Sales enablement made simple: A start-to-finish guide

Learn how sales enablement empowers your sales team to sell effectively.

By Stella Inabo, Contributing Writer

Published July 26, 2021
Last updated September 28, 2021

You’re a B2B sales agent trying to convince a prospect to make a purchase. The prospect asks you how similar companies have used your product. You mention several brands but can’t remember specific stats about how the product helped them improve their performance.

In a situation like this, agents need internal resources and tools to seal the deal—unfortunately, this often isn’t the case. According to the Zendesk Sales Trends Report 2021, 36 percent of sales teams say they’re not equipped with the materials they need to sell. But if you have a sales enablement strategy in place, you can help your agents close more deals and boost your bottom line.

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is about providing salespeople (and customer-facing teams) with all the resources they need to succeed—helpful tools, information, skills, and education about how to sell a product or service effectively. This empowers team members to nurture leads and move them down the sales funnel.

Businesses need sales enablement now more than ever because today’s consumers expect a personalized pitch from sales agents. As many as 32 percent of sales leaders say customers want sales agents to understand their business and the problems they face. Sales enablement gives sales agents the context they need about each buyer as well as the solutions to the buyer’s unique challenges.

Supplying leads with insightful and informational content, such as case studies or industry reports, can move them a step closer to making a purchase. Sixty-three percent of respondents in a Demand Gen survey said a huge differentiator in the buying process was the provision of helpful content by sales agents. Effective sales enablement ensures salespeople get the right content to leads at the right time.

Who owns sales enablement?

At its core, sales enablement is a collaborative effort. It is the job of the sales enablement team or manager, as well as the marketing and sales teams. Each department has a distinct but complementary role to play in sales enablement.

Sales enablement teams handle the hiring, onboarding, and training on effective selling techniques, research, and tools. Marketing team members develop, manage, and track content that sales agents use to move buyers and customers further down the funnel. Sales teams use enablement methods and technology to deliver personalized content to buyers and improve their pitches.

The role of sales enablement software in selling

Sales enablement involves many moving parts:

  • Sales agents must provide relevant content to leads at the right time. They also have to continue researching and learning about their leads.
  • The marketing team needs to collaborate with the sales team and provide them with the right content.
  • Finally, the sales enablement professional has to track metrics and evaluate the sales process.

Because sales enablement has so many elements, automation is required to make it efficient. But no single tool provides all the required functions—sales enablement teams need to use several platforms to achieve their goals. These tools include (but aren’t limited to):

A good sales enablement tool should be:

  • Able to integrate with other tools in your tech stack. Choose tech that supports third-party integrations with your CRM and other software.
  • Intuitive and easy to use. Pick a solution that doesn’t have a steep learning curve, so your team can spend less time learning to use it and more time selling.
  • Built to provide analytics. Select tools that can measure important metrics for tracking content performance and sales productivity.

Before choosing a sales enablement solution, evaluate the existing technology you use. Identify what needs to be changed about your current processes versus what is working optimally. Speak to the sales team to find out what gaps they need to fill with technology. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to pick the right tools.

7 steps to develop your sales enablement strategy

A sales enablement strategy defines your business’ processes for empowering sales reps to sell effectively. It should integrate into your organization’s larger sales strategy and harmonize the efforts of the teams that work in sales enablement. Build a plan for enabling your sales reps with these seven steps.

1. Review the sales process

To create a great sales enablement strategy, you have to make sure you’re building on a solid foundation. If the steps in your sales process are broken, it will be nearly impossible to enable your sales team.

A sales process review helps you identify areas where your sales team performs well and where they need to improve. You might discover that your agents currently take too long to convert early-stage leads. Or, you may find that they waste time on unqualified leads.

Asking questions and identifying problems will give you goals to work toward. For example, if your sales agents keep failing to qualify the right leads, you can work with the marketing team to build a buyer persona. Or, if agents take too long to close deals, you can update your sales tools to automate time-intensive admin tasks.

Involve team members in this step and see if they have suggestions on how to improve the sales process.

2. Know your customer

Successful sales enablement is built on customer data. With insights from sales and marketing metrics, you can better understand what reps need to meet leads and customers where they are.

Customer data provides you with important information, like which leads to target and what content to give them. It elevates your efforts, taking them from wild stabs in the dark to accurate decisions based on data.

Heather Davis Lam, CEO and founder of Revenue Ops, recommends centralizing customer data and making it easy for the sales team to access. To do this, she suggests providing “a platform that is easy to use and minimizes the time required to complete necessary sales activities.”

A CRM is a great tool for enhancing productivity, processes, and pipeline visibility. It allows you to monitor metrics from both marketing and sales teams, and it answers important questions about your buyer that help you build a buyer persona. When asking questions, make sure they’re targeted and bring you closer to knowing your buyer. Your questions should include (but not be limited to):

  • Who is our ideal buyer?
  • What pieces of content convert buyers the most?
  • What information do buyers consistently ask for on sales calls?

Based on the data you gather from interactions with your customers, you can create an effective sales enablement strategy.

3. Collaborate across departments

Sales enablement is not a one-team job—it involves sales, marketing, and support. But our report shows that only 41 percent of sales professionals collaborate with marketing regularly. And 41 percent of marketers aren’t sure what content the sales team wants them to create.

These silos result in sales agents not sharing relevant content with buyers. Marketing materials might even exist, but leads don’t see the content because sales and marketing don’t interact.

Marketing and sales teams can align with each other in regular meetings where they discuss:

  • shared goals, such as revenue growth and pipeline growth
  • existing sales content and how it can be integrated into the sales process
  • sales content gaps
  • shared customer data in the sales enablement platform

Working together harmonizes individual department efforts and brings them closer to achieving their goals.

4. Audit, organize, and create sales content

Audit existing sales content to find content gaps. You want to have enough content to cover all stages of the buyer journey so that the sales team always has relevant information for buyers.

Joshua Feinberg, CEO of SP Home Run and a sales enablement consultant, advises teams to focus on “gaps in the consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey.” He also recommends discovering and documenting the most frequently asked questions that sales agents encounter. Identify these questions by shadowing sales agents on calls, listening to sales call recordings, or asking sales reps and support agents what content they wish they had on hand while speaking to customers.

With this list of questions, you might be tempted to immediately create individual pieces of content to answer them. A better approach would be to integrate the new content assets into your content marketing strategy. The marketing team should determine how each piece of content will fit into the larger framework and how it helps achieve business goals.

Improve the quality of content created by involving the sales agent directly. They should work with the marketing team to write or record pieces of content since they know the sales process best.

Sales content is no good if it’s never used. Keeping it visible and accessible is vital. Lam says, “Businesses should create a repository for sales assets that can be easily searched and distributed. The ability to access the latest version of a piece of collateral quickly saves time. It allows the team to provide valuable assets to potential clients, which can lead to closed business.”

Tracking and analyzing each piece of sales content is essential, too. Find out which pieces are driving sales and which ones need to be strengthened for better results.

With the help of a sales content management system, your sales agents can get the information they need when they need it. They can also track important metrics that show the performance of sales assets.

5. Adopt sales enablement tools

Sales enablement software provides reps with information about each buyer, helping them stay prepared and have better sales conversations. It automates manual tasks that take away time from selling, too. This type of software can also identify the pieces of content that exist and the ones that will provide the best value to customers.

Make sure to involve your sales team in the process of choosing a tool. It is important to explain why new technology is being adopted and how it will help them hit their sales enablement goals.

Many businesses make the mistake of introducing tools without providing adequate training on how to use them. Sales agents must be trained to use sales enablement tools effectively. Going a step further to incentive your sales team to use new software would increase adoption as well.

6. Improve sales training

Teaching your agents how to adapt to the world of sales is as important as providing sales enablement technology. Unfortunately, traditional sales training might not be enough. The sales process is constantly evolving, and old tricks from sales playbooks won’t work like they used to.

Madhukar Govindaraju, CEO of Numly, points out in a Forbes article: “[Sales training] programs do not take into consideration the dynamics of the evolving market, products, and services, and neither do they consider the changes in customer interactions and how customers want to engage with organizations.”

He recommends a “coaching-driven” approach as opposed to one focused on sales training. He also advocates for enhancing certain key skills—such as “empathy, critical thinking, strategic thinking, self-motivation”—to improve selling opportunities.

Your sales team should be able to access the information they need with a click of a button. So, creating a virtual database of sales techniques, courses, and tips is essential for effective sales enablement.

If your sales team works remotely or is distributed, you also need to provide them with tips on remote selling and collaboration.

7. Evaluate your strategy and reiterate

Implementing your strategy is not the end of all your efforts. Your sales enablement strategy needs to be reviewed consistently and optimized to improve performance.

Track progress by asking these questions:

  • What did we do well? How can we improve on what we did well?
  • What did we not do well? How can we improve on those efforts?
  • What factors enabled us to succeed?
  • What challenges made us fall short?

Sales enablement managers who work with large sales and marketing teams should consider using a survey. Armed with the answers to your survey questions, you can take steps to refine your sales enablement strategy.

After taking steps to redefine your goals and enhance your strategy for the future, it’s time to implement your new-and-improved strategy.

Set up your sales team for sales success

Your sales agents need all the support they can get to sell effectively.

Empower your agents with the content they need to help buyers. Incorporate sales enablement best practices into the company culture. And choose a sales enablement tool that provides full visibility into the sales process, integrates with the rest of your tech stack, and scales with your business.

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