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Understanding the Role of Sales Enablement
Sales enablement is the business unit that provides tools, systems, process, training, coaching, and development that enables sales professionals to be more effective and efficient. Sales enablement is rapidly becoming one of the more important functional areas in business.
This relatively new function has arisen from the need for sales professionals to meet intensified expectations from buyers who are empowered, ultra-informed, risk adverse, and decidedly difficult to impress.
Today’s buyers expect sales professionals to “show up,” which means that the sales professional must ensure in every interaction with their customers they are:
- Personable & Prepared
- Knowledgeable & Flexible
- Curious & Dedicated
- Conscientious & Articulate
- Emotionally Intelligent & Savvy
As buyer expectations grow so does the need for support functions to ensure that the sales professionals are meeting the needs of their buyers.
Sales Enablement vs. Sales Operations
The role of the sales enablement team might sound like the role of the sales operations team. This is because they have similar objectives, however; the two functions typically have different responsibilities that help them work towards the same goal.
Typically, sales operations professionals are responsible for activities including;
- Territory planning
- Deal routing
- Account assignment
- Team design
- Proposal and contract management
- Contract governance
- Compensation administration
- CRM management
Meanwhile, the sales enablement team is typically responsible for activities including:
- Content planning
- Sales training and communications
- Identifying the right customer engagement tools and technology
- Supporting overall sales strategy and execution
Below we will examine each of the responsibilities of sales enablement professionals in greater detail.
Sales professionals need to have an incredible amount of content and information at the ready.
This includes informational content to provide for customers, documentation on organizational processes and policies, presentation materials, and prospecting materials.
They also need to have this content accessible at a moment’s notice because customers need insights and solutions fast.
It is the job of the sales enablement professionals to
- Coordinate the creation of content they anticipate a customer might want,
- Tailor content as needed for specific clients,
- Think about the company information that the sales professional need
- Organize that content and make sure that it is readily available from any location on any device at any time.
While the job of creating and organizing sales enablement content might seem daunting keep in mind businesses are always producing content that can be used by the sales enablement team. The marketing team can be a big help in identifying content that will resonate with the market. Also, there are several sales enablement tools designed to facilitate organization and access.
Sales Training and Communications
There are two different buckets of training that a sales enablement professional will likely be asked to deliver – tactical training on how to use a new tool or sales enablement processes, and intensive training designed to improve the skills and behaviors of sellers.
Tactical training is often easier to implement and occurs frequently. It is often achieved through quick learning sessions combined with documentation and support.
Intensive training is often a strategic, cross-functional effort. This training is likely to require a significant investment of time and money.
As part of their sales enablement training responsibilities, the sales enablement professionals will have to include sustainment planning and documentation of not only the training materials but also the impact that training has had on the business.
Identifying the Right Tools and Technology
Beyond the tools and technology used to organize and disseminate content. Sales enablement professionals will also be tasked with the job of identifying (and training) sales professionals on tools that will help them be organized for meetings and presentations, prospect and track the status of deals through the sales cycle.
There are thousands of tools available to facilitate these activities, but sales enablement professionals need to be strategic in their use of these tools. There are two potential downfalls when implementing a tool:
- The tool lays in waste because the sales professionals refuse to adopt it. Before selecting a tool make sure you perform the due diligence to ensure that the tool will be helpful and that using it does not make the sales professional’s life harder.
- The tool is widely adopted but does not produce results. This probably means that the team did a good job getting buy-in from sales, but the tool itself does not serve its intended purpose. Be sure to test tools before purchasing because they can be costly and upskilling the team on how to use them just to abandon them down the road is a waste of time and effort.
Every tool selected in the effort to facilitate sales should be carefully reviewed, piloted, stress-tested, and should serve a specific purpose. They should also include a measurement and accountability elements to help track adoption as well as ROI.
Strategy & Execution
Bringing all the elements of the sales enablement process together into one cohesive sales enablement program is the real art of the function and the only way to truly accomplish the goals of the role.
This cannot be done without a strong strategy to make sure that all the puzzle pieces are aligned. This means that the sales enablement professional will be responsible for not only setting their own strategy but also making sure that it is executed properly.
They will also have to participate in cross-functional sales enablement strategy setting to advise in hiring, performance management, forecasting, and budgeting.
Sales Enablement Best Practices
While this role carries great responsibility, there are some best practices that will help sales enablement teams achieve their desired business results.
- Facilitate Direct Communication: Sales enablement teams must encourage sales and the rest of the organization to communicate with one another.
The key is to avoid defaulting to a scenario in which the sales enablement professionals and/or team becomes a “go-between” merely carrying messages back and forth.
Consistent communication also prevents an outcome in which the sales enablement team drifts too far to one side of the organization.
- Leverage organizational resources to develop compelling content: Broadly speaking, other organizational business units have a macro focus, while the sales team has a microfocus. The marketing team is a great resource for content for sales enablement They are tuned into industry drivers and popular initiatives across businesses.
- Develop Measurements That Both Sides Accept: Consult both sales enablement and organizational leaders to determine the metrics that will define sales enablement success. All parties must work from the same set of goals.
These goals might require measurements like time to productivity or the length of the sales cycle. These measurements and others should reveal how effective the content and tools are in the drive to win more sales.
Choosing a core set of metrics keeps the goal consistent while maintaining accountability. Without consistency, organizations risk falling into the trap of retroactively choosing only the metrics that tell a good story.
To learn about our sales enablement training and get more information on how we can help your team, contact us today.
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