What Does “Good” Sales Enablement Look Like?
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Now more than ever, the adoption of sales enablement is essential for companies. But simply having some form of enablement isn’t enough to bring true transformation; organizations need to figure out what “good” sales enablement means for them.
In a rapidly changing selling environment, there are a few key pain-points many organizations are facing today that sales enablement could help alleviate or reverse. First, employee retention is a glaring problem, as 3.5 million U.S. workers quit their jobs each month. Paired with an unemployment rate of 3.7%, employers often experience extreme difficulty finding qualified candidates to replace talent lost.
Another common problem is the huge disconnect between what sellers are currently doing with their time and how they should be spending their time, with most salespeople only spending one-third of their time actually selling. Organizations need to find ways to streamline processes to give reps more capacity to spend time selling and empower them to be more efficient and effective in their jobs, and that’s where sales enablement becomes essential.
“Enablement is uniquely positioned to quarterback the opportunity for your best salespeople to spend more time doing what they want to do and what we all acknowledge we believe they should be doing as well,” said Peter Ostrow, senior research director of sales enablement strategies at SiriusDecisions.
While sales enablement has the potential to address all of these conflicts, without prioritization enablement teams limit themselves and their ability to be effective. Here are four key areas sales enablement professionals should focus on to maximize their impact and determine what “good” sales enablement looks like for their organization.
Marketing teams put a great deal of effort into creating content for sales, but in reality, a whopping 65% of that content goes completely unused. That means that for every 100 pieces of content, just 35 pieces actually find their way to the buyer, representing a major inefficiency in the alignment between sales and marketing.
Many factors contribute to this problem. For example, salespeople are often unaware of what content is available, don’t know who owns it, can’t customize content to their selling situation, or can’t find the right pieces they need in real-time.
This leads sellers to attempt to work around the problem by going rogue and creating their own. But this makeshift content creates an even larger problem; it results in messaging that is not persona-driven, not aligned to the actual buyer’s journey, and often lacking in brand consistency. To avoid this conundrum, organizations must focus on not only creating the right type of content but utilizing sales enablement to help make it accessible, understandable, and readily available to sellers. One key to this is centralizing content in one location to make it easy for reps to know where to go to find it.
“I can tell you that high performing organizations, those where 80% or more of the reps hit their number last year, they actually have significantly fewer locations for where reps have to go looking for stuff,” said Ostrow.
Additionally, sales enablement can help ensure that the content created by marketing aligns to sales needs by optimizing content around not only what is used frequently but also what is effective in engaging buyers. Ostrow breaks this down into three categories of content types:
- “Shining stars” are pieces that are both popular and effective in engaging buyers, like competitive product comparisons, product guides, and customer success stories.
- “Hidden gems” are items that might not get used very often but are highly effective when they are, such as industry news, thought leadership, and competitive win stories.
- “Fool’s gold” assets are those that are frequently used but not necessarily effective in the hands of customers, such as generic brochures or promotional videos.
Sales teams need all three types of content at certain points in a sales cycle, but sales enablement can help ensure that marketing creates the right mix of assets that will engage buyers at different stages. Then, enablement can help ensure the sales team knows what content is available, where to find it, and when to use it to be most effective.
Successful training is not only determined based on whether sellers have been certified but also if they can execute effectively in the field. Since sellers are applying their craft in front of buyers in real-time, they are held to a certain standard of perfection. To deliver training that will actually translate to results, enablement needs to meet sales reps where they are.
“You’ve got to be able to, as a sales enablement professional, set your ego aside and say, ‘what do sales reps really, absolutely need?’” said Joe Booth senior director of sales enablement and competitive intelligence at SecureAuth Corporation. “And then, what’s the easiest delivery mechanism for them? You have to make this really easy for them to digest, and it’s got to be relevant to their day-to-day job.”
This process is easier when thinking about training as a holistic approach rather than individual programs. For example, in SiriusDecision’s Sales Talent Lifecycle approach, training involves three stages: hiring, onboarding, and continuous long-term development.
In this framework, training is broken down by what sales reps need to know and when – even before they are hired – with well-defined competencies. Then for each competency, sales enablement needs to structure training to tell, show, do, and reinforce that behavior:
- Tell the reps the information they need to know.
- Show them what good looks like in a way that matches how they best learn, for example through a video or in-person shadow.
- Do the activity in a practice environment until they are ready to face the field.
- Reinforce the activity in the field as they go through coaching.
This holistic approach to training drives consistency in sales behavior and performance. At the same time, training rooted in defined competencies will help sales enablement deliver training that is directly relevant to sales rep’s day-to-day activity, meaning a higher chance of engagement and ultimately impact on results.
3) Buyer Engagement
Today’s buyers base their decisions more and more on the experiences they have as a customer and less on technical details. This means conversations with sales reps, engagement with content, knowledge of the company, or overall company reputation are going to impact a buyer’s purchase decision more than a price or product offering. To win over modern buyers, organizations must refocus their energy on enabling sellers to provide exceptional customer experiences.
“The first thing you’ve got to think about here is, do we have a message that properly and effectively engages this customer?” said Spencer Wixom, VP of marketing at Challenger. “Secondly, are we delivering it in an effective way? You get those foundations right. You get your message and you get the capability to deliver that message in a powerful and effective way, and then you can scale it through adherence to an effective process.”
There are a number of personas that interact with a buyer besides the sales rep, including customer service, partners, sales engineers, and solution engineers. That means buyers can be bombarded with multiple messages and content from a variety of sources at each stage in the sales cycle.
To maximize buyer satisfaction, sales enablement must identify what content is most impactful, make it available to all people interacting with customers, and guide them through optimal times to use those messages.
When the right messages are delivered effectively at critical times in a sale, everyone involved can approach interactions seamlessly and with confidence. The path to positive buyer engagement is paved in messaging that is strategic, readily available, and well-timed.
If organizations do not measure what works, there is no way to promote good behavior and reduce bad behavior. After all, without deep insight into key metrics tied to sales enablement at your organization, it is impossible to confidently ascertain what success means.
While the specific goals sales enablement works toward differs across each company and enablement team, there are some areas of commonality where metrics can help all enablement functions be more effective.
“The impact that sales enablement solely controls – sales rep productivity, learning more effectively, getting onboarded faster, becoming competent more quickly on new rollouts – these are measurable and attributable only to enablement initiatives,” said Ostrow. “Therefore, these are the things that enablement should be measured by.”
Within each of these categories are many nuances influenced by a variety of components, from industry to company size and go-to-market approach. However, in some shape or form, all sales enablement teams should track metrics relating to productivity, learning programs, onboarding, and sales rep competencies.
“Good” looks different for everyone. The success of an enablement function will be assessed using different metrics and measurement techniques based on the goals of each individual company. The best way to figure out what works for individual organizations is by combining a mix of these indicators to get to the root of what drives overall performance.
As sales enablement takes on more responsibility in the governance of sales success, it is time to clearly define what sales enablement means inside every organization, at every level, and start enforcing that good behavior.