What is Sales Enablement?

What you will read in this article

How do you help salespeople improve their performance and sell more? The question is by no means a new one. Nonetheless; a well-developed Sales Enablement strategy can help you answer it. But what exactly is a Sales Enablement strategy? What are its main levers?
Coming up with a definition is no easy matter. It’s a recent strategy and not all definitions have equal merit. Here are a few pointers to help you better understand what lies behind this somewhat imprecise term.

Sales Enablement, a strategy based on technological resources

A widely accepted definition is provided by the Miller Heiman Group’s research division CSO Insights. According to them, Sales Enablement is “a strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and front-line sales managers along the entire customer’s buying journey, powered by technology.

Although there’s nothing new about the goal as stated here compared with traditional sales strategies, Sales Enablement stands out due to the means it uses to improve sales performance. The above definition emphasises the technological resources made available to salespeople to help them sell better. Tablets, smartphones and software solutions have transformed the act of selling. Salespeople now have all their documentation in a single tool; it’s updated in real time and available 24 hours a day online and offline. Integrated into the classical sales process, digital tools help create greater engagement on the customer’s part and better follow-up for the salesperson. They’re also a significant differentiation point for your company during contacts with your prospects and customers. Nonetheless, technology alone is not enough to develop a fully rounded Sales Enablement strategy.

A watchword: The right content at the right time

The definition might well be improved by inclusion of the need for a salesperson to have the right content available at the right time and in the right format. As you already know, 68%* of the buying process has been carried out by the buyer before they speak to a salesperson. Buyers are better informed than they once were. They tend to distrust salespeople and marketing messages. Consequently, there are now fewer appointment opportunities, decreasing from three or four to one or two nowadays. Salespeople therefore have fewer occasions on which they can differentiate themselves and so have to develop remarkable communication skills. The content presented to customers is therefore of crucial importance. These days, there’s no way you can get away with making your umpteenth boring generic presentation. You have to present them with engaging content that corresponds to their expectations and to the stages in their buying journey. Content must respond to customers’ questions at time T, whether they’re in the awakening, consideration or decision phase, in the most appropriate format (brochure, video, presentations, product sheet, price list, etc.).

This being said, if you’re a salesperson, you’ll tell me you’re not responsible for the content you present. It’s your marketing department that provides you with the materials it creates. Quite right, so let’s talk about the role that marketing plays in your Sales Enablement strategy.

The necessary strategic alignment of marketing and sales

There’s a very good reason we keep talking to you about aligning marketing and sales on this blog (as we’ve done here and here). In a BtoB context, one of the marketing department’s main functions is to provide sales teams with all the tools necessary to their performances: documents, brochures, digital tools, talking points, etc. Yet, in return, marketing professionals have very little visibility on use of their content.

80%* of marketing materials aren’t used by salespeople during their meetings with customers. Although there may be many reasons for such dissonance between departments, their alignment is one of Sales Enablement’s key levers. By ensuring clear communication between the two departments and sharing of goals and actions, you help your salespeople to be better informed on what’s happening in your company and its new products (thanks to digital tools in particular). You also control consistency of sales discourse and consequently your brand image. Furthermore, you make sure that content produced by the marketing department is relevant in salespeople’s eyes and therefore used.

*According to Jeff Ernst, “The New Rules of Sales Enablement”

Sales Enablement: more than a one-off strategy, an ongoing process

Sales Enablement is therefore a strategy at the crossroads of marketing and sales, and which seeks to provide salespeople with the best possible tools, ensuring that they stay on top of their game throughout their customers’ buying journeys.

If it consists of equipping salespeople with digital tools that ensure they are always well-trained for the job in hand and fully informed, and which enable centralisation of all marketing content in a single device, why are we seeing Sales Enablement services with related new professions take shape in American companies? The answer is simple: equipping your salespeople isn’t enough. Sales Enablement doesn’t just boil down to equipping your salespeople, even though it’s a strategic move. It’s a recurrent process that evolves continuously so as to enable ongoing improvement of your company’s business efficacy. A process based on 3 key focuses that must be continually updated.

  1. Technological equipment, “mobile Sales Enablement”. Your salespeople can no longer do without digital tools to help them sell.
  2. Content provided to salespeople. As you’re well aware, your teams must be provided with content likely to engage their customers and which meets their expectations at time T. Yet such content must evolve if it is to continue to be targeted, relevant and useful to sales teams. This is why marketing and sales need to be aligned.
  3. Continuing training of your sales team: whether it’s on your products, new tools or best sales practices, your salespeople need to be provided with training best suited to their needs if they are to go on selling successfully.

Hence, a Sales Enablement strategy is never terminated or finally acquired. The fact that you’ve improved your performances at time T is no reason to relax your efforts.

What should you keep in mind?

Definitions of Sales Enablement are complicated and still somewhat vague. Although the objective is always the same, not all companies develop strategies based on the same levers. Some prioritise equipment while others only work on content or training, or combine two out of three (content and tools) without even knowing that they’re implementing a Sales Enablement strategy.

Taking the aforementioned aspects into consideration, we can try to put forward an overall generic definition. Sales Enablement denotes the strategy of ongoing alignment of marketing and sales with the goal of improving commercial performances by providing sales teams with the necessary tools (technology, content and training) so that they can continue to meet their customers’ needs throughout the buying process.