What if someone told you to write a book, but you don’t have a laptop, nor pen and paper? That’s how your work life would be as a sales executive without sales enablement.
But this begs the question...
What is sales enablement?
A rose is a rose by whichever name you call it.
But is this true in the case of sales enablement?
Everyone has their own definition of sales enablement.
According to Roderick Jefferson, author of Sales Enablement 3.0, “The philosophy that binds all aspects of sales enablement is the belief that scalable and repeatable practices lead to increased revenue. Sales enablement is therefore centered around getting sales teams into the right conversations with the right decision-makers at the right time, and all in the right way.”
How do product marketers — who are often tasked with sales enablement — define it?
Kesava Mandiga, our product marketer over at Wingman, had this to say about the marketing team’s view on sales enablement: “It means giving our salespeople the knowledge they need to succeed. By creating content and collateral they want to use and making it easy for them to do so. If I do that, it rains revenue.”
And according to Alex Hisaka, Principal at Fresh and Only Marketing, “Sales enablement recognizes that effective selling requires identifying key moments in the buyer’s journey and building a strategy to reach the consumer with the right content at the right time.”
As you can see, there are diverse opinions on what sales enablement is. However, the common thread is that sales enablement helps salespeople win. Reps need the right resources to guide their leads across the buyer’s journey.
So, here’s a more agreeable definition of what sales enablement is.
Sales enablement is the process of providing your sales team with the resources they need to close more deals. These resources can take any form — video content, written guides, saving calculators, one-pagers, old love letters — as long as they help sales teams sell more effectively.
Who’s in charge of sales enablement anyway?
The answer changes from company to company, but we do know that marketing is involved. Sales? Never heard of ‘em. Just kidding.
We know that the roles that marketing and sales play are complementary. Marketing provides sales reps with the resources they need to sell effectively. Based on their experiences with the resources provided by marketing, sales can come to them with feedback about what works and what doesn’t.
This step is super important as it makes all the difference between deal won and deal lost. This feedback loop comes with its own set of challenges.
Now, to answer your question.
According to CSO Insights, about half the companies that have sales enablement teams are led by their Head of Sales - no surprise there. But the other half is led by marketing or sales ops or executive leadership.
A quick look at LinkedIn shows that most folks with sales enablement roles roll up into sales teams. But at the same time, many product marketers will list sales enablement as one of their jobs.
While sales enablement as a function is revenue-oriented — it’s a mix of the key players from the major teams in an organization — the actual roles themselves can get confusing as they aren’t as defined as the others.
How do we define roles in a sales enablement team?
One popular way to assign roles is by using the RACI matrix, which is a broader project or team management framework that can be used company-wide. As Andy Molinsky and Jeff Tan write in Harvard Business Review, “Creating this matrix will help you clarify the roles and responsibilities at each level of your organization.”
What is RACI?
A simple breakdown of the acronym would be:
- Responsible: Who is responsible for leading this sales enablement team?
- Accountable: Who is accountable for making sure this team meets its goals?
- Consulted: Who needs to be involved in order to make the goals possible?
- Informed: Who will be kept in the loop about the updates of this team?
RACI simplifies the complexities of a subject, project, teams, and the roles we play within those. It is a lifesaver to have a simple way to negotiate across departments and project boundaries.
Why RACI for sales enablement?
A framework like the RACI matrix helps with sales enablement teams as it can define the roles played by different members of the company in a simple and effective way. Having a framework that simplifies project management can do wonders for any team, but especially for a sales enablement team as they hold everything in place.
But what does a person in charge of a team with such high stakes do?
What does a sales enablement manager do?
A sales enablement manager wears multiple hats (sometimes cloaks and coats). Their main responsibility is creating content for the sales team to use across the customer journey. This means that what they create and provide can make or break the sales process.
In some cases, sales enablement managers lead on setting up processes for sales rep onboarding and training too.
According to Shankar Ganapathy, co-founder of BuyerAssist.io, “A sales enablement manager takes the lead in creating a consistent sales onboarding and training experience that is rigorous and data-driven.”
And to be data-driven, you need to make sure that you have the right tools and technology in place. So it’s clear that training reps in using the tools provided to them is one of the critical responsibilities sales enablement managers have. More on this later.
But all the tools and tech will fail if the implementation is poor, which is where sales enablement has a large role to play.
As Rick Krantz, founder of Overgo Studio, puts it in this article, “The specialist may also help reps to understand best practices around the use of marketing/sales enablement materials. Some specialists will go beyond a classroom setting to deliver this training; they will also mentor reps by example (for instance, by taking the lead on sales calls as needed.)” This, however, only works when a sales enablement manager is also involved within the sales team as either a sales manager or the head of sales.
It’s pretty clear that it takes a village to raise this sales enablement baby.
That’s why getting buy-in from all the teams involved is one of the most important jobs of an SE manager.
As Patrick Flanigan writes for HubSpot, “The most challenging thing is coordinating all the resources behind a project. Working with all the different cross-functional teams requires cooperation and open lines of communication."
Which tools do sales enablement teams use?
Just having the most talented people on your team won’t work unless you give them the right tools to enable them. For example, if your reps spend half their day manually responding to emails, you may have to consider an email automation tool.
Salespeople spend just one-third of their day actually talking to prospects. They spend 21% of their day writing emails, 17% entering data, another 17% prospecting and researching leads, 12% going to internal meetings, and 12% scheduling calls. These tasks are a lot to do, but the burden on salespeople can be reduced by using the right automation tools so that they can spend more time closing deals.
Providing them with these tools may seem expensive and unnecessary at first, but it could result in shorter sales cycles, better insights, and put the spotlight on your strong suits.
Apart from having a wide array of content they can reference, you should include CRMs and software that enhance your reps’ workflow. These would consist of tools like Salesforce, Hubspot, SEMrush and more.
But tools tailored explicitly to sales enablement are essential to add to your arsenal. Luckily, we’ve included a few tools that might help.
Content Management Systems
Highspot’s Sales Content Management helps sales reps access any solution or resource they need easily. Highspot makes intelligent recommendations of the product-related documentation like product overview deck, case studies and more that sales reps can share with their prospects.
Paperflite is a sales enablement software that helps sales and marketing teams organize, distribute and share their content-related work. With Paperflite, sales reps can track how content travels across prospects and gain insights into how their prospects interact with their work on multiple platforms, ensuring that both hot and cold leads are nurtured.
Seismic offers a one-stop solution to manage all the sales resources, information, and content with global version control and approval solutions. It ensures that sales reps are able to easily access relevant information for any purpose, which boosts their productivity by miles.
Wingman is a real-time sales coaching software that analyzes your reps’ calls in real-time and sends cue cards and insights into taking your calls to greater heights.
Enthu.ai is a conversation intelligence tool for improved agent performance, with features like voice monitoring and call reviews that help you understand the performance of your reps.
Gong is a revenue intelligence tool that helps sales increase sales productivity by recording, transcribing, and analyzing every sales call.
There are hundreds of options available whether you are looking for sales enablement software or other sales tools such as CRMs. It’s better to listen to what works for your team and what tool will suit their style of working.
Assuming you’ve got the right tools and team, how will you ensure that your sales enablement efforts are successful?
Important metrics for sales enablement teams
While we know that sales enablement teams exist to support sales teams, it’s important to understand their impact on an organization and how they fit in. Ideally, the following should improve with sales enablement efforts:
Sales cycle length
The sales cycle length refers to the average time spent to close a deal. A good CRM and its complementary integrations can help sales teams define the start and endpoints needed to determine the sales cycle length.
This metric needs to be measured in order to determine how long your sales teams take to close a deal.
Quota attainment is the percentage of sales made by a sales rep that meet or exceed targets. Each team has different success rates when it comes to quota attainment, and one number cannot be generalized across your company.
So, what is your sales reps’ success rate after the help of the sales enablement team?
Lead conversion rate
This is a metric that defines how many leads have been converted into buyers. The lead conversion rate is typically divided into MQLs and SQLs.
These sub-metrics reveal the growth of each team, i.e. how your marketing and sales teams are performing to qualify leads to maintain a promising pipeline, which is important for sales enablement teams to measure.
So, you’ve given your team the right tools to aid them with their selling, but what percentage of your sales reps actually use these tools on a daily basis? It’s important to check on the adoption of your tech stack.
Best practices for sales enablement
So, the team is created, roles are assigned. Yay! You did it!
Here are some of the best practices to follow as a part of the sales enablement team.
Make sales data-driven
In an episode on our podcast, On The Flip Side, Mark Shalinsky had mentioned the importance of having a data-driven tech stack. The right tools are required to make sales easier, be it for automation or cloud-based management. This will enable sales teams to deliver better by focusing on contacting leads rather than getting stuck trying to sort through them.
Sales data leads to effective decision-making. Sales decisions are usually made as a response to market changes and customer preferences. Data underpins those changes and preferences. Sales data helps in identifying leads, enabling effective prospecting and it improves the entire sales process.
Make your communication a two-way street
Give feedback as and when required. According to Hubspot, sales reps look to their peers and superiors for feedback and tips on how to improve. This means that salespeople will actively seek feedback, but this isn’t where the loop ends.
Getting feedback from sales reps will help you improve how you perform your duties, be it from providing better insights from your market research to creating better content for the sales rep to refer to.
Make sure sales managers feel supported
Sales managers have to deal with a lot on their plate, from coaching and guiding their reps, to being accountable for their team’s performance. Supporting sales managers is one way to ensure your sales teams remain optimistic. This doesn’t stop at impromptu pep talks, but it is a start.
One way to ensure this is when sales enablement managers help sales managers decipher their reps’ performance analytics and general sales data. Tools like Wingman help with lowering the load on managers by simplifying their sales pipeline and important metrics. Wingman also aids reps with identifying areas where they need to work on in real-time by providing cues while they are on call, so managers won’t have to jump on a call every time. If you want to know more about things you can do as a new sales enablement manager, this article by Joanne Scouler might help.
At the end of the day, sales enablement plays a major role in the success of a sales team’s efforts, and having such a team in an organization can help achieve your revenue goals and boost the sales team’s performance.