Overview:

  1. What is Sales Enablement?
  2. Why is Sales Enablement important?
  3. What Sales Enablement is not
  4. Why do companies implement Sales Enablement?
  5. Which Stakeholders are involved in Sales Enablement?
  6. Who should own Sales Enablement

1. What is Sales Enablement

Sales Enablement is a strategic approach involving any customer-facing departments of your organization, including Sales, Customer Support, Field Services, and Marketing. Sales Enablement empowers the organization’s sellers with high impact content, skills, and tools necessary to engage the modern buyer at each stage of their buying process.

Sales Enablement aligns people and technology and breaks down the department silos within the organization. It is thus supporting improved collaboration and alignment between sales and marketing to streamline and increase the relevance and effectiveness. Sales Enablement delivers a more buyer-centric customer interaction with increased win-rate and reduced sales cycle.

It boils down to getting the departments to cooperate in getting sales to have relevant sales interactions. By supporting sales with the content and information that buyers desperately need, we increase the win rates and ultimately drive more revenue. Secondly, Sales Enablement is about boosting productivity with a systematic approach. Organizations need processes, workflows, and tools to ensure efficiency in sales while upholding the relevancy at the same time. A complex challenge – therefore, digital Sales Enablement tools exist.

How is sales enablement defined by industry analysts such as Gartner, Forrester, SiriusDecisions and CSO Insights?

"Sales enablement is the activities, systems, processes and information that support and promote knowledge-based sales interactions with client and prospects."

"Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips employees with the ability to consistently have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's journey."

"The job of sales enablement is to ensure that salespeople possess the skills, knowledge, assets, and processes to maximize every buyer interaction."

"Sales enablement is a strategic, cross-functional discipline, designed to increase sales results and productivity, by providing integrated content, training and coaching services."

2. Why is Sales Enablement important?

Sales Enablement tools offer many compelling benefits:

  • It helps sellers achieve sales quota.
  • It helps identify winning behavior so that the overall sales team becomes more efficient and follows common playbooks
  • It helps sellers to be more efficient, both in preparation, meeting, and follow-up.
  • It helps sales to meet the customer and identify their needs.

In the last decade, sales have become far more complex and challenging. The modern buyer will research product information, reviews, and pricing online to become educated.

Today, the buyer is digital and empowered with the internet to access unlimited information and connections. The modern buyer spends up to 75% of their buying journey online before speaking with a sales rep! When the buyer and rep finally meet, the buyer will often be more informed about pricing and product specifics than the rep. Thereby the job of a sales rep has ultimately changed. Supporting the buyer with tailored information and insights is the new norm. At least, this is what the buyer expects and demands of a productive encounter with a sales rep.

Now the big question arrives: What happens if our sales cannot meet the demands of the buyers and not interact with them in a customer-centric approach? Well, today, the sellers will not succeed. If a rep cannot showcase how a product will solve the prospect’s business problem, then they lose interest. Even worse, the buyer will go to the competitor if they can provide a product or solution that ultimately solves the business problem.

Aberdeen found that companies with excellent successful Sales Enablement programs have:

  • 32 % higher team sales quota attainment,
  • 24 % better individual quota achievement, and
  • 23 % higher lead conversion rate

3. What Sales Enablement is not

Sales Enablement is not CRM. Nonetheless, if you do not have a CRM yet, we recommend starting there, as most sales enablement tasks require CRM to handle and support well-structured processes for sales.

Additionally, Sales Enablement is not introducing friction to the reps – but rather enabling them to become successful. You should always ask yourself the question: Is this initiative enabling or disabling my sales reps?

All initiatives concerning Sales Enablement should be centered around empowering the sales reps to perform their best. Many sales reps consider a CRM system to be administrative friction removing their focus from the clients into “reporting.” However, part of Sales Enablement is also the cultural element of unboxing the potentials that lie within launching various types of initiatives. Consequently, the sales reps should be properly trained, instructed, and guided into just why the new initiatives are important, valuable, and helpful.

4. Why do companies implement Sales Enablement?

The markets and buyers are changing these years, and many sales reps are falling behind on quota. The solution is not just to increase productivity and effectiveness by doing more of the same. The solution revolves around becoming aware of the factors that influence the buying process and grasping this an opportunity to change customer dialogues.

Buyers have changed. The modern buyers have higher expectations than ever, where up to 6-10 stakeholders are involved in a decision. Therefore, it is important that marketing and sales deliver a buyer-centric sales approach, addressing the needs and expectations of all the people involved, helping them to complete their buying process with relevant information. That calls for updated content, processes, and a solution where the sales rep can enable and help the buyers make a purchase decision.

As a result, move away from focusing on short-term gains. Due to the change in the market, you may consider a more fundamental change in the way of selling and meeting the buyers’ expectations.

The reason why companies implement Sales Enablement is to:

  • Reduce ramp-up time for newly hired sales reps
  • Increase active selling through efficiency and reduced admin time
  • Align Story-telling and Value-messaging
  • Gain insights into the usage of content and sales behavior

5. Which Stakeholders are involved in Sales Enablement?

The key to a successful implementation of a Sales Enablement initiative is an executive sponsor. Secondly, thorough preparation is needed, where management needs to clarify and prioritize a wide range of strategic and organizational matters. Lack of executive support is a crucial contributor to failure.

Far from everyone in an organization will benefit from the effects of a Sales Enablement tool, but Sales and Marketing will be profoundly affected, as well as management and sales excellence.

Analyze which functions and persons who will be affected the most, having an overview of areas of possible resistance. Decide the best timing for when and how to involve the different departments and employees.

As the main purpose of Sales Enablement is supporting and promoting engaging interactions with customers and prospects throughout the complete sales process, it is recommendable to include stakeholders from all affected and involved departments.

Stakeholders should include managers from Sales, Marketing, Excellence, and IT.

6. Who should own Sales Enablement and who to involve?

Sales Enablement has evolved so much that several organizations are building enablement departments or functions that work exclusively with Sales Enablement, Sales Acceleration, or Commercial Excellence.

However, many organizations are just getting started with sales enablement, and some questions have a big impact on the strategic choice: Who in the organization owns the Sales Enablement initiative? And who should primarily run the Sales Enablement tool?

The need to focus on both the sales process and buyers’ journeys, Sales Enablement professionals inevitably will influence strategy, technology decisions, optimize processes, and break down organizational silos.

We strongly recommend assigning a dedicated Sales Enablement Manager to be responsible for the organization’s overall sales enablement initiative, as it is cross-functional. From building the strategy, setting the team, involving all relevant areas and functions, overseeing the implementation, managing all onboarding and training, reporting, and keep all stakeholders aligned and informed. This manager should report to a key executive sponsor.

It may seem like a simple matter at first, but in reality, deciding whom to own and whom to run the sales enablement initiative and tools will influence your strategy and how it will operate.

There are many ways to organize a sales enablement initiative in an organization, and they will depend on available resources, competencies, as well as the company’s overall goals with the initiative.

The 3 most obvious owners of sales enablement initiatives are:

Sales

If the goal of Sales Enablement is to increase sales efficiency and the ability to close deals, is that not enough reason for sales to own the initiative?

Letting sales own Sales Enablement increases motivation to ensure success and reduce the risk of sales falling into the pitfall of “yet another nice-to-have marketing initiative.”

A sales-owned solution is best for organizations that want to strengthen and optimize sales communication and effectiveness. The sales department will draw the direction and strategy for collaborating with marketing.

However, in such a sales-owned solution, marketing is still responsible for the production and maintenance of all content.

Marketing

Maybe the most classical approach to sales enablement is letting marketing own the project. As one of the essential areas of Enablement is making all content easier to find, updated, and aligned to enabling the buyer with relevant and compelling content for all stages of their buying process.

Although sales enablement aims to increase the closing rate through increased productivity and relevance in sales, a significant portion of becoming successful with such an initiative is to have marketing involved.

When an organization launches a sales enablement initiative, the marketing team is committed to ensuring that all content speaks to relevant personas throughout the Buyers’ buying journey. Marketing must also ensure content is always up to date and easy to find.  The content needs to be monitored continuously to uncover whether sales use the content in every relevant client interaction.

Thereby one could argue that marketing should be the owner of a sales enablement project.

It makes the best sense that marketing owns a sales enablement initiative in organizations that primarily want to improve sales and marketing alignment, as well as optimize content creation and distribution.

Excellence/Enablement

As mentioned above, more and more organizations today are building Sales Enablement departments from scratch. If Sales Enablement is of a more profound strategic value, such an initiative should be owned by an independent and dedicated department, separate from sales and marketing.

Creating an independent sales enablement function works almost like creating a neutral third party to ensure optimal collaboration between marketing and sales, and focusing on measuring the impact.

So who owns sales enablement?

Each organization will have its own unique needs, and there is not a single correct answer. The best thing you can do to set yourself up for future success is to become informed about the process you are about to step into.

[Further reading: Top 3 Challenges working with Sales Enablement]

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