This article provides you with a step-by-step breakdown of how you can build a sales enablement strategy from scratch to equip your sales reps and marketing teams in this age of digital selling.
Before we begin, let’s look into the various topics we will cover in this article:
What is sales enablement?
Sales enablement is a strategic and ongoing process of equipping your client-facing employees with the skills, resources, and training to consistently hold valuable conversations with buyers.
In other words, sales enablement focuses on core elements such as:
- Sellers have access to the right content at the right time.
- Improved collaboration between marketers and the sales teams.
- Ongoing training to sharpen sales skills and instil confidence in client-facing employees.
- How to use metrics to understand prospect’s engagement with the content.
- Working together in teams to continuously improve content to suit the buyer persona.
Who is responsible for sales enablement?
In most companies, sales enablement is led by the Head of Sales. However, in some companies, there is a specific sales enablement manager who reports to either the marketing head, sales operations, or the executives. Of course, this will vary depending on the size of the company, sales and distribution model, and the markets served.
Why is sales enablement essential?
In the late 1990s, when the internet started to boom, sales conversations moved from physical to digital; and with it, content moved online. As a result, companies began to put their content onto websites, blog posts, brochures and whatnot: soon, content was scattered.
Fast forward to the present time when buyers today have quality information readily available. As a result, B2B buyers spend only 17% of their time meeting potential suppliers. This is because they devote a large chunk of their time researching independently – online and offline.
Since buyers are aware of their requirements, they are now opting for those sellers that can add value and help them with their purchase decisions. 74% of buyers choose to move forward with those sales reps who are the first to share value and insight.
However, a study by SiriusDecisions found that the number one reason sales reps couldn’t meet their targets is their inability to communicate unique value to their buyers.
Today, buyers are becoming extremely choosy. As a result, sales reps find it difficult to instil a sense of confidence in them. To combat this, every sales rep must be well prepared for the battle ahead with the right content at the right time. Therefore to adapt to these new expectations and bridge the gap between buyers and sellers, an effective sales enablement solution must be in place to give reps access to the content they need. In fact, we have an article on the 4 key areas where sales enablement is essential. Do check it out.
How does the absence of sales enablement affect an organisation?
Let me give you a sample conversation between Mathew, a B2B salesperson introducing his product, and Thomas a prospect.
Sure, I might have cooked up the characters for this conversation sake. However, to be honest, many businesses and industries face a similar situation when they don’t have a sales enablement in place.
Come to think of it, Mathew could have effortlessly closed the deal if he had the right tool in place – in this case, a video content ready.
Sadly, salespeople are struggling to find the content their target audience wants. On the contrary, marketers invest up to 40% of their total marketing budget on content. It’s quite paradoxical right?
Before we dive further into the how-to’s, let me show you a chart that compares how the functions of your organisation will look before and after a sales enablement is in place.
How do you develop a sales enablement strategy?
Next, let’s delve deeper into how to create a sales enablement strategy from scratch.
Step 1: Understand the current framework
A diagnosis is always required before you prescribe a solution right? Therefore begin by identifying your unique challenges; start by gauging where you are today – and your goals for the future – so you can connect the dots with your plan.
Start from the ground level by asking yourself the following questions:
- Are there specific market chances that your sales reps need to adapt to?
- What kind of things are bringing friction within your sales process?
- How is your buyer’s journey changing? And how well are your sales reps adapting to it?
- What information do buyers and prospects already have by the time they reach your sales reps?
- Do your sales reps have strategic conversations with the prospects?
Asking these questions will give you a starting point to focus on while creating a sales enablement strategy.
Tools to access your team’s current situation
* Conduct an anonymous survey
Getting to the bottom of what’s happening within your sales team can be as simple as asking them. Consider conducting an anonymous survey to help you garner the true state of your team. Below is a sample:
* Shadow your reps during their sales calls
There’s nothing like joining sales calls to truly understand how your sales reps are engaging with the prospects. It helps you derive a lot of answers to your questions such as their challenges, their sales-readiness, and how they make use of various strategies in order to score leads. In short, observing reps in their environment is a key strategy you should use.
* Have a chat with the Marketing team
It is essential that you involve the marketing manager deeply in the sales enablement proposal from the very beginning. Therefore sit down with them along with the team and find out any hiccups that were caused in the past while providing the right marketing assets to score prospects. So why is this important? Well, according to sources, only 8% of companies believe their marketing and sales teams are aligned. Moreover, the role of the marketing team is crucial for the smooth running of the sales team. Here, have a look.
In this funnel you will see the upper half is owned by marketing departments and they generate awareness and interest. When the prospect progresses to the lower half, the baton is passed onto the sales team typically for consideration/evaluation phase. This is why it is necessary for the sales and marketing team to be aligned in order to convert prospects.
* Hold key stakeholders meeting
A meeting with the company’s key stakeholders will give you insights into what they consider to be important before you design a strategy. Take them through all your findings to reveal the strength and challenge areas and state your point on the importance of establishing a sales enablement strategy – this is essential to get their consensus.
Step 2: Create a sales enablement charter plan
The next step to building a successful sales enablement strategy is to develop a charter plan. This business plan helps you lay down the who, what, when, where, and why of your program. So why is it important? We believe a charter plan is linked to greater success as it sets the groundwork for a scalable strategy that’ll stick. Also, it is more likely to gain the support of your executive team as it can act as a blueprint, outlining the mission, key stakeholders, and expected results of your sales enablement strategy.
Here is a sample:
Let’s break down each category:
- Mission statement/goals – Highlight the goal of your sales enablement strategy in your organisation. This could be better training and onboarding, more upsells etc.
- Scope – Clearly state the activities that fall within the scope of sales enablement. For example, training and onboarding sales reps will fall under this scope, while career development might be the responsibility of Human Resource.
- Key stakeholders – Document the key stakeholders involved in your strategy. This may include your sales reps, product managers, marketing managers, people ops etc.
- Measurable outcome – List the key performance indicators (KPI) to measure the success of your strategy. These could include adoption of sales tools, sales readiness, usage of enablement content, and increased productivity of sales reps.
Also, CSO Insights 2019 annual sales enablement study found that organisations that had a formalised enablement charter saw win rates 8.7 percentage points higher than the study’s average. The results are there, and they’re important.
Step 3: Map out your buyer’s journey
“When does the customer journey begin”?
If you asked each department of your organization what the above question means to them, here are a few answers you can expect.
Sales: “When I arrange a call with them”
Marketing: “When they see our ad on google”
Customer success: “When we begin to onboard them”
Finance: “When they sign on the contract”
While it can be easy for each department to focus on the channel they ‘own’, it is also a sure-fire way to create a siloed structure. That is not good for the health of your sales pipeline, isn’t it?
According to iQuipt’s Brett Trainor, he says “One of the top reasons customers stop buying is that B2B organisations are making it too difficult to purchase from”.
This is why, when you’re building a sales enablement strategy, or refining what’s already in place, you should approach it through the lens of the buyer’s journey. Now where do you get this information?
The answers lie in creating a fully mapped-out customer path.
How to create a reliable data to map out your buyer’s journey?
- Gather feedback from your customer-facing employees. Apart from the sales reps, your account managers, and customer success managers will be the right people to help you uncover potential gaps in your current messaging.
- Google Analytics is a goldmine of information as it provides insights into customer’s behaviour from the moment they enter your website. From here you can derive information such as where they came from, from where they entered your site, their browsing activities, where they leave your website, and much more. The tool will also tell you what interests them, and what is turning them off.
- Collect online reviews to understand how customers perceive your business and the product you sell.
Here is a sample image of a fully mapped-out customer journey:
In the above image, you will see the customer journey is mapped out to depict the entire cycle of their relationship with your company. It starts from the awareness phase of your business/product to becoming a customer and hopefully remaining as one too. This map further provides details into each interaction with your company by mapping out the various touch-points to give a more meaningful context.
A fully-mapped out buyer’s journey will help you to:
- Identify and optimise moments of truth in the customer experience.
- Shift to a customer-focused perspective.
- Break down silos between departments and facilitate cross functional collaboration.
Step 4: Align the sales process with the buyer’s journey
As an extension of creating buyer personas, it is important that the marketing and sales teams consider the buyer’s needs, questions, and objections at every stage – from beginning to end. This is important because what is a journey for buyers is a process for sellers. On one side, there are needs to be fulfilled and benefits to be derived; on the other hand, there are revenue goals and customer satisfaction.
As discussed in the beginning of this blog, the buyer’s journey has become more dynamic and they have more control than ever before. While it still stays true, what hasn’t changed is the fact that buyers still follow a well-worn trail and the classic stages of the buyer’s journey remain unaltered.
Here is a chart that shows the buyer’s journey and the classic sales process.
Now, the key question for your sales and marketing teams is: How do I adapt my sales process to suit the buyer’s journey?
Forget the days when businesses centered their sales process on a scripted sequence of product-or-service-first messages. In this present time, businesses must focus on creating an aligned sales process that deeply considers the needs of their target audience, while preserving the flexibility to challenge, support, and consult buyers at every stage of their journey.
Here is an example of an aligned and customer-centric sales process set against the buyer’s journey.
Consider these tips to create a high-level map:
- Reframe your goals – To begin, draw a table with your buyer’s journey across the top, then skip down three rows and add your sales process. In the second row, note the questions the buyer is trying to find answers to in each sales stage. In the third row, write what your sales team is trying to accomplish in each sales stage. With this map, you will be able to establish a clear engagement strategy critical to delivering what your buyers demand.
- Identify value points – Once your process steps are in place and aligned, pinpoint how you can provide value to each stage of the buyer’s journey. For this you need to think beyond product capabilities, and instead focus on solution evaluation. Change your attitude from “What do I need to get from the buyer?” and ask yourself “How can I help the buyer get what they need?”.
Step 5: Align your marketing collateral with the buyer’s journey and sales cycle stage
The next obvious step is to align your content with each stage of the buyer’s journey. For a greater impact, they need to be customised based on the needs of the stage the buyer is in.
You can use the below table as a guide:
The next step is to build a content strategy aimed to answer what questions your prospects usually have in each stage they’re in. Let’s take a look:
In this stage, the prospect is aware of the challenge they are facing, but not of the available solutions. Your content must educate the customer and not talk about your products.
In this stage, the buyer has a better understanding of his problem. Also, his purchase intent is rising as he has found a few solutions for it. Your content should build interest and should be downloadable resources.
Here, the buyer is considering the pros and cons of various solutions that are available. At this stage, the buyer needs more guidance in shortlisting a suitable solution to his challenges.
At this stage, buyers have shortlisted the solution, but they need reassurance that they’re making the right choice. Your content must convince the buyer and help them make an informed decision.
The customer has purchased your solution and now it’s time to help him understand how to use your product.
The customer is using your product and is beginning to reap its benefits. At this stage sending them content on tips and shortcuts would be highly beneficial.
Retention & Advocacy stage
The buyer is pleased with the product and he becomes an advocate for it by reviewing your product online.
Step 6: Organise content and make it accessible
While high quality content is the backbone of winning deals, the single biggest challenge for teams is to find the right content. According to this study, it was found that on average, reps spend 8 hours per week searching for content! For most reps, it’s faster to recreate content than find it.
Here’s how you can make your existing content discoverable:
- Add headings – Make sure each of your content has a proper and specific title. Eg: [Product Name] Case Study_[Client Name]_[Date],’.
- Add tags – Tag your content with the right keywords as it will make it easy to search and also help in grouping together your content.
- Describe content – Every content you give your sales reps must answer two questions – What’s in it for the sales reps, and how is this content going to help their customers buy from them. This can be in no more than 200 characters, but should convey the essence of your doc.
Apart from this, you could also delve much deeper into organising your sales content.
Also, in order to avoid being redundant, audit your content from time to time – analyse which pieces of content have outlived their shelf life and need to be refreshed.
Step 7: Focus on building out a sales playbook
If you’ve reached this far – congrats! Now it’s time to focus on building out a sales playbook. This document should be your go-to-guide and an instant access point of the most relevant assets and information for your reps to relay to prospects.
Your playbook must include the following:
Step 8: Expand sales enablement to all your customer-facing teams
As you scale your enablement strategy, it is important to loop in your C-suite and Learning and Development (L&D) teams. Just like you’re arming your sales team with the information they need to effectively communicate with prospects, you need to put the same emphasis into all your customer-facing teams such as support teams. Doing so will ensure consistent messaging across the board, as your customers are looking for consistency across sales and support teams.
Step 9: Personalise your messaging using tech stack
Customers these days expect personalized conversations now more than ever before. In this highly competitive arena, it is essential to incorporate powerful tools that help you drive contextual conversations, shorten sales cycles, and generate valuable business insights.
Here are a few tools you need:
Step 10: Automate repetitive tasks
According to a research report, it was found that sales reps spend only 32% of their time selling; 70% of their time was spent on non-productive activities such as updating CRMs etc.
To solve this problem, a Sales Enablement Software is your best friend. This tool will assist you with automation of your processes and also keep all of your materials and work organized.
Here are a few ways it will help you with:
Step 11: Standardise reporting
The most immediate way to derive key insights to know if your strategy is working is to create a set of standardized sales reports.
Your report must have the following:
- Activities logged by sales reps – Depending on their role, each rep should achieve a standard daily, weekly or monthly activity benchmark to get insights into those activities that drove closed business.
- Product demos delivered – This report will show any disconnect in the sales process. For example, if the sales team books a significant amount of demos every month, but few result in closed customers, it will help the company investigate its demo process.
- Deals won and lost – Assign the same quota to all sales reps depending on their roles. Once you get the report on the deals won and lost, you will know the high performers and the ones that require additional training.
Leads generated/worked – This will give you an insight into the health of your sales pipeline and also identify tactics that convert leads at a higher rate.
What are the 4 key sales enablement metrics?
You now know everything you need to know about sales enablement. But there is one crucial factor which ensures you reap rewards from this strategy – measuring your KPIs.
There are 4 key metrics you need to use:
This metric will help you identify the effectiveness of your sales enablement strategy in helping sales reps close faster. If you find your teams are still struggling, you need to step up and do the following:
- Equip your sales team with battle-cards and train them on competitive intelligence that help them frame strong rebuttals against tough objections.
- Audit your content to check if it needs improvement
Performance of your content
Your collaterals are instrumental in driving leads through the sales funnel; if it isn’t fulfilling this purpose, you need to dig deep. Tools such as Seismic intelligently show sales reps which content makes the most impact so you can duplicate its success.
Measure your sales cycle to find out how long it takes for your salespeople to close deals. For this, you can allocate specific time values to each section and convey the same to your sales team. Analyse this cycle and at the end of it, you will be able to derive answers to the length of an average sale, who’s ahead of the average, and what they’re doing differently.
New hire ramp up time
Cutting down the time to productivity is an important factor in proving the effectiveness of your onboarding process. For this, sales enablement leaders can track the reps’ time to the first sale as their criteria to measure the ramp-up time.
What are the main challenges for sales enablement and how to fix it?
Even though the advantages of an effective sales enablement strategy is immense, you might encounter challenges along the way. The best way to stay ahead of those challenges is simply knowing what they are and how to tackle them.
Sustainability of the sales enablement strategy
People react differently when a new system is introduced – some are early adopters and continue to use it, some even though they are forced to adapt to it, it peters out in 4-6 month period. To make sure your organization adopts and continuously practices this you need to:
- Assign clear owners – say, the CEO and the Sales Management Head – to drive it.
- Include the data from this tool as part of the sales reviews on a weekly basis.
- Audit the sales readiness of your sales reps by including one-on-one sessions.
- Conduct continuous training
- Create a feedback loop by joining in during sales conversations and coach reps on areas to improve.
Habits are hard to break
Sales reps shouldn’t think the system is in place to police them – rather it is to create a better workflow.
- Reward adopters of this strategy
- There should be a firm message from the managers and continuous assessment to find laggards.
One point ownership
Because sales enablement generally bridges the gap between marketing and sales teams, there are many functions involved – product, training, sales management etc. Because it is a wide category, there is no one point of ownership.
Combat this by:
- Setting up a charter plan to clearly define who’s responsible for what.
- Write it down in your sales playbook as well.
To sum up, moving in the direction of a well-established sales enablement strategy has the potential to completely change the current functioning of your teams and their sales readiness. For this, a collaborative approach might be the secret ingredient to help you tackle sales deals head on – and win in.
So what are you waiting for? Begin your sales enablement journey and be on your way to great success.