The number of companies with a dedicated sales enablement function has increased from less than 20% to more than 60% in just a few years. On average, organizations that invest in a dedicated sales enablement function improve sales results by 29%, according to a study by Vantage Point Performance.
But averages are just averages, and many organizations see very little return on their investment. They may jump on the bandwagon by investing in technology, content, and training that is supposed to enable their sales teams to perform at higher levels, but the benefits never materialize.
Why are some organizations seeing massive gains while others feel like they’re throwing money out the window?
Here’s what you need to know to understand whether sales enablement is important for your organization, and how to set yourself up with enablement that is actually effective for your sales team.
WHAT PEOPLE THINK IS ENABLEMENT… ISN’T
The first thing you need to know is that sales professionals and business leaders often misunderstand what enablement is and isn’t. When you think of enablement, do you imagine a way of making sure that salespeople have access to marketing content and know where to find it – “content in context”?
Do you think about training? Or technology?
Each of those things are important elements of sales enablement, but none of them is in itself enablement. Sales enablement is a complete system that improves sales effectiveness by providing salespeople with everything they need in a structured and guided format to achieve their highest potential.
Think of training, process, methodology, content, and technology as instruments in an orchestra. Each instrument alone might be really great, but if they’re all going at the same time without coordinating their efforts, the audience is not going to enjoy themselves.
Likewise, when the elements of your sales enablement system are cobbled together and operating independently, you just have a lot of noise.
Sales enablement is all of the instruments, playing together in a coordinated fashion to create music–where the “music” is a well-orchestrated customer buying experience, based on a strategy that aligns with what you can offer them.
HOW TO GET SALES ENABLEMENT RIGHT
Getting enablement right isn’t something you do in a day and forget about. It requires vision, dedication, and commitment at the highest levels of the organization and coordination throughout the business.
That said, the essential steps to developing an effective sales enablement system are fairly straightforward.
1. Design a sales strategy aligned with your buyers
Almost too obvious to mention, but you need a strategy that is aligned with your buyers desired outcomes; you need offerings positioned and communicated in a way that makes them interesting and appealing. If your sales is complex, your value propositions need to be more tailored to each prospect and you need to invest in a more personal touch. In a complex sales environment, HOW you sell becomes critical, and maybe the last differentiator in a world when offerings look the same to buyers. Once your strategy is designed and your offerings well-positioned, your team needs to know HOW to sell in the most effective and efficient way, which takes us to our second point:
2. Make your processes easy to learn and follow
Overly complicated sales processes developed at the strategic level, documented in a manual, and then stuck on a shelf are not going to enable your sales force.
In complex b2b sales, an effective process may be complex and dynamic, but that doesn’t mean learning and following it can’t be easy and fun for your salespeople.
Develop straightforward, customer-focused processes (some call these playbooks) with stages, milestones, and steps. Then embed these processes into the salesperson’s workflow so that they’re in front of them over the course of their day and guiding them to each next step in a dynamic way. From prospecting to opportunity management, account planning, and customer success.
3. Enable the processes with training and content
Training that never leaves the classroom is a waste of time and money. Align your training with your sales processes, and then put training materials directly into the hands of salespeople, embedded in the same workflow that guides them through their processes.
They should be able to access training videos and articles at the precise moment when they need them, such as before a customer call, or when dealing with a customer problem. A system that serves up training content exactly at the right points in the process enables salespeople to practice and perfect new skills at the moment when it is most effective.
Likewise, sales and marketing content should be at their fingertips when they need it. If a salesperson has to go digging to find the right piece of collateral or doesn’t even know the content exists, it won’t do them much good. Develop a system that puts sales and marketing content in front of salespeople directly inside their workflow, exactly when they need it, based on a dynamic set of criteria.
4. Coach continually
Managers who only coach at quarterly or annual reviews are not contributing to sales enablement. Train your managers in your sales processes and methodologies, and enable them to coach salespeople in a regular cadence, aligned with what each salesperson needs to focus on to reach the next level in their performance.
Develop a dashboard of key analytics that includes both lagging and leading indicators and the ability to drill down to better understand each salesperson’s performance and the reasons for their performance. Teach managers to use the analytics in tandem with coaching conversations to understand what each salesperson needs and how to help them achieve their goals in a step by step, consistent manner.
5. Iterate the process and the strategy by analyzing the data
Collect data and analyze your process against goals to enable constant improvement. Make it easy to update the processes to reflect best practices and new insights based on win/loss analysis and other data.
I started this piece by asking how important sales enablement is for your organization. The reality is that we operate in an increasingly complex and competitive environment. While your organization might survive for a while without a formal sales enablement function as long as you have a few top players on the team, the teams that will succeed in the future are those that figure out how to get their entire orchestra playing expertly together today.
Are you ready to hire a sales enablement professional? Call me to learn more – 630-375-9700 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.