What Is Sales Enablement? A Complete Guide

Learn how to build onboarding and training programs that make a clear impact on revenue goals.

August 25, 2022 | Time to read: 10 minutes

Sales enablement means training your reps to sell. You coach them, educate them with content and certifications, and bring them together at events like sales kickoffs. It’s anything you can do to help them close more deals, faster.

Then the tough question comes: “Did it work?”

The pressure is on for sales leaders to create enablement that makes a real impact on revenue goals, and prove that it’s working. This guide will show you how. We’ll cover the ins and outs of sales enablement — what it is, why it matters, and how you can measure success.

What you’ll learn:

 
 

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement uses content, coaching, training, and technology to help reps onboard, improve their skills, and sell. Sales enablement leaders care about increasing productivity, making a business impact they can measure, and getting training programs out the door faster.

Why is sales enablement important?

Sales is hard. Your reps often face a big, blank space at the beginning of a deal. Who are the stakeholders, what’s the strategy, and which deal details actually matter? They have to understand the problem and bring a solution for it. That’s why sales enablement is so important. Without education and guidance, sellers will struggle to advance prospects through the sales pipeline. Poof! There goes your revenue.

Here are some key challenges reps face, making the case for sales enablement.

Sellers are expected to be experts. In a June 2022 Salesforce survey, 74% of sellers said their jobs are becoming more consultative and less transactional. Sales reps have to better understand the product, the customer, and the market more deeply, so they bring more value to each conversation.

Sales in a hybrid world is challenging. In the same survey, 58% of sellers said virtual selling is harder than selling from an office. Yet only 29% are trained on how to do it. Sellers have to learn how to be as effective behind a screen as they are in the room.

With economic uncertainty, there’s less room for error. Market upheaval raises the stakes, and puts sellers under pressure to keep revenue from dropping. It’s not just about growth anymore, but effectiveness, too. Sellers need to do more with less.

Enablement to the rescue — if you do it right. “Enablement in leading organizations is tasked with true capability building — and not simply relegated to onboarding and training,” the Harvard Business Review stated earlier this year.

In other words, sales enablement has to get personal. It can’t just be about teaching reps the basics. It has to be about giving them the skills and the tools they need to become closing machines in a question-mark world. Below we share how you can succeed.

 
 

Learn how to train your sellers with our free weekly coaching guide.

Hold productive one-on-ones and keep your reps on track, week after week. Download the workbook to get started.

How do you succeed in sales enablement?

Stop creating generic training programs and hoping for the best. To succeed in sales enablement, start by identifying a specific and measurable revenue goal, and then develop training that brings you closer to reaching it. Track progress as sellers change their behavior, and adapt and learn as you pave your way to efficient growth.

1. Choose your enablement goal.

It shouldn’t be hard to do. You already wake up thinking about it. What's that one key performance indicator (KPI) that’s threatening the business?

Consider these metrics.

Ramp time: This is how long it takes for new sales reps to onboard and reach full productivity. Reducing ramp time is critical to keeping your sales productivity high, even when experienced sales reps quit — taking all of their knowledge with them.

Win rate: This is the percentage of won deals in your pipeline. A high win rate means your sales reps are good at closing. A low win rate means too many of your deals evaporate into thin air.

Deal size: This is the average value of all deals closed. It might sound obvious that if you want more revenue, you should sell bigger deals. But often, companies don’t train sellers on how to increase deal size, whether it’s by matching customers with more expensive products or selling add-ons, upsells, and bundles.

Sales cycle length: This is how long it takes your sellers to turn a cold lead into a red-hot deal. Shortening your sales cycles is critical for driving efficiency and productivity. You want your sales reps closing more deals, faster.

Once you’ve identified the KPI you want to change, define a target goal. For example, if deal size is a problem, you might want to increase the average deal amount by 20% that quarter.

2. Define the behavior change you need.

Once you have a goal, think about the seller behaviors that affect it. Using the example above, if your goal is to increase the average deal amount by 20%, then you could look at the biggest deals you’ve sold and examine the sales conversations that led up to them.

A sales call analysis tool like Einstein Conversation Insights can be pretty helpful here since it allows you to see conversation details, like how often certain keywords are used and in what context.

For example, you might learn that your biggest deals happen when sales reps sell on value rather than on price. To train your sellers to stop hammering on costs so much, you might set a goal to make 20% fewer sales calls this quarter that mention discounting.

3. Shape the new behavior with new training.

Next, focus on building out the specific training that will drive the behavior change. In this example, you might create modules that help your sellers understand what it really means to sell on value (for example, highlighting business benefits over cost savings). Then you might guide reps to handle objections with value rather than discounting at every stage of the sales process. Finally, you could schedule coaching sessions that give reps personal guidance if they start to slip.

Each of these training events can become a milestone that you can track as reps complete them. Bring this training into the daily work of a rep when you can, since it’s more efficient when they can learn and sell at the same time.

4. Adapt, learn, repeat.

So how’s it going? On a regular basis (at least once a quarter), dig in to see how your enablement is working. Did your sellers hit their milestones? Did the behavior change make an impact? Maybe your hypothesis that value selling would increase deal size was wrong, or maybe the training itself wasn’t effective.

Identify what is or isn’t working. Then adjust to hit the mark. Whatever happened, you’re all the wiser for it, just in time to face a new quarter.

Now that you know how to achieve and measure enablement success, let’s look at best practices for building a well-oiled sales enablement machine.

Connect enablement efforts to revenue results and reach the outcome you want.

 

What are best practices for a sales enablement program?

Sales enablement should largely focus on making your training more data-driven, relevant, and personal. Bring in technology that helps you make better use of your data. Then, train your sales reps in ways that work for their unique learning styles, giving them the information they need and when they need it.

Here are three best practices to keep in mind.

Connect enablement and customer data with a CRM.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is your fuel. It gives you visibility into your data so you can see how individual reps are performing. Track sellers as they hit enablement milestones on their march toward quota, and see how their behaviors are affecting your top-line goal.

Onboard sellers in the flow of their work.

In traditional onboarding, training tools are disconnected from the CRM (think stand-alone content libraries). The best practice today is to get reps selling even as they’re onboarding and learning, because speeding up ramp time will speed up revenue. When you do both in parallel, reps can check off milestones — like activities completed and meetings booked — as they move customers through the pipeline.

Train your reps in bites, not feasts.

Stop providing sellers with enormous volumes of material. They get overwhelmed. Create bite-size learning modules and serve them up at just the right times. For example, a new rep who needs to send a quote to a customer could receive a CRM alert with easy-to-follow guidance on how to get the quote out the door faster, and how to follow up.

Create a library of content to help your reps learn.

Great enablement needs great content that delivers the right information at the right time. Here are common types you should consider for your own enablement program, and how they can be used:

  • Customer stories: Documents that show why customers came to use your products and the benefits they've enjoyed.
  • Product slide decks: Presentations on challenges, market trends, and product offerings for sales conversations.
  • E-books: A downloadable guide for customers that typically focuses on high-level challenges and trends.
  • Datasheets: A list of the nuts and bolts of a certain product, from use cases to features to results.
  • Product demos: Videos and presentations that walk through key features.
  • Competitive intelligence: Competitor research to help you understand where you fit into the market and how you stand out.

There will always be a place for good old-fashioned content — even as sales enablement goes digital. The trick is to create a diversity of content to fit different learning styles and topics, then serve it up when it's needed most. Technology can help. Below, we share important sales enablement tools that will get you going.

 
 
 
 

What tools are needed for sales enablement?

A lot of businesses are reimagining the possibilities of what technology can take on. They’re putting the seller’s focus back on the human element — and letting automation handle the rest. They’re also keen to break down barriers between sales and enablement, and bring them together into the same flow of work. That’s why a sales enablement toolkit should combine CRM data, enablement software, and tools for call coaching and learning management.

Let’s take a closer look at critical sales enablement tools.

🔎 CRM software

A CRM gives you one single place to track customer data and spot opportunities and risks in the pipeline. When you automate the flow of this customer data and connect it to enablement tools, you can embed revenue milestones that auto-complete as reps hit them. Dashboards and reports let you see who’s on track.

📈 Sales enablement tool

At its core, a sales enablement tool manages and tracks all of the training and coaching a sales team needs. The best solutions enable sellers to learn and onboard in the same place where they sell. You should also be able to build an enablement program that targets the KPIs you want to improve. From there, structure content and activities into step-by-step training that shows your reps what to do every day.

📞 Call coaching tool

A call recording and coaching tool can help you find coachable moments in sales conversations that you can use for training. The same tool can also help you track behavior change. For example, you might set an enablement milestone for making 10 sales calls that mention your new product bundle to help increase deal size. Call coaching tools help you track keywords that show you whether you’re making progress toward the goal.

💡 Learning management tool

A learning tool should educate your sellers around new products, market conditions, and ways of selling. Certifications and interactive elements like gamification (literally mimicking a video game) can sweeten the deal.

What’s next: a shift in focus from inputs to outcomes

The question in sales enablement has changed. It used to be: “What are we teaching our reps?” Now it’s: “What business value are we creating with our training?”

To find the answer, build a program that has a goal in its sights. Focus on changing seller behavior to move the right needle. Roll out the automation-powered technology that can scale your enablement teams’ efforts.

Build a path from effort to results. Faint at first, it will deepen and strengthen as your sellers walk it.

 

More Resources

 
Salesforce+ Video

Learn why this sales leader is telling reps: "You are not your number."

Webinar

Discover how Salesforce does sales enablement.

Sales Cloud Overview

See how Sales Cloud helps you enable your sellers to do their best work.