Everything You Need To Know About Sales Enablement
March 3, 2020
What is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is a collection of practices that equip sales teams with the resources, coaching and support they need to engage buyers and close deals. It’s essential because many markets are filled with competitors vying for a limited customer pool. Great sales enablement helps sellers stand out from the crowd and gain a big competitive advantage.
This blog will define sales enablement, describe why it’s important and identify key ingredients of successful enablement programs.
Sales enablement comprises:
- Research into prospects, customers, the market, your product or service’s unique value proposition and competitors. For example, sales enablement teams often develop buyer personas, messaging guidelines, and market intelligence that speak to specific target industries, use cases and prospects.
- Analysis of customer churn and prospect drop-out, creation of models and the development of activities and resources that keep prospects engaged. For example, if there’s a correlation between product use and renewal for a software company, the sales enablement team will figure out ways to increase customers’ usage.
- Coaching and education on messaging, pitching, how to use specific sales tools, moving prospects to the next stage, handling objections and closing the deal.
- Producing and updating a wealth of relevant, tactical, engaging and varied sales enablement resources, from pitch decks to demo videos and product collateral. Content is a powerhouse at every stage of the pipeline and sales teams can’t afford to miss the opportunity to show care and understanding for the prospect’s situation.
- The management and distribution of content, making it easy to categorize, find, understand and use. Don’t make busy reps look too hard for resources, or they’ll use the blurry whiteboard sketch photo they’ve had in their email inbox from time immemorial.
- Collaboration between sales, marketing and sometimes customer service teams to continually iterate and improve sales enablement. For example, information on customer happiness and churn is folded back into the strategy.
While the need for content is often the impetus for a sales enablement program, it is bound to be ineffective without a complete strategy. A sales enablement strategy should be a systematic, predictable way to equip your team with the know-how, best practices and resources they need to fully engage prospects at each stage of the sales process. But take note: even the best sales engagement strategies, tactics and tools in the world aren’t enough to ensure success—not without another ingredient we’ll cover later in this post.
Why is Sales Enablement Important During the Sales Process?
Sales in 2020 is a precision exercise. New marketing technology has vastly increased the number of leads entering the sales pipeline, but engagement and qualification processes haven’t kept pace. The resulting imbalance can lead to frantic sales teams, wasted time, frustration and even more friction between already fractious sales and marketing departments.
More than ever, sales teams need the right tools, training and content, to help them close deals. At every stage of the cycle, your salespeople need to be able to find, understand and present the most compelling evidence that your offer is exactly what a prospect is looking for. To do that, they need two things: To know the customer well and be armed with the right tools at the right time.
Knowing your customers has always been important, but the information overload that has come with the digital revolution makes it even more important to create meaningful engagement. The oft-repeated Rule of 7 – that a prospect needs to see your messaging seven times before they’re motivated to purchase – is now the Rule of 10 or 15. That means you need more touchpoints and even more content.
Sales enablement makes salespeople more efficient. A survey of companies found that 71 percent reported increased sales rep productivity, and 56 percent said their pipeline had grown since they adopted sales enablement practices.
The impact of sales enablement can’t be overstated. For salespeople to articulate your company’s offer with knowledge and understanding of their prospect’s needs and pain points creates a faster, more compelling, and more believable sales conversation. When B2B buyers were asked how important it was that their sales rep demonstrated knowledge of their company, some 95 percent said it was very important to their decision to buy.
Your sales teams should be selling, not poking around in byzantine folder trees to pull up five-year-old reports and lukewarm testimonials. They need relevant, compelling, stage-specific, situational information and tools at their fingertips – and they need to understand how to best use them. The typical sales organization has serious catching up to do in this regard. A few years ago, a majority of salespeople in the field couldn’t even access all the content they needed on their mobile devices.
Developing Sales Enablement Content
At the heart of sales enablement is the imperative to deliver the right content at the right moment. Leading companies, especially those in tech, are investing in dedicated sales enablement budgets that include asset management tools and training platforms. Great sales enablement content is specific, varied, engaging, and focused on user needs. Let’s look at each of those attributes in turn.
Specific: Content should speak to prospects’ use cases, industry, pain points, and the sales stage they’re in. Its purpose should be to move them from initial awareness through serious consideration to a purchase decision. At the start of the funnel, content should be engaging and exciting to spark interest and get your products on their radar. Further on, there should be content that helps answer specific questions, overcome potential objections and differentiate your offerings from competitors’. Late-stage content frequently involves pricing, implementation and other practical details. The key is matching the content to the stage and needs of the buyer. For example, a detailed implementation guide might be valued in later stages once a prospect has already sat through a light demo, but it would likely be a dead end if sent earlier in the funnel.
Varied: Each content piece should serve a purpose, address the concerns a prospect might have and move them down the funnel. Common types of sales enablement content include:
- Battle cards
- Demo scripts and slides
- Meeting request email scripts
- Analyst reports
- Industry articles
- Case studies
- Sales presentations
- Web pages
- Promotional videos
- Demo videos
- Third-party blog posts about your offer
- Leave-behinds such as brochures, data sheets and white papers.
The flow of content a prospect is exposed to should also be planned thoughtfully. For example, you wouldn’t start talking about why your offer was better than your competitor’s before the prospect was even convinced that they needed the product!
Engaging: It should go without saying, but your content should be informative, creative and up-to-date. Don’t let an out-of-date demo slide put your sales rep in the awkward position of explaining that “it doesn’t do that anymore” to a prospect.
Focused on user needs: Sure, you should be excited about your product or service, but your prospect is more interested in what it can do for them. Make certain your content is outcome-focused. For example, your web content should explain what your offer is and how it can solve problems and deliver ROI, rather than focusing on how clever or new it is.
Jumpstarting Content Development
If the long list of content types above made you gulp, don’t worry. Here are three quick wins to ramp up your sales enablement content fast:
- Conduct a content audit. Find out what you already and what’s already working for your sales team. Make the most out of what you have, and update, improve and repurpose it as needed.
- Identify the gaps in your content spread. Develop low-lift and high-impact items like case studies and blog posts. Find third-party materials with relevant proof points that you can reference in your content to lend credibility.
- Develop email nurture campaigns. Engage prospects and leverage the sales enablement content you do have.
- Prioritize building new content for your most valuable prospects and buyer personas.
What is a Sales Enablement Strategy?
A successful sales enablement strategy has several clear goals. Your sales team should be able to identify and qualify the best leads. They should immediately have access to the information, resources and guidance they need to confidently engage prospects. The ultimate objective is empowering sales reps to maximize win rates and deal sizes.
In sales, we talk about customers like they are our own but in reality, our targets are also in the crosshairs of our competitors. Prospects are savvy. They’re more than willing to seek out information from peers and sources they trust. So a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. You can’t give salespeople a menu of generic content and wish them luck – they need training, support, and tools that help them identify which resources to leverage at what stage of the cycle. Sales enablement teams use best practices and experience to coach reps to more successful messaging and pitching.
Sales operations have some ground to make up. According to a Forrester survey of 253 global technology leaders, a majority says most of the content they receive from B2B salespeople is useless. More than 60 percent said they received too much material to sort through.
Sales is a precision exercise. It’s too important to leave anything to chance.
How Can Sales Enablement Tools Help?
Having access to the right tools can mean the difference between an inefficient, frustrated sales team choked with dud leads, and a machine-like operation that is engaging prospects and closing deals. There are a plethora of sales enablement tools but they will generally fall into one of the following categories.
Content management tools
Work at three sales organizations and you’ll find four different ways to store sales enablement content. Reps in 16 percent of companies report having to look in 10 or more places to find the content they need just to do their jobs. Ideally, sales reps should be able to search by type of content, industry, and product and find updated information that they can use instantly. That’s why they need content management tools with categorization and tagging capabilities and a user-friendly interface. For example, they might need a testimonial about a certain product from a customer in manufacturing with five minutes to spare ahead of a prospect call.
Pitch development tools
These are video training platfrms that help sales reps develop their pitches, walkthroughs, and other engagements. Sometimes these are as simple as recording video walkthroughs for the sales enablement team to watch and give feedback.
Sales engagement tools are proliferating almost as quickly as marketing ones – and they’re starting to blend together. Engagement tools can help with workflow and time-sucking tasks like email – especially when automated.
Sales intelligence tools
Especially valuable in B2B sales teams, these tools work by mining company and industry data to provide detailed insights on specific prospects, trends and opportunities.
Account management tools
The keystone of account management tools is the CRM, but many sales organizations are also leveraging other tools and extensions that help sales reps figure out important things like who the decision-makers are at prospect companies.
Team management tools
And finally, there are tools that help sales team managers keep track of their reps’ performance against goals.
Next-Generation Sales Enablement
So far, so good. But there’s still something missing, as we alluded to in the introduction above. Salespeople are swamped. Sometimes it’s hard to know which prospects to target. Once you have a pile of leads and the content and tools to convert them, how do you pinpoint your best ones? Do you go for the one that has opened all your emails and risk them being a time-waster, or do you prioritize the one that works for a company where you’ve had some success? It can create a frenzy of activity on dud leads, and meanwhile, you may be missing richer opportunities.
Marketing technology can generate open up the pipeline. Sales and marketing teams can deploy great tools and build great content to engage prospects. But there remains a gap. Sales teams need a tool to focus reps’ time on the most likely prospects and see at a glance which targets to pursue. So that’s what Infer has built.
How Does Infer Fit into Your Sales Enablement Strategy?
Traditional sales enablement won’t work when you can’t tell junk leads from gems. Even with outstanding content in the hands of your sales reps, bad leads will still waste time you don’t have and take the wind out of your sails.
You need predictive lead scoring, which is what Infer does. Our software analyzes data from your CRM, your marketing automation system, and Infer’s own massive database of company information to figure out which of your prospects is most likely to buy. Using machine learning, it creates a model that accurately predicts future buying behavior and scores your leads in a way that tells you exactly who to target at what stage. Using signals from your own technology stack, it provides you with SQLs that really are qualified – deals you’re likely to close quickly. Prospects are assigned exact behavior scores and fit scores, served up to your sales team directly in your CRM. They can see at a glance which prospects to go after aggressively, which to nurture more and which to ignore.
How do we know it works? It’s statistically proven. Infer tests its predictions against actual won/lost data collected in your CRM and ensures that the models match the reality. As new won/lost data comes in, it continues to adjust the models to keep them on target.
The result is better pipeline visibility and a crystal-clear roadmap that shows sales teams who to go after, in what order, and when. Your reps stop wasting their limited hours on dead ends and long shots. They can spend their time working on leads that are ready to buy and a good match for what you’re selling.
Infer turns a crapshoot into an effective, predictable and lucrative process. You get a sales team that is more efficient and able to time outreach better. They can better identify cross-selling and upselling opportunities, too. It’s also likely to make them happier, as they meet their targets and hit quota more dependably.
Sales is a tough job. To thrive, sales reps need access to the best information possible in a usable format. The combination of sales enablement practices and Infer’s predictive lead scoring can supercharge your funnel and empower your reps to do what they most want to do: close deals.
See how Infer can help your salespeople cut to the chase and start closing. We’ll show you how. Get a demo today.
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