What Is Sales Enablement? The Secret Sauce of How to Grow Like Salesforce
- by Elay Cohen
- December 26, 2019
SalesHood - Sales Enablement Platform
“The essence of Sales Enablement is to help companies grow their business faster by aligning their people, processes, and priorities.”
Founder of the Original Sales Enablement Platform – SalesHood.com
What is Sales Enablement?
Why is Sales Enablement Important?
Potential Negative Effects of not Using Sales Enablement
How Does Sales Enablement Benefit Organizations?
Sales Enablement vs. Sales Operations
Align People, Process, and Priorities
How Do You Know When You Need Sales Enablement?
What Are Some of the Biggest Challenges to Sales Enablement?
Motivating Sales Enablement Buy-In
What Are the Elements of a Sales Enablement Strategy?
Sheevaun’s Four Pillars of Sales Enablement
Sales Enablement Team Structure
What is an Effective Sales Enablement Process?
What is Sales Enablement Collateral?
How Should Sales Enablement Make Customers Feel?
Sales Enablement Best Practices
Enablement Process Map
Sales Enablement Resources
Key Sales Enablement Terms & Resources
Common Sales Enablement Tools
Content Management System (CMS)
Sales Enablement Programs
Getting Started with Sales Enablement
You’ve heard of the emerging Sales Enablement job title and the attractive salary that comes with it. You work on systems, you create impressive reports, and you’re the motivator of your sales team. Maybe a job in sales enablement would be a fit for your skills.
Or, maybe your colleague told you about how his business grew after he started to embrace and use sales enablement as a method to grow revenue faster, and you’d like to maximize your sales team’s conversion rates and improve sales training as well.
Possibly, you’re just here to learn because you’ve heard the term and it intrigues you.
Whatever brings you here, we’re going to give you the scoop on sales enablement, straight from the founder and creator of sales enablement technology, Elay Cohen.
You may be asking yourself, “What does sales enablement mean?” It seems like it’s just another buzzword to motivate effective sales. Actually, it’s a comprehensive approach to enabling your sales team to help buyers and increase their conversion rate. But, it’s not just about the sales team.
Sales Enablement is the alignment of people, processes, and priorities using relevant learning, coaching, and communications. When you deliver the right action to the right people at the right time, it correlates to superior sales performance.
When you align your people, processes, and priorities with your go-to-market metrics and revenue outcomes, the magic of sales enablement will come to life at your company.
Not only can it increase your revenue and help you surpass all of your targets, but sales enablement also brings together your entire company, strengthens the company culture and facilitates hyper growth.
We know sales enablement works because some of the most successful hyper growth companies on the planet embrace it as a go-to-market strategy. Sales enablement is proven to be the secret sauce to grow revenue faster by impacting all sales metrics from lead to close.
Today, when you think of explosive hyper growth companies, you think Salesforce.
Well… that’s exactly what happened!
Now, sit back, take notes and find out why sales enablement is a must-have for every hyper growth company on the planet.
Sales Enablement facilitates better use of resources across all areas of the business—the marketing team, the sales department. It uses a cohesive strategy to increase win rates and better utilize the sales cycles.
The percentage of achievement starts breaking records when you integrate sales enablement and execute it well. It’s not just about the concept—it’s about the practice and the drive behind it. Before we get into why you should consider sales enablement, let’s look at what you miss out on if you’re not using it.
Without sales enablement, your team might end up with a scattershot approach to sales. Out in the field, especially in the B2B arena, buyers want short, accessible pitch decks and information. Sales teams use the materials they can find but aren’t always accessing or aware of the latest resources created by the marketing teams.
Lack of consistency across departments results in a watered-down culture and ineffective branding. If the team does not consistently represent the business, how can you expect to support the buyer’s journey effectively? How can you communicate your message to the buyer in a way that results in high win rates for your company? You can’t.
A fragmented approach coupled with inconsistent culture can result in a prolonged sales cycle and unsuccessful sales numbers. Without sales, you can’t run a successful company. That’s why you need to know what you want to say to buyers and make sure everyone is on board with that message.
Sales enablement can benefit organizations in several ways, depending on how well you use it. Here are three that can fix the detriments we just talked about.
When you use sales enablement across the entire company, you’ll find that marketing and sales work better together.
Sales teams no longer blame marketing for creating inefficient material, and marketing teams stop asking why sales operations don’t use their resources. Instead, sales enablement elevates best practices, and everyone is aware of and invested in on-brand company messaging.
With sales enablement in place, sales representatives can spend more of their time with buyers. The ongoing content training provides sales reps with the most updated resources, so they give buyers the right information at the right time. They waste less time looking for that information and can focus that time and energy on the buyer instead.
Higher revenue is a natural byproduct of a whole company approach to sales enablement. When a sales enablement manager oversees the execution, the sales department and the marketing team work together, and the numbers speak for themselves.
Shorter sales cycles plus consistent messaging and aligned teams means higher win rates. Plus, the insights from our sales enablement software allow you to figure out what to keep doing and what to change so that you can continue to drive higher attainment and higher revenue.
Now that you have a sense of what sales enablement means and understand some of its benefits, you might be asking, “What’s the difference between sales enablement and sales operations?”
To answer your question, ask yourself one more: Who is the focus?
Is it sales-focused, or is it buyer-focused?
Another way to look at it is in terms of an external audience or internal audience.
Sales operations encompass all of the pieces that go into making sales happen: the quotas, the territories, how many people you need to hire, and so on.
Sales enablement is about enabling salespeople to help buyers. It provides them with all of the tools they need to present your product in a way that shows buyers how your company can help them. Sales enablement is about ensuring that your salespeople have the right resources, training, and information to optimize their interactions with buyers.
See that shift in focus?
It goes from a technical, numbers-based consideration to one that reflects human needs.
When in doubt, think of it this way. Sales operations is responsible for planning and organizing sales teams and everything that accompanies that, from territory optimization to compensation, from analytics to technology. In contrast, sales enablement works with the people who are doing the sales; it encompasses onboarding, training, certification, coaching, sales communication, sales material assets, and finally measurement and optimization of results. In addition our sales enablement platform helps identify the highest performers which adds a bit of competition and gamification which is frequently identified as a key element of improvement. Everyone wants to be recognized for doing well!
Understanding that sales enablement is responsible to sales rather than for sales can also solidify the difference.
“Sales Enablement is responsible to sales rather than for sales… It goes from a technical, numbers-based consideration to one that reflects human needs.”
Enablement is most effective as a company-wide movement, when it moves from the top-down and the bottom-up. It starts with the CEO and touches every employee, partner, and customer. It includes all departments, teams, and roles.
Everyone plays a part. Everyone is enabled. The essence of sales enablement is to help companies grow their business faster by aligning their people, processes, and priorities. Let’s talk about that in-depth.
If you still have questions about bringing people and priorities together, read these blog posts on sales enablement to help deepen your understanding.
You can also read my latest book, Enablement Mastery, for a more comprehensive understanding of how to master Sales Enablement. If you’d rather watch a short intro, watch this 2-minute video outlining the book and offering more insight into what Sales Enablement is.
If you’re familiar with the sales enablement implementation process and ready to expand your sales enablement toolkit, you can explore how to scale sales enablement by learning more about our Sales Enablement Platform.
If you’re still wondering whether or not you need sales enablement, keep reading!
At what point in your company’s growth should you consider sales enablement? Some would say from the beginning. If you don’t have a department devoted to sales enablement due to a lack of resources, you still need a sales enablement plan. And yes, you can incorporate sales enablement without a unique department.
Some companies find that over time the individual helping with sales enablement as a side responsibility ends up devoting more and more hours to sales enablement. The insights and data-driven results speak to the value of investing in a sales enablement process. You need sales enablement to remain competitive, especially when so much content is available for consumption, and the speed of its output keeps climbing. If you want to build a sustainable business, investing in sales enablement from the start is critical.
When done right, Sales Enablement is no small task.
Often, Sales Enablement leaders say things like, “My job covers many departments.” For some Sales Enablement professionals, their job becomes a place where companies incubate new ideas and wandering initiatives. Sales Enablement sometimes takes on projects no one wants, but that still serve a purpose.
Sales Enablement professionals quickly become administrators, logistical experts, and event planners all rolled into one. Sales Enablement professionals are the ones doing the late-night run to FedEx to get the workshop agenda and training guides printed. They do it because they care.
To be effective, sales enablement requires a sales enablement specialist. The specialist may take the form of a sales enablement manager, or they might appear as another type of sales professional. The sales enablement specialist knows how to bridge the gap between sales operations, sales, and marketing.
The Difference Between Marketing and Sales
Marketing is traditionally responsible for creating and crafting materials designed to attract leads and inform customers about products or services. As an example, they may develop brochures or draft email campaigns.
The sales department, on the other hand, is responsible for converting leads into customers. Salespeople then use the content that the marketing department has produced. Sales reps may search for content to find the right information to share with the customer.
Importance of Alignment
Many CEOs and CFOs lament the expense created by misaligned departments. Having marketing and sales on different pages or pointing the blame at each other for low sales wastes time and resources. An environment with aligned sales, sales operations, and marketing teams will be a productive one. The focus shifts outward to the buyer, rather than on the internal customers and what’s not working.
Skilled sales enablers can help increase alignment across departments and drive increased productivity and, in turn, increase revenue. Skilled sales enablers understand the value of sales enablement and can communicate it in a compelling manner that helps bring stakeholders on board.
“Having marketing and sales on different pages or pointing the blame at each other for low sales wastes time and resources. An environment with aligned sales, sales operations, and marketing teams will be a productive one.”
When it comes to monumental challenges with effective sales enablement, the primary concern is that marketing and sales departments may continue to remain siloed and out of sync. This disconnection can result in less than ideal content and, consequently, decreased sales performance.
One way to surmount this challenge is by using sales enablement software. Frequently, a multitude of programs and cloud services house content and material. The sales enablement platform we created keeps all that material in one space, where data can be evaluated across systems and departments can provide valuable insights into what is and is not working. This consolidation also makes information more accessible to the team as a whole.
Overcoming this challenge has impactful benefits. A unified team can provide better value to the buyer. Better value, when communicated effectively, results in improved sales for your company.
Based on my time leading Sales Productivity at Salesforce and accelerating revenue from $300M to $3B, we’ve packaged our proven methodology into SalesHood.
“A unified team can provide better value to the buyer.”
For sales enablement to be effective in a company, buy-in across all levels of the company is critical. Communicating the benefits to the stakeholders can help increase engagement.
The first followers are the hardest to convince. Beginning with alignment allows for unity around company messaging and culture. As buy-in spreads throughout the team, the impact will have exponential results beyond the company walls.
There’s no single approach to creating an effective sales enablement strategy. Different companies and analysts all have varying opinions and implementation strategies, and many of them work. You’ll find the foundation of a successful sales enablement strategy when you combine Sheevaun Thatcher’s four pillars of sales enablement with the Enablement Process Map. Let’s examine the four pillars first.
Sheevaun Thatcher is one of the best sales enablement practitioners on the planet. Her four pillars of sales enablement are universal, practical, and highly impactful if followed by both sales and marketing.
Does everyone in the company know the strategy? How widespread is the understanding of your company’s why? Understanding the why is what drives behavior and creates culture.
Is there a clear articulation of why you do what you do? Are there value statements and mission statements that affirm these values? All of this information must be reinforced across your company’s website, brochures, and training materials and coached accordingly. When the culture is aligned, you eliminate the most challenging step of sales enablement.
The next step when it comes to assets is to create playbooks that are accessible in small, bite-sized pieces. Those assets will typically be sales collateral, videos, websites, podcasts, training modules, or whatever best supports the visual delivery of the why.
How current are these materials? Are they on brand? The assets pillar homes in on collaboration and communication between the sales department and the marketing department.
Additionally, you want to ensure that the materials are easily accessible either on the company network or in a visibly physical area. Where are they located? How easy are they to find? How are they available to the people in the organization? If you have the best sales collateral, but no one can find it, how often is it being used? It probably isn’t.
We need to organize content so that teams are provided with the right content when they need it, in the proper format, at the optimal stage of the sales cycle to be successful. You have to think like a salesperson and create a system for “withdrawals” instead of the typical “deposit” document-management environment where files sit in the system collecting digital dust. It has to be quick and easy to access.
For example, with a brochure, you want to ask, “How will it help the salesperson get the customer to buy from them? Remember, sales enablement is responsible to sales, not for sales.
Sales enablement owns the creation of the material, but they can’t always make sure that the material is consumed. The key to just-in-time content is to create an opportunity to teach your sales team how to catch their own fish rather than just giving them fish on a platter, ready to eat.
The best way to reinforce knowledge is with better team collaboration and by sharing best practices, deal wins, and customer stories. Create an environment that makes it easy for everyone to provide feedback and hear what’s working and what’s not.
You want to have the ability for people to share, for folks who are shining in the field to become visible, and for others to follow their example. What are the best practices that people are using, and how can you increase that behavior? Find what isn’t working and change it now.
Sales Enablement teams come in many sizes and structures. You can approach a sales enablement team through a dedicated group of people or use a basic framework such as a RACI matrix.
A RACI matrix organizes duties by asking several questions. Who will be Responsible? Who will be Accountable? Who will be Consulted? And finally, who will be Informed?
Usually, one or two individuals will be responsible, several more will be Accountable, and as you move to who is Consulted and Informed, the number of stakeholders increases. Sometimes, the entire company falls into the Informed category.
The approach you take to the sales enablement team may depend on the size and age of your company. A larger company with more resources might be better equipped to have a dedicated sales enablement program. Regardless of the size of the team, it is critical to have a sales enablement strategy in place so that your sales team can optimize the buyer’s journey and increase win rates.
It helps to have a sales enablement manager who makes sure that the sales enablement process is being implemented. Having a dedicated individual will help ensure the successful execution of a sales enablement strategy.
Here is an organizational chart you can use to structure your sales enablement team. The sales enablement leader will have individuals and teams organized by function. Typical ratios are 1:50 up to 1:100. This means for every one sales enablement person, they “enable” 50 to 100 customer facing employees. When I was at Salesforce, in some new markets, we’d over-invest in sales enablement and have a 1:25 ratio.
The sales enablement leader will have a team for onboarding, a team to support each role, regional coaches, content creators, and deal support. Some organizations will put the content creators in product marketing. Other organizations will put deal support directly in sales operations.
The sales enablement function can live in many different parts of the organization. When asked, who should own sales enablement, the answer is it depends. It can report to sales, or sales operations, or marketing, or human resources and in some cases it can even report to the CEO. Have sales enablement report directly to the head of sales to elevate the role and priority. Have sales enablement report to a strong sales operations leader to have better alignment between programs and metrics. Have sales enablement report to marketing if you need to move faster to create playbooks and content. Have sales enablement report to human resources when it’s time to start building a university for a global team across geographies and languages. Regardless of where it lives, the Enablement Process Map (see below) will drive better collaboration and outcomes.
Sales enablement strategy is not solely the purview of a marketing team, nor does it belong only to sales teams. For sales enablement programs to be effective, the sales enablement strategy must be a collaborative effort across departments. The marketing team needs the input of the sales department, and the sales department needs the marketing department to craft useful content for buyers.
Sales enablement strategy is an ongoing process and approach that allows your team to grow and adapt. Sales enablement tools can help the dynamism of the process, but only if everyone uses them.
The person who most owns the sales enablement strategy is the sales enablement manager overseeing the process. A sales enablement manager’s responsibilities may also encompass all of the technology associated with sales enablement. This technology could include CRMs, CMSs, and sales enablement platforms.
An effective sales enablement process is tailored to your team’s specific needs and helps provide the team with what they need to increase effective sales. In contrast to an onboarding process or training alone, an effective sales enablement process is ongoing, rather than yearly or intermittent.
An effective process examines and analyzes all of the resources available to sales to ensure that it efficiently and effectively helps salespeople drive sales and convert leads into customers.
Sales enablement collateral encompasses all of the material and content that your team creates and crafts to train sales representatives. It allows the salespeople to present a company’s value proposition to the buyer effectively.
Sales enablement collateral is educational material for your salespeople. It isn’t necessarily external or customer-facing, and it isn’t something that would be available to anyone outside your company. For example, the information presented might have data that examines competitors’ products or services.
Sales enablement should help salespeople explain to the buyer the benefits of the product or service your company offers.
For salespeople, sales enablement should feel exciting. It’s important to create buy-in around sales enablement because as belief grows in sales enablement, so will its impact.
Now that we’ve gotten an overview of Sheevaun Thatcher’s four pillars, as well as sales enablement team structures, sales enablement collateral, and what makes an effective sales enablement process, we can zoom out and name some critical best practices.
We’ll start with Strategic Alignment to make sure that you have clear objectives for your organization’s sales enablement process. First, know who is responsible for which parts of the process. Make sure your entire team is on board, from the CEO to the person at the front desk.
In the process of exploring your assets, ensure that all of the sales enablement material is accessible to the necessary stakeholders. Audit the content regularly and update it as needed and in a reasonable amount of time. Remove your old content so that no one uses it by mistake. Verify that all messaging is current on all external materials and that internal materials consistently reflect the culture of the company.
Highlight appropriate steps on the Enablement Process Map to ensure you start with the processes that work for your sales enablement strategy. With the Enablement Process Map, you can scale your enablement strategy as your organization grows, and win rates increase. A solid foundation guarantees that sales performances will increase. As your company expands, you can incorporate more complex enablement tools and technology.
The sales enablement processes represent how you achieve your company’s revenue and business goals. You’ll need to use diverse methods to accomplish different business outcomes.
The Enablement Process Map is based on a framework that works left to right and top to bottom. Start your sales enablement journey by defining and codifying your processes and turning them into learning programs. That way, this content can be used by your sales and marketing teams, including customer-facing representatives. This approach allows you to work from the company culture and inform your content with your why.
You want to focus on the most basic strategies and tactics first before you go into advanced and mature sales enablement initiatives. That’s how the left to right and the top to bottom flow is designed to work. You can build your enablement process as your organization masters the most basic strategies.
Next, close the loop by correlating attainment to activities and celebrating achievements. You can read all about the Enablement Process Map in the Enablement Mastery sales enablement book published in 2019 by Elay Cohen.
There are many varied and useful types of sales enablement resources that you might consider for your company or organization’s strategy and its implementation. Here, we’ve gathered some of the most critical sales enablement terms and definitions in one place, as well as several sales enablement tools for you to consider.
There are endless options for CRM programs that your company can consider. An effective CRM integrates with other systems that your company is currently using. Notable features might include sales tracking and marketing campaign engagement.
Storing all of your content in a single place allows your sales team to access the material when they need it most without wondering where it’s stored. Although content management systems are often seen as falling under a marketing umbrella, they are a perfect example of why and how sales enablement is a company-wide mindset.
Sales Enablement is about helping teams onboard faster, along with improving effectiveness and productivity and measuring it constantly. Sales Enablement is about fostering a culture of learning, where teams practice their skills. Sales Enablement encourages mentorship and creates a space for people to learn from each other.
That said, not all Sales Enablement is equal. It is possible to do negative enablement.
As you start building your team and working with other departments, have an open dialogue about what sales enablement means to you and your team. Create a conversation where team members can discuss their experiences with sales enablement. Understand their mindsets. Talk about what positive sales enablement looks like, as well as how negative enablement looks. Having these conversations will help increase openness to sales enablement and buy-in among employees. You can also use it to set the stage for implementation down the road.
The path to beginning with sales enablement doesn’t have to be complicated or complex. You can begin with some simple resources to get you started. The Enablement Process Map is a useful tool to audit what you’re currently doing and how well it’s working. Above all, remember that sales enablement is more than just a sales training program, and it surpasses a sales department or a marketing department:
Sales Enablement is an all-company initiative involving sales, marketing, business development, partners, engineering, support, human resources, and leadership.
Sales Enablement translates messages and training delivered by subject matter experts for customer-facing employees, empowering them to have more fruitful conversations with curious customers.
Sales Enablement is an organizational mindset and commitment to readiness and excellence, starting with the CEO and touching every employee in your company. It is bigger than merely content and training. As sales enablement professionals, we empower our people to be the best they can be and improve their results with coaching, knowledge sharing, and mentorship that are both scalable and measurable.
“As sales enablement professionals, we empower our people to be the best they can be and improve their results with coaching, knowledge sharing, and mentorship that are both scalable and measurable.”
A well thought out and planned enablement strategy brings departments and leaders together around shared priorities, metrics, and expectations. A well-documented and socialized plan will connect organizational dots, enabling teams to work better and know who is doing what.
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