Sales Enablement Best Practices

Sales enablement is a powerful tool to increase sales. It helps sales teams deliver the right message at the right time to prospects. When sales people are on message, they convert leads and close opportunities faster. Use our sales enablement resources and best practices to build your own sales enablement plan. Want more details and to hear how leading companies get their sales enablement strategy in place? Contact us and we’d be happy to help.

Sales Enablement Videos

Sales Enablement Best Practices Overview

An effective sales enablement strategy has a major revenue impact. Watch this video to understand how sales enablement tools can help, and what to look for when evaluating a sales enablement strategy.

Salesforce.com Interview: Value Summary

Watch this interview by Salesforce.com MVP Becka Dente. She speaks with KnowledgeTree about how sales enablement with content pushes best practices across sales teams.

Sales Enablement Overview Demonstration

KnowledgeTree was built to help sales teams sell more. How? By giving them the sales tools and content they need to close deals faster. Watch this demonstration video to see how KnowledgeTree helps.

Avoid the Sales Portal Zone!

The classic sales operations approach to distributing sales content to the field? Using a portal. But is your sales portal loved, or does it need some help? Watch this light-hearted video to see how you can help your sales team avoid the Sales Portal Zone!

Discover Sales Enablement Content

30% of the average sales person’s day is spent looking for or creating content. Radically cut time wasted by pushing relevant content right to sales people — right in Salesforce.com.

Recommend Relevant Messages and Content

70% of sales enablement content never gets used by sales people. Why? They can’t find relevant material. Instead, take a smart approach by recommending relevant content when sales needs it most.

Predict What Content is Relevant for Sales

It’s not enough to hope that sales uses relevant content in a sales situation. See how our recommendation engine surfaces the most relevant content based on sales situations to push targeted content to sales.

Add Sales Enablement Content

Content and messaging is stored in a variety of locations. Make it easy for sales people to use it by centralizing content from your website, file sharing tools, wiki, and other locations.

Organize Content for Easy Access

Content that is found is used. So make it easy for sales teams to find your materials. Organize content by matching it with sales situations. See how KnowledgeTree makes that easy.

Present the “PerfectPitch®

Presentations are a key part of every sales person’s toolkit. Automatically generate presentations geared exactly to each individual prospect. No more hunting for slides or non-standard decks. Sales gets the “PerfectPitch®” every time.

Email Templates to Stay “OnMessage”

Emails are a critical way for sales people to communicate. Make it easy to position your content in the best light. Standardize best practice emails for your entire sales team with our OnMessage technology.

Why Sales Enablement Matters: An Explainer

Why should you care about sales enablement? It helps to radically increase the results of your sales teams. Watch this fun explainer video to see why it makes sense for sales leadership and sales operations to take their sales enablement program to the next level.

QuickPlays™ Deliver Sales Guidance Fast

Sales people are more efficient when they have sales training and guidance material on hand. See how QuickPlays™ surfaces the right training videos, scripts, and sales support materials at the right time in Salesforce.com.

Sales Enablement eBooks

Your 2015 Sales Enablement Plan eBook

Start Your Plan
As sales and marketing leaders, it’s our constant quest: to increase sales. So what’s the fastest path to get more into your top line?
How would your revenue change if every sales person hit quota? If your “C” and “B” sales people performed like your “A” players,
You’d be rocketing to a record quarter.
No wonder that sales and marketing experts –from Sales Benchmark Index to Heinz Marketing –have stressed that sales enablement has to be a priority for 2015.
Now, how do you get your plan in place?
Let’s Go!
Sell more!
© 2014 KnowledgeTree Inc.
Let’s define sales enablement. Forrester interviewed hundreds of practitioners, distilling their thoughts into:
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.
SiriusDecisionssurveyed sales enablement teams to discover what they actually do with their time. The top responses were:
-Provide guidelines for using sales assets (78%)
-Share enablement best practices (73%)
-Build sales assets (71%)
-Develop product training (68%)
IDC summarizes it differently, but in parallel:
“[Sales enablement is about] getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place and in the right format to move a sales opportunity forward.”
Let’s distill this into a simple definition, Sales Enablement is a process that aims to:
Create and share best practices that help client-facing teams to sell more.
Sales Enablement
Noun: Create and share best practices that help client-facing teams to sell more.
© 2014 KnowledgeTree Inc.
Analysis: Look Back at What Drove Sales
The Team: Get the Right Resources Involved
Goals: Define Your Sales Enablement Goals
Best Practices: What Can Be Improved?
Sharing: How to Encourage Adoption Across the Team
Measuring: Understand Where to Re-Invest

Let’s take that definition as our starting point. We’ll go through 6 steps to build out our plan:

Aberdeen’s Peter Ostrow conducted extensive research on what makes effective sales organizations tick. A major finding was that sales teams that implement best practices have almost 90% quota attainment –double organizations that neglect best practices.
Uncovering Sales Enablement Best Practices
Knowing what worked well lets you uncover these best practices. Start by grouping your top sales teams on attributes that matter to your organization. For instance:
1.Total sales generated.
2.Percentage of quota attainment.
3.Average time to close deal by product.
What Drove Sales?

Sales enablement is the fast path to help your sales team hit their targets this year. Read how to prepare and execute on your sales enablement plan with this helpful eBook. You can download it here.

Help Sales Discover Your Sales Tools eBook

You have a wealth of sales enablement content. So why isn’t your sales team using it? Read how you can help your sales team to discover, use, and share your great sales enablement content. You can download this eBook here.

Sales Enablement Best Practices: A Summary

Sales enablement is a hot topic for sales and marketing teams. And no wonder. Small boosts to the effectiveness of your sales process can have immense impacts. Think of changing the conversion rate of opportunities from 25% to 30%. That small improvement can massively change your monthly growth rates.

Sales enablement drives that improvement. Especially today where fast-growing companies bring on huge numbers of inside and outside sales reps. Many of whom are experienced, while others are just learning the ropes about sales.

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What is Sales Enablement?

Sirius Decisions, the leading sales and marketing research firm, has written extensively on the topic. One of their major findings is that sales enablement continues to evolve and will differ across companies. But a survey they conducted revealed a few key commonalities:

78% of sales enablement teams provide guidelines for how to use sales assets (e.g. collateral like video, presentations, and papers)

73% of sales enablement teams share best practices for sales techniques and tactics

71% are responsible for creating sales assets that are used in the sales process (e.g. call scripts, demo materials, and classic collateral)

Further, Sirius Decisions cites the importance of sales onboarding to the sales enablement process. This is especially important given the rapid growth of many inside sales teams and the need for repeatable results.  They also cite the importance of measuring the impact of sales enablement. That leads to a move from just consumption metrics, like number of times a datasheet was downloaded, to more concrete measures like how is sales enablement influencing actual sales results.

Nearly half of all Sales Enablement organizations report into Sales Leadership.

Who Owns the Sales Enablement Function?

Sirius Decisions survey also found that just under half of sales enablement functions report into sales, with a third into marketing, and the remainder reporting into a cross-functional set of teams.

It’s no surprise that sales plays such a leading role. But it is revealing that marketing and shared ownership are half of all responses. After all, there is an increased recognition that ‘Lead to Revenue’ is so much more than just a sales function. It is a measurable set of results that begins with marketing.

Those measurable results don’t have to be simply “more sales”. They can be measurable improvements throughout the sales process. More meetings for sales development reps. More opportunities created for inside sales teams. And more upsells for account development teams.

Where Did We Get to with Defining Sales Enablement?

We can say that sales enablement is a measurable set of activities that equip sales teams with tools, techniques, and insights that increase sales results.

Sirius Decisions survey also found that just under half of sales enablement functions report into sales.

The Sales Enablement Challenge for Marketing and Sales

Modern sales leaders and marketers have turned traditional marketing and sales enablement techniques from art to science. They’ve done it by rigorous testing, repeatability, and iteration to items like testing messages. For instance testing marketing content in the top of the funnel to determine what resonates with prospects. Campaigns driven by email or social, for example, can be tightly focused on particular messages. The results can then be measured, and marketing messages tuned.

But when prospects move from ‘lead’ stage to ‘opportunity’ stage. That is, after the formal hand-off from marketing to sales, there’s a visibility and control cliff. Marketing no longer has control over the messages that are being sent to prospects. And although there continue to be outreaches from marketing in the bottom of the funnel, the primary message carrier is the sales team.

At the same time that marketing loses control over the primary messages that are delivered in the sales process is the moment when messaging takes on new levels of importance. Each communication to prospects in the opportunity stage has to resonate. Otherwise there’s a heightened risk of buyers deciding that the solution is not the right one.

That’s where sales enablement becomes an imperative for marketers. It’s not enough to simply produce content and sales sheets and hope for the best. Rather, you need an ongoing sales enablement plan to ensure that your sales team is equipped with the best resources and messages to communicate the value of your offers.

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What is a Sales Enablement Plan?

Now that we’ve identified how important it is to have an effective sales enablement function, let’s take a look at the key elements of an effective sales enablement plan. Marketing, product marketing, sales leadership, and often a dedicated sales enablement team will often work together to train and equip sales teams. Here’s a good set of categories that you’ll want to focus on.

What is Your Sales Enablement Goal?

Sales enablement is too important to not be measured. When even the smallest improvements throughout the funnel can drive major results on the top line, you need to measure aggressively. That means tracking how sales enablement programs influence conversion rates along the entire lead to revenue process.

By tying sales enablement programs to measurable sales results you can ensure that sufficient attention and budget are devoted to these programs. Select metrics that have clear connections to revenue — lead conversion, opportunity creation, deals closed, etc. And then look at how your programs influence these metrics.

An effective measure tied to the top line is also a great way to get buy-in from senior levels in your organization. And executive sponsorship of your sales enablement program is imperative for getting adoption by sales teams and sustaining your efforts.

It may not be easy without appropriate tooling to measure the connection of sales enablement programs and deals won, but the more you are able to connect the two the more you’ll be able to justify and improve your sales enablement activities.

By tying sales enablement programs to measurable sales results you can ensure that sufficient attention and budget are devoted to these programs.

Sales Enablement Begins at the Top: Lead Generation

It’s often the first sales enablement action that comes to mind. Get better leads and more sales will happen. But the Glengarry Glen Ross equation doesn’t hold up well, as we’ll see shortly. Sales enablement has more to do with conversion rates between stages. If you have a massive volume of top of funnel leads with poor conversions in the middle and bottom of the funnel, you are wasting resources and not getting sales results.

But we’ll get there. In the meantime, sales enablement absolutely requires that demand generation teams in marketing deliver high quality leads. Modern marketers know that means more than a list of names. It means leads that have raised their hands through their actions as candidates for a discussion.

Filtering out noisy leads can be a massive productivity boost for your sales organization. So closely monitor the conversion rates at the top of the funnel from Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales Qualified Leads to understand whether you’re passing over leads before they’re ready. Use your marketing automation platform to its fullest to nurture and qualify leads before putting them in sales’ hands.

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Sales Enablement Unlocked with Marketing Insights into Buyers

It’s not enough to have just the contact information of your prospect. Today’s harried buyers filter out pitches that have no relevance for them. That means sales people need to understand the motivations and backgrounds of prospects before giving them a call. So, making great information about your buyers accessible to sales people is a powerful sales enablement tool.

To do so, think of insights in terms of two levels of information and then in two types of information. That is, sales teams need to understand prospects at a buyer level and a company level. And they need to understand the demographics of the buyer and company as well as the actions of the buyer and company. Let’s take a look.

Marketers spend a lot of effort to understand target customers and buyer personae. That is, what are the characteristics of a likely buyer? These could be elements like Company Size, Revenue, Geography, Technology Portfolio, etc. at the company level. And it could be Title, tenure, geography, skill set, or other attributes at a buyer level.

Luckily there are great tools that can help support this sales enablement technique. Applications like Hoovers and others collect great data on companies. But LinkedIn also collects deep insights into company demographics. Not only what’s listed in individual company records, but quick searches also tell you, for example, how many IT people work at a given company.

Behavioral data is the other element of understanding your buyers. This includes data collected from your marketing automation tool. For instance, the kind of sales content that your prospects viewed will give you intelligence about what messages resonate with them. Also, social media tools are a critical component. Tools like Collabo will track when individual prospects are tweeting or sharing about your favorite marketing topics. That kind of insight lets sales people reach out in a timely and focused way.

At a company level there are tools like InsideView and others that aggregate news like new funding or major product announcements from prospects. That also gives sellers a compelling reason to call and a nice opener for a conversation.  Armed with insight into your buyers, your sales team can more effectively message to them with content and other messaging that truly resonates.

Todays harried buyers filter out sales messages. How do you make sure yours gets through to buyers?

Top of Mind Awareness Supports the Sales Process

Prospects will often go quiet on you. They may be off researching and evaluating alternatives. Or, they may just be on to more pressing concerns. But sales enablement also means helping your prospects to move smoothly through the funnel.

Marketing automation tools are helpful here in the middle of the funnel. They send nurture programs that help reactivate and engage prospects so they stay aware and thinking about your solution.

The same should be said from the sales person’s perspective too. Sales people also need to be sending personalized, 1:1 communications that keep prospects engaged. But they can’t simply be “just checking in” type emails. They need to be adding value to your prospects. Which brings us to…

Building Relationships with Marketing Content is Sales Enablement Gold

For business to business sales people there is often an extended period of relationship building where a sales person will work closely with a prospect. During this period sales people often need to reinforce their position as a trusted advisor that can provide insights that support the decision process.

A powerful way to do this is with marketing or sales content that is targeted to speak to your prospects. Going back to the identification of the right markets and personae, content should be constructed to speak to your buyers’ needs. So, sales content like a case study can’t be a generic one. Collateral should be as closely matched to the industry, situation, role, etc. of your prospect as possible.

When prospects are given useful, informative, funny, engaging, and other marketing content they value your sales people. And considering that Forrester estimates that nearly two thirds of sales people aren’t considered to be value add by their buyers, providing relationship building materials gives your sales teams a distinct advantage.

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Guide Sales on how to Message Effectively

This relates to the above relationship building, but separately this is about surfacing relevant messaging that supports sales conversations. This could be demo scripts, competitive information, and call scripts, for example.

Many of these content pieces will be buried in a sales learning management tool or an internal wiki. But when content is placed in these locations it is extremely difficult for a sales person — often with a customer on the phone asking questions — to respond in a timely fashion. Sales people need to have access to relevant content in the heat of the moment.

Observe Your Sales Process

Sales enablement is not a one way program. Sales team members have much to teach marketing and sales enablement pros. A common failure among sales enablement practitoners is to assume that they know the market and prospects so well that they know exactly what messages and sales tools will resonate.  They must engage with the market and prospects to learn what messages are working. They need to apply the same rigor they do at the top of the funnel when they measure the effectiveness of email and social programs to the bottom of the funnel. So that winning content gets used and reused.

At the same time, sales enablement pros can understand from a process perspective how sales people are using their materials. Are they using content from their desktop? Are they sending particular kinds of follow-up materials? Sales is a primary ‘market’ for marketing. So, you must understand your customer — no matter if they are an internal customer.

Sales people need to have access to relevant content in the heat of the moment.

Product Training is the Sales Effectiveness Gift that Keeps On Giving

Often the first thoughts on sales enablement go to product training. Your sales teams, including sales engineers, SDRs, field, and inside reps need to understand your product, key value propositions, and messaging. But training is only the start.

You’ve likely sat through enough training sessions to know that very little information can be retained. When in a time-constrained situation, your reps need fast access to the information that didn’t stick with them. Make sure that this information is easily available to reps. The most effective way we recommend is to have content simply match the sales situation they are in. So, if a sales rep is in their CRM and looking at an opportunity for Product A, they should first see training materials that are relevant to Product A.

Training on Selling

Your buyers are always changing, so it is important that sales people’s skills stay current. There are many in-person and online sales experts that can guide your team and help build out process. Remember that process is only as good as the team’s adherence to it and the ability of the process to adapt to your reality.

So, look for processes that recognize your own unique sales process. And look for tooling that helps automate and guide sales reps through the process. The last thing any sales team wants — no matter how committed they are to process — is to have a sales process straitjacket.

Investigate sales enablement tooling that supports the sales process. This could be by matching relevant sales tips in a difficult sales scenario. Or, interesting sales training materials that support a particular sales scenario. Or, matching interesting content to a prospect to unblock a slowed sales cycle. Or, perhaps matching a relevant internal sales resource that can provide timely guidance to a deal.

Timely access to sales training materials is what makes it ‘stick’. Not pop quizzes or intense sales training sessions. Look to support how your sales team actually works by pushing relevant helpful insights to them as they work.

Crowdsource Sales Enablement Tools

There are a wealth of other sales enablement solutions in the market that can support your initiative. Which ones should you use? You should look into your sales process to understand where choke points exist.

Perhaps the team sends large numbers of emails each day. Are they able to track which prospects are engaging with their emails so they know who to contact first? That might be a cue to look into email prospecting tools like Signals from Hubspot.

Perhaps the team can’t find the relevant contacts within their prospect company or lacks an efficient way to get those prospects into their CRM. Look at tools like Salesloft that can help teams to find and add prospects directly from LinkedIn.

With so many tools out there you’re bound to miss some. Even with lists as comprehensive as this one on ChiefMarTec. Instead, solicit input from your sales team and you’ll get interesting sales enablement tools that actually fit defined needs among your sales professionals.

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Communicate Your Sales Enablement Plan

Even when sales is leading the sales enablement initiative in your organization, sales enablement remains a cross-functional activity. So, it is important that you communicate the goals, tactics, and measurements of your plan. A clear charter helps other teams contribute and avoids duplication of effort.

Now you’re ready to build your sales enablement plan. A more effective and cohesive lead to revenue cycle awaits!

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