In the B2B landscape, customers typically research, evaluate and consider information about a brand, product or service independently, often long before talking to a salesperson.
Now, Industry 5.0 is poised to change everything again. With a growing demand for customised products and pressure to get products to market faster, all while staying one step ahead of the competition, the need for agility is essential.
With better-informed customers and prospective buyers come heightened expectations on sales teams. Buyers are looking for added value and relevant insights – not to be sold to.
Imagine if a salesperson was alerted that a contact was engaged, perhaps 50% of the way along a buying process and ready to talk. And they could see what the contact had previously read or watched. Now imagine that these insights gave the salesperson the means to pick up the lead and focus on value-add and the reassurances required to move the deal to close. This is sales enablement.
This report is for sales team leaders, marketing managers and CEOs planning strategies and looking for practical ways to address how they hit revenue and growth targets.
Whilst each company and sales process will be unique; sales teams still need support and tools to help them prioritise qualified leads and close deals reliably.
Marketing teams need feedback to fine-tune communication, ensuring they are customer-centric and support the customer journey. CEOs require departments to work together, realise efficiencies, and secure revenue and growth targets at scale throughout the business cycle.
Without a customer-centric approach, sales teams will remain hampered. Growth targets could be missed. Effectively, sales teams will be operating with one hand tied behind their back.
What is sales enablement?
Sales enablement is about giving sales teams relevant content, training, and tools so that they can focus on the most appropriate leads and be in a better position to reliably close deals.
- Addressing and refining your sales process.
- Providing compelling and effective sales support.
- Equipping sales teams with the tools to add value and insights that prospect finds useful.
- Quickly establishing trust and authority.
- Harnessing your CRM to focus on the middle and bottom of the funnel.
- Reducing the time between first ‘touch’ and sale.
- Facilitating a smoother selling process that revolves around the customer.
Ultimately, sales enablement is a conscious business strategy decision for companies intent on pursuing growth and aligning sales, marketing, and all communication towards ideal customer buying journeys. Well executed, this then makes the difference with loyal customers and prospective buyers who purchase and increase their share of spend with you over time.
Why implement a sales enablement strategy?
Sales enablement is critical to the success of organisations today.
It is used by businesses of all sizes and industries, from start-ups aggressively pursuing funding milestones to SMEs and enterprise companies working across multiple markets.
The common objective is to align sales and marketing teams to maximise opportunities for achieving growth and revenue targets. How and when businesses use sales enablement depends on their level of sales maturity, management style, and existing sales team success.
What stage is your company at?
Level of sales maturity
|Level||Approach to sales||Support for sales team|
|Informal||Still largely outbound and focused on cold, new customer acquisition. Relatively little organised planning. The sales team is tasked with finding leads and closing deals independently with little coordinated support.||Minimal support mechanism. Some basic templates. Sales success largely owing to the determination and persistence of sales representatives.|
|Reactive||Focus is scattergun and not tightly coordinated. The sales process is not well defined or reliably executed. Sales teams are chasing prospects they see in front of them.||Sales representative time is not optimised on selling, up-selling, cross-selling and onboarding. Higher than ideal turnover of customers. Pressure on conversion rates. Some churn.|
|Managed||Content is organised, up-to-date and centred on ideal customer profiles. Outreach attracts good-fit customers and prospects and supports their ‘self-service’ research taking them along their customer journey before they speak to a sales representative.||The sales team are trained, on-message, aware of and use the customer journey intelligence they have access to, to position and prioritise qualified leads and focus on closing opportunities reliably.|
|Data-driven||The sales process, CRM and workflows are aligned and continually improved with refinements to communication, lead scoring and training.||Sales representatives almost certainly use a sales dashboard to measure attainment and deal conversion and exceed expectations most quarters.|
|Optimal||The sales process, CRM and workflows are aligned and intelligently automated. Spare sales team capacity is used to progress new markets and channels.||Industry-leading KPIs achieved. CEO and sales team leader targets are met. The sales staff are happy and not tempted elsewhere.|
Seven common triggers that create demand for sales enablement:
- Sales performance - the business is missing important growth and revenue targets
- Poor data - the CRM is in a mess
- Low conversion rates – content and analytics are OK, but more leads need converting
- Missed opportunities – there is a gap between marketing and sales team actions
- Crossroads - the arrival of a new CEO, Sales Director or Marketing Head
- Securing a competitive advantage is now seen as essential
- Logical next step - inbound marketing already in play and enablement a natural evolution
Organisations use enablement techniques to enhance sales team productivity and focus on revenue and growing realisation in desperately uncertain and difficult times.
65% of sales leaders whose teams were outperforming revenue targets this year have a dedicated sales enablement strategy.
Source: Oct 2020 HubSpot Research Global Sales Enablement Survey.
How to build a sales enablement process
Sales enablement is usually owned by a project leader. Typically, it is executed by the marketing team, in collaboration with the sales team.
Remember, the objective is to focus on qualified leads, with the right response, at the right time, tailored to the ideal customer’s needs and their buying journey. You therefore need to consider pillars that underpin your sales enablement process and not just scripts and deal closing aides.
4 pillars underpin optimised sales performance:
- Content Management and Storytelling - Focus on the customer experience
- Analytics - Leverage the CRM & lead scoring
- Training and onboarding of all sales representatives - Keep personas and ideal customer profiles front and centre
- Pitching, scripts, proposal templates & support material - Consider all stages of the customer journey and execute better than your peers
You should begin by identifying which level of sales maturity you are currently at. Is this recognised internally and is there agreement as to where you want to get to?
Some questions to ask and actions to accompany them
- Are your personas accurate, up to date and being used continuously by content writers, marketing teams and sales representatives?
Review, refine, remind teams
- Does the sales process need refining?
- Are your external-facing communications (website, landing pages etc) truly structured and written for customers or do they still focus on your products and services?
Refresh and make fit for purpose
- Is the customer journey well defined and does all content and storytelling align to it?
Create conversion events for all stages of the buyer journey
- Is your content, email templates, phone scripts, messages & sales support organised & optimised for your personas?
Carry out a holistic review
- Are all sales representatives onboard with sales enablement and what is expected?
Write and launch a playbook
- Is all sales support material centrally available, up to date and fit-for-purpose?
Create a repository
- Is the entire sales team using the tools or are some people not towing the line?
Arrange training and an internal SLA
- Does the sales team have assets to support later stage conversations or are they manually creating them for every prospect?
Ask the marketing team to co-create
- Is the same content directed at very different audiences and markets?
Segment and personalise
- Are calls-to-action and conversion opportunities prominent and working?
Review the data
- Are you using lead scoring effectively?
Carry out a top-down review
- Is the sales admin team registering and processing leads correctly?
These tips will help you start the process of how best to plan, build and execute a sales enablement process tailored to your business
Content management and storytelling:
- Position your business as a problem solver
- Keep the focus entirely customer-centric (it’s not about you up front)
- Cater for the whole customer buying journey
- Tell your story succinctly, with empathy, and better than your rivals
- Organise your CRM by company and contact level
- Add personas, sectors, interests, and notes
- Use lead scoring to help track and qualify leads
Training and onboarding:
- Convey how modern, automated sales tools empower sales representatives
- Use a professional CMS (eg HubSpot) which links marketing, sales, service seamlessly
- Maintain separate marketing and sales dashboards
- Share and celebrate success as a team (not just at individual level)
- Keep it simple and use empathy
- Don’t forget the quality and content of the proposal document itself
- Involve the sales team in story and content management production
- Ensure team members learn all materials and do not just draw from their direct personal knowledge
How sales enablement helps marketing teams
Sales enablement helps marketing teams keep focused on the most important aspects of your business offer that resonate with the customers who buy from you.
It can be beneficial for marketing and marketing output in the following ways;
- Closing the loop between marketing and sales functions
- Supports better understanding of the entire sales process
- Provides opportunities to improve the presentation of your propositions
- Enables both marketing and sales teams to progressively learn from each other
- Greater transparency of marketing effectiveness and related expenditure
- Gives Sales a narrative they can relate to and develop
- Supports up-sell, cross-sell and the maintenance and extension of customer relationships
- Effective sales enablement is a marathon and not a sprint
- Marketing and sales teams need to collaborate (be in it together)
- No sale would exist without the sales representative closing a deal, but marketing support extends well beyond generating leads and handing them over for a sales representative to progress. Good sales enablement requires marketing and sales teams to work together through lead qualification stages through to close.
How sales enablement helps sales teams
Sales enablement helps sales teams in several ways and beyond simply creating compelling support material.
Today, technology exists to reliably evaluate and roll-out new tools and improve sales representative training, coaching, workflows, and team productivity.
More than just saving time, sales team leaders and managers can now intuitively analyse data:
- Call recordings
- Email conversion rates
- Identify gaps in knowledge
- Support professional development
- Make routine customer check-ins more valuable
Sales representatives can benefit from a structured sales process framework within which they can organise themselves, as well as regular check-ins, call shadowing, and email reviews.
Most popular support material outputs:
*Educational blog posts (reassurance)
(Table data source: HubSpot Research Global Sales Enablement Survey, October 2020)
What hasn’t changed is the importance of the relationship between a sales representative and the customer or prospect. It has to be strong, healthy and empathetic. The buyer needs to view your sales representative as the trusted guide on a subject matter.
Today, sales organisations require representatives to sell remotely. It follows that the foundation sales model will be different. Research suggests that sales teams committing to remote, digitally enhanced sales models, can more reliably help businesses grow.
Sales enablement provides sales teams with the tools to be a reference point for the buyer, as well as the means to solve an immediate problem or issue. Teams using a CRM to automate tasks such as meeting scheduling, content delivery, estimate generation, regular ‘light touch’ messaging / gentle reminders, and meeting follow-ups, for example, are more efficient and no-longer approach such day to day activities manually or unsystematically.
Customer-centric selling, flywheels, & the sales cycle
In 2020, Forrester and HubSpot’s Brian Halligan both predicted that:
- Organisations will shift towards audience-based structures
- Sales enablement will become mainstream for marketing-led growth
- More transactions will close based on digital journey experiences long before a salesperson ever talks to a prospect or existing customer
Leads still go through familiar deal stages - awareness, consideration, and decision - but the role of marketing and sales teams has fundamentally changed. In the old days, marketing was about generating a lead that a sales team member reviewed and then classified as an opportunity if they wanted to accept it. They then worked the lead into a Sales Qualified Lead. At this point, it enters a sales pipeline. A quote or proposal is generated, and the lead is won or lost.
Change number 1
With a customer-centric approach, there is no hard stop line between marketing and sales. Or between a Marketing Quality Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). This is one effect of sales enablement in action.
Change number 2
When a deal is won that is the end of the sales cycle, because the prospect is now a customer. They are an end-product / result or outcome. Ownership passes to service delivery, project management or operational teams, for example. However, modern growth strategies are based around the customer. Meaning, that a deal closing is, in fact, just the start, not the end of a sales cycle. Enter the flywheel.
The marketing flywheel puts customers at the centre. Every process is cyclical, the buyer’s journey is no-longer a funnel or linear because delighted customers can become promoters to refill the pipeline with leads.
A marketing flywheel symbolises momentum, positive and repetitive loops, and critical mass. It also represents reduced friction - marketing and sales are aligned and centred around ideal customers, relevance, value, and customer experience.
Change number 3
Effective sales enablement sees a salesperson get involved later in a deal, with time between ‘first touch’ and ‘close’ shorter. Digital journeys can be designed to do a lot of heavy lifting.
- Companies find customers
- Mostly mass, outbound marketing: ads, trade shows, emails, social
- Customers require education
- Direct sales team provides information, influences product evaluation, arranges and manages trials / demo, handles pricing, objections and closes the sale
Post-Sales Support (Customer Support)
- Sales cycle ends with purchase
- Norm is reactive support
- Customers find companies
- Inbound marketing is vital: visibility, organic search, personas, buying journeys, integrated customer lifetime relationship marketing, segmentation, personalisation and some targeted outbound dark-circle
- Customers self educate / require low touch
- Customer Helpdesks handle routine and low level enquiries
- Data-driven sales team focuses on specifying solutions and closing sales mauve-circle
Post-Sales Support (Customer Success Management)
- Customer purchase starts long-term relationship
- Marketing, Direct Sales, Helpdesk and Operations teams proactively focus on customer success (retention, X-sell, Up-sell, expansion)
The role of marketing and technology is expanding to more stages in the customer lifecycle. It’s made possible by better alignment between Marketing, Sales and Service teams and the adoption of customer-centric enablement, which can be a game-changer. However, this needs to be underpinned by a CMS built on a smart CRM (eg HubSpot).
Benefits of sales enablement
The benefits of sales enablement are many and varied depending on who the stakeholder is. Fundamentally, sales enablement is about de-risking the sales process and maximising opportunities.
Increased key account engagement
Improvement by reinvigorating underserved accounts and demonstrating focus
New customer acquisition
Up to 65% more likely to close a prospect
Accelerated pipeline velocity
Better qualified leads and sales opportunities
Higher and faster close rate
Significant increase in close rate and up to half the time between first touch and close
Larger deal size
Up-selling and focusing on enterprise customers will improve the numbers
Applying a more strategic and analytical approach facilitates cross-sell
Better customer retention
An enhanced customer experience can be leveraged through buyers, decision-makers, champions and influencers
Higher, more predictable revenue growth
Segment across Strategic Accounts, Target Accounts and Remaining Addressable Markets incorporating Account Based Marketing and Account Based Engagement
Sales enablement is about driving growth and improving sales team performance over time, de-risking major sales initiatives and the chance of missing targets.
For Sales team leaders and sales representatives:
Sales enablement provides a powerful toolkit of aides designed to increase your chance of hitting or exceeding KPIs and focus on up-selling and cross-selling at scale.
Sales enablement aligns both marketing and sales departments, improving understanding and driving better communication outcomes that are transparent, defendable, scalable and sustainable.
Not just limited to sales & marketing teams
The marketing flywheel does not distinguish between marketing, sales and other internal teams. It is based on the customer.
The principles behind sales enablement can and should be applied to all departments - marketing, sales and service. The reasons are the same - to focus on customer-centric outcomes that perpetuate buying & delight.
Customer engagement is viewed across Marketing, Sales and Service, all forming part of a "complete customer-centric alignment"
- Data-driven analytics for insights and segmentation
- Design of customer buying journeys and conversion events
- Omnichannel personalisation tokens and KPIs
- Flywheel strategy and monitoring Marketing intelligence to other departments
- Pipeline (pre-SQL)
- Segregate opportunities - Strategic Accounts, Target Accounts, Remaining Addressable Market
- Relationship-based customer insights and preference knowledge
- Account development plans
- Sales enablement strategy and tactics, including automated CRM tools
- Sales team prioritisation against the most appropriate opportunities
- Greater account penetration
- Customer product usage, preferred technology, and support-based insights
- Customer success plans
- Customer engagement (from Service Delivery / Technician / Customer Experience viewpoint)
- Service monitoring and Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Service intelligence based back to Marketing and Sales teams
- Customer Satisfaction, retention, cross-sell
Inter-Departmental alignment requires shared goals and approaches, a customer-centric approach based entirely upon engagement, service and satisfaction. It takes joint account planning and shared customer insights linked to a CRM. It requires seamless, collaborative customer experiences (not silos) across all stakeholders. Delivery is dependent on building an integrated infrastructure, a CRM and developing smart analytics. It’s a different go-to-market strategy. Easy to describe. Harder to execute.
This can be applied to Key Accounts, Target Accounts and filtered down to the rest of the Addressable Market served.
Top sales enablement tools
According to HubSpot research, companies with a structured sales enablement approach achieve 35% higher sales attainment than those without.
So, which tools do you employ? Because sales enablement is about enhancing team performance, not weighing teams down with processes and a huge technology stack.
Here are 20 common favourites:
- HubSpot CRM – this automates the time-consuming tasks which often prevent the sales team from spending time prioritising selling. It gives users a birdseye view of their entire sales funnel
- Account Based Marketing (“ABM”) – access tools including Target Accounts and ABM dashboards to drive significant revenue growth
- LiveChat – a fast way to help customers
- Aircall – by PieSync. Sync your contact data to get caller ID all the time
- Allbound – for Partner relationship management, acting as a sales enablement coach creating automatic playbooks
- Ciara – this is a conversation assistant for productivity-driven sales representatives
- Crossbeam – it quickly syncs data for account mapping (however, new HubSpot ABM tools also do this from May 2020)
- DocuSign – create, send and track agreements
- Gmail – bring HubSpot to your inbox with the HubSpot integration for Gmail
- GeoMapper – map your companies and contacts and interdependent relationships
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator – Access LinkedIn Sales Navigator tools
- Microsoft Exchange – keep Microsoft Exchange data in two-way sync across apps
- OrgChartHub – easy build customer org charts and create development plans
- Outlook – bring HubSpot to your inbox with the HubSpot integration for Outlook
- PandaDoc – create, track and sign sales proposals and contracts
- Qwilr – create compelling and interactive proposals and quotes
- Slack – get HubSpot notifications, tasks and commands within Slack
- VidYard – integrate video and 121 outreach with prospects in seconds
- sync – Invoice your deals using Xero
- Customer Service Ticket Portal – by Hubble to allow customers to view/manage service tickets
Common reasons why sales enablement fails
Despite sales enablement becoming increasingly important and popular, successfully executing it to secure the desired benefits is anything but simple. Even with hundreds of useful tools.
Here are some of the most common reasons why organisations might be failing to make sales enablement work as intended:
Failure #1 – Mistaking the role of sales enablement
Sales enablement will be unique to every company. It’s a business strategy – not a product or checklist. It needs to be defined and applied to your organisation sensitively and expertly. This job is not for an unseasoned sales team leader without proper, tailored advice.
Failure #2 – Choosing the wrong person to lead sales enablement
Sales enablement needs an owner, who should also be a champion and a strategist – not a tactical project manager.
Failure #3 – Skipping or taking shortcuts in the upfront preliminaries
It isn’t easy to thoroughly map the customer lifecycle and sales cycle. You need to perform a forensic assessment of ideal customer(s), personas, customer journeys and more whilst paying attention to considerations throughout the sales journey and for multiple stakeholders. This will include buyers and centres of influence you also must cater for. Shortcuts and less than comprehensive preparation adds to the risk of failure.
Failure #4 – Tactics before strategy
It’s easy to focus on execution ahead of strategy. For sales enablement to succeed, you must work through tough questions and identify, challenge and agree on objectives and meaningful KPIs. You need to be 100% ideal customer-focused. You also need a go-to-market strategy that is stress-tested.
Failure #5 – Content is poor
Sales enablement draws on inbound marketing, which requires appropriate, timely, segmented, and better content than your peers.
Failure #6 – Insufficient buy-in between departments
You cannot force alignment between sales, marketing, and other departments. This is an issue for senior management to solve. Sales enablement requires the total buy-in of marketing, sales, service, operations, and HR, to name a few departments.
Failure #7 – Insufficient technology stack
To get around the common observation that sales team members either cannot find content or don’t know it exists, you need a central repository, CMS and CRM that are intertwined and use a smart tech stack that simplifies and integrates the tools that you need most to deliver the objectives. HubSpot, Salesforce, Playbook and other platforms are there to solve the technology stack problem.For sales enablement to succeed, you must work through tough questions and identify, challenge and agree on objectives and meaningful KPIs.
You now need to implement sales enablement. The big challenge is to determine the scope of it, tailored to your company and to combine know-how, insights and expertise to get it right the first time to scale.
The advice is don’t rush it. Get a sales enablement playbook written and agreed upon between departments. Above all, lay the pillars for success – mapping the sales process and methodology, reviewing sales messages, training and onboarding, nailing content both internal and external-facing, getting the right tech stack, using appropriate and sophisticated metrics and data, having a robust go-to-market plan, and think strategically, not tactically. Finally, ensure you bring all stakeholders along the journey – together.
You will need a platform (like HubSpot) to drive all this. You will likely want to utilise and leverage the skills and experience of an external advisor. The HubSpot Directory has thousands of Partner agencies. Do your homework, and find an agency with the same ethos and values as your organisation and whose skills and commercial acumen are demonstrable.