Sales enablement, sales enablement, sales enablement.
It seems like everywhere you turn these days, you’re met with those two words — and it’s not just in your head. According to Highspot, the adoption of sales enablement strategies surged by 343% between 2015 and 2020, and there are no signs of it slowing down.
Whether you’re feeling inspired by all the sales enablement scuttlebutt around the digital watercooler at your company, or this is the first time you’re hearing about the magic of sales enablement, this post is for you. By the end, you’ll know:
- What the heck sales enablement even is
- Why it’s important (nay, crucial) for B2B companies
- How to implement a sales enablement strategy that aligns sales and marketing with the end goal of increasing revenue
What Is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is exactly what it sounds like: providing your sales team with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs more effectively.
Sounds simple enough, right? But trying just to do sales enablement without a strategy in place is kind of like deciding you’re going to construct a house from the ground up without blueprints, a construction crew or the proper supplies. Yeah, that’s probably not gonna happen.
A sales enablement strategy is just that: the plans, team and tools you need for successful sales enablement. Here’s how Hubspot explains it:
“A sales enablement strategy is the approach your business takes to provide sales with the resources they need to effectively sell. This strategy is tailored to your specific sales team’s needs so they can target your audience and close more deals.
“It should include an analysis of the resources, tools, content, and information you provide sales with to ensure it’s helping them convert more leads and audience members into customers.”
Why a Sales Enablement Matters for B2B
Sales enablement is worth pursuing for the obvious reason that it’s a proven method for closing more deals and bringing more revenue into a company.
But why does it work? And why is sales enablement so hot right now? It works because the strategy is tailor-made for how customers make decisions today, in 2023.
Think back. Twasn’t so long ago that a customer looking for your B2B product or service would flip through the phone book, spot your ad, pick up the phone and dial your sales department. “Tell me about your product (or service),” he’d say.
And your top seller would launch into a pitch about your product and the inherent benefits of doing business with your company. “Eureka!” our fictional customer would shriek. “This is the product (or service) I’ve been searching for. Shall we schedule a round of golf at the club to seal the deal?”
You can still go golfing, but those days are gone. For one thing, the phone book isn’t something you can flip through anymore. And B2B customers are far less likely to rely on salespeople for most of their decision-making. In fact, according to Gartner’s 2022 guide, The B2B Buying Journey, when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, only 17% of their time is spent meeting with potential vendors.
By the time they’re ready to talk to your sales department, according to Gartner, 86% already have a vendor preference, and 28% don’t bother looking for another vendor (they’ve already made up their mind thanks to their own research). The study doesn’t mince words about the disruption this is causing in B2B sales:
“We are witnessing a decided end to the era where sales reps were the channel; now they are merely a channel to customers. Sales leaders reluctant to acknowledge customers’ digital-first proclivities will be outpaced by competitors delivering significant value through digital and omnichannel sales models, engaging customers in digitally rich learning and discovery.”
Your Step-By-Step Guide to Sales Enablement
A comprehensive sales enablement strategy is no longer optional for B2B businesses. Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Assemble a Dream Team. The first step in implementing a sales enablement strategy is to assemble a team of experts with the right skills and knowledge to bring the strategy to life. Your team should include both sales and marketing experts. The good news is you probably already have a crack sales team in-house. Working with a content-driven digital marketing agency can help round out your dream team if you’re light on the marketing side of the equation.
The cross-functionality of this team is key because it will help ensure that the sales enablement strategy is aligned with the overall business goals and revenue targets.
When putting together the team, consider who has the right skills and experience for the task at hand. For example, members of the marketing team may be well-versed in creating content and developing messaging, while sales reps may have a deep understanding of the customer and what they need to close deals.
Step 2: Get in (Revenue) Alignment. Now that you’ve got your team, the next step is to ensure that everyone on the team is aligned on the business’s revenue goals. It’s tempting as a marketer to think that sales owns revenue — we’re just creating pretty content, right? Wrong! In sales enablement, everyone owns revenue. Let’s say it again: Everyone owns revenue.
This means that everyone should clearly understand what the company wants to achieve, how each deliverable is working toward those goals and what metrics will be used to measure success.
For example, the marketing team may be focused on generating leads, while the sales team is focused on closing deals. The sales enablement strategy should align these goals so that everyone works together to achieve the same result: better leads, higher conversion rates, more wins and, ultimately, increased revenue for the business.
Bonus Step 2(a): Get It In Writing
We’ve seen it too many times from both the sales and marketing sides: marketing gathers up 100 leads they think are just great. Sales can’t close and turns around, blaming the long list of cold, uninterested prospects who aren’t remotely interested in buying. Friction ensues.
In addition to getting on the same page strategically, both sales and marketing need to have a crystal clear understanding of what makes a sales-qualified lead (SQL). The exact definition will vary depending on your organization, but in general, a SQL is someone who needs what you’re selling, wants to buy and has the means and authority to make the purchasing decision.
Talk through the exact characteristics of SQLs, get it down in writing and have everyone sign it. This not only ensures a unified mission up front but protects both sales and marketing from accusations on the back end.
Step 3: Develop Collateral That Works for Sales. You’ve got your team, and your goals are aligned, and now it’s time to start creating content. Whoa, settle down, marketers; we can feel you champing at the bit to get all your super creative ideas out into the digital universe. But remember, each piece of content you create needs to align with your customer’s needs, as observed by the sales team. How do you know what that is? You ask!
Gather your team and ask the following questions: What questions are buyers asking you that could be answered by a piece of content (whether that’s a blog post, infographic, video or what have you)?
The result will be content that sales and marketing can use strategically throughout the buyer’s journey to educate potential customers as they research online. Gartner refers to this as building “digital sales experiences to support customer self-learning on the array of complex considerations associated with their products, services, and above all else, the customer’s change journey.”
You may have also heard this approach referred to as assignment selling. Either way, it is designed to catch your target customers along every point in their decision-making journey with relevant, informative and value-added content. By the time they get to the decision stage and reach out to your sales staff, they’ve received a consistent message from first click to final handshake.
Pro Tip: Lead scoring and automation can help increase efficiency and improve the overall effectiveness of a sales enablement strategy. Lead scoring, or the process of assigning values to each lead you generate for the business, helps prioritize leads based on their likelihood to purchase, allowing sales teams to focus their efforts on the most promising prospects. Automation can streamline and optimize various sales processes, such as lead nurturing and follow-up, freeing up sales reps’ time for higher-value activities.
Step 4: Track, Measure and Refine Your Process. The final step is tracking, measuring and refining the sales enablement process. One effective way to do this is through attribution modeling, a process that allows you to credit each marketing touchpoint that brought them from lead to conversion.
Not only is it nice to see how your content is being used along each step, but according to Hubspot, “By assigning credit to your marketing channels and touchpoints, you can increase your chances of converting more prospects by 1) identifying areas of the buyer’s journey that you can improve, 2) determining the ROI for each channel or touchpoint, 3) surfacing the most effective ways to spend your marketing budget, and 4) tailoring your marketing campaigns and content to your unique personas.”
Understanding how a lead became a customer helps to hone your process and gives the whole team a better understanding of what’s working and what needs improvement.
There are other metrics you can use, too, like lead-to-sale conversion rate, time to close a deal and overall revenue generated. If the results are not meeting expectations, go back to the drawing board and make changes. And when you do see those wins rolling in, make sure to celebrate them with the whole team!
These steps are just the beginning; implementing a sales enablement strategy is a continuous process that requires collaboration and ongoing improvement — but this is a great place to start. And if you need help along the way, seek out a digital marketing agency with proven expertise in sales enablement. We’re happy to lend a hand!