What is Sales Enablement?
The What, Why, How of Sales Enablement
TLDR; A quick definition - Sales enablement is the process of providing sales teams with the resources they need to close more deals. This includes content, tools, knowledge, and information to effectively sell your product or service to customers.
Sales enablement and sales operations are intrinsically linked. Sales enablement is responsible for providing sales reps with the resources they need to close deals, while sales operations is responsible for ensuring that the sales process is efficient and effective.
While sales enablement and sales operations have different areas of focus, they work closely together to ensure that sales reps have the resources they need to achieve their goals.
Check out our eBook for a deep dive into the worlds of sales enablement and sales operations, how they exist separately, and how they collaborate.
So, let's jump in.
What is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement has been growing and evolving as a function and an ecosystem within organisations for some time now.
By aligning their sales content, training, and technology to their business needs, organisations are able to improve effectiveness to achieve their sales goals.
Let’s begin with a definition of sales enablement from Author and Speaker Pam Didner:
“Sales enablement is a strategic collaborative discipline designed to increase predictable sales results by providing consistent and scalable enablement services that allow customer-forcing professionals to add value in every customer interaction.”
Sales enablement combines different elements, including:
- Content. Ensuring that a company’s content, messaging, and positioning is consistent for prospects and customers.
- Training and coaching. Building and continually evolving the skills and knowledge that sales professionals need to be successful.
- Technology. Providing sales teams with the tech, tools, templates and repeatable processes to help them to optimise performance.
It isn’t a single position within a company, but rather an ecosystem that crosses all functional and hierarchical boundaries. Sales enablement best practice will help to break down department silos and build greater alignment between departments.
It should help to build alignment and collaboration between Sales, Marketing, HR and Operations, to Customer Success, Professional Services and the leadership team. Effective sales enablement requires the efforts of individuals and teams across the organisation.
It’s a strategic discipline that improves the long-term effectiveness of sales, by providing the training and coaching processes, and the tools to improve sales intelligence. Alongside it’s close partner, sales operations, it will also help to automate tasks and processes which don’t generate revenue, leaving sales teams to concentrate on clients and prospects.
Essentially, if you provide sales teams with the materials, intelligence, tools, and resources they need, sales reps will convert more leads, close more deals and drive greater revenue for your business.
What are the benefits of Sales Enablement?
A well-implemented sales enablement function will get sales teams into the right conversations, with the right decision-makers, at the right time, and in the right way.
It should increase conversion rates, speed of deals, and deal sizes by selling more intelligently and effectively.
Businesses are seeing the value of sales enablement as it directly impacts on the bottom line. 68% of sales leaders surveyed for LXA’s State of Sales Enablement 2022/23 report see it as key to driving business performance.
The benefits of a successful sales enablement programme include:
- Improved sales recruitment. By defining the candidate competencies and traits needed for success, sales enablement helps to recruit the right people.
- Improved sales training. Sales enablement can help to deliver more effective sales training by designing and implementing training initiatives throughout the team, and providing ongoing coaching and materials. Better training also means investment in training is more likely to pay off.
- Better tech implementation. One key role for sales enablement teams is to integrate and configure the sales stack to optimise the sales team’s ways of working.
- Improved content performance. Sales enablement helps to align various departments to produce the sales content that prospects require at each stage of the sales cycle.
- Increased customer loyalty. When customers are helped to make well-informed buying decisions, sales teams are more likely to secure repeat business and referrals.
- Retaining top performers. Coaching and support can help your teams develop their skills, career and pipeline, and therefore increase their potential earnings.
- Better qualified leads. The sales enablement function helps to qualify leads and improve speed, relevance, and intent.
- Improved conversions and speed to deal. Ultimately, sales enablement improves conversion rates and speed to deal.
Why do you need Sales Enablement?
Today’s purchase process is more complex than ever before, thanks to technological advancements and shifts in customer journeys.
The modern B2B buyer demands the kinds of buying experiences they already encounter through B2C brands, with high levels of engagement and personalisation, and self-service playing a key role.
There is an average of 9.2 sales interactions before a deal is closed, which shows buyers taking their time to inform themselves about products before making a decision.
This means that sales teams need to have an advanced understanding of the market, competitors, their product, and client pain points to be able to engage with buyers.
More people are now involved in complex B2B purchasing decisions, with typically six to ten decision-makers, and each is armed with different pieces of information. This increases the challenges in decision-making for buyers, which in turn creates more problems for sales teams to manage.
With sales reps now needing greater technical knowledge to engage with buyers effectively, making sales enablement functions need to be agile in supporting sellers.
The best B2B sales organisations are using sales enablement to operate more efficiently and effectively. Sales enablement helps them to manage the complexities of the modern buying journey and improve their overall sales performance.
The Sales Enablement Ecosystem
Sales enablement sits across the organisation.
It’s a community of interacting departments which requires alignment and collaboration with every department.
Sales enablement roles, responsibilities, strategies, tech and processes will vary based on the size of the company, the sales model, and the geographical regions in which a business operates.
- Sales enablement and operations: Sales enablement and sales operations is at the centre of this ecosystem. This could be an individual, a team, or even a sales enablement platform.
- Sales: The sales team needs to commit to the processes and technology that make the ecosystem work.
- Marketing: Marketing is responsible for the go-to-market strategy, and to develop effective content across the buyer journey.
- HR: HR may own recruitment, onboarding and training of the sales team.
Customer Success: These teams own the onboarding and management of key accounts, helping to drive greater retention.
- IT: IT may still take ownership of the sales tech stack, and its alignment with other tech within the organisation.
Senior Leadership: The role of leadership is to drive the sales culture and methodology.
What are the differences between Sales Enablement and Sales Operations?
The two functions are working towards the same end goal, and need to work closely together.
The table below highlights the key roles for each team, but broadly speaking, sales enablement plays a role across the full sales funnel, while sales operations is more focused on bottom of funnel activities such as lead management and sales forecasting.
Both sales enablement and sales operations are key to providing sales teams with the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to succeed in an increasingly complex B2B market.
The principle of sales enablement is a simple one. If you provide sales teams with the right resources and tools, and train them well, they’ll sell more effectively.
We have two in-depth reports on sales enablement and sales operations.
Our State of Sales Enablement: Sales Operations and Salestech Report 2022/23 looks at the current state of the industry, using a survey of sales leaders, and insight from industry experts.
The Sales Enablement & Sales Operations Best Practice Guide looks in detail at the five pillars that make up an effective sales enablement function.
LXA’s Certificate: Sales Enablement & Sales Operations Essentials is a 6-week course that will provide you with a holistic overview of the what, why and how of the operations, tech, content and training for sales.
Course instructor and LXA CEO Carlos Doughty will help you uncover valuable insight around auditing your sales maturity and developing your sales enablement, sales operations and salestech strategy.