Over the last several years, many technologies have been developed to help accelerate and automate the sales and marketing functions. First, it was upper funnel tools that help drive customer awareness and consideration through marketing automation. Then came the middle and lower funnel tools that help drive customer evaluation and purchase through sales enablement tools, which I will talk about in this post. These sales enablement tools can make a material difference in helping you drive revenue faster, consistently across your entire sales team.
What is sales enablement?
At the end of the day, sales enablement tools arm your sales team with the content, guidance and training they need to effectively communicate and close buying customers. This includes tools for salesperson training, coaching, content development, communications and customer engagement, coupled with performance analytics reporting designed to best optimize the sales process. Sales enablement is not about your sales operations (e.g., territory management, capacity management, compensation, systems/CRM/CPQ/SPM, sales forecasting, sales reporting, contract management), which is typically managed by an entirely different sales operations team.
What is the goal of sales enablement?
The goal of using sales enablement tools is to set up a scalable and repeatable process to drive revenues, for the entire sales team to follow, anchored by quantifiable metrics and reporting to help prove the ROI of the sales team as a whole, and the individual salespeople therein. It also serves as the bridge between the sales, marketing, product, and brand teams, to ensure the appropriate documents and messaging desired by marketing, is actually being used by the sales team. It is designed to make sure the customers see the most preferred content, at the most preferred times in the sales cycle, mapping to the customer journey and increasing conversion rates in the process. It is also the best tool to create the feedback loop from customers through the sales team back to the product and marketing teams, so they can make the appropriate changes on their end, based on real time customer feedback.
Primary use cases
There are really three major functional purposes for sales enablement tools:
- Sales content centralization and optimization. This is all about organizing the sales content (e.g., email templates, decks, case studies, white papers, competitor intelligence) so it is easily searchable by all sales team members, in a consistent format controlled and approved by the marketing department.
- Technologies to automate the process. This is about setting up ways to automate prospecting, triggering automated emails or direct messaging.
- Sales team reporting and analytics. This is about getting visibility and insights around the sales team’s activities, demos, win rate and leads generated, optimizing the sales process and qualifying leads along the way. It tracks data not only from the sales team (individually and collectively), but from the customers’ engagement with the content (e.g., what content did they read the most in the deck, which email template had the best response, what message most lead to a conversion).
Most desired functionality
Here is a list of the most needed tools within a sales enablement platform:
- Content Template CMS: prebuilt for fast and consistent content creation
- Persona Management: different content for different end users
- Activity Alerts: triggered when prospects take a certain action with content
- Automated Actions: emails automatically triggered when certain actions happen
- User Success Analytics: are salespeople doing what you want them to do
- User Engagement Analytics: which content most used by salesperson and team
- Customer Engagement Analytics: at the customer and aggregate levels
- Content Creation: ability to create content right inside the platform
- Advanced Search: easy to quickly find content by user, type, customer, etc.
- Content Importability: ability to quickly upload your current content into system
- Presentation Support: ability to present live in person, screen share virtually or on mobile
- Content Scoring: which content is most effective to getting a desired outcome
- Machine Learning: system learns over time and makes recommendations
Key performance indicators
These are example metrics that will come out of a sales enablement platform that needs to be optimized, both at the individual and department levels:
- Time to Revenue
- Quota Attainment
- Sales Cycle—Funnel Optimization
- Time Spent Selling (vs. other tasks)
- Content Usage (by sales team and your customers)
- Product Mix (are we selling most desired products)
According to the market research firm, Aberdeen, who studied the benefits of companies using sales enablement tools vs. companies that were not, you can expect the following results, on average, by using sales enablement tools:
- 2.2x more effective at linking sales actions to revenues
- 83 percent more effective at improving productivity with technology
- 58 percent more effective at finding, training and retaining sales talent
- 32 percent higher sales team quota attainment
- 24 percent higher individual sales person quota attainment
- 23 percent higher conversion rate
So, as you can see in the above data, sales enablement tools are well worth the investment and should have an immediate payback, if used correctly by sales managers, the sales team and other stakeholders in the business.
Key vendors to consider
There are several key players serving the sales enablement tools market, including Guru, Clearslide and CloudMap. You can get a good overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the various sales enablement vendors in this great market landscape and list of customer reviews from G2 Crowd. In addition, beyond traditional sales enablement tasks, there are many other tools to consider to help accelerate sales, including outbound sales call/email tracking and analytics (from players like Outreach, SalesLoft and Yesware) and sales team coaching and onboarding (from players like Gong, Level 11 and Brainshark). So, research which tools are most needed for your business, and put the most appropriate sales-related technology stack in place.
With sales enablement tools in place, it has never been easier for sales managers to get visibility into what is working and what is not working in their sales process, and training the best of those activities across the full team. And, it has never been easier to get insights from the actions taken by your customers around your content, to optimize what is most likely going to accelerate conversions from your future efforts. So, if you are not using sales enablement tools today, perhaps it is time to start. Especially, if you are a B2B company looking to optimize your outbound sales team.
This article was first published in Entrepreneur.
George Deeb is the managing partner at Chicago-based Red Rocket Ventures, a startup consulting, financial advisory and executive staffing firm, and author of 101 Startup Lessons — An Entrepreneur’s Handbook. Red Rocket is also a founding member of Ensemble, an all-star powered ‘Digital Services Suite.’