What Is Sales Enablement? 6 Experts Weigh In.

Sales Enablement

An Introduction to Sales Enablement

A great baseball coach makes sure to give their players training, conditioning, and supplies (mitts and a bat). Why? Because it helps the athletes perform at their optimal level. Sales coaches must do the same thing. 

That’s because B2B salespeople have a hard job, and they need all the help they can get to efficiently and repeatably turn curious prospects into excited clients. 

So, innovative sales coaches implement a sales enablement strategy. 

What is Sales Enablement? 

Sales enablement is the continuous process of providing your sales reps with resources that will help them close more deals for your business. These resources come in a variety of forms. 

They can be written content like blog posts, e-books, or case studies that your salespeople can give to their prospects to aid them in the decision making process. 

Enablement can also come in the form of training, giving your salespeople the product knowledge and sales techniques they need to perform at their best. 

Lastly, sales enablement can be technology and tools that help your salespeople get more done in less time. For instance, there is sales engagement software that helps sales teams send out more emails and follow a consistent outreach process, like Salesloft or Outreach. There’s also prospecting research software that helps salespeople spend far less time researching, like CheetahIQ

Responsibilities of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement is critical to your sales team’s success because it democratizes the knowledge, tools, and practices that make salespeople successful in your organization. In other words, with sales enamblement, the recipe for sales success is available to everyone, from new BDRs to experienced closers.  

The main responsibility of sales enablement is to make it easier for salespeople to sell, and that can be accomplished in many ways. 

For example, some companies give their salespeople training on different skills like giving presentations or objection handling. Or maybe they give demo decks and sales playbooks to their team so that they have the information necessary to sell easily. 

Some savvy marketing and sales teams even go as far as to create a “cold-collator” for their reps, which helps salespeople on calls. It’s a live document that reps can easily navigate during a call to retrieve rebuttals to common objections or answers to common questions. Of course, a salesperson should have most of this in their mind, but it helps to have a safety net. 

In terms of written enablement content, most B2B companies nowadays will use a lot of content to help salespeople demonstrate the value of their solution to the prospect. Reps can send case studies, blog posts, or white papers to their prospects, who can then circulate those documents among the other decision-makers at the company. 

If it’s hard to get meetings with every decision-maker, this content can be a great way to nudge them towards buying. 

Sales Enablement Statistics

Here are some statistics to understand just how much sales enablement can impact your sales. 

  1. On average, B2B salespeople only spend 37% of their time on revenue-generating activities.

That’s no good. According to Mike Weinburg, author of “New Sales Simplified”, salespeople should spend almost their entire days doing what they’re best at, selling! To reduce wasted time doing things like researching or searching for leads, give them some tools to automate administrative work. 

  1. Companies that align their sales and marketing teams on messaging will have a 67% higher chance of closing marketing-generated leads. 

That makes sense. If a prospect fills out a contact form, they are expecting some sort of solution that they read about on the website or ad. But, if the salesperson follows up and says something completely unfamiliar to what they had read, the prospect will be confused and potentially drop out of the conversation. 

So, make sure your marketing and enablement content match what you say in a demo or sales call.  

  1. When team leaders implement a top-notch sales enablement strategy, 84% of sales reps hit their quotas. 

As you can see, sales enablement is pivotal to the success of your sales team. To further explore its potential and best practices, we’ve set up six interviews with sales enablement professionals and asked them four key questions to get a better understanding of sales enablement.

How Do You Think Sales Enablement Will Evolve Over The Next Few Years?

Sales enablement will become more impactful in the sales process. We are getting to a state where the complexity of SaaS is high that you need a way to communicate that and a way to communicate that to reps. The idea of sales enablement is to upskill your reps on what you’re selling. The complexities are increasing and you need good teachers. SE will become necessary to have a strong sales team.

Elliot – Enterprise Sales Enablement, Venture Backed Startup

We are seeing a growing trend of companies investing in Sales Enablement and I think we’ll continue to see that trend. As they grow and try to scale, companies are realizing the need for someone to support and scale all the activities that help a sales team perform. I also think we’ll also see a focus on Manager enablement. If you’re in the field, we all  know that you can’t enable a sales team without enabling their manager. We’re going to see companies really invest there as they realize their front line managers are some of the most important people to support.

Ashton – Ada, Sales Enablement Manager

There’s been this back and forth. When I started in sales enablement, it was all in person training, then companies started to tighten their budgets, they wanted everything to be eLearning, virtual, and gamified through platforms. A lot of in person or instructor led training started to get cut or push aside because it was expensive and then then the interesting thing, right before COVID, there has been a shift back to the more formalized in person type training. My learning in person is way better than online or virtual, I was pleased to see that a lot of the shift was going back to the in person experiences, the more formalized instruction. Then unfortunately with COVID, that has gone right back.

The interesting thing over the next couple of years, I believe there will be a consolidation of learning platforms, I don’t think everyone out there will be making it through this time with the cuts. The money is going to be cut from the novelty experiences, a lot of sales enablement platforms, in my opinion will be some of the first procurements that will no longer be mission critical. Especially as there are companies like Salesforce that are building that out in their current platform at a significantly lower cost than the other ones. The continued back and forth where there’s an emphasis on quick starts, ramp, the onboarding experience, and getting the ROI on the account executives as soon as possible.

Director of Sales Enablement, Venture Backed Startup

The prevalence of rigid sales methodologies will subside in favor of AI-driven sales that will meet the customer at the point of maximum influence with the right information, a tailored approach, and backed up by reliable intent data.

Emphasis on storytelling as a critical selling skill will also emerge along with the tools and training to upskill sales professionals.

Monty Fowler – Head Coach/Sales Enablement Leader, Lob

Agility will continue to be imperative for sales enablement over the next few years. We will need to be flexible with our training programs, and be able to move to an online environment. No longer will in-person only sessions be an option. We need to be able to adapt our materials to continue to be engaging.

Sarah Rosenbaum – Sales Enablement Manager, Quorum

I think sales enablement will go “mainstream” over the next few years as not just the Fortune 500 companies begin to implement a sales enablement strategy. We will see small to medium-sized businesses hire or outsource a sales enablement strategy in order to get more out of their marketing and sales spend.

Taylor Lindley – The Sales Lift

How Do You Get Into Sales Enablement?

Be a good teacher and a strategic teacher. Think about how you strategically promote things, who is your audience, why are they audience? Product marketing is a good place to start. If you can tell a story and convince a salesperson of a story, you can convince them to hire you for sales enablement.

Elliot – Enterprise Sales Enablement, Venture Backed Startup

I was an Account Executive, then moved into a partnership acquisition role where I had to onboard partners and teach every rep about the partners I brought on and what customers profiles would benefit from the partnerships. I really enjoyed that part of the job so I moved into a Sales Trainer role and that ended up being a focus on Enablement as I was doing things like improving the sales process, and building out a sales academy. It wasn’t until I left there,  that I realized that Sales Enablement was a real profession. I started searching for roles that had these things I loved and I stumbled on Enablement as a title but wasn’t sure what it meant. I did my research, there were a lot of very helpful blogs and I actually reached out and the tech community. They were really supportive  and open to sharing knowledge about how to make the jump not only to Enablement, but into Tech and startup. People responded to emails, had coffees, told me what I needed to know and talked me through what Sales Enablement looked like at their companies. And then for every interview and job I wanted, I emailed the head of sales or enablement and asked them what their biggest challenges are and what they hope sales enablement solves. In those interviews I made sure I understood what was the business challenge they’re looking to solve with this role so I could be honest about where my skills and limitations were in relation to the goals. Ada was a place where I believed in the product, the interview process was wonderful and I felt I had a good understanding of what I could accomplish and where I would be stretched.

Ashton – Ada, Sales Enablement Manager

A lot of people come from different areas. I came from a traditional L&D background, I never had a formalized sales role. I was an upseller, an Account Manager, but I never had to hold a bag or a quota. My background is in adult learning theory, my Masters degree in that, I understand the ways to get people to learn and the motivations to access, to be excited and understand, that’s where I’ve been very successful. Some people come from the sellers side. They were first a salesperson and then they go into a sales enablement role. For some people, they can be taught how to train, how to build the content. On the flip side, some people can learn the sales process, the motivations around a salesperson but have the training background. People can come from very mixed sides. Those are probably the two channels. The people who are most successful coming from a sales background were the ones who were most proactive to learn themselves, reaching out to their sales enablement team or learning and development team, and engaging in as much content or trainings as possible, those are the ones who understand the benefit, the value, and will be the most excited to actually create that type of environment for the other Account Executives and BDRs. 

There are multiple paths into sales enablement and the majority of people in sales enablement come from a sales background. There have been successful L&D people without a sales background who have done well because they know how to teach. Side note, a blended team of sales and L&D people and putting them together makes a stronger team.

Director of Sales Enablement, Venture Backed Startup 

Sales enablement will become exclusively the domain of experienced mid- and late-career sales professionals. If you aren’t called to the upper echelons of sales leadership, sales enablement will be the place experienced pros go when they don’t want to carry a quota anymore. (Like me!)

Even today, sales pros can smell a “poser” in sales enablement who has never sold before. You must have real-world experience in selling if you want to be credible and effective.

Monty Fowler – Head Coach/Sales Enablement Leader,  Lob

Find a mentor, join learning organizations (W.I.S.E., Sales Enablement Society, etc.), participate in LinkedIn Groups/Forums (Sales Training, Sales Gravy). All of these proven to be very beneficial and lead to my personal development as well as the growth of the enablement program at my organization.

Sarah Rosenbaum – Sales Enablement Manager, Quorum

The easiest way to get into sales enablement is to start in marketing, sales or customer success and find opportunities to “reach across the aisle” and help your colleagues in those other functions. A lot of sales enablement is aligning your different revenue functions to work better together. If you can spearhead that effort internally at your organization, it could be a great way to backdoor your way into a sales enablement role.

Taylor Lindley – The Sales Lift/Hubspot

What Do People Not Understand About Sales Enablement?

Some people think that sales enablement is a content manager. Sales enablement goes a lot further than that. It goes towards, go to market strategy, and overall team integration. How is your product team integrated with your marketing team, integrated with your sales team, integrated with your customer success team. How do I make sure the marketing team and the product team are communicating relevant information but not too much information. So there’s a misconception that sales enablement is strictly a content manager role where it’s actually a lot more like a go to market strategy role. This is also related to the place where I am right now so take it with a grain of salt because it can be company specific.

Elliot – Enterprise Sales Enablement, Venture Backed Startup

The most common misconception is that we are trainers. Training sits at the forefront because it’s the most visible activity. But realistically, Sales Enablement is a cross-functional role that focuses on improving your customer interactions and close rates. If you think about a business that doesn’t have a formal enablement person, every team is somehow enabling the reps. From marketing teams creating decks & content to managers doing training and finding gaps,  identifying how we can improve win rates and that becomes at scale a really hard job. When you think about all the activities that go into making a salesperson successful, we underestimate all the different ways that sales enablement touches not just the customer facing organization but even creating synergy for your internal organization. 

Ashton – Ada, Sales Enablement Manager

I think it’s interesting, especially if you look at it from a startup perspective. I think people think of sales enablement as just onboarding. A lot people think all we do is onboarding but what we do is everything from onboarding, ongoing education, to career development, to revenue operations, to process improvements. It’s more than just getting people in the door. I like to call it “hire to retire” and it’s the entire engagement to make sure not only are they successful with the content but also the tools in order for them to do their job. Some people miss out on the tools aspect and they think there’s another team that handles the “Salesforces” of the world, but sales enablement has a large hand in what goes into the salesforce development, enabling the account executives to leverage that technology, and being a big part of using that data to drive additional long term strategy across geographies. It’s way more than just onboarding and I think that’s a major misconception about sales enablement. 

We’re the connector to product, to marketing, to operations, to sales, to customer support. We’re regularly on meetings that may not directly relate to sales but a product that is being launched will impact customers which will impact retention. Then we have to either think about pushing back on that or think how we can support that. Sales enablement is a connector between the entire company

Director of Sales Enablement, Venture Backed Startup 

It’s not about tools, training, seminars, or battle-cards. It’s about having the discipline and skill necessary to marry data-informed hypotheses about your ICP and target market, with a set of processes and people who can execute. Tools, training, etc. are not the rocket—they are the fuel in the rocket. But you need a ‘rocket scientist’ of sales to design and build the rocket and train the astronauts (thus ends my geeky space metaphor).

Monty Fowler – Head Coach/Sales Enablement Leader,  Lob

There is a gray line between what is training and what is managing. I highly recommend the book ” Design for how people learn” by Julie Dirksen. She talks about identifying the gap as: Knowledge, Skills, Motivation & Attitude, Habit, Environment, and Communication.

Sarah Rosenbaum – Sales Enablement Manager, Quorum

Sales Enablement still does not have a crystal clear definition at this point in time. It means something different to everyone based on your industry, company size, sales process, background, etc. Sales Enablement is certainly a buzzword that is gaining a lot of momentum but we need to work together to define what it is and how it can positively impact business before it will become a widespread strategy. That’s a big goal for my podcast The Sales Lift (https://thesaleslift.com/)

Taylor Lindley – The Sales Lift/Hubspot

What Do Sales Tools and Software Vendors Overlook When Working With Sales Enablement?

What I need are ways to train the team. A lot of sales tools don’t give me those. I’m feeling the need to have to create the content myself to train the team. If you have Outreach or SalesLoft, i’m looking for high quality materials, high quality videos, that are short, sweet, less than five minutes, I can provide that to a rep when they’re onboarding, I can show them how to use this tool, this is the quick and dirty of it. Vendors don’t provide that very much so I have to end up going and creating that content myself.

Elliot – Enterprise Sales Enablement, Venture Backed Startup

You’d think it would be a no-brainer but my job is to train salespeople to be their best. Send me your best rep because if you’re going to try to sell me something that is going to make my team better and I get a sloppy process or a rep that is uninformed, that is a testament that your tool doesn’t work. Or that you don’t know how I would use it. Or you don’t understand how to make it work, and I don’t want to do that. Another misconception is that I have it all figured out. Sales enablement priorities can often shift with the business and with what’s happening on the sales floor.. So you might  have this great idea for what your software can do but then tomorrow my priorities might shift. Being able to offer best practices and community, is probably the best thing because we’re all figuring out what it looks like at our own organizations and it’s not apples to apples.

Ashton – Ada, Sales Enablement Manager

Companies create additional problems to solve an additional problem. I lean towards enabling the team to use the technology correctly, rather than saying we have a cap or not using it right so now we need to bring in another vendor to fill the gap. Then we add to the entire patchwork of the sales process. I like technology and new tools but if they’re not using what we currently have correctly. My first goal is to get them to use it correctly before I spend time on additional technology. Vendors come in the door saying we’re going to solve this and solve that. First to vendors, you don’t even know I have a problem and second, I have a problem that I can solve before I go after new technology. 

A lot of tools are complicated and then sales enablement has to create content. I’ve been researching new vendors for a new product. Our Account Executives are having trouble leveraging a current product to their full potential. Looking at new products if I’m going to get overwhelmed with new technology then my sellers are going to get overwhelmed with the new technology, and so if I have to figure out how to simplify a new platform for myself, it’s not going to work for my sellers. We need to make the sales process as simple as possible and a lot of these new tools are trying to put all the bells and whistles in it. I know with enterprise technology tools, companies are using 50-60% of the tools and paying for 100%. I would rather go to a tool that may not be enterprise level and use 90% of what we have and find a solution in our current process for the remaining 10%.

Director of Sales Enablement, Venture Backed Startup 

They often miss that the tool isn’t the thing that’s going to magically transform your sales team or their results. Again…it’s part of the answer, but not THE answer. Unless they take the time to understand your sales culture, processes, existing software landscape, and market dynamics, they cannot effectively articulate or demonstrate how their widget fits into the larger machine and improves its performance.

Monty Fowler – Head Coach/Sales Enablement Leader,  Lob

Linking sales activity and results to training (modules completed, learning objective) to determine effectiveness of training. That’s the biggest one for me – ie how can I prove the ROI. Was the training impactful? Is there a different gap or challenge here and is it just for an individual or a larger group? 

Sarah Rosenbaum – Sales Enablement Manager, Quorum

Sales tools and software vendors forget that marketing and sales are high-touch, human-driven activities, especially for a considered purchase. The more we can figure out how to better enable the people that help drive purchase decisions, the more of an impact that Sales Enablement can have on the bottom line.

Taylor Lindley – The Sales Lift/Hubspot

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