What is Sales Enablement?

Winning deals comes down to how well prepared your salespeople are.
 
 

1. What is sales enablement?

 
Sales enablement is the process of giving your sales team everything they need to close deals. Quite literally, it’s how sales leaders enable their teams to win more business.

How do you enable sales teams? Through resources, training, and ongoing learning and support. Resources may include content, tools, and other information that helps sell your products and services to customers.

Sales enablement sits inside of your business’ broader sales management strategy. At its best, enablement is part of a multi-pronged sales approach that includes coaching, technology, and other sales strategies. Technology, like a CRM solution, can easily integrate sales enablement into your reps’ and managers’ daily workflows, and provide organization-wide access to the latest enablement materials and resources.
 

CRM 101: What is CRM?

Why is sales enablement important?

Salespeople are incredibly busy. There are quotas to hit, new products to get familiar with, and plenty of different types of customers — and customer needs — to work with. Sales reps also have a lot of conversations: Conversations with customers, sales managers, product and marketing managers, and support teams. Sales enablement can help salespeople cut through the noise and prioritize what actually matters for their role and to their leadership.

Sales enablement gone bad, on the other hand, can have negative consequences. At the least, poor enablement is a distraction and waste of resources. But bad enablement can actually negatively impact your bottom line by driving poor sales performance, whether through using the wrong trainings, delivering out of date content, or leaning on the wrong strategic vision.

Sales enablement is more than just teaching your sales teams about your products, your value proposition, or even how to sell. It’s about enabling salespeople to bring in more business. Enablement helps by accelerating your sales teams’ credibility with your customers and building relationships that will strengthen over time.
Astro wearing a wireless headset showing @ mentions in Salesforce
Good enablement leaders make sure trainings, certifications, and other activities fit into a bigger plan, and aren’t just sprung on reps without any strategy. They walk through sales goals with their teams on a regular basis, with a focus on making it easier for everyone to know what’s going on across the organization. Good enablement leaders help salespeople prioritize trainings and other enablement activities alongside other responsibilities, and be successful at them all.

Modern buyers are more informed and empowered than ever, and approaches to sales and marketing have to keep up with the times. They want more than a good product at a fair price — they’re looking to build a relationship with a sales rep they trust to provide the insight to help them with their purchasing decision. Selling has become more consultative and less transactional.

Sales enablement helps sales organizations keep up with evolving buyer expectations. Enablement gives your sales teams the tools and content they need to guide prospective customers through their buyers’ journeys. Digital technology makes it easy to create and adapt marketing materials to support new products and campaigns, and to distribute them anywhere and at any time. Between the prevalence of sophisticated buyers, increased competition, and the rise of the work-from-anywhere digital economy, sales enablement is a must-have.

Why should your marketing team care about sales enablement?

Revenue keeps any business alive, and sales are the lifeblood of revenue generation. In this sense, your entire organization has a vested interest in giving sales teams the support they need to excel. Beyond this broad truth, marketing teams have a specific, vested interest in sales enablement.

Most of the time, sales enablement is a joint venture between marketing and sales. Marketing teams provide sales reps with articles, videos, product guides, and a wealth of other content to help prospects and customers make informed buying decisions. Sales teams, in turn, give feedback to their colleagues in marketing to inform more effective content strategies going forward.

We’ll get a bit more into the specifics of how sales and marketing work together on enablement in the next section.
 
 

2. How do you succeed in sales enablement?

 
As with any business initiative, succeeding in sales enablement means crafting a solid strategy and executing on it. Much has been written on sales enablement strategy, and the field is constantly evolving as technology, buyers’ habits, and other factors change over time. That said, this checklist can serve as a blueprint for building your own sales enablement strategy, the specifics of which you can tailor to your organization's needs.
 

Goal Setting

This might sound obvious, but it’s important to call out. You need to set goals for sales enablement just like you do for sales. In fact, when you set goals for enablement, it’s vital that they align with your broader business goals. At Salesforce, we use the V2MOM framework to create organizational alignment. It’s a great framework that’s easily adopted by organizations of most any type and size.

Viewing sales enablement as a holistic part of greater organizational goals helps create company-wide alignment. It also helps create a broader sense of purpose for everyone involved in creating, delivering, and taking the enablement. Ideally, enablement should help sales reps develop new skills and fuel career growth while also supporting specific product, sales, and business goals.
 

Create strategic goals with V2MOM

Communication

Sales enablement leaders should make clear what’s expected of participants in classes, self-paced learning, and other enablement activities well ahead of time. Giving sales teams ample time to plan for enablement will help them so it doesn't disrupt their regular cadence. Details around expected results should also be communicated up front so all of your salespeople know exactly what’s expected of them before, during, and after each enablement event.

Sales enablement leaders also need to embrace the role of lead scheduler, as mentioned above. This means communicating not only with their teams and salespeople, but also with product and marketing managers, regional sales leaders, and company leadership. Salespeople have plenty on their plates already without being told to chase every last assessment, certification, and 12-week course for vanity’s sake. Clear communication in this regard can help ensure that enablement activities are prioritized to fit in with the larger individual and company-wide journeys.

Time Management

Time management is key to an effective enablement program. New products and initiatives often require just in time training and content to support near-term goals. Take care, however, to make sure that you’re not losing sight of long-term goals — or overwhelming your sales teams with too many schedule-disrupting enablement activities — in support of new ideas that may or may not be part of the bigger plan. The best sales enablement activities balance just-in-time learning with ongoing work in support of long range strategy.

Content Creation

Content creation is a huge element of successful sales enablement. This is where marketing and sales can really put their heads together for the greater good of the company. Effective content creation breaks down into these elements:

Content Organization

Before you make anything new, take stock of the content you already have. Conduct a content audit to gather all of your company’s materials in one place, pulling from across your website, other public-facing channels, and internal marketing and enablement repositories. From there, you can start to identify holes, overlaps, and other needs in your content strategy.

You may be surprised at how much content is already on the company website, ready to be refreshed and repurposed. Investing in a sales content management system can really pay dividends when it comes to organizing existing content and planning new content strategies. Be sure to look for a system like Highspot that’s built specifically to support enablement, and not a content management system (CMS) designed for web publishing or other uses. Enablement-specific content management systems are designed with sales activities — including alignment across sales and marketing — specifically in mind.

Content Types

Content should suit its intended audience and purpose. Sales enablement involves sales teams, new prospects, and existing customers. Make sure you’ve got the right content to support each segment of your audience at every point along their respective journeys, whether it’s supporting a sales manager during online training, or sending a new lead follow-up materials after an in-person meeting.
 

Common content types include:

 
  • Case studies
  • Customer stories
  • Product demos
  • Product slide decks
  • Whitepapers
  • Ebooks
  • Pricing information
  • Competitive intelligence briefs
  • Videos

Content Distribution

Amongst the many benefits of digitizing your business is how much easier it is to share content electronically as compared to dealing only in printed sheets of paper. Hosting digital content in an online repository like Highspot, that’s designed to support enablement makes it just as easy to share a document with your sales team as it is to send a copy to a customer or promote it via social media.

When your content is online and accessible to your team, it’s ready to be used and repurposed whenever you need it. For example, a collection of content created for an enablement training can remain online and accessible by sales reps after the training. A rep already familiar with the documents might later share the right ones with a prospect during a sales meeting. Your marketing team might also share some of the content as part of a buyers’ journey, or repurpose it for a blog post teased via LinkedIn. Digital content distribution not only widens your possibilities, it makes it much easier to put them into motion.

Learning and Development

An important, but too often overlooked part of sales enablement is adapting your approach to fit all of your learners. We’re in a time of transition now, where much of the business world is in some phase of digital transformation, but not all organizations — or people — are fully digital native.

What does that mean for sales enablement? It means you need to fit your modality to your audience. Some of your sales reps — younger ones, in particular — may be fully comfortable with virtual training, self-paced learning, and navigating online content repositories to find the right content they need when they need it. Others might prefer, or just be used to, in-person learning and working with hard copies of training materials.

The trick is making it work for everyone. Particularly relevant is the question of how to make training work when in-person isn’t an option. Work to identify your team members’ learning styles and the best practices that work for everyone.

Digital Transformation

Digital technology is an important part of modern sales enablement. We’ve touched upon the power of digitizing your business — a process known as digital transformation — throughout this guide. Leveraging digital technology can make a huge, positive impact on all aspects of your enablement efforts, from content creation and distribution to virtual training sessions.

Digital transformation speaks to the broader vision of leveraging technology to reimagine the way you do business. Just as individual training and sales initiatives work best when they align with broader team and company goals, technology used to power enablement is even more powerful when it’s part of a broader infrastructure that facilitates information sharing and collaboration across the whole organization.
 

What Is Digital Transformation?

Sales Enablement Plan

Every part of the enablement blueprint laid out here rolls up into a master sales enablement plan. That plan, of course, exists within the larger company-wide strategic plan. To reiterate, sales enablement works best when it’s a cross-team effort. Depending on the size and structure of your organization, sales enablement may be a joint effort between sales, marketing, and a dedicated enablement team. Customer support, product, and operations might have some input as well. Whatever the specifics, spell out your sales enablement plan in a document that also explains how it ladders up to broader business goals. Again, something like Salesforce’s V2MOM framework can be quite effective — and efficient — in helping you spell out your plan.

Remember, a sales enablement plan is a living document that’s meant to evolve over time. Revisit the plan regularly, and update as needed to keep your enablement efforts aligned with how your business — and your customer base — is changing over time.

Stakeholder Commitment

Even the best laid plans don’t mean much if people aren’t buying into them. Getting stakeholders — leadership connected to sales enablement, specifically — to commit to enablement plans is crucial to success. As you create your sales enablement plans, identify key stakeholders from sales and marketing, leadership and management, and anywhere else where buy-in is key. Your stakeholders will drive adoption, spread the word, and generate excitement, all of which are key to the success of enablement programs.

Sales Enablement Team

Last but certainly not least on our list is the team. Whether yours is a team of one wearing many hats, or a dedicated group of enablement pros working together with sales leaders, getting the right people in place to drive your agenda is key.

Here’s a pro tip regarding sales enablement: When possible, always have a salesperson or sales leader deliver your trainings and other enablement activities. Why? Other salespeople will listen more carefully to an experienced sales pro than to a “professional trainer” who might not have the same firsthand experience.
 
 

3. Sales enablement best practices

 

Size your enablement to fit your needs

Different size companies require different types of engagement. Enterprise sales are a different beast from SMB sales, typically requiring more involvement with more decision-makers on the buyer’s side. As such, enablement in the enterprise usually requires more engagement than supporting small business sales.

Lead from the top and be open to feedback

Leadership sets goals, outlines product visions, defines campaigns, and so on. Those high-level plans get passed down to managers and team leaders, who execute alongside their teams, with support from enablement. At the same time, the account executives “on the ground” need to pass feedback through their managers, the managers need to compare notes, and the feedback has to go back up the chain of command so leadership knows what’s working and what’s not. That’s how you optimize enablement.

Build a sum that’s more than its parts

The more the different areas of your company communicate, share information, and work together towards a common goal, the better the chances that everyone succeeds. It’s as true for sales enablement as it is for any other aspects of your business:
 

Marketing

Marketing creates and optimizes content to create a friction-free customer journey. This may include tapping SEO teams to make sure relevant content is easily surfaced when customers search online.

Customer Service

Customer Service offers robust options for after-sale support that sales teams can tout as part of the overall customer experience.

IT

IT provides technical infrastructure and support for enablement activities ranging from virtual trainings to customized product demos.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing keeps sales teams abreast of timelines and supply numbers so they can deliver orders on time and as-promised.

Sales enablement supported by company-wide collaboration puts your sales teams in the best position to succeed. Enablement efforts can help drive success across other parts of the organization, as well. For instance, measuring customer content engagement during the buying process can help your marketing team plan content strategy based on what’s working and what’s not. That, in turn, helps shape future efforts across marketing, enablement, and even service and IT, depending on the types of content being delivered.

When organizations break free from silos and approach initiatives with a team mindset, the ensuing sharing of information, ideas, and feedback benefits the company as a whole. Integrating your sales enablement efforts with the work other teams in your organization are doing is a prime example of creating this sort of virtuous cycle.

 
 

4. What tools are needed for sales enablement?

 
Sales enablement is a craft, and every craftsperson needs the right tools to get the job done. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the tools that can help bring your sales enablement strategy to life:

CRM

A customer relationship management (CRM) platform makes it easier to build strong customer relationships, collaborate on deals, and keep an eye on every aspect of your business’ health.

Salesforce Sales Enablement

Salesforce Sales Enablement gives your sales reps the right content and coaching at the right time for faster results. Through in-app onboarding and guidance, personalized gamification, and live engagement insights, sales teams can fast track onboarding and development to drive results. Learn more about Salesforce Sales Enablement here.

Einstein Conversation Insights

Einstein Conversation Insights lets you unlock actionable insights from your digital sales calls. Quickly surface coachable moments and understand customer signals to personalize coaching, redefine your selling and enablement strategies, and scale the best ways to handle common objections, discuss pricing, or pitch new products.

Contract management software

Contract management software streamlines the entire contract process by managing all of your legal agreements and associated data. Faster turnaround times and more accurate contracts mean happier clients.

CPQ

Configure, price, quote (CPQ) software is an automated sales tool that pulls data out of your CRM to create quotes. CPQ helps sales reps sell the right product combinations, controls discounting, and automates approvals.
 

Content management

A robust content management system (CMS) helps sales, marketing, and enablement work together to create, update, and distribute content to support your sales teams and customers.

Events

You might not think of events as a tool, but they definitely are. Whether they’re in-person or virtual, or in the form of classroom-style trainings or more casual meetings, events are a key part of any enablement toolbox.

Email sequencing

This is a big, catch-all of a term that encompasses drip and nurture campaigns, automated customer journeys, and more. Work with your colleagues in marketing to create sequenced messaging that gives prospects and customers the right content at the right time to help them through their buying process. You can also use email sequencing to auto-reply to incoming emails so your customers are never left waiting for a response.

Mobile sales enablement

Can your sales teams do their jobs on the go, from their phones or mobile devices? With the right CRM, sales reps can access sales and marketing content, pricing information, and enablement activities like self-paced learning, anytime and from anywhere.

Sales training

Trainings can take many forms, from traditional in-person classroom scenarios to self-paced, online learning on platforms like Trailhead.
 
 

5. Stay Aligned with Sales Enablement

 
Sales enablement is a key part of successful sales in today’s business world. Enablement is a team undertaking, bringing sales, marketing, and other parts of a business together to advance company-wide goals. Whether you’re a small business, or an enterprise operation, the keys to sales enablement are the same: Alignment on company-wide goals, clear communication between teams, and access to the right tools, resources, and content to support your sales reps and your customers.
 

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