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The What, Why and How of Sales Enablement

Sales Enablement – Sell Better and Smarter

Selling is getting harder and harder by the day. With customers becoming highly sophisticated and knowledgeable, salespeople are increasingly finding it challenging to sell.

A 2019 Selling Challenge Study developed by Richardson cites growing uncertainty and unpredictability as some of the challenges sales teams are facing today. Further, the study highlights contextual agility and the need to adjust to the complex buying factors as important to improving sales.

With the sales department being the revenue generation point, companies need to find ways to address the challenges that sales professionals are facing in today’s business environment.

Statistics show that increasingly, companies are coming to the realization that streamlining the sales process can easily be the most important differentiator when it comes to building a successful company. This realization has gotten most sales executives and managers to start focusing on sales enablement. The CSO Insights report captures this very well – it shows that the adoption of sales enablement by companies has increased by at least 40% between 2013 and 2017.

What is Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement involves providing your sales teams or representatives with the tools, content, and information they need to sell more effectively. At the heart of sales enablement is the need to make the engagement between sales teams and customers throughout the purchase process successful. The best way to do this is to equip sales teams with the information they need throughout the sales cycle.

B2B companies can provide this information in different formats – it could be in the form of best practices, content that targets customers or sales tools. Whatever way this information takes, the most important thing to ensure is ease of consumption and reusability by all salespersons. For sales enablement to succeed, it must meet the following attributes:

  • Provide sales team with the informational resources they need in order to sell effectively
  • Focus more on the buyer than on sales
  • Provide two sets of information – one targeting the buyer – like product descriptions and another targeting the salesperson – like research, best practices, and tools
  • Empower sales persons to use the informational resources provided
  • Provide sales-related resources that are easy to find and use
  • Use a system for tracking the utilization of resources by sales staff
  • Identify metrics for measuring outcomes of your sales enablement program like average deal size, the achievement of targets, and the length of a sales cycle.

Why Sales Enablement Matters?

Sales reps are increasingly having a challenge selling to customers. In 2018 alone, 57% of salespersons failed to meet their sales quotas. Some of the factors that contribute to this low performance are:

  • spending too much time on administrative tasks
  • less time in actual selling
  • giving up too early
  • not being knowledgeable enough to respond to questions that prospects ask,
    changing customer demands

The work of sales executives is cumbersome. They struggle with entering data, generating quotes and other tasks besides engaging customers. Statistics show that on average, sales executives spend at least 64.8% of their time in non-selling activities and only 35.2% of it doing the actual selling.

When it comes to selling, sales executives need to be persistent. Statistics show that customers will say no five times before they say yes. 80% of customer prospects purchase after talking to a sales rep the fifth time. While this requires persistence on the part of the sales reps, the reality is that many of them give up on their prospects way too early. Statistics show that 44% of sales reps tend to give up after the first attempt.

Further, most companies need to improve their sales processes and empower their sales reps in order to sell more. Available data shows that most sales reps share irrelevant case studies with prospects and they invest little time understanding customer issues and identifying where they can help.

Sales enablement matters because it can help firms resolve these problems. By providing sales reps with the information they need to sell better, a sales enablement strategy enables companies to maximize every engagement its sales team holds with customers.

It unlocks insights into content engagement in a way that improves sales performance. By aligning the sales function with the marketing function, sales enablement empowers sales teams to serve as trusted advisors and hold better conversations with customers. This helps them to nurture lasting relationships with them.

How Companies can use Sales Enablement

There are several ways organizations can use sales enablement to sell more and improve their bottom line. These include:

Knowing the challenges sales teams experience

Companies need to recognize sales teams as key customer-facing staff in their business. As the people who interact with customers directly, they are responsible for translating marketing materials into meaningful conversations with the target audience. Statistics show that 40% of sales leaders identify bringing value to sales conversations as a significant challenge for salespeople. As such, the marketing team should help sales teams address any problems they may be facing as they use marketing content.

Here is how marketing and sales teams can work together to unlock a sales problem.

Company X is a big shop dealing in carpets. It has just launched a new line of carpets. On the marketing materials, descriptions of the carpets are done in technical specifications and scientific terms. But the sales team does not know how to interpret those terms to customers to generate sales. Most customers who want to purchase carpets are not interested in the technical specifications of the carpet. Instead, their concern is how the carpet feels and the benefits it can offer them.

When this information got to the marketing team, the department turned the technical words into simple descriptive terms that the sales teams and customers understand with ease. Sales begin to go up because the marketing team realized why the sales teams were experiencing difficulty closing sales.

Incorporating sales teams’ inputs in marketing content

Getting sales teams to give their inputs for the creation of marketing materials before it is released, is one of the best ways companies can realize more sales. In the case of the carpets store, the business would have saved a lot of money and time as well as avoided losing sales if it had involved the sales team in developing marketing content earlier.

On some occasions, their inputs may result in minor changes but in others, it could lead to a complete overhaul of the content. Whichever way, it is better to have marketing look into the content before the sales team can use it. Salespersons and marketers should also agree on the language to be used in all stages of the buying process.

Since it is the sales team that talks to customers, their expertise and knowledge in shaping the language of marketing content is invaluable. Sales enablement helps companies to get the two teams working together to develop content that is easy to translate during customer conversations.

Improving collaboration between marketing and sales teams

Sales is a highly competitive, high energy profession. There are days when salespeople will be locked up in meetings with customers all day. This means they will have little or no time to read a long, complicated copy of a new product or service. In such situations, they need valuable data and training that can help them sell.

The best way to improve sales with sales enablement is to create a simple platform that both sales and marketing teams can use to share and receive the data they need. The marketing team would be able to add bite-sized information chunks about new products or services. When sales teams have time in between meetings, they can log on to the platform and get the latest information.

Such a platform could serve as a communication tool for the two departments where salespersons send feedback, questions, and concerns to the marketing teams. The marketing teams can pose questions and share scenarios with the salespersons for the development of new marketing content. Companies can use this centralized, one-stop-shop platform for communication, training, data repository, and collaboration between the two departments.

Aligning the sales process with the customer journey

In addition to understanding the challenges that sales teams face interacting with customers, firms also need to understand how their sales teams relate with customers. They need to know the kind of questions buyers ask as well as the steps they take through their purchase journey.

This understanding can go a long way in enabling marketers to develop content that is both relevant and easy to understand. Companies can do this by allowing marketers to listen to business-to-business sales conversations, role-playing with salespersons or accompanying them during sales calls. To increase sales growth with sales enablement, organizations should use this information to develop marketing content that is well-aligned with the customer journey.

Wrapping Up

For companies, sales enablement can provide sales teams with the tools they need to meet and even exceed their sales targets. It can help businesses improve collaboration between marketers and salespersons, enhance customer relations and increase revenue. With the dynamic nature of customer needs, companies can use sales enablement software to create a powerful system and refine it regularly for maximum results.

Investment in sales enablement is also increasing. A 2017 Sirius Decision study shows that at least 74% of companies planned to increase their sales enablement budget over the next 12 months.

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