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Sales Enablement vs Sales Training - The Differences and Why You Need Both

Sales enablement

difference between sales enablement and sales training

23 March 2022Article

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What is the Difference Between Sales Enablement and Sales Training?

Sales enablement refers to the act of providing a seller or sales team with the resources needed to advance or win the sale.

Sales training refers to the act of instructing sellers on the behaviours, processes, and tools that will help them become more effective sales professionals.

The easiest way to differentiate the two is to recognise that sales enablement is external, and sales training is internal. In other words, sales enablement is a function external to the seller because the sales enablement professional – who is not part of the sales team – provides resources to the seller. In contrast, sales training is internal because the seller learns to develop their own skills which they bring to each sales engagement.a

Sales enablement and sales training are two sides of the same coin. Each cannot be fully effective without the other. Sales enablement provides resources, but sales training is what equips sellers with the skills to properly leverage those resources.

Let’s examine sales enablement vs. sales training to understand the benefits of both and where each can be most effective.

What is Sales Enablement?

Essentially a sales enablement professional is the seller’s “wingman.”

Sales enablement professionals provide sellers with the resources they need to win the sale. These resources are not training. The resources that sales enablement provides are commonly digital assets, and tools that can either be shared with the customer to compel them to buy, or used only by the seller for the purpose of understanding what will resonate with the customer.

What Are the Core Functions of Sales Enablement?

The resources sales enablement distributes often include marketing content, customer information, digital tools, and product information.

As selling becomes more complicated the function of sales enablement has become more important. Today’s sellers don’t have the time to source sales data, retrieve sales collateral, develop outreach cadences, manage CRM technology, create content maps, build sales productivity and performance reporting, and communicate their needs to marketing. The sales enablement function fulfills all these responsibilities.

Sales enablement professionals empower the seller in three key ways:

  1. They dispatch resources with speed so the seller can react to customer needs and movements in the moment 
  2. They identify what resources are most effective given the stage of the pursuit 
  3. They provide a much-needed bridge between the sales team and marketing team by ensuring that the new resources being developed are salient and of value

    Sales enablement has become one of the most crucial functions in the selling organisation. Why? Because today’s customer moves fast. To keep up the seller needs to have the right resources at the right time. Sales enablement professionals can deliver on both needs which frees the seller to focus on the actions, behaviours, and strategies necessary to win the sale.

    To effectively perform the sales enablement team needs to have a detailed understanding of where the customer is in the buying process and what messaging will resonate.

    Learn more about the connection between effective sales enablement and alignment to the buyer journey by downloading the brief, Why Strong Sales Enablement is Strong Buyer Enablement

    How Has Sales Enablement Changed?

    The value of sales enablement has changed as the buyer’s journey has become more complex. Sellers have less visibility into the customer’s path because so much of the solution exploration process is conducted independently. In this setting, sales enablement plays an important role by conducting reporting and analysis on the sales process which reveals areas that need improvement. Doing so helps sellers understand how buyers purchase today.

    This understanding is critical to success because knowing where the buyer is in the process and what they care about determines what assets sales enablement professionals need to deploy. 

    Often those assets include:

    • Case studies
    • White papers
    • Industry briefs
    • eBooks
    • Product brochures
    • Infographics
    • Video content

      Enablement professionals can quickly retrieve the material that will be most resonant to the customer. The most effective enablement professionals go one step further by mapping the content to the buyer’s iterative, dynamic journey.

      What Are the Competitive Advantages Offered by Sales Enablement?

      The largest competitive advantage offered by sales enablement teams is that they make the buying process easier for the customer in three ways. 

      Sales enablement:

      1. Provides the customer with concise data that supports the solution
      2. Presents the solution in a simple way that is easily understood
      3. Clearly communicates the path to solution implementation

      These three capabilities are critical in an environment where customers are experiencing a heightened sensitivity to risk, bringing more rigour to the buying process, and balancing the purchasing process with their ordinary, daily routines.

      Sellers move faster when they are supported by enablement. Speed has never mattered more because the buyer moves faster than ever. They also move in unseen ways because they pursue a buying decision independently and across many channels. Enablement professionals help the seller quickly deliver messaging and material to the buyer based on where they are in the purchasing process.

      Benefits and Challenges of Sales Enablement Focus

      Benefits

      • Increases the speed at which the sales team can respond to customer needs
      • Acts as a bridge between the selling team and marketing team
      • Converts data into actionable insights sellers can use
      • Keeps the sales team aligned to a set of best practises
      • Maintain a set of productivity metrics for gauging performance

      Challenges

      • Requires more coordination between leadership, marketing, and sales
      • Success means agreeing to a set of performance metrics everyone agrees to
      • Enablement must ensure that marketing assets do not go stale
      • Must constantly understand how the buyer is changing
      • Need to keep pace with a consistent flow of needs from sales

      What is Sales Training?

      Sales training is the process of equipping a seller or sales team with the skillset, toolset, and mindset to be an effective sales professional.

      Training is often handled by an outside company consisting of expert facilitators, SMEs, and support professionals. Training might occur in the form of in-person instruction or virtual learning. Typically, skills learnt are reinforced with post-training exercises, sustainment programmes, and workflow tools.

      What Are the Core Components of Sales Training?

      Sales training prepares sellers for a setting of intense competition, complex buying journeys, and numerous stakeholders. 

      Training usually leverages a combination of:

      1. Virtual instruction
      2. In-person learning
      3. Digital material
      4. Workflow tools

      Commonly, the skillset taught represents a range of capabilities like trust-building, customer need identification, prospecting, and negotiating.

      The toolset consists of digital solutions that help the seller engage with the customer, record activities, measure progress, and stay aligned to a set of best practises.

      The mindset often focuses on customer-centricity, authenticity, and flexibility.

      How Has Sales Training Changed?

      All sellers need to have a core set of skills. However, in the modern sales setting these foundational capabilities are not enough. To compete and win sellers need a range of skills that they can draw upon as the sales pursuit changes. This need for a holistic set of skills is one of the major changes to sales training in recent years.

      At the start of the sales pursuit, a seller might need skills like uncovering the customer’s unspoken core needs and accessing the stakeholders in the customer organization who have buying authority. Later in the pursuit, the seller will need to execute different skills like building consensus among different stakeholders and negotiating the final price of the solution.

      A broad range of skills is not only important for the seller, but it is also important for the sales organisation. For example, the sales organisation needs to have a variety of capabilities including sales coaching, prospecting, and a workflow integrated into the CRM system. 

      Developing a spectrum of skills at the individual level and the organisational level means learning to:

      • Build rapport with customers
      • Develop the agility needed to pursue a dynamic buying journey
      • Properly measure progress throughout the sales cycle
      • Recognise the behavioural psychology that drives customer decisions
      • Effectively engage with customers over a virtual medium
      • Articulate the value of solutions that are increasingly intangible and digital
      • Compel a buying group that is more diverse than ever
      • Track and connect with buyers across arrange of digital channels
      • Participate in a meaningful solution co-creation process with customers
      • Leverage active listening skills to ensure the sales conversation is customer-centric

      What Are the Competitive Advantages Offered by Sales Training?

      Sales training is what realigns the seller’s attention to the new challenges of selling today. It is a way for sales professionals of all experience levels to modernise their approach. That is, tenured, experienced sales professionals learn how to update their skill set in a way that addresses emerging challenges in selling. Meanwhile, new sellers develop a skill set that equips them for early success as they embark on a career.

      Sales training is a competitive advantage for another reason. It demonstrates the selling organisation's investment in the seller’s success. When the leadership initiates a sales training programme the sellers see that their success is the organisation’s success.

      Sales training also reinvigorates the seller’s focus and drive because they know that they are expected to execute on a new skill set. The entire team becomes aligned to a universal sales language that enables them to work as a more supportive and cohesive team.

      Other competitive advantages include:

      1. Stronger deal qualification capabilities
      2. Greater success expanding into existing customer white space
      3. Effectiveness in boosting profitability with stronger negotiation skills
      4. Ongoing, iterative development that keeps pace with a changing market
      5. Higher return on time invested on prospecting activities
      6. More meaningful experience for the customer
      7. Structured, intentional, and repeatable approach to customer conversations
      8. A more diverse set of soft skills that enable a deeper connection to customers
      9. Improved fluidity when tracking the customer’s changing needs
      10. Sustained selling results despite changing markets and customers

      Benefits and Challenges of Sales Training

      Benefits

      • Boosts sales performance
      • Aligns team to a common sales methodology
      • Equips sellers with a broader range of skills
      • Demonstrates organisation’s investment in the success of sales team
      • Brings a new understanding of how today’s buyers purchase

      Challenges

      • Requires financial investment
      • Pulls sales professionals out of the field for a period
      • Leaders need to earn the seller’s buy-in to training first
      • Skills must be supported with sustainment programmes
      • Sales methodology might need to integrate with existing CRM and workflows
      crm selling tools

      CRM Enabled Workflow Tools

      We support our partners with a full suite of CRM tools that align with different phases of the sales cycle – from call planning and account growth to ongoing sales enablement and marketing. Each tool complements skills developed in our sales training programs.

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      Sales Training and Sales Enablement Make Sales Team's Stronger

      Sales enablement and sales training are different but complementary. The presence of one makes the other stronger.

      A strong enablement team is what allows the seller to sell. Sales training is what instills the behaviours that lead to better sales outcomes.  As selling and buying become more complex both sales enablement and sales training are critical for keeping pace with the customer and engaging them when, where, and the way they want to be engaged.

      At Richardson Sales Performance we provide sales training across a range of competencies including selling, prospecting, negotiating, sales coaching, and more. We build capabilities, deliver them at scale, and integrate them into your selling organisation. Click here to learn more about our sales training content, or contact us to discuss how we can build an end-to-end sales training solution for your team.

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