What Is Sales Enablement?

Sales Enablement is the strategic process of equipping Sales organizations with the right tools, content, and information to sell successfully. It empowers Sales reps to deliver engaging experiences 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 accomplished. 

This expanded resource guide helps define Sales Enablement, and 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 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?

How to Build a Sales Enablement Strategy

What is Sales Enablement?

Sales Enablement is a strategic process that equips all customer-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have valuable interactions with the right set of customer stakeholders, at each stage of the buyer lifecycle.

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.

What does Sales Enablement do?

  • Promotes ongoing Sales learning and development 
  • Increases efficiency of the Sales process 
  • Allows salespeople to develop better relationships with buyers 
  • Aligns Marketing and Sales
  • Establishes a standard process as your company grows

What is a Sales Enablement manager?

A Sales Enablement manager leads the team and works closely with Sales and Marketing to ensure sellers have the information, coaching, skills, and knowledge they need to be successful.

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

How can you get started with Sales Enablement?

To answer this question, we’ve created a free ebook – 7 Steps to Building a Winning Sales Enablement Program. In this guide, we the essential steps to take to ensure your Sales Enablement program is successful.

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 customers. These tools also make it far easier for marketing to distribute, and Sales to access and leverage, internal and customer-facing content. Automating certain functions allows both Marketing and Sales teams to dedicate their time to revenue-driving activities. 

Common Sales Enablement tools include:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): A CRM is a database Sales teams use to 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. 
  • Social Platforms: As part of your content management strategy, encourage reps to practice social selling. Research from CSO Insights identified a 10.7% decrease in win rates for organizations that fail to adopt social selling techniques.
  • Training: Regardless of how experienced a seller is, important information and skills must be taught and reinforced with ongoing training materials that cover everything from product features, competitive knowledge, updated marketing techniques, Sales methodologies, and more.
  • Metrics and reporting: Sales leaders can understand how their teams are performing by tracking activities, such as completion of training, calls being made on a daily basis, and pipeline forecasts.  

To maximize the potential of your Sales Enablement tools, it’s essential that your Sales reps:

  • Have the authority to make commercial decisions for the organization
  • Are supported by leadership 
  • Understand their goals and the tool they have at their disposal to meet them
  • Continually improve alignment with Marketing

What does Sales Enablement do?

Sales Enablement improves reps’ performance, leading to a better buyer experience and revenue growth. 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

In practice, you should implement a platform within your Sales Enablement strategy that helps improve your Sales process. A Sales Enablement platform allows you to automate training and content management, freeing up time for your sales force to be with clients and work toward increasing revenue.

What is a Sales Enablement manager?

A Sales Enablement manager leads the team and works closely with Sales and Marketing to ensure sellers have the content, training, skills, and knowledge needed throughout the Sales cycle. They typically report directly to the Director of Sales.

Hiring the right person as your Sales Enablement manager is crucial to the success of your program. The following are traits of a successful manager:

  • Drive for efficiency
  • Collaborative mindset
  • Passion for helping others
  • Excellent communicator

Once they start, Sales Enablement managers should also track rep performance in order to provide personalized sales coaching and training on company, product, and industry-specific knowledge. This will allow your Sales teams to communicate clearly and confidently with customers while moving them through the funnel. 

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

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

Talking through past, current, and future behaviors and the subsequent results 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 from Forrester, around 50% of content goes unused. This should alarm marketers as these deliverables are meant to be shared in the field. Sales Enablement is important for Marketing and Sales alignment to get the right collateral in front of the right prospects at the right time. When done correctly, Sales Enablement marketing facilitates meaningful conversations, optimizes the customer experience, and increases win rates. 

A major component of efficient Sales Enablement marketing is cross-departmental cooperation. According to SiriusDecisions, an organization can deliver 19% faster revenue growth when strong internal alignment exists. It’s important to remember that Sales and Marketing are partners working toward the same goal, rather than two disparate teams.

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

What is a Sales Enablement platform?

Many organizations use 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.

An all-in-one Sales Enablement platform takes your strategy to the next level, providing everything Marketing and Sales operations teams need in one solution.

The best Sales Enablement platforms available excel at aligning the two teams and improving the close rate of the Sales team in the field. According to G2 Crowd, a peer-to-peer review site, some of the best Sales Enablement platforms on the market include:

  • Showpad
  • Highspot
  • Seismic
  • Mindtickle

These Sales Enablement platforms successfully align Marketing and Sales initiatives. They also provide marketers the ability to provide relevant content to salespeople, allowing them to be more prepared during calls and presentations.

To get the most return from your investment, the following should be incorporated within your Sales Enablement platform:

  • Customized content for various Sales interactions
  • User-friendly search capabilities
  • Workflows for both Sales and Marketing departments
  • Performance metrics on Sales collateral 

If you’re not currently leveraging a platform within your Sales Enablement process, here are a few questions to help you determine whether Enablement software would be beneficial to your Sales organization right now:

  • Are there inefficiencies in your current Sales process?
  • Are your Sales and Marketing teams often at odds?
  • Does your company’s training program focus primarily on initial onboarding for Sales reps?  
  • Do you wish your current CRM or analytics platform could more effectively track the engagement of your buyers throughout the purchase journey?
  • Is your Sales team falling short of their goals?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, now is a good time to consider a Sales Enablement tool. A Sales Enablement tool helps Sales reps accomplish their goals more efficiently and intelligently, and is often an integral component for turning average Sales reps into Sales leaders.

Software providers like Showpad offer a complete 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:

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

300 %

increase in content usage

30 %

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 content. Both 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 selling and closing 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?

In order to effectively measure Sales Enablement success, you must first define some key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect your goals. In other words, what are you trying to achieve?

Here are some KPIs to help you get started: 

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 the conversion 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 is successfully empowering your Sales team.

Sales velocity

As Marketo’s excellent 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 strategy should be to increase your organization’s Sales velocity through improvements in product training, lead nurturing, and process optimization. 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, allowing a smoother transition from lead to closed business and improved productivity. 

As with most KPIs, Sales velocity is impacted by many factors. For example, your average deal size may increase, making your process more complex. As a result, your Sales velocity slows down. Knowing this, you can leverage Sales Enablement strategies to optimize your 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 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 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 Sales? KPIs to consider here include: 

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

Using these metrics, it’s important to regularly track your Sales Enablement efforts from onboarding programs throughout their career to determine the program’s progress. If you notice improvements in the number of closed deals, a shorter sales cycle, and higher client retention, you’ll know your efforts are paying off.

How can you offer a better Sales Enablement solution?

The first thing you should do to improve your Sales Enablement solution is to conduct an audit of your processes and tools to identify pain points and any existing bottlenecks. Once that is completed, you can begin creating a strategic Sales Enablement program. Follow these steps to get started: 

  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, the overall process will not live up to its promise.  
  2. Communicate goals and expectations for this new Sales strategy with sellers and any other involved parties. 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.

If you’re already using a Sales Enablement platform, you should regularly evaluate the tool and determine if your solution is delivering the results you expect.

How can you get started with Sales Enablement?

B2B buyers have high expectations during the buying process. It’s necessary to provide great selling experiences to win buyers. 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 content, messaging, and process they need to convert and close deals. It’s also important to prepare your team with the best Sales techniques for closing deals. 

We’ve created a free ebook to help you get started with Sales Enablement –  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 strategy. 

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 

Showpad has written extensively on getting started with your Sales Enablement program. Some additional helpful resources are listed below:

What are the steps to building a successful Sales Enablement program?

Developing a successful Sales Enablement program can be broken down into 7 simple steps:

  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 
  6. Evaluate and streamline your Sales Enablement software
  7. Measure and optimize your Sales Enablement program

We’ve also created an infographic to simplify the process by breaking it down step-by-step.

These steps require an investment of time and resources; however, setting up your Sales Enablement program correctly will streamline the experience for your employees and lead to quicker alignment. 

Deploying Enablement is a worthwhile investment of time and resources and should be incorporated directly into your Sales onboarding. As ATD writes, Sales Enablement doesn’t have to just be part of formal onboarding for all employees. Get all marketers and Sales members informally trained on the concept from day one. It creates the right expectations and will drive them toward success.