Every seasoned sales pro has stories from their early days in the game. First day on the job. Sitting in a cold office with fluorescent lights buzzing overhead. A Yellow Pages phone book dropped on their desk. And direct orders to get dialing.
That was before sales enablement.
But we got by with the tools we had. And to think how far sales has come in just a few decades completely blows my mind. At this point, we’re deep in the digital revolution. And the tools of the trade are so advanced that SDRs today can pack away 1,000 dials in a single shift and feel good about it.
Now that’s sales enablement.
But sales enablement is more than just giving your reps the right technology. Tech is just one piece of the sales pie. There are other ways you can (and must!) enable your sales people. Not just to increase sales numbers and boost the bottom line. While that’s important, it’s equally important that you keep your team happy and retain top talent.
But where do you even start?
Today I’m sharing the 5 pillars of sales enablement. But before we go further, it’s important that we define what sales enablement actually is.
What is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is everything that goes into providing your sales team with the things they need to succeed. This includes everything from resources, to tools and training, and even the information and intel they need to minimize friction and make more sales.
So with that, let’s jump right into the 5 pillars of sales enablement.
1. Training and Coaching
You can’t throw your reps to the wolves. Instead, put them through proper training and ensure ongoing coaching is available and encouraged. And you don’t just train salespeople on your products/services. You have to also train them on sales strategies and tactics. This includes things like framing the deal, countering objections, tonality, listening skills, and the list goes on.
Training and coaching also includes motivation. Any sales leader worth their salt has the ability to motivate their team, in good times and in bad. I’ve found that the top 10% of salespeople are intrinsically motivated (they have it in them to succeed). But for the other 90%, you have to light the fire month after month, quarter after quarter, to keep them locked in and performing. Don’t see this as a burden. Instead, see it as an opportunity.
2. Sales Process Optimization
Is your sales process efficient? Is it effective? Are there any holes in the boat? A massive part of sales enablement that is often overlooked is sales process optimization. If your sales process is broken, your people can’t succeed. You have to fix it! Thankfully, diagnosing a sales funnel is fairly straightforward. Look at every metric in the process to find where prospects aren’t converting.
To do this, think of yourself as a plumber inspecting a pipe that snakes through a home. Look at every joint and coupling. So… maybe you SDRs are having conversations (check), they are booking meetings (check), most meetings convert to demos (check), but you find that only 10% of demos convert to customers (when the industry average is 30-50%!). Nice work, you found the hole in the boat (easy, right?). Now you can fix it by ensuring your team is enabled with the right knowledge, tools, and skills to close deals.
From there, you should continue testing and optimizing different points in your sales process to make it even better. Because if it’s not improving, it’s slowly eroding. There’s no such thing as a sales process that’s perfectly suspended in time. And the better your sales process becomes, the more enabled your salespeople are to crush their numbers. This is no oversimplification — you’d be amazed how many sales leaders neglect to improve their sales process.
3. Sales Collateral
Speaking of knowledge, tools, and skills… we can’t have a conversation about sales enablement without discussing sales collateral. And no — I’m not referring to those tri-fold brochures from the 90’s. I’m talking about hard-hitting whitepapers, case studies, and other sales materials that showcase how well your product or service can solve a specific problem.
Sometimes all it takes to close a deal is to show how you’ve been able to help a similar company increase revenue by 50%, or reduce employee churn by 20%, or break into new markets in a profitable way. You need to have all of this sales collateral locked and loaded for your salespeople to succeed.
4. Marketing & Sales Team Alignment
Marketing/sales alignment is another waypoint on the route to enablement. If these teams exist in silos, it’s time to demolish that old way of doing business. Why? For starters, Wheelhouse Advisors found that companies who get this alignment right generate upwards of 200% or more revenue than companies who keep sales and marketing separate. This is reason enough to get these two departments on the same page and share resources, insights, and even certain goals.
One simple way to align with your marketing department is to have your salespeople read your company blog. Simple but effective. This will help to equip your salespeople with the information needed so that when your prospects or customers mention an article they read, they can speak intelligibly about it, use it to galvanize trust, and maybe even use it as leverage in negotiations.
Likewise, marketing teams don’t ever speak to customers, but salespeople do! So what happens on the frontlines of sales needs to be communicated to the marketing team so that marketing can better align messaging to resonate with their audience. See how the cross-pollination makes for a well-rounded and healthy company? This is enablement.
5. The Right Technology
Of course, the right technology is another key component in the sales enablement process. But notice how I said the “right” technology. Just throwing any technology at a problem won’t necessarily help — and in fact it can make a problem worse. What you need to do is seek out the right technology and training. Think CRMs, prospecting tools, auto-dialers, etc. Do your homework to find the best tech stack for your sales team, even if this means sitting through demo after demo of different products.
I always recommend choosing tools that are intuitive and enjoyable to use. This will help with product adoption and frequency of use. After all, there’s no sense in having the best tech if your team isn’t using it! Also, don’t go overboard with tools and tech. While you can find some amazing AI-powered sales tools, just bring on the ones that will have the greatest impact over the longest timeline. And bring them on one at a time. Otherwise, you risk steep learning curves and tech burnout.
We can boil sales enablement down to a few simple words: “Preparing your salespeople to succeed.”
Sure, there’s a whole lot of on-the-job (OTJ) training that happens in any sales department. Your reps must be able to learn as they go, remaining flexible and “building the plane as they’re flying it,” so to speak. There’s no way around that. However, you also need to build in a good amount of intentional sales enablement to get your team to peak performance (and to keep your employees from leaving). This is probably the lowest-hanging fruit in all of sales… so there’s no excuse not to enable your team to maximize their potential and bring in more sales.
Until next time…