What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is a critical process that provides your sales team the tools they need to succeed. It involves training programs, software tools, and other resources to improve sales effectiveness and performance at the individual and team-wide level.

At its heart, sales enablement is a framework that facilitates the collaboration, communication, and support necessary to reach your goals. It will help you prove your return on investment (ROI) and learn how to better your sales team’s performance and hold them accountable. It identifies and addresses workflow bottlenecks and improves time and resource management.

Sales enablement tracks performance by your sales team, campaign strategy, and other marketing elements. It does so by using historical sales data to improve the enablement strategy as time goes on‌.

Let’s look at how this process works, why it's important, and the steps required to set up an effective sales enablement process.

The importance of sales enablement

Sales enablement offers crucial benefits to your marketing and sales effectiveness. More specifically it:

  • Provides the core component of sales readiness, ensuring your team has the knowledge and skills to maximize prospect engagement.
  • Helps improve sales retention and engagement.
  • Supports everyone who faces your leads, prospects, and customers with appropriate tools and assets.
  • Promotes the effective use of your sales tools.

The sales enablement process encompasses every phase of marketing and selling, from performing audits of your sales to coaching a sales rep in the art of closing a deal. If you're not sure whether you need sales enablement, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are we meeting our sales goals?
  • Are our salespeople always on message?
  • Are our reps using all sales tools optimally?
  • Is there room for improvement in reaching sales quotas?

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," you need a sales enablement process and strategy — the sooner the better.

How sales enablement works

Data drives the sales enablement process. Historical data gives you a foundation to build future sales strategies by showing you how effective past efforts have been. Using that as a roadmap, you can build and tweak your marketing and sales methods to take advantage of tactics that work and do away with those that don’t. ‌An effective sales enablement process will include:

Consistent reporting

Consistent and timely reporting is a valuable tool for categorizing and monitoring sales activity, demo delivery, won and lost deals, and lead generation. By placing a microscope at various parts of the sales funnel, you can spot areas for improvement, possibly where disconnects occur between various parts of the funnel or between marketing and sales.

Sales process review

Another activity essential for sales enablement is a deep review of your sales process. A sales process audit uncovers places to improve sales performance.

For example, say that reporting shows that a high number of demos were booked but few resulted in sales. Knowing this, you'll want to perform an audit of the sales process leading up to the demo, throughout the demo, and after the demo to try to understand a customer's intent and expectations and how that compares to your sales expectations.

Onboarding, coaching, and training

An important part of sales enablement involves onboarding, training, and coaching your sales and marketing teams. Your staff will need to be trained on effective sales processes and how to use your enablement tools. Show the sales team how to analyze data to gain specific insights into targeted audience segments.

Other activities

Use a deliberate approach to building your sales enablement process with other activities like:

  • The creation of sales training content and assets.
  • The development and performance of cross-functional communication.
  • Obtaining tools and determining best practices.
  • Managing ownership and implementation of the sales coaching strategy.

4 steps for creating a sales enablement‌ strategy

Developing and implementing sales enablement works best when you approach it step-by-step, from putting together a formal framework to acquiring the right tools. The following steps can help you achieve a sales enablement process that fits your organizational goals and culture.

1. Seek buy-in

Both executive management and your sales and marketing teams need to buy into this new process. Like any change, it takes time. Put together a comprehensive plan and estimate the costs and ROI to convince the executives that sales enablement is good for the company. Show your teams how sales enablement improves sales effectiveness, including reaching quotas and closing deals.

It all comes down to what’s in it for them. Modern sales enablement provides sales teams and individuals quick access to what they need at every stage in the buyer’s journey. Marketers gain data to tweak sales content and assets for performance. Enablement integrates marketing and sales closely, so each team can provide the appropriate support for the other in a positive feedback loop.

2. Review the sales process

Dive deep into the weeds of your current sales process. You're looking for areas of disconnect between customer expectations and your understanding of them. Also, seek out the parts of the sales funnel that seem to be a bottleneck or where sales go to die.

Rely on data to tell you where the problems lie and find solutions to streamline the process and increase conversions. For example, does your sales team schedule numerous demos but close few sales afterward?

Gather data to show you what a prospect is looking for when they request a demo and compare it to what they receive from the demo itself. Perhaps the demo is offered too early in the buyer's journey and you require a different approach.

Build new processes and change old ones until marketing and sales performance meets customer expectations.

3. Measure

Unless you measure, you won’t know if you're improving. And if you don’t measure the right thing, your data will not be useful. For sales analytics, attribution is an important metric. However, there are several ways to determine attribution.

You'll need to figure out which attribution model provides actionable information for your sales organization:

  • First-touch attribution gives all conversion credit to the first point of contact. All other interactions are not in consideration. First-touch measures performance at the top of your sales funnel, such as lead generation.
  • Last-touch attribution is the mirror of the above. Conversion credit goes to closing the deal at the bottom of the funnel. It isolates the last point of contact to determine why you generate a lot of leads but convert fewer than expected.
  • Linear attribution assigns conversion value across every point of contact. It highlights gaps in the sales funnel and buyer's journey. You can look at each interaction, in turn, to see where problems occur.
  • Time-decay attribution measures interaction based on recency. The last touch gets the highest percentage of credit, while the first touch gets the lowest. This method shows you how a lead advances along the funnel to see where things slow down or stop.
  • Position-based attribution splits 80% of the conversion credit between the first and last touch, dividing the remaining 20% evenly among the in-between interactions. It emphasizes the importance of lead generation and closing efforts but acknowledges other touchpoints along the way.‌

You can determine which model suits your business according to your most pressing problems. Where are your program's weaknesses and strengths? Do you have data to show you where the issues lie? At what point in the funnel do you lose the most sales?

Measure your problem areas to find the weak spots and continue to measure to ensure positive change occurs.

4. Validate

Reporting is the key to validating your sales enablement process. When you measure, you get lots of data. Presenting it properly is the way to show how your program is progressing. Reports show the ROI for your sales performance and improves accountability across your sales team.

A properly designed report shows the workflow bottlenecks. It provides effective performance tracking by team, campaign strategy, and other segments of your process. A report can help your team improve their time and resource management. Historical data reporting aids in process improvement.

When you validate a process, you instill trust by showing everyone what the sales enablement process is doing for them and where they can be more effective.

Build a successful sales enablement strategy with automation

Using data to drive business decisions can bring you an ocean of information. Your team can’t be expected to track everything manually. Save time and effort while improving accuracy by automating as much of your enablement process as possible.

Marketing and sales software integrates applications to gather data, sort it into useful reports, and store it for future reference. It also provides a central marketplace for all your sales assets and collateral. Any sales rep can find what they need to move the prospect along the funnel.

Automation allows you to look back to see what’s working and what isn’t at the granular level. Marketing has access to content performance metrics while sales can define sections of the sales funnel that need work.

Executives can see their return on investment and prove that your sales enablement process is working as promised. It validates your promise of greater sales and revenue, greasing the way for future investment in your sales enablement process.

Sales enablement is an essential process for business excellence. Paired with automation and software tools, sales enablement helps you identify problems, resolve them, and scale your sales organization as your company grows.