Learn actionable tips on how to build a sales enablement strategy to boost efficiency, enhance communication, and improve sales and marketing alignment. An effective sales enablement framework empowers your sales reps to have the right conversation, at the right time, at each stage of your sales funnel.
90% of B2B sellers don’t even use their sales materials because the information is either difficult to customized, outdated, or utterly irrelevant for their needs. (Inc.)
This article will give you actionable tips for improving the effectiveness of your B2B company’s sales enablement efforts. If your company is not currently leveraging sales enablement in your business’s operations, then this article will not only teach you what exactly sales enablement means, but actionable tips that can be implemented to help your sales team be more effective.
86% of future customers take the time to listen if their salesperson can provide meaningful insights about their business using the products or services they represent. (LinkedIn)
Your sales team is the engine that keeps your business thriving and growing. Without a high-performance team, the rest of your business will grind to a halt. B2B companies now realize that it is no longer enough to hire great salespeople, even those with experience within your particular industry.
25% or more have this function as well. Only 30% of underperforming companies can say the same thing. (Forbes)
Today in 2021, high-growth B2B brands offer their sales team a more inbound selling approach, technology tools to make their sales jobs more efficient and persona-driven sales materials for each stage of the buyer’s journey. This allows for sales reps to improve in many areas, such as increasing lead to conversion rates and also shortening sales cycles.
Every B2B company needs an effective sales enablement strategy to ensure sales teams have everything they need to succeed. What members of a sales team will need to be effective will depend on your specific industry, product, or service but, in general, it will include sales enablement tools, content, and information.
What is Sales Enablement?
A high performance sales enablement strategy will work to empower your sales professionals. But what does sales enablement for B2B companies mean exactly?
Sales enablement is a collection of tools, processes, information and sales collateral your sales teams can use to help them build stronger relationships with clients and convert more leads into customers. At a high level, it should describe what your team does, how your team does it, goals and main initiatives for the coming year.
The idea behind sales enablement is simple. Imagine hiring a team of experienced sales professionals but providing them with limited resources, minimal information and vague guidelines. Now imagine that same team with ample sales resources, useful technology, informative content and goal-oriented guidelines. Sales Enablement are bound to be more efficient and effective at improving lead to conversion rates and reducing sales cycles.
A solid sales enablement playbook will benefit your business in the following ways:
- Close larger deals
- Shorten the sales cycle
- Allow for more up-selling or cross-selling opportunities
- Reduce customer churn
- Reach new audiences and markets
- Grow your sales team
- Improve the customer experience
- Build longer lasting, better relationships with clients
Developing Your Sales Enablement Strategy
Now that we know the advantages of implementing a high performance sales enablement strategy into your marketing plan for the year ahead, let’s explore the process and useful tips to do so effectively. A sales enablement strategy is defined as the approach your business implements to deliver to your sales teams the resources they need to succeed.
1. Start with A Mission
In order to maximize buy-ins, your head of sales or business development must make it mandatory that sales team members operate from a sales enablement playbook that is both predictable and repeatable. Without any mission, the company’s growth goals will not be achieved on time.
If you are going to create and maintain a sales enablement strategy, you should start with absolute clarity of purpose. Why are you creating a plan in the first place? What are you aspiring to do?
Like any marketing strategy, you should approach sales enablement with your ROI and scalability goals in mind. Before building out your sale enablement strategy, consider the right questions to ensure that you’re moving forward with an effective plan to
achieve your sales goals. The right sales enablement strategy may vary for different industries, contexts and companies, but the following list includes some fundamental ideas that work as a general blueprint for most businesses.
- Enhancing communication and alignment between your sales and marketing teams
- Curating content specifically designed for your sales pros to use with potential leads
- Streamlining the process for lead qualification and helping to make the handoff from marketing to sales seamless
- Properly training your sales team to engage inbound leads versus outbound leads
- Evaluating joint efforts for closing the loop on all lead generation output
- Implementing new channels for lead and demand generation
- Incorporating new and appropriate technology to improve the processes listed above
Ultimately, your business’s mission should have something to do with better enabling sales professionals to do their job. Your team should spend some time developing a clear and easily shared mission.
2. Collect the Right Data and Set Targets
A data-driven sales enablement strategy is a successful one. Key performance metrics (KPIs) from previous marketing campaigns and sales tactics will help you and your sales teams understand what’s been working and what has not. By evaluating existing sales KPIs, you can then set targets for what areas you want to improve and focus your efforts towards.
Quota attainment, productivity, attainment, and customer acquisition are examples of sales enablement metrics to track regularly. It is essential to understand what data will be evaluated and ensure that it is being correctly and consistently measured and recorded.
It’s important to build your plan based on challenges to overcome, key targets and the performance goals you’d like to achieve. As you move forward with your sales enablement strategy, you’ll want to continuously track these targets with data reports and key metrics that are relevant to your goals.
3. Prepare Your Sales Enablement Team
Once you’ve established your goals for implementing sales enablement, you can move forward with building out your plan. Recruiting the right players is crucial to achieving success with your sales enablement initiatives. For this reason, it is crucial that your human resources and talent acquisition teams have an understanding about what qualities, skill sets and experience you are looking for in a sales team.
As you begin to implement your b2b marketing sales enablement strategy, another essential aspect is knowing who should be involved in the decision-making process. A sales enablement manager should be enlisted to keep your strategy on track and marketing handing off leads to sales teams to align your marketing and sales teams.
It goes without saying that the head of sales should be involved in the process. They’re easily the most important person for contributing ideas and analyzing existing metrics. Furthermore, key players of your sales department will be able to offer useful insight into internal operations and areas in need of improvement.
Head of marketing and key team members of your marketing should also be included in the process. The success of your sales enablement strategy will rely greatly on the seamless alignment between your marketing and sales departments.
Your marketing team provides your sales representatives with content to use to engage with potential buyers. Both your sales and marketing professionals should be on the same page and able to execute smooth and frictionless marketing to sales handoffs.
You are also going to need the executive leaders of your company to buy-in to your sales enablement strategy. Approval from the higher-ups who have the final say when it comes to larger budgets, investments and who have the company’s larger-scale goals in mind is critical.
It can also be extremely helpful to work with an experienced marketing agency that has expertise in sales enablement. They can offer insight into the sales process based off of their own success stories and industry standards.
4. Clearly Define Responsibilities
For many organizations, a formal strategy of sales enablement is a new workload, on top of their already busy schedules. It is also work that is likely to cross boundaries between sales and marketing departments.
As mentioned above, alignment is key (we’ll touch even more on this later). This entire process can fall apart unless there is a clear definition of responsibilities from the very beginning.
Responsibilities need to be clearly defined and delegated within your sales and marketing departments in order to start your sales enablement strategy off on the right foot. The following functions need to be taken into consideration.
- Onboarding Softwares & Strategy
- Managing the Sales Process and Methodology
- Sales Playbooks
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Sales Tools and Technology
- Sales Content
- Ongoing Training and Development
- Competitive Intelligence
- Sales Projects and Campaigns
- Deal Support
This is where sales enablement agencies can be extremely useful to sit down with to have an objective conversation about your sales enablement goals and how you can better align your marketing and sales teams to achieve them.
5. Provide the Right Technology and Tools
As sales enablement continues to emerge as standard practice across all industries, more tools will become available that connect sales representatives to the information and content they need.
The right tech stack has the potential to save your sales team a great deal of time – and let them focus their attention on closing deals and increasing revenue for your business. Software can help your departments communicate better, execute prospect outreach more efficiently, and ensure that sales professionals are always ready to make the best possible presentation.
Be sure to choose the technology that works best for your company. Providing the right tools starts with an understanding of how your company’s unique sales process works, the challenges your sales teams are facing, any sales pipeline management gaps, and what would be the best solution to streamline the process.
HubSpot is a great one-stop shop with multiple platforms that work effectively for sales enablement processes. These include sales and marketing automation tools, customer relationship management (CRM) software, content management system, and more. You can benefit from working with a HubSpot certified agency that is trained in onboarding and implementing these softwares.
Other useful softwares include Salesforce for customizable customer relationship management (which integrates with Hubspot and Marketo), and CallRail or Databox for expert reporting and analysis. Platforms for interdepartmental communication include Slack and the video-conferencing system, Zoom.
Automating your sales processes with the best technology is a vital part of your sales enablement strategy. Below are several examples of ways you can use technology and automation to create a powerful sales enablement approach.
Email Templates and Sequences
Think about it this way – your sales representatives are probably sending out dozens and dozens of follow-up emails on the daily. Simplifying the process for them will help them be more efficient and connect with more sales opportunities.
The right software can provide email templates specifically catered to leads at each phase of their buyer’s journey. Additionally, follow-up email sequences can be set up and sent automatically if a lead hasn’t responded after a certain amount of time. These email sequences can accommodate content personalization for individual contacts and their company details so that they are tailored to the specific prospect.
A major component of prospecting for sales representatives is scheduling sales conversations and setting up meetings with sales qualified leads (SQLs). Automation can be used to send a set of emails on behalf of a salesperson with direct links to their calendar.
This feature allows customers to easily and quickly schedule a meeting or conversation without having to reach out to a rep directly. Qualified leads that you might not have realized are extremely interested and ready for a sales conversation can schedule a meeting on their own.
Automated prospecting saves hours of prospecting time as sales reps can simply open up their calendars at the start of each day to find several meetings with qualified buyers already planned.
Another useful automation tool for sales enablement is incorporating a live chat option on your website. The best time to speak with a potential customer is when they are already perusing your site. A live chat allows sales reps to connect with and close an interested lead in real time.
However, you want to avoid wasting time with unfit prospects. For this reason, you can optimize your live chat services with filtering criteria, so that the live chat button is only available for high quality leads.
Sales Enablement Software
A helpful sales enablement platform can assist with all of the above by consolidating all of the necessary materials and content into one accessible and manageable location. Sales enablement software offers a central space and useful tools for creating, editing, sharing and managing resources.
Setting your team up with the right software aligns your marketing and sales efforts and improves communication immensely. A well-suited tech stack can encourage seamless collaboration and a place to discuss what content is working best.
6. Identify Characteristics of Top Performing Team Members
There are likely key players on your sales team that are already performing at higher levels than others. It can be useful to understand their approach and skill set that contributes to their success.
What are they doing that others can implement to achieve the same success? What tools and training will help them be even more successful?
The idea is not to replicate your top performers, but to understand what the role itself requires for effectiveness. A great way to achieve this is to develop a top-performer profile and focus on hiring individuals that fit this profile through in-depth, behavioral interviewing tactics and evaluation tools.
7. Prioritize and Streamline Sales Collateral
No matter the specific characteristics of your organization, one thing will ring true for nearly every sales enablement strategy: making sales collateral and resources more accessible to the sales team. The compelling and eye-catching material and content that the marketing team works so hard to create is designed to facilitate the sales process, but it won’t do any good if reps aren’t able to easily access the right materials at the right time.
Taking a comprehensive look at all of the available materials, organizing them, and finding ways to make it easier for reps to have what they need will go a long way in helping your sales teams reach their goals for sales enablement and the company’s ROI.
Your sales team should be able to access the content your marketing team creates from anywhere, at any time. This connects back to having the right sales enablement software in place to streamline the internal operations and communications.
8. Provide the Proper Training and Support
Even the best software for sales enablement would be useless if your sales team doesn’t know how to use it or see the value in using it. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that your sales and marketing team members go through an efficient but thorough onboarding and training process.
Your sales team will be more inclined and excited to use the sales enablement programs you plan to implement, if they understand how it will help them work smarter, close more deals and make their day to day operations run much smoother. They will be more motivated when they recognize the personal payoff.
9. Understand Your Customer
Evaluation of an ideal customer and their unique buyer’s journey will give your sales enablement strategy a strong foundation and help your sales and marketing teams align. It’s especially imperative to understand the later stage of the buyer’s journey at which a customer is on the verge of making a decision to purchase.
This part of the process goes further than defining the pain points, challenges and motivators of your buyer personas throughout each stage of your buyer's journey. It involves assessing behaviors and analyzing buyer signals and trigger events. That is why it is crucial for your sales team to be equipped with the right software, tools, and compelling content to navigate the later stages of the sales cycle.
10. Constantly Analyze Performance
Included with your sales enablement strategy should be a plan for constant evaluation of the sales enablement program. Depending on the size of the sales team and the complexity of the B2B organization, this could be yearly or even quarterly.
It is critical to understand how the strategy is performing relative to the targets and mission your team set in place at the start. Any plan of this type will need occasional adjustments to ensure your sales team is adequately equipped to face the challenges of a constantly evolving industry.
Most marketing connoisseurs that you encounter live by the saying – always be optimizing! This is true for your sales enablement efforts as well.
Aligning Marketing and Sales
The sole purpose of a sales enablement strategy is to empower your team of sales representatives to move more leads through your funnel, close more deals, increase revenue, and ultimately, accelerate the growth of your business. One of the essential aspects of achieving success with your sales enablement strategy is alignment between sales and marketing.
Assessing the alignment and communication of marketing and sales starts with asking the following questions.
11. Do you have clearly defined criteria and rules for lead qualification?
One thing is for sure – leads enter the sales cycle at various points of their buyer’s journey. The process of lead qualification allows your marketing and sales teams to know how to better engage with different leads. Your marketing and sales teams should agree on what makes a lead a marketing qualified lead (MQL) or sales qualified lead (SQL).
They should also share the same vision for opportunities and other internal statuses. Knowing what qualifies each kind of lead in your sales pipeline helps both departments understand their roles.
12. Do you have an official sales and marketing service level agreement, or SLA, in place?
An SLA can ensure that both teams share the same goals and expectations and that they are held accountable for their responsibilities. It’s important for both marketing and sales to not only understand the criteria for lead qualification, but also understand who is responsible for what. Once a prospect reaches a certain phase of their buyer’s journey, it should be clear who is supposed to take the next steps.
13. Are your marketing and sales teams set up for efficient cross-departmental communication?
Your marketing and sales teams should be communicating with each other on a regular basis regarding lead quality, trends they are both noticing, questions and pain points prospects are reporting, and which content is resonating most with each persona.
It’s important that communication also includes regular updates on the health of your pipeline, relevant key performance metrics, and upcoming content creation or projects. The right tech stack can facilitate communication more efficiently. The more communicative your marketing and sales team, the more successful they are likely to be.
Sales Content Optimization for Sales Enablement
Despite popular belief, marketing isn’t the only department within a company creating useful content to engage customers. At many companies, sales teams also create personalized content to send to leads.
However, the problem here is that every minute a sales professional spends crafting interesting content, they are wasting valuable time they could be using to sell, sell, sell. For this reason, sales enablement strategies include content optimization guides to save time.
According to HubSpot and other major publications, the following is a list of powerful methods to optimize your sales content to ensure that it is effective without wasting too much time.
14. Organize Sales Content
The first step is to gather all of the sales content already in play and organize it into one central location that is easily accessible to each member of your team. A full content audit may need to be done to round up all of the content and weed out any content that has proven to be ineffective.
Examples of sales content to audit and organize include the following list.
- Customer Case Studies
- Whitepapers and Ebooks
- Product Demo Decks
- Pricing and Discount Information
- Competitive Intelligence Briefs
It is recommended to utilize useful tools such as Google Docs, qualified CRM or other sales enablement software to work as a centralized location for all sales content. Using a platform makes it easy to keep your library of content up-to-date with the constant changes within your market, audience, and industry.
15. Create Niche Case Studies
A case study is one of the most useful pieces of content for sales enablement purposes. What is a case study exactly? It is an example of the work you’ve done for a previous customer or client. It can be a showcase of past marketing efforts, successful sales experiences or other stories related to your products or services.
Certain CRM platforms make it possible to keep track of the usage of your product or service and pick out potential customers for case studies. Companies should aim to create at least one case study within the first six months of rolling out a new product. Case studies allow you to present your product and spotlight the challenges it resolves for your target customers.
When crafting your case studies, keep in mind that video content is a more effective approach than written content, which can obviously take quite a bit more time to create. For this reason, some businesses choose to outsource their case study development to an experienced inbound marketing or sales enablement agency.
16. Create Email Templates
Next to connecting via phone call, email is the most effective and favored method of engaging with leads. This can lead to sales and marketing reps spending up to several hours perfecting their email copy, which brings us to our next recommendation for optimizing your content to empower your sales team.
By providing your sales team with email templates, you can reduce the amount of time they are spending on writing and revising their emails. You want your sales teams to focus on what they do best, and that’s selling.
Again, this ties back to choosing the appropriate CRM equipped with email template options. It’s imperative that the email templates account for the various lead phases. Customizing your emails at each deal stage of their buyer’s journey is key.
17. Multi-Channel Content Distribution
In the marketing landscape of 2021, customers can access information and learn about a business from several different angles.
While emails and phone calls are still two of the leading methods of engagement, another effective way to reach your potential clients is social media. High performance sales representatives should be equipped with actionable pipeline management tips and appropriate sales content to be used across multiple channels, at each stage of the sales cycle.
The Bottom Line
In a nutshell, implementing a strong sales enablement strategy means giving your sales team the resources they need to succeed. It involves providing the proper software, technology and creative content to eliminate wasted time and boost efficiency.
The advantages of sales enablement are too great to ignore. Your sales professionals can closer larger deals and shorten sales cycles. Sales enablement opens the door for more up-selling and cross-selling opportunities, plus paves the way for reaching new markets and broader audiences.
Not to mention, sales enablement enhances the customer experience overall and allows for stronger and longer lasting relationships with clients. Smoother handoffs from marketing to sales, more efficient follow-up tactics and automated prospecting keep your sales reps on their A-game and make for a delightful buyer’s journey for customers.
A focus on alignment between marketing and sales is key when it comes to the effectiveness of your sales enablement plan. Marketing and sales representatives should be in sync – and that goes for everything from their goals to their lead qualification criteria. Communication can be greatly improved by implementing sales enablement software as a centralized location for them to access materials, content and resources, and discuss what is and isn’t working.
Incorporating a sales enablement strategy won’t happen overnight and can often entail a major shift in your daily operations and internal culture. For this strategy to succeed it requires commitment from senior executives and hiring a sales enablement manager to continuously scale, upgrade and improve upon it. These days, effective sales teams know that sales enablement is an ongoing process that will need to be tracked and managed properly I’m sure sales teams are having the right conversation throughout the buyers journey.
Successful sales reps directly relates to a successful business. Empower your sales team with a strong sales enablement strategy and see your company thrive.