Sales enablement has completely changed over the past several years. While the definition of the term sales enablement might have originally referred to functional processes like CRM optimization or providing reps with content, sales enablement has truly evolved into a movement.
This post will not only define what sales enablement means in 2023, but will also offer some key sales enablement resources that your own team can start using right away to drive more revenue.
When we originally partnered with Andy Paul to launch The Sales Enablement Podcast we had a feeling that there was a desire for a great podcast on sales enablement, but we weren’t 100% sure what audience reaction would be. It has since become the #1 podcast on sales enablement, providing tens of thousands of monthly listeners with a wide range of advice.
Andy—and his many seasoned guests—have been instrumental in changing the way that people think about sales enablement. So what’s the definition of sales enablement in 2023?
According to Andy Paul, sales enablement can be defined by “everything that enables salespeople with the information, acumen, skills and tools they need to have more knowledge-based sales interactions that are valuable to buyers.”
The first word of Andy’s quote is crucial: “everything.” This wide definition of sales enablement encapsulates businesses’ growing desire—and responsibility to do “everything” they can to enable success.
The best salespeople I’ve met all have one thing in common: they are fiercely dedicated to self-improvement. They are never content with just making quota. They are willing to do whatever it takes to hit their numbers out of the park. And while salespeople have a responsibility to self-educate and consistently improve, businesses have a responsibility to their sellers, to enable them to perform at their best.
One of the key questions I hear discussed is “who should own sales enablement?” At some companies there is a specific role that owns sales enablement. At other companies functions of sales enablement are owned by a variety of roles including sales managers, marketers and sales ops. But we’re seeing a new trend evolve.
Sales enablement is increasingly being owned by revenue operations roles or RevOps. RevOps leaders often go far beyond traditional tasks associated with sales ops (e.g. cleaning data) and will have a crucial role in enabling reps with the technologies and messaging they need to succeed.
While sales enablement strategies vary depending on company size and industry, there are some core components to sales enablement that seem fairly universal. Here are some primary functions of sales enablement:
Making Data Clean and Actionable
Sales data is worthless if it’s not accurate and actionable. It’s now more important than ever that this data is actionable in real time. There are a variety of tools that capture data in CRMs automatically. But it’s important to ensure that reps can use this data to have more effective conversations.
Provide Relevant Content
It’s important that sales reps know what content they have at their disposal. Marketers often spend tons of resources creating amazing content, only to have that content exist in a silo, never to be used by sales reps. A core function of sales enablement is ensuring that reps have access to content and—far more importantly—know when to use that in context.
Our own tool Moments™ goes a step further and can automatically serve up relevant content based on key phrases mentioned during conversations.
Reps need to know which leads to respond to first. There are a lot of different ways to help reps prioritize leads. For years, marketing automation systems have enabled lead scoring mechanisms. But the next evolution is to simply provide reps with a prioritized list of tasks based on back-end algorithms. So that when reps start their day they’ll be able to know exactly who to reach out to. And when a new lead comes in, these leads can be automatically reprioritized.
One of the most powerful ways to enable sales success is to optimize sequence touch patterns and messaging based on what’s been proven to work. Solutions like Guided Selling can ensure that reps always take the next best action in sequences that are optimized in real-time.
Another key way that sales enablement is changing in 2023 is that artificial intelligence is playing an increasing role. AI-powered solutions can automatically enable reps with the guidance they need to have more successful sales conversations.
Imagine a world where the moment a buyer mentions a competitor, a rep sees a battlecard appear in real time showing a proven talk track for winning against that competitor.
Or let’s say a buyer mentions a concern about implementation time. Imagine if a rep could automatically receive a link to a case study showing how a customer achieved lightning fast results.
This is now possible with Moments™ by Revenue.io. Moments is just one solution that’s transforming the way companies are envisioning sales enablement.
Sales enablement has changed because sales has changed. Once ubiquitous high-pressure closing tactics are now relegated to used car lots. Why? Because the buyer’s journey has shifted dramatically. As Google told the world in their now-famous Zero Moment of Truth whitepaper, buyers are doing way more research up front. And when they reach out to a salesperson, they are often armed with intelligent questions, buying criteria and well-thought-out potential objections.
To successfully influence this new breed of buyer, salespeople need to align their sales methodologies to exactly where buyers are within their journey.
At the core, sales enablement and buyer enablement are two sides of the same coin. The goal of sales enablement at any company should be empowering sellers to better understand their customers. By understanding buyer personas, and predicting the various questions and objections that could surface in each conversation salespeople can knowledge-based interactions that result in positive outcomes for buyer and seller alike. And by leveraging content that maps to personas and stages of the buying process, salespeople can overcome buyer objections and help buyers through the customer lifecycle faster.
When the right sales enablement process is in place it can seem like magic. But getting there requires deep collaboration between various departments including Sales, Marketing, IT and more.
As I mentioned, sales enablement is not a tactic, it’s a movement. Depending on what your company is selling, tactics and priorities are bound to shift. But to help you get started, I’m going to outline some proven ways to enable sales reps to provide buyers with more value.
As Director of Lifecycle Marketing here at Revenue.io, one of my top focuses is ensuring that our sales team has content that resonates with buyers across their entire journey. To do this, it’s necessary to know exactly who the personas are. It’s also important to track, in your CRM, where buyers are at in the customer lifecycle. We know that a VP of marketing at a Healthcare company who is deep in the evaluation stage doesn’t want to receive the same messaging as a sales operations manager who just found our product in search.
Here are some different types of sales content that can be used at different stages in the customer lifecycle to move deals forward. Remember that nearly all marketing content should be used to enable sales in one way or another.
In this stage, it’s safe to assume that your prospective buyer knows little-to-nothing about your products or services. The goal here is customer education.
At this stage, buyers are already aware of their pain points and have begun researching solutions. They are likely aware of your product. As such, the name of the game is building brand equity while ensuring that salespeople are enabled to have the right conversations with prospects.
During the decision stage of the customer lifecycle, buyers are often actively looking at competitive products and, in the case of B2B sales, building consensus among other key decision makers. During this stage, it may appear to customers that marketing has “taken a hike”, as interactions are handled by sales. However, the truth is that Marketing should be heavily involved in enabling reps during the decision making process with:
Sales enablement does not stop once a prospect becomes a customer. It’s important to ensure that customer success reps are enabled with messaging that can help them retain customers as well as up-sell/cross-sell additional offerings. At this stage, sales enablement content might include:
Providing sales people with the right external messaging and sales content is mission critical. But it’s just as important to have a process in place for facilitating the transfer of internal knowledge. Here are some key categories of internal knowledge that companies should be enabling their reps with.
Tribal Sales Knowledge
Ramping new reps is no easy task. But some of the most successful sales organizations have taken onboarding seriously, and they’ve taken some key steps to catalyze the onboarding process. Having a repository of the best calls, organized into categories can give reps the ability to self-educate. Enabling reps with the ability to learn from how top reps have solved pain points and overcome objections is a great way to pass on tribal sales knowledge, scale success and help reps reach their full potential faster. There are lots of ways to set up a library like this. But our conversation intelligence tool ConversationAI delivers one right out of the box.
Companies that have a lot of different products or companies that offer complex software solutions need to make sure that reps are always up-to-date on which product capabilities are GA and which are right around the corner. Far too often, product teams work in silos and reps have little insight into which features are in development. This is unfortunate, because knowing which features are right around the corner can sometimes make the difference between winning deals and losing them.
As an example, imagine that you’re selling a solution for hosting virtual events. Now suppose a hot prospect at a key account has a requirement that it integrates with Zoom. Suppose your solution doesn’t currently integrate with Zoom, but your product team is working hard on building an integration and it will be done in a month. Imagine the difference between your sales team knowing this information and not knowing it. It’s likely the difference between winning a deal and losing one.
In B2B sales or high-ticket B2C sales, it’s important to enable salespeople with the requisite information that they need to win deals against competitors. Salespeople should know exactly why your company has won or lost historical deals vs. specific competitors. They should also be armed with battle cards that reveal each competitor’s weaknesses (not to mention strengths!). And outline the best strategy for beating particular competitors.
One trick that I’ve successfully implemented at companies is competitor tracking in Salesforce. Reps should be enabled to easily mark which competitors they are going up against on each deal. This allows marketers to track which competitors are most closely associated with closed/won and closed/lost deals, as well as which competitors are coming up most often. They can then prioritize battle cards and other content that helps enable salespeople to win deals against competitors.
One of the best ways to enable salespeople to succeed is by letting your customers do the talking, so to speak. Building up a repository of customer testimonials and case studies can help reps make their case. After all, the best salespeople are masters at building trust with clients. But they’re still salespeople. Highlighting customer testimonials helps companies see how similar companies have achieved results. In terms of format, I’ve found that videos are especially powerful, but case study one sheets can get the job done. And as your marketing team builds a library of case studies, it helps to organize them by industry, company size, competitors mentioned and other factors that can enable salespeople to find the most relevant case study, testimonial or customer reference to help move each particular deal forward.
Early in their career, salespeople might have an awesome set of core competencies: great storytelling, listening skills, rapport building and helpfulness. But business acumen, that ability to understand a customer’s business model and pain points well enough to be seen as an expert consultant, that’s something that tends to come with time. However, the best sales coaches can help their teams build business acumen faster. There are several key sales enablement tactics that I’ve seen work wonders for helping unseasoned reps build business acumen.
Role playing is a powerful tactic in sales. The idea is that the sales coach can take on the role of each key persona. They can present the rep with a series of industry- or role-specific pain points and objections and give the rep the opportunity to try to book a meeting or close a deal. After each role playing exercise, the manager should offer the rep constructive feedback that can help them better position themselves as a subject matter expert and informed consultant.
Peer to Peer Call Reviews
Recording phone calls should be a key part of any sales enablement program. Once calls are recorded, try having sessions where reps review each others’ calls. This can help them work as a team to share expertise and build business acumen faster.
Lead by Example
When we recently brought in a new class of sales reps to Revenue.io, one of our lead sales managers did something I’d never seen before during an orientation. He gave a real demo to a real prospect. Live. As it turned out, the call went well. And in the process, he showed the new reps his approach to selling. It’s one thing to talk about your approach to selling, but leading by example is a fantastic way to help reps learn which behaviors to imitate in order to have successful calls.
A key part of sales enablement revolves around giving reps tools that empower them to be more productive and more effective. But sales enablement technology isn’t just for sales reps. It’s just as important to ensure that managers have tools that help them do a better job of prioritizing their efforts and coaching reps to success.
There are lots of different sales enablement tools that can help sales teams succeed, including:
These are only some of the existing sales enablement solutions that are available to sales teams in 2020. Each year, new sales enablement solutions surface, offering powerful opportunities to remove friction from the sales process.
For more sales enablement tips from top sales leaders check out:
Jesse WestDirector of Lifecycle MarketingRevenue.io
Jesse Davis West is Director of Lifecycle Marketing at Revenue.io, focusing on improving the experience and maximizing the lifetime value for customers across their entire journey. Drawing on 11 years of B2B marketing experience, Jesse is passionate about communication, branding and strategic marketing. He also plays a mean lead guitar and can throw down at karaoke.