written by Katalyst International contributor Jessica Olivo
By now, you’ve probably heard the term “sales enablement” in relation to how businesses support their sales teams. It should not be thought of as just an extension of sales operations, which is more narrowly defined as the nuts and bolts of a sales team — the territories, pipeline, revenue goals, daily call count, compensation plans, etc. Instead, think of sales enablement as a much broader network within your company. It seeks to bring together all aspects of the business with the goal of increasing sales both in revenue and efficiency. Sales enablement is made up of different tools such as customer relationship management (CRM), proposal and marketing templates, research materials, social media platforms, and training, all aimed at bolstering sales for the good of the company.
Why Sales Enablement Matters
Like many aspects of business, the sales field today is not the same as it’s been in the past. Buyers’ expectations and demands are rapidly changing and the methods used to sell products and services need to keep up with these fluctuations. When sales have become stagnant or have even declined, when your sales force is dependent on one or two star representatives to carry the weight of the department, or when buyers are taking much longer to respond or have even started not engaging at all, you need to rethink how you are supporting your sales team.
Customers today expect more than a one-size-fits-all sales pitch. More often, sales representatives need to appeal to potential clients with a personalized approach. This can be achieved by becoming more in tune with buyers to provide them with a better overall sales experience. Customers want to know that your reps understand their needs and are equipped with the tools to help them. Sales enablement is the process of using a combination of many factors within your company to supply the sales team with the tools they need to consistently achieve their goals. Whether it’s marketing, human resources, brand ambassadors, or IT, there are many ways in which different departments can support sales operations. When each of these areas work together through training, communication, content, and technology, they make the sales process more efficient and successful. By using sales enablement as a long-term practice, sales representatives are able to enhance the experience for their customers over time.
Training & Human Resources
Much of the support sales representatives are in need of stems from different forms of training. Starting from the recruitment and onboarding of a new employee, appropriate training is required to build a knowledge base that will drive future sales.
It’s equally important for employees to also undergo continuous supplemental training and coaching to prevent them from becoming stagnant or complacent. Skills should not only be learned, but also honed and improved over time.
There are many training resources that prove to be invaluable to keep your sales representatives sharp and hungry to close the next deal. Continuing education may involve guest speakers, seminars, or retreats. Some companies have mentorship programs to share knowledge and experience between employees. The sales field is like a muscle that needs to be exercised to stay in shape. Ongoing reinforcement of skills and knowledge ensure that a company’s sales force is staying up to date with the latest trends, products, and techniques.
Sales & Marketing Working Together
Sales enablement is best utilized when the sales and marketing teams are working in tandem. When the two departments understand the tools needed to bring in customers for the company, they can better work together to achieve the common goal.
Marketing materials should be created and utilized with the individual buyer’s needs in mind. All-encompassing messages about your company and product or service won’t get you very far anymore. In today’s world, customers expect that marketing material will be tailored to speak directly not only to their industry, but also their specific needs within their niche in the market. Not only do you need well-crafted and personalized materials, the marketing department should provide several different kinds of tools for the sales team to have at their disposal. Marketing should be constructing relevant material that not only appeals to buyers, but also best prepares sales people to knowledgably pitch their product.
These two departments should share the same collaborative goal with marketing focusing on research and the creation of content across multiple platforms, which sales will use to engage with potential customers.
Again, this material all needs to be focused on each specific customer who is being pitched to. Relevancy, thoughtfulness, and familiarity cannot be over stressed. Not only should the content appeal to individual buyers, it should also speak to where they are currently in the sales cycle — whether they are just beginning to discuss your services or they have been in the conversation for some time.
Any content created should be reevaluated periodically to ensure that it’s still appealing to buyers and is successfully communicating the company’s message.
Goals & Measuring Success
Like many aspects of your business, sales enablement is something that should be periodically evaluated for its efficacy and value. Determine what your goals are for success and how sales enablement will allow you to achieve them. Make alterations as needed. Below are potential goals to consider:
· Strive to be engaging with potential clients using a consistent, relevant and individually tailored message.
· Deliver meaningful and specific support to the company’s sales performance.
· Buyers should become repeat customers and bring in fruitful referrals.
· More sales representatives should be reaching or exceeding their goals and there should be less reliance on one or two top-tier stars. All reps should have a higher conversion rate of closing deals from prospects in their pipeline and they should see a decrease in the time it takes to close a sale.
· Identify any inefficiencies within the current sales methods and seek to streamline the process, removing obstacles that may slow down the sales cycle and hinder productivity.