What Is Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement is the strategic process to prepare sales organizations with the right tools, content, and information to sell successfully. It empowers sales reps to deliver an engaging experience for modern buyers who expect personalization, automation, and overall innovation.

Planning and executing effective sales enablement doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  With minimal guidance, creating a strategic plan that aligns sales and marketing efforts in maximizing revenue can be easily accomplished.

This expanded resource guide helps define sales enablement is designed to provide you with best practices, reports, strategic recommendations, implementation examples, and online resources. Consider this your primary reference in designing and implementing an effective sales enablement strategy for your organization.

Within this guide, we will attempt to answer the following questions:

  1. What is sales enablement?
  2. What are sales enablement tools?
  3. What does sales enablement do?
  4. What is a sales enablement manager?
  5. What is sales enablement marketing?
  6. What is a sales enablement platform?
  7. Why is sales enablement important?
  8. How can you measure sales enablement success?
  9. How can you offer a better sales enablement solution?
  10. How can you get started with sales enablement?
  11. What are the steps to building a successful sales enablement program?


What is sales enablement?

“Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all customer-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.”

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What are sales enablement tools?

Sales enablement tools automate the customer experience, making it more efficient for your team, and more personalized and engaging for buyers.

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What does sales enablement do?

  • Promotes ongoing sales learning and development
  • Increases efficiency of your sales process
  • Allows sales people to develop better relationships with buyers
  • Gets marketing and sales on the same page
  • Establishes a standard process as your company grows

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What is a sales enablement manager?

A sales enablement manager leads the sales enablement team and works closely with sales and marketing to ensure sales professionals have the information, coaching, skills, and knowledge needed throughout the sales process.

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Why is sales enablement important?

  • 40% increase in cross-sells and upsells
  • 17% increase in sales within the first month of the program
  • 60% reduction in ramp time for new sales hires
  • 30% of time saved on admin tasks and preparation
  • 300% increase in content usage

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How can you get started with sales enablement?

To answer this question, we’ve created a free ebook – How to Build a Sales Enablement Strategy: First Steps. In this guide, we’ll share our key insights and provide you with the foundational framework to build a killer sales enablement strategy.

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Sales Enablement Definition:

Sales enablement is the strategic process to prepare sales organizations with the right tools, content, and information to sell successfully. It empowers sales reps to deliver an engaging experience for modern buyers who expect personalization, automation, and overall innovation.

Additionally, Forrester’s sales enablement definition is: Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.”

The key elements of sales enablement include:

  1. Strategic – sales enablement is a high-level undertaking. It requires planning, forecasting, and a deep understanding of your potential customers and the problems that they need to solve.
  2. Ongoing – sales enablement is never “done.” Product positioning changes. Marketing that may have helped close deals three months ago may no longer be relevant. A fundamental function of sales enablement services is ensuring that sales teams are empowered with the most up-to-date information, continuous training, content, and tools to sell effectively.
  3. Consistent and systematic – when we talk about sales enablement, we are talking about driving uniformity of delivery across the go-to-market organization. By applying best practices across coaching, content management, and your sales process, you provide a winning framework that drives greater sales effectiveness and higher win rates.
  4. Valuable conversations – Sales enablement has been a driver of the shift from transactional sales interactions to consultative sales conversations. Buyers are more informed than ever, with access to huge amounts of research and marketing on you and your competitors. Sales reps are no longer experts by default; they now need to be experts on merit. This is where a well-oiled sales enablement machine can be the difference maker.


What are sales enablement tools?

Sales enablement tools automate the customer experience, making it more efficient for you internally, and more personalized and engaging for your customer. They include integrated customer relationship management (CRM), content management, training metrics and reporting. They also make it far easier for marketing to distribute, and sales to access and leverage. Automating certain functions allows both marketing and sales teams to dedicate their time to the most revenue-driving activities, which is especially important when you take into account that sellers currently spend only 37 percent of their time on actually selling, according to an InsideSales.com Labs report.

The sales operations tools you should leverage for your sales enablement program include:

  • Integrated customer relationship management (CRM): A CRM is a database where sales reps manage and track accounts within their pipeline.
  • Content management: Your organization’s marketing team should be creating compelling information to appeal to different buyers across the buyer journey. We provide more details about this below.
  • Training: Regardless of how skilled a seller is, learning must be taught and reinforced with ongoing training materials that cover everything from product features of your company’s products and competitive knowledge, updated marketing techniques, to sales methodologies and more.
  • Metrics and reporting: Sales leaders can only gain insight into how their team is performing if they are tracking activities, such as completion of training, calls being made on a daily basis, pipeline forecasts, etc.

The sales operations at the heart of sales enablement allows teams to do more with their data, efficiently gathering, organizing, and leveraging it to create more targeted and personal conversations with buyers that inspires them to sign on and stay a customer longer.



What does sales enablement do?

Sales enablement helps your sales professionals sell better by accomplishing the following:



Promotes ongoing sales training and development

Increases efficiency of your sales process

Allows reps to develop better relationships with buyers

Gets marketing and sales teams on the same page

What is a sales enablement manager?

A sales enablement manager leads the sales enablement team and works closely with sales and marketing to ensure sales people have the content, sales training, skills, and knowledge needed throughout the sales process. Sales enablement managers should also track rep performance in order to provide personalized sales coaching and training on sales, marketing, product, and industry-specific knowledge. This will allow your sales team to communicate clearly and confidently with customers while moving them through the sales funnel.

While distributing sales training content and analyzing performance metrics, sales enablement managers should also be coaching each rep on their team to facilitate growth and development. This training entails regular one-on-one meetings to discuss the rep’s work, letting them ask questions and evaluate their own sales performance. Sales enablement managers discuss things such as:

  • How comfortable the rep feels in sales conversations
  • What marketing and tools the rep is leveraging
  • Why the rep made a certain decision/action
  • What accomplishment the rep feels most proud of
  • What they want to improve upon moving forward

Talking through past, current, and future behaviors gives both the coach and rep a better understanding of progress to inform the best next steps.

What is sales enablement marketing?

Sales enablement marketing supports sales representatives through the creation of customer-facing marketing and tools, including:

  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • eBooks
  • Pricing pages
  • Product demo decks
  • Call scripts

This marketing collateral and tools should be crafted and optimized to appeal to customers at each stage of the buyer’s journey, and tailored to address different industries, challenges, and needs.

According to research done by SiriusDecisions, up to 70% of B2B content goes unused. This could be for a number of reasons: sellers are unaware that certain marketing pieces exist, don’t know how to access it, or are unsure of how to best use the marketing information for facilitating meaningful conversations to maximize customer experience and increase sales win rates. In order for sales enablement content to be used effectively, it must be easy to access and managed in a way so that sales people understand the context of every piece.

A major component of efficient sales enablement marketing is cross-departmental cooperation. There are a number of ways for sales and marketing to work together effectively to benefit your business. Maintain the outlook that you are partners working toward the same goal, rather than two disparate teams, and keep communication lines open. A customer win is a win for both sides. SiriusDecisions found that an organization can deliver 19 percent faster revenue growth when there is strong internal alignment.

Learn more about how internal alignment drives success by downloading our report, “Sales as the Forgotten Marketing Channel.”



What is a Sales Enablement Platform?

An all-in-one sales enablement platform takes your standard sales enablement tactics to the next level, providing everything marketing and sales operations team members need for alignment in one solution.

Many organizations are currently operating using several disparate tools to handle different sales enablement processes, none of which work in conjunction with each other. As a result, businesses are spending a lot of their time and budget to implement, use, and maintain these technologies. While you may be under the impression that you can manage everything manually, a system that can handle all processes from content creation and updates, management, and distribution; training tools; marketing performance; sales pipeline management; customer outreach; training and coaching; and reporting capabilities allows you to work more dynamically and effectively. The time saved for sellers looking for marketing collateral to present to buyers, or even creating it themselves, allows them to center their account-based marketing efforts and focus on their most important responsibility: closing deals.

Sales enablement software providers like Showpad offer a sales enablement solution in one, easy-to-use platform. With marketing and sales using the same tools, nothing falls through the cracks.



Why is sales enablement important?

Showpad client data reveals the following benefits of sales enablement:



0 %

increase in cross-sells and upsells

0 %

increase in sales within the first month of the program

0 %

reduction in ramp time for new sales hires

0 %

increase in content usage

0 %

of time saved on admin tasks and preparation

A report from Aberdeen found that companies with a formal sales enablement program are 96% more likely to achieve competitive levels of sales sophistication.

Additionally, a sales enablement program helps sales and marketing teams collaborate more productively, working within the same programs that house customer data and sales content. Both marketing and sales teams can view what information is most impactful and make updates as necessary, and can easily share the most relevant materials to sellers in real time, so your sales force isn’t using outdated presentation materials.

With communication, content, and data streamlined, sellers are able to focus their time on actual selling activity and can close deals faster, the ultimate objective for sales enablement. A successful sales rep is a happy sales rep and with a program dedicated to their success and training, turnover rates will decrease.



How can you measure sales enablement success?

Measuring sales enablement success means defining some key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect your sales enablement goals. What are you trying to achieve?

Lead-to-conversion rate

The number one goal for any sales organization is to close more deals. From a sales enablement perspective, the key indicator of a successful program will be your sales team converting a higher percentage of leads into closed business. Naturally there will be some external factors that influence this number, such as changes in go-to-market strategy or wider market conditions, but a positive trend in conversion rate is a good sign that your sales enablement strategy and marketing is empowering your sales team to make the most of the opportunities that are being generated.

Sales velocity

As this excellent Marketo primer on sales velocity spells out, “sales velocity plays a huge role in your business’ ability to thrive and grow. The less time it takes for prospects to move through your pipeline, the faster you can close more deals.”

One focus of your sales enablement strategy should be to increase your organization’s sales velocity through improvements in product training, lead nurturing, and sales process optimizations. Are there any bottlenecks in your sales cycle? Are prospects taking too long to move down the sales funnel? These are things that a good sales enablement function will be able to identify and remedy, permitting a smoother transition from lead to closed business and improve sales productivity.

As with most KPIs, sales velocity is impacted by many factors. For example, your average deal size may increase meaning that your process becomes more complex, leading to your sales velocity slowing down. Knowing this, you can leverage sales enablement strategies to optimize your sales process, or factor in this slower velocity for more accurate, actionable sales forecasting.

Quota attainment

When your sales force are hitting their goals, it means they are doing something right; they have the tools they need and are using them effectively to engage buyers. Quota attainment is the percentage of salespeople on your team hitting or surpassing their previously-established quotas. This first and foremost gives you insights into the performance of members of your team, but also determines whether the goals you’ve set are realistic. HubSpot suggests the rule of thumb that if less than 60 percent of your team is reaching quota, your goals may be too tough; if 90 percent are hitting quota, they may be too easy. Be sure to analyze quota attainment on a regular basis, and adjust goals as needed.

Content usage

High-quality content is absolutely paramount to any effective sales team. Buyers want to see relevant, compelling content that addresses their own individual pain points and provides them with the data they need to make an informed buying decision.

Marketing teams are producing more and more content, but do you know which marketing content is actually effective for your sales team? Gaining insight into the efficacy of your sales content is the first step in providing key content recommendations to your sales force. KPIs to consider here include:

  • Email opens and clicks
  • Content downloads
  • Video views
  • Content shares

By evaluating how content is shared and engaged with by different prospects at different stages of the sales cycle, you can ensure that the right marketing content is shared at the right time to move things forward.



How can you offer a better sales enablement solution?

Now that you know what sales enablement is, the next question is how to get started. Creating a strategic sales enablement journey takes extended planning and requires various moving parts. Follow these steps:

  1. Determine key stakeholders and ensure they are on board for your planned sales enablement strategy. Think of your strategy as a chain; if any stakeholder, or “link,” is not holding their weight, the strength of the entire chain is compromised; in other words, if even one person isn’t committed to enablement services, the overall process will not live up to its promise.
  2. Communicate goals and expectations for this new sales format with sellers and any other involved parties, as well as how success will be measured moving forward. Equip sales representatives with the knowledge and tools necessary to develop their talents and be successful, like:
    1. Video learning content
    2. Short product reviews
    3. Mobile sales learning
    4. Overview of sales programs and process
    5. Individual and overall skills assessments
    6. Customer-facing content targeting buyers at different stages within the buying process
  3. Regularly analyze sales performance and iterate on your strategy to garner your ideal results. Use the data at your disposal to create impactful content and make smart selling decisions. Sales enablement must be an ongoing practice if you want to realize your goals.


How can you get started with sales enablement?

Starting out on a sales enablement strategy can seem intimidating. As mentioned above, sales enablement is a cross-functional discipline with many moving parts. One of the most common questions we see around sales enablement is “how do I get started?”

To answer this question, we’ve created a free ebook – How to Build a Sales Enablement Strategy: First Steps. In this guide, we’ll share our key insights and provide you with the foundational framework to build a killer sales enablement strategy.

Sales enablement is the path to sales effectiveness. By focusing on content usage later in the sales process, sales and marketing teams can continually improve the marketing content, messaging and process businesses need to convert and close deals.

Download the ebook to find out how a focus on enablement, not just productivity, can deliver:

  • More accurate internal sales forecasts
  • Shortened sales cycles
  • Insight into content ROI

What are the steps to building a successful sales enablement program?

Starting out on a sales enablement strategy can seem intimidating. As mentioned above, sales enablement is a cross-functional discipline with many moving parts. One of the most common questions we see around sales enablement is “how do I get started?”
Showpad recommends seven steps are essential to building a successful sales enablement program. They are:

  1. Draft and ratify a sales enablement charter
  2. Develop an enablement cadence
  3. Assess your team’s knowledge
  4. Develop an ongoing communications plan
  5. Make sales enablement content easy to find and engaging
  6. Evaluate and streamline your sales enablement software
  7. Measure an optimize your sales enablement program

You can download the entire 7 Steps to Building a Winning Sales Enablement Program eBook. This infographic also simplifies the process by breaking it down step-by-step.