactly what they do and don’t want, your sales team will need all the help they can get to inform the former and sway the latter. Sales enablement entails the systems and processes that provide your team with the information, tools and resources they need to close the deal. They keep the sales journey chugging full steam ahead by stopping obstacles in their tracks.
What is Sales Enablement? And What is a Sales Enablement Strategy?
Before we go into detail about sales enablement and its resulting strategies, we’ll need to revisit the modern sales scenario. Before the advent of modern communications, buying something was a straightforward process. Sales reps held all the power as they could choose what information they wanted to release and when. As a result, customers often contacted salespeople to learn more about a product and then make a decision based on what they learned. That meant that the chances of a successful close rested solely on the salesperson’s skills.
The Rise of Digital Natives as Buyers
Needless to say, the introduction of the Internet changed the sales landscape completely. Anybody with internet access can read up on anything, from company profiles to product technical specifications. At the same time, users can also make price comparisons between rival products. More importantly, they now have access to user reviews, which provide a more honest assessment of a product or service.
Then, the generations that grew up on the internet joined the labor market. They began assuming jobs like procurement officers and buyers, which necessitated learning about the products a company uses and their sellers. Being digital natives, they know how to operate computers and surf the web better than anyone. They’ve been doing their own product and seller research sans sales reps since the start. Soon enough, millennial and Gen Z buyers began growing confidence in their information-seeking skills. Instead of contacting a sales rep early in their buyer’s journey, they started calling them only when they were ready to make a deal.
Is this the Death of the (Traditional) Salesperson?
Does this shifting power dynamic mean that sales reps are obsolete? Fortunately for you and your team, no! After all, knowledgeable, independent buyers are still buyers, and someone has to write down the orders. The sales process still requires teams to prospect and qualify, present, handle objections and negotiate. Plus, somebody will need to nurture and manage the client after the sale.
If nothing else, the modern salesperson now serves as a business consultant. They interact with customers and find their particular needs to supply them with specific solutions. Instead of relying solely on advertising materials and interpersonal skills, they will also need to master buyer behavior and product technical knowledge. Only then can they approach clients, talk to them about their needs and suggest a mutually-beneficial partnership.
Believe it or not, despite technology passing the information torch back to the seller, the modern sales rep is now being asked to do more than ever. Rather than looking at all clients as one entity with shared needs, they now have to treat each individual as unique—and therefore provide them with unique solutions.
So, What is Sales Enablement?
Sales teams need all applicable tools on deck to provide excellent customer service and earn the title of their client’s trusted advisers. That includes the requisite training to learn about the products they offer, and more importantly, how to best apply these products to each client’s individual requirements. In addition, every salesperson’s action should align with the company’s objectives. Sellers should also have a better idea of the competitive landscape and how each rival company positions itself. Finally, sales teams should realize that efficiency is the key to their operations, so part of their sales enablement strategy must include ways to streamline the sales process. This includes using modern techniques to qualify leads, handle objections and close deals.
In short, sales enablement is teaching the entire sales team how to sell the modern way. It involves any and all actions and strategies that can help your team hit their quotas faster and more efficiently. Sales enablement covers training sessions, sales and marketing materials, coaching, performance evaluations and so much more.
Why Implementing A Sales Enablement Strategy is Important
Regardless of the Internet, sales teams have and will always require specialized training. Apart from product knowledge, yesterday’s sessions focused on improving each rep’s presentation and social skills. However, these sessions will need to take a back seat in favor of more modern and applicable areas for improvement.
Understanding Sales Pain Points
Sales enablement provides the modern-age training and coaching sales reps need to perform their jobs better. In turn, management develops strategies aimed at easing some of today’s sales pain points. They include the following:
Pain Point 1: Goodbye Individual Buyers, Hello Buyer Committees
Instead of delegating work to individual buyers, most B2B companies now employ buyer committees consisting of two or more buyers. A typical company’s buyer committee can consist of as few as seven, or extend up to as many as 20 members, with each having a say in every purchase. Getting one to agree with your presentation is not a guarantee of getting approval from the other members—you have to earn it by addressing their individual pain points, too.
Pain Point 2: A Convoluted Sales Process
With an expanded buyer’s committee, the sales process often ends up more complex than ever. A seller reaching the approval stage after hurdling the committee deliberations now needs to get the company executives to sign off. During both stages, sellers will have to handle objections coming from different thought processes. Sales reps would be wise to accept that there are no home run hits in the standard B2B sales process. On average, it takes around four months for a company to complete its sales journey. Bigger, more complicated products and solutions will definitely take longer than that, perhaps even up to a year. The longer the sales process, the longer the sellers will face anxiety.
Pain Point 3: Offering Standard Products When Customers Want Custom Solutions
Welcome to the age of the custom solution. Gaining the sympathy (and more, importantly, the approval) of buyers requires a thorough understanding of their pain points. Presenting a standard, one-size-fits-all solution will elicit immediate dissatisfaction from buyers, as they’ll know that your sales rep didn’t care enough to do their due diligence. Granted, offering custom solutions that check all the client’s boxes requires a deeper understanding of your brand’s capabilities. Even more so, the brand will need to offer flexibility to address different concerns, especially if their pain points are financial or customer service-related.
Winning Means Being the Most Prepared
As you can see from the above pain points, the modern salesperson’s facing increasing difficulty to position the company as the solution. This is especially true for sales teams who did the work and sent in their proposals.
A complex sales process managed by a team of buyers will inevitably drag on for months. Even as several companies send in their bids, only one seller will emerge as the winner. With a sound sales enablement strategy, the well-prepared sales team can increase their chances of snagging the coveted winning proposal.
Advantages of Sales Enablement
Applying sales enablement strategies to how you prepare your sales team ensures that they get the skills and tools needed for the modern sales environment. Unlike their lacking counterparts, the well-trained, well-equipped sales representative should have no problems handling the responsibility of becoming a buyer’s trusted consultant.
In addition, sales enablement can provide sellers with a host of advantages over their competition. They include the following:
1. Improved Sales and Marketing Alignment
We all know the difference between Marketing and Sales. Marketing generates the leads while Sales works to convert them into buyers. Sales enablement ensures that the two teams’ objectives align to deliver the same messages to prospects and customers. With an aligned strategy, Marketing can better provide the programs and materials Sales needs. Meanwhile, sales enablement also means that Sales return the favor by providing Marketing with the frontline information they need to develop the right programs.
2. Enhanced and Accelerated Buyer’s Journey
By applying the correct sales enablement strategy, sales teams can anticipate a buyer’s needs and address their objections nearly immediately. Instead of wasting time going back and forth to the office for additional input, the enabled salesperson already possesses the information that clients need to make a decision. Ultimately, this can lead to an accelerated buyer’s journey—which everyone will appreciate.
3. Better and Well-Rounded Training Opportunities
A sound sales enablement strategy means focusing on how to improve response time, handle objections better and increase customer satisfaction. The astute sales manager knows that providing their sales team with the needed training and information sharing can increase their chances of closing more deals. More importantly, the savvy sales manager also knows that the sales team won’t benefit much from one-time training sessions. With the competitive landscape and buyer sentiment continually shifting, they know that their sales reps should have constant, well-rounded training opportunities to match.
4. Increased Customer Loyalty
Better-trained and better-equipped sales representatives armed with the product, customer knowledge and a competitive spark are your best bet against modern buyers. However, once you provide the knowledge and service the buyers expect, it would make more sense for them to retain you as their preferred partner. Sales enablement not only provides you with the upfront information needed to convince buyers to sign up with your service. It can also help you sustain your relationship with the client and encourage them to maintain this relationship. After all, Salesforce concluded that buyer-seller dynamics are no longer transactional. Nearly 80% of buyers believe maintaining productive relationships is the key to a long-lasting partnership.
Sellers Should Be Listening, Not Talking
In essence, sales enablement strategies teach sellers to listen instead of talk. This means taking notes of their client’s specific situation and particular requirements. Once they have this information, the sales team can build on this framework and create a tailored solution that meets the buyer’s expectations.
Sales enablement prepares the sales team for the demands of modern business. By developing strategies that cater to informed buyers that prefer custom solutions, sellers now have a better chance of providing what they actually need.
Build a Solid Foundation As Your Sales Enablement Strategy
A basic sales enablement strategy requires building your program from the ground up. Start by listing the team’s objectives, expectations, needs and requirements. Then, make an honest assessment of your present situation by identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Only then can you truly know if your existing processes support your goals. Careful accounting can then determine if your organization needs to develop new programs.
Furthermore, establishing a framework at the beginning avoids any costly and time-consuming mismatches in programs. Once you identify these unproductive time wasters, you can now free the organization to consider better sales enablement strategies.
1. Evaluate Your Current Strategy
Knowing where your organization stands at any given moment is the best way to gauge your progress. In their rush to change, many companies fail to adequately assess their situation before considering which areas worked and which ones didn’t. Understanding your strengths and accepting your weaknesses can help you come up with programs that beef up your strong suits and bolster the weak areas.
Keep in mind that sales enablement isn’t just about closing deals. It’s also about closing them faster and more efficiently, too. The team sporting a positive conversion rate but a longer-than-necessary sales journey to get it loses in the long run. Rather than using the time and resources available to close two or more sales, some sales reps choose to focus on a single, sure-fire deal. Between the two approaches, which one do you think gets the company closer to achieving its target revenue?
Measure Your Sales Enablement Efforts
It’s a simple concept: if you’re investing in a program designed to make things better, you should have a mechanism in place to measure its performance. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money at something that has no way of determining its actual value. While the obvious solution is to ditch the program, the more practical one involves putting up performance monitoring systems.
Usually, it would take at least one sales cycle to determine if the program works. If it does, you can now apply the program full-scale or transfer the knowledge to other teams. If it doesn’t or shows negligible improvement, you might want to head back to the drawing board.
One of the metrics you can use to determine the worth of your sales enablement efforts is by tracking return on investment (ROI). Computing for the ROI can determine your program’s success by establishing a net value of how much it contributed to the bottom line. Another metric worth considering is Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), which is the sum of a customer’s purchases over a given time. This is important because it gives the team a benchmark of how much revenue a customer generated in response to the efforts made to convert and retain them. Teams can also choose to measure the average length of the sales cycle, which denotes how much time, money and effort are exerted to convert leads into buyers.
2. Establish Your Goals
Once you get an idea of where you stand, you can now pinpoint which areas of the sales pipeline need improvement. Before doing so, make sure that sales and marketing efforts are aligned toward the same goal. For example, if Marketing aims to generate more leads, Sales should also aim to improve lead qualifying rates. Both teams should report positive developments in generating better quality leads and improved qualifying rates. This promotes accountability and collaboration.
Furthermore, establishing goals means looking at the numbers and proposing tweaks to improve performance. Are we generating enough revenue to warrant the resources we’re spending? Do we have enough customers to sustain our growth? Are we taking too long to close deals? Identifying the primary goals makes tailoring a solution that much easier.
Sales Enablement Goals
All sales enablement programs stem from three basic goals:
- Shorter Time to Close Deals
- Increased Sales Productivity
- Improved Customer Lifetime Values
Your choice of sales enablement program will inevitably address at least one of these objectives. For example, enhanced product knowledge training can accomplish all three in one go. Better yet, a more knowledgeable sales rep can shorten negotiations by providing clients with needed information on demand. Agile marketing and sales teams that deliver materials faster can also significantly shorten the sales journey.
Of course, having this information means increased sales productivity for teams. Customers who appreciate sales reps that have access to the information they need will most likely continue being customers. This means a longer and more profitable relationship. Other programs that help accomplish one or more of these goals include developing better marketing content and improving customer profiles. These can help show how much effort the sales team undertook in understanding a customer’s problems. Meanwhile, additional training modules on developing genuine empathy for customers and handling objections can also boost the sales team’s standing. Make sure that your programs remain focused on the benefits consumers can experience.
3. Identify Sales Enablement Roles
To effectively implement sales enablement strategies and programs, organizations should have the requisite point persons to handle the work. These will play crucial roles in ensuring the proper rollout of sales enablement tools, as well as the correct conduct of training and onboarding sessions. Marketing, while being a key participant, doesn’t hold exclusivity in all sales enablement program roles. It’s simply too big to exclude other stakeholders.
Among the members of the sales enablement team are the following:
Content Creation and Development
This is the one area where marketing takes the lead. In the process of developing content aimed at specific markets, marketing can undertake the assignment or direct an agency to create the needed content. Whether it’s a social media campaign, informative blog entries or advertising and promotional activities, the company will need to produce content to spread the word.
Moreover, content doesn’t stop at creative development. You’ll also need staff to work on content management tasks. A well-organized sales enablement strategy can determine the schedule and timing of new content releases. In addition, they should also be experts in curating content triggered by specific conditions. Are current sales lower than expected? Launch a sales promotion. Is the target market ignoring the products? Create a campaign directed at the buyer persona constructed from the target market. Other products not selling well? Launch a bundling strategy. Whatever campaign the team needs to launch, your content creator and development team should be there to provide the necessary support.
Before fanning out for content development, sales and marketing must align the content they’re looking for. Relying on a single campaign that targets a single market is a recipe for disaster—and needlessly ignores other or untapped markets altogether. Instead, the two groups should sit down and discuss a content strategy that encompasses the year-round sales campaign.
Content to Handle Content
In addition to customer-facing material, the content team also provides sales with information on how to use the content and messaging provided for them. This includes material that explains in detail the messaging behind every campaign and program. The content team should also provide sales team members with handy refresher guides.
Sales enablement also includes preparing the sales team to face customers armed with the necessary information and skills. Teaching sales representatives to perform complex skills, such as presenting proposals, handling objectives and conducting negotiations, is a great way for them to master the basics. Periodic testing to check if salespeople managed to retain their product knowledge and other key information is also critical.
Furthermore, continual training is mission-critical in maintaining a sharp sales team. Changing information and technology also necessitates regular training for the frontline sales team. That’s why companies should further invest in not just the right training staff, but also the right training tools and software, too.
Tech Training Methods
Thanks to technology, training the sales team doesn’t mean pulling them out of the field and herding them into the corporate classroom. Transferring knowledge and introducing concepts can now come in the form of online training or even gamified applications. Microlearning modules provide sales teams with small, digestible bits of information that they can take in during down times. Training programs will reinforce these bits of information through regular repetition until it becomes part of the salesperson’s daily vocabulary.
Sales enablement also benefits from gamified applications, which provide training under the guise of activities similar to video games. Trainees are encouraged to hit target scores to receive rewards. The highest performers also have their names displayed for everybody else to see. Who doesn’t love a little friendly workplace competition, even if it’s just for bragging rights?
Though training methods start the learning process, sales coaches usually finish the job. Sales enablement also involves deputizing sales leaders, like managers and supervisors, to provide reps encountering sales roadblocks with assistance. Here, managers bring their wealth of experience to the table because they’ve likely already encountered something similar.
Having the coach ride shotgun during sales calls or hunched over an extension line during pitches can alleviate sales reps when dealing with a difficult client. However, most of the real coaching work happens in between sales-client interactions. This includes setting time to analyze a sales rep’s performance and pointing out the agent’s areas of strength while noting the weak parts.
Sales teams that underestimate the value of good coaching won’t have the last laugh. According to Business2Community, firms that implement a competent coaching program generate 7% more revenue than those that don’t.
Internal and external communications are also worth mentioning as being key parts of the sales enablement process. Having the right personnel to deliver consistent, timely and informational company messages is a critical sales enablement strategy to ensure alignment. Internal communications make sure that messages sent from one department to another (or to the entire organization) have been vetted by management and deemed fit for distribution. This is important, especially during times when management wants to announce a new direction or report on the company’s performance.
Meanwhile, external communications deal with how the company communicates with the outside world. The team receives and processes the information sent to the company by stakeholders, such as governments, the surrounding community, private groups and individual consumers. It also serves as the company’s mouthpiece when addressing external issues such as product complaints or regulatory issues. Knowledge of these matters is important for the sales team, especially when a client suddenly asks about recent headlining events. Aligning the internal and external communications ensures that what the company expresses and what you tell your client are one and the same.
Another effective sales enablement strategy is to make data work for your organization. Gathering insights from individual and group sales performances requires a dedicated team of number crunchers. Data analysts look into the massive amounts of data generated by the sales team every day and scrutinize them for any tell-tale patterns. In addition, they’ll also look into the sales metrics set during the goal identification process and compare the actual numbers to the benchmarks. Apart from looking at the performance results, they’ll also look closely at the data and generate insights that explain the patterns.
The data analysis team will also measure the effectiveness of the various sales enablement strategies and measure their impact on the bottom line. After all, a program’s value can only be measured by improvements in the team’s performance. If the team’s numbers are well outside expectations, the data team will look into related data and check for probable causes. Afterward, they will make the necessary recommendations to get things back on track.
4. Know Your Sales Team’s Needs
Finally, sales enablement helps identify what the sales team needs to take the next step. Has the organization addressed the sales pain points that are preventing them from closing deals optimally?
More importantly, a great sales enablement strategy involves identifying the following:
- Your product’s positioning, its unique selling proposition and its key features
- Tools and materials needed to answer questions and expedite the sales journey
- Information that can help enhance sales activities
- Techniques used that resonate well with target audiences
All of this information is readily available from different sources within the organization. Sales enablement is also about consolidating this information and making it easily accessible to the entire sales team.
How Can You Identify Your Sales Team’s Needs?
There are several ways to get the information needed to implement the sales enablement strategies required by your sales team. They include:
Simply asking is the most direct way to learn what your team needs in terms of sales enablement. Granted, you should also expect to get various answers and different perspectives. Regardless, it’s worth noting that the quality of your responses is almost always directly proportional to the quality of your questions. Asking generic questions like “What was the sales enablement experience like?” or “What do you think about ___?” often leads to lackluster answers. Instead, try to be as specific as possible when asking so that you can, in turn, receive specific answers. Sample questions could sound like this:
- What specific reason made the client back out of the sale?
- Did the client pose an objection? What was the client’s objection that you had no answer to?
- Do clients ask for information in the field that you don’t have on hand? What is it?
- What do you think is the most time-consuming part of dealing with customers?
- Are there marketing materials or collaterals that you feel you need but aren’t available?
The problem with asking is that the sales team will often filter their responses to not stir the pot. Sometimes, observing the team can bring about information that wouldn’t be readily volunteered. For example, riding with a team member can show you the usual routes they take. Upon observing, you notice that the routes they take between clients are longer than they need to be—and you learn that your rep doesn’t know the lay of the land as well as they could in the process. A simple coaching session can show them the most efficient routes to save on travel, time and fuel.
This is why observing usually requires the observer to reserve the questions for later. Instead, they should sit back and watch, take notes and conduct the interview later. This allows the observed sales rep to go through the full routine without interruption—granting you get the unfiltered truth.
If asking and observing can’t give you the answers you want, it’s time to look into the data. With the help of your data analyst team, you can pick up certain behavioral patterns that can explain the reasons for lower performance. A sales rep that submitted a much lower customer lifetime value than average might indicate a lack of cross-selling or upselling offers. Or, a sales cycle that’s twice as long as the average might mean the salesperson isn’t visiting clients as often as needed. Constructively confronting the sales rep with numbers can lead to the answers you want.
Empower Your Stakeholders
How can your organization take advantage of your sales enablement strategies? Make sure to provide the right tools, technology and training so that they have no reason not to use them! As soon as they realize that sales enablement is all about freeing them from unnecessary, repetitive or unproductive tasks, they’ll be more than happy to get with the program.
1. Use Sales Enablement Tools and Technology
Sales enablement is all about better, more efficient use of your work time to close sales. This means harnessing the power of technology to promptly access information and create and share collaterals that clients can learn from.
Among the more popular tools include software that deals with content development, analytics, customer relationship management (CRM) and field sales management. In addition, setting up a content management library system means that sales reps won’t have to endlessly search for the brochure, video clip or datasheet they need to provide a client.
2. Measure Success with Sales Metrics
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. No sales enablement strategy will be worth its weight if you don’t have the means to measure its effects. For this reason, investing in good business intelligence or analytics software can help you get the answers to all the performance questions you have about your sales team. Sharing their numbers and insights with them will make your next coaching session that much more productive.
Analytics doesn’t have to focus entirely on seller performance, however. Content development software that contains analytics can also help. When interactive presentations are delivered to the client via the cloud, presentation software like Ingage uses analytics to measure how long clients spent on each particular slide or section. This can provide insights into which areas of the presentation effectively engage the viewer, versus those that could use a second look.
3. Implement a Continuous Learning Program
Deep down, sales representatives know their performance is always measured in terms of their last sale. At any time, a competitor can introduce a game-changing technology, a killer feature or a significant price drop to instantly erode your market share. This reality makes it important for teams to stop sitting on their accomplishments and implement a continuous learning program instead.
Fortunately, training can take many forms. It could be a competitor intelligence review session one day and an updated product feature seminar the next time around. Sessions should also consider incorporating regular economic updates to give the sales team an indicator of the market’s overall temperament. Moreover, continuous reinforcement training relative to the product’s features and solutions offerings should also be part of the regular training schedule rotation.
Today’s rapid tech advantages—from online learning and video conferencing to mobile app training—mean that companies have no excuse to not regularly conduct learning programs. At the least, the company should regularly connect with the sales team’s company-issued smartphones and activate micro-learning modules designed to reinforce all required sales information.
Use The Right Sales Enablement Strategy That Works for You
The sales dynamic has changed completely ever since customers took back the power of information. As a result, your sales team needs all the help you can spare to adapt to this new sales environment. Sales enablement allows them to continually learn and tweak the way they interact with today’s army of informed buyers. Some of the major tools needed for effective sales enablement include business intelligence, CRM, sales management, content platforms, training and interactive presentation software.
Ingage is a cloud-based presentation software that allows for a collaborative experience when developing client presentations. The shareable content means that entire teams can collaborate on a single presentation to provide their individual expertise. Its analytics features track the reader’s actions and determine which sections made an impact and which ones need more work.
Let Ingage promote sales enablement in your organization through interactivity, collaboration and analysis. Come visit us and learn more about how our interactive presentation software can foster the engagement you’re after. You can even book a demonstration to see how interactivity can play a part in your enabled future. Don’t be shy, it’s what we do.